Let’s forget, for a second, about all of the talk surrounding Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk (a.k.a. this week's CityBeat cover star). Certainly in an era of Internet piracy and intensely important discussions of fair use doctrine, Gillis is at the forefront of pushing boundaries, both musically and legally. And Gillis also sticks out like a wonderfully sore thumb to those at the Federal Communications Commission and the like, that would have artists censored or denied their right to perform in the way they say fit.
However, at a live Girl Talk show, none of this matters. In fact, it is distinctly absent, not even crossing the minds of the masses that so eagerly wallow in the waters of Gillis’ mash-up masterpieces. What is important is the transformative experience in which the wildly eclectic crowd partakes.
Gillis, under the moniker Girl Talk, last played Cincinnati at the now defunct Alchemize (Northside location), and sold it out roughly a year and half ago. So, a jump from a sweaty, 300-person venue to the monstrosity that is Bogart’s may seem like a bit of a stretch.
But on this Sunday night, I received an answer from the Cincinnati music scene that Girl Talk shows are not to be missed, as the place was also sold out.
Of course there were all the usual tricks that accompany a Girl Talk show: people grinding on stage, Gillis jumping around like a man possessed and ritualistically derobing, rolls of toilet paper and glowsticks flying over the crowd. Just YouTube his live shows and you’ll get the picture. However, what a Girl Talk show lacks in ambiguity, it makes up for in sheer energy. No matter the feelings of anyone coming into the show, Girl Talk allows the crowd to release all inhibitions and let loose for a little over an hour. This party environment creates a palpable energy among the people, bonding them in ways they may not have been before. I mean, you’re going to have sweat from about 20 different people on you by the end, so you kind of have to accept the fact that you’re going to get to know your neighbors well. And this is type of experience over the span of an hour is what draws people in.
I also found myself reveling in the differences among the crowd members. People were coming from all walks of life to this show. There were the scene kids, the indie kids, the college kids, the yuppies and the youngsters, the Hip Hop heads and the Deadheads. The beauty of mashing together all of that music is that no matter what type of music you listen to, Gillis is going to find something you not only know but genuinely appreciate. It’s also amazing that in a time of so much musical division and genre-consciousness, Gillis is able to provide an outlet for an iPod generation, giving voice to the shuffle between Jay-Z, Radiohead, Nirvana, and Styx.
The shtick of Girl Talk could eventually grow old, and it will be interesting to see what artistic direction Gillis takes at that point. But with pop music continuing to evolve and progress, and the visceral energy I saw Sunday night, I don’t see him slowing down any time soon. There is so much music being produced and put out right now, and as long as Gillis doesn’t grow tired of sifting through it, I don’t see how he could ever run out of material. For the hundreds that came out on a chilly Sunday night in Cincinnati, that’s the real music to their ears.
— Dave Tobias