I was first introduced to Girl Talk just two years ago when he was the first of two opening acts for Peeping Tom, one of Mike Patton’s numerous side projects. As a skinny white guy with a laptop walked on the stage and stuttered into the microphone, “Hi my name is Girl Talk, I just play some party jams,” I didn’t expect much. As he began to tinker on his PC, the sounds that blared from the speakers peaked my interest immediately. I heard the beats from pop songs, the guitars from Indie classics, and the lyrics from hip hop jams, ALL AT ONCE!
The term mash-up refers to the mixing of the elements of two or more songs and has been around for years now. Girl Talk (aka Greg Gillis) takes this concept to the next level (see Fishpork review for Feed the Animals). Girl Talk has released four albums, and each one is more complicated than its predecessor. His latest features 264 samples of songs from all genres, and it’s meant to play as one continuous track at a party. For the most part, it holds up well on most listens. However, it works best in a party atmosphere. And it will not sound better than when Gillis manipulates his laptop live.
The live show is something you have to experience to fully understand. On Thursday night at the sold-out Startlight Ballroom in Philadelphia, everyone in attendance was treated to Girl Talk’s musical canvas. Hundreds of fans were invited on stage to surround Gillis, as he filled the room with his non-stop, postmodern tour of pop culture. Playing mixes from his last two (and most popular) albums, Girl Talk delighted the crowd with each new track. Part of the experience is recognizing the layered sounds in each track as the heavy bass fills the venue. Each song contains 20-30 samples and is best served with 1,000 of your closest friends in Philly.
At the last Girl Talk show I attended, Gillis limited the amount of people on stage. I would guess that about 30-40 were allowed to join him at that NYC gig. Throughout the night, Girl Talk slowly stripped down to only his boxers. This time around, Gillis sported long, hippie-like hair with a bright yellow shirt and a white, oversized bandana. Well over 100 people were on stage (including myself and friends), a presence that grew throughout the night. One single security guard stood behind Gillis and didn’t exactly keep the hoards of fans from accessing his space. However, there seemed to be an understanding that encroachment would only interfere with the party. Fortunate for him, Girl Talk kept his clothes on.