February 2, 2008
Better Than:Cocaine and Miami Subs
“Bounce That”, the 12th “song” off of Girl Talk’s third album Night Ripper has kicked off almost every mix CD I’ve made in the past year. And regardless of each of my friends’ musical preference, be it trip-hop, hip-hop, punk rock, or jazz-funk-country-disco-fusion, I always get the same response from the maiden track: What was up with that ghetto-ass crap?
That ghetto-ass crap is the signature style of Pittsburgh’s own Dr. Frankenstein and self-proclaimed “laptop producer” Gregg Gillis. Gillis, who uses Girl Talk as a stage name, swipes samples from songs in styles ranging from classic R&B to obscure indie rock, layers them on top of one another, and creates a completely new monster of a jam.
So when I walked into Studio A on Saturday night to find a massive crowd as eclectic as Girl Talk’s samples, I was kind of shocked that so many people a) knew who Girl Talk was and b) actually, uh, liked him. “I played I/O four years ago. There were 10 people there and everyone hated it,” Gillis said later on in the show, and I believed him.
First, local artist Ed Prence warmed up the audience of pink tights, fedoras, and sagging-boxer-peek-a-boo pants with a tight remix of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4." Next, fellow Pittsburghian (not a word, but I’m keeping it) Grand Buffet killed the buzz with lame Miami/coke jokes. This could have been somewhat forgiven with the quirky song “Creamcheese Money,” about meteorites threatening Grand Buffet’s ability to buy the tasty spread, if it weren’t for his redundant mentions of Miami Subs in between songs.
Finally, around midnight (or maybe after midnight, the Red Bulls and vodkas were creeping up on me) Gillis took the stage. And after a technical hiccup covered up by playing The Dandy Warhols' “Bohemian Like You,” he invited a fourth of the crowd on stage to dance around him.
The masses chanted “Girl Talk!” as Gillis busted out his first hodgepodge of melodies through a laptop and some sound equipment. Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” layered with Ciara’s “One Two Step” infected the club with an insanely sick house party vibe, and things got even more ill when Gillis released, like a bird, the sweet pre-pubescent voice of Michael Jackson into the air. He followed up with the guitar riff from Smashing Pumpkins' “Today,” causing in some audience members bird flu-like symtoms – sweating, sore muscles, and shortness of breath.
Although Gillis has been known in the past to strip down to his skivvies and spit beer at fans, none of this really occurred during the hour-plus-long gig. Okay, so Gillis at one point discarded his shirt, revealing his hairy, perspiring chest, but most antics were tossed aside for the sake of his mixes which were sprinkled with familiar samples. Yet, the samples that fans might have recognized from previous albums, like snippets of the Notorious B.I.G., Ludacris, Elastica, and Grizzly Bear were freshly coated with glitches from more recent songs like M.I.A.’s “Boyz” and Britney Spear’s “Gimme More." This alone made the show worthwhile for Girl Talk aficionados, and fed something new to an amped-up crowd who spilled out of the doors of Studio A in the wee hours of the morning looking like a hot mess. -- Elyse Wanshel
Personal Bias: If it weren’t for Girl Talk, I’d never be able to appreciate a Fergie song.
Random Detail: The doorman at Studio A said the only other time he’d seen the venue that packed was when M.I.A. came down this past October.
By The Way: No one really knows where the name Girl Talk comes from. Some sources say it alludes to a Jim Morrsion poem, others to the Japanese noise scene, but Gillis did tell the Miami Herald’s Jaweed Kaleem that he “picked the name Girl Talk to be the antithesis of the openly serious world. It's a very cheesy-sounding teen opposite of what an artist should be.''
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