Haven’t heard of Girl Talk? I hadn’t either. A friend mentioned that she and her husband were going to be attending the event. Instantly, I imagined a sickly sugary-pop girl band inflicting songs as deep as puddles on the unsuspecting world, with titles along the lines of “Be My Boyfriend Baby” and “Gurl, You Don’t Need No Man”. I could not have been more wrong.
Girl Talk is a strictly one man show. Greg Michael Gillis who currently resides in Pittsburgh, is a former Biomedical Engineer. I like to imagine that he was at work one day and without any warning, flung his protective goggles to the floor and fled from the lab, white coat billowing out behind him, in dramatic fashion after suddenly deciding he wanted to dedicate his time to passionately mashing up songs and sharing his creations with the world. To some this might sound crazy, but his decision to change career direction was a complete success, the evidence being the many shows he has sold out since. Gillis’ mixes are so flawlessly timed, but so absolutely absurd. Mixing classic songs from the Boss himself, Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” with N.E.R.D’s “Everyone Nose (All the Girls Waiting in the Line for the Bathroom”, to Rye Rye featuring MIA’s song “Bang” mixed with Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name of…” I mean, who thinks of this stuff? Gillis evidently, and it REALLY works.
As the lights cut out at 10:00 p.m., a booming electronic voice repeated the words “Girl Talk” faster and louder as the gathered crowd chanted loudly and expectantly along. Gillis appeared on stage to a deafening cacophony of cheering, high-pitched “my-ears-are-bleeding” screeching and continued chanting. As he launched into what was going to be a roughly two-hour long continuous stream of noise, twenty or so dancers arrived on stage in all their glow stick swinging, sparkly neon-clad glory. A hundred or so balloons fell from the ceiling and two vicious looking guys armed with what can only be described as toilet tissue machine guns fired roll after roll of it at the crowd. Confetti Cannons erupted, shooting clouds of confetti over the hyped-up audience. And it hit me. No, not just the tissue, but the fact that this wasn’t just a show – it was a party, a rave even. To say that the crowd went wild would be an absolute understatement. People were flailing their arms and legs, jumping up and down and head-banging like a swarm of possessed bobble-head figures in an earthquake.
In order to make the most of the space around him, Gillis’ sound equipment was situated on tall stands at the very front of the stage, with panels of LED lights placed directly beneath them. There were larger panels hanging from the back wall and, of course, then there were the dancers. All panels flashed different psychedelic images every few seconds in time to the music, from flying hamburgers to human skulls, to blinking cat eyes to Chinese dragons. Now and again the panels would flash lyrics from whatever song was being mixed at that time. Spotlights spun around, flashed and illuminated the crowd in a series of bright neon colours. Although definitely NOT the place to be if you suffered from epilepsy, the overall effect was absolutely outstanding.
What really impressed me the most however was how Gillis connected with the crowd. Throughout the two-hour set, he imitated everyone in attendance, throwing his head back and forth in time to the music and dancing manically along to his mixes, taking breaks only to jump up onto his equipment to breathlessly shout out words of gratitude to his fans for coming and to ensure everyone was having a good night. But again, apart from those brief interludes, he did NOT stop moving. He head banged so hard and for so long I gave myself a headache as I imagined his poor brain being slammed repeatedly against his skull. Surely that cannot have been healthy! It also made photographing him next to impossible.
As the show came to a close, Gillis fulfilled the crowds request for an encore and he finished in style as more confetti shot out from the cannons at each side of the stage.
Following his show, I downloaded Girl Talks’ album All Day, which is free to download from website Illegal Art. I have been listening to mixes from it at least once every day since. Friends who were also present at the show are still talking about it days later. A night of complete sensory overload, I would definitely recommend that you go see this guy the next time he decides to come to town. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.