There was a light rain coming down as the sky faded from orange to grey to nightfall this past Saturday, and a long line had formed outside Rochester Institute of Technology’s Clark Gymnasium. Ticket in hand and T-shirt damp from the rain, I waited for what was almost guaranteed to be a magical experience. As the girl at the door attached my sparkly purple wristband and handed me my ticket stub, I could already feel the energy within the gym.
I made my way through a crowd of partially clothed kids in spandex, bandanas, multicolored hightops and neon ray-ban knockoffs to the front of the room. The stage was sparingly adorned there was a table with two lap-tops (Girl Talk’s weapons of choice), along with two leaf blowers whose significance did not become apparent until later in the show.
Girl Talk, whose given name is Greg Gillis, is somewhat of a worldwide pop sensation, thanks to his unique take on the ‘mash-up” genre and the Internet. Gillis was a biomedical engineering major at Case Western Reserve University before he took on his current role as a superstar DJ. His specialty revolves around ‘sampling” new and old songs both lyrics and beats from just about every genre, to create non-stop, continuous mash-up mixes of everyone’s favorite pop-music and more.
I was first exposed to the sensation that is Girl Talk by a friend who passed me a copy of his third CD, ‘Night Ripper.” I was hooked 30 seconds into the first track an audio orgasm. Like many broke high school students and Girl Talk fans, I began to scour the Internet for anything Girl Talk-related. I had always been a fan of remixes and mash-ups, and being a DJ myself, I had tried my hand at them here and there. But no one I had come across really did what Girl Talk was doing taking 10 second samples from every genre possible and combining them into a completely new yet familiar piece. I burned, traded and bought anything Girl Talk-related I could find.
When his latest release, ‘Feed the Animals” came out in June of last year, I decided to see if his live show lived up to the hype I had heard about and added Girl Talk to the list of musicians I wanted to see before I died.
By 8:30 p.m., the crowd was getting a bit rowdy waiting for Girl Talk to come on.
Then, a man in red sweatpants and a blue zip-up hoodie ran out from behind the stage and down by the crowd, as a voice boomed, ‘Girltalkkkkkk” from the speakers.
After getting back on stage, he jumped on the table, introduced himself and proceeded to get to work.
The crowd cheered. As he bent down to fiddle with his laptop set up, concert-goers rushed on stage and started to dance as the first drum beat dropped. The gym was filled by the thud of a repeating bass drum and complimentary hand claps; the crowd was dancing and moving, almost too violently for my taste. As I made my way to the less crowded, right side of the stage, the auditory journey through every good song ever made began. I couldn’t name specific tracks there were too many to remember. It was so familiar yet so unique at the same time.
Not to mention I was trying to get my dance on.
A memorable jam included Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer” with ‘Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas.
For those of you reading this who have never experienced a Girl Talk mix, this probably sounds absurd, almost unfathomable, because it is. Blended so smoothly over danceable beats, it is almost hard to distinguish the dichotomy.
Yet at the same time, the essence of both songs are apparent, and you can’t help but love it. As the most unexpected songs seamlessly fell into line, the night became a whirlwind of up-tempo madness.
There were people dancing everywhere the bleachers, the floor, the stage and it was sweaty. Two of Girl Talk’s assistants came out at one point with the leaf blowers which had rolls of toilet paper attached on the ends, and began to shoot streams of toilet paper into the air. Huge balloons bounced overhead as people crowd surfed from one end of the gym to the other. On more than one occasion, pieces of clothing were flung into the air, and the neon filling of broken glowsticks were everywhere.
Convinced to go by friends Lindsay Stolzenberg’s first exposure to Girl Talk was this show, and she was quite impressed. ‘It was really exciting, I had never experienced anything like that before,” she told me after the show, her voice hoarse from screaming out lyrics, her ears numbed by the noise.
Seasoned vet Maya Godbole, had a similar reaction. She first saw Girl Talk live two summers ago, and said she was ‘ready for the chaos that ensued” at the RIT show.
Even though she ended up getting bruised from being jostled by the crowd and she ripped one of her favorite T-shirts, she described the show as ‘incredible” and that it ‘made the experience more memorable.”
She shyly added that she got to “beat up’ a couple RIT kids in the process and with a smirk and wide eyes remarked, ‘The thing I love about him is how he mixes his songs. He doesn’t just stop at what sounds cool he brings it to another level. He’ll mix two tracks to make a funny or ironic statement. Who else would mix Radiohead and Webbie together? I just think that’s pretty amazing.”
And it was. At the tail end of his set, he got on the microphone and, with permission for more time, began to rock the crowd for an additional 15 minutes. As I left, I noticed the windows in the gym had fogged up due to the amount of heat released. As the rain began to wet my already-damp T-shirt yet again, I realized the past hour and a half easily encompassed one of the best, most energetic live shows I had been to in quite some time. As a lover of music, I couldn’t help but appreciate his creativity, and as a DJ, I couldn’t help but marvel at his sonic finesse. Not too bad for $15 and a 10-minute ride off campus.
Alani is a member of
the class of 2012.