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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Girl Talk walks the walk

Published: November 10, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

No one could have possibly been prepared for the spastic dancing onslaught that is Girl Talk, and no one could have possibly been happier with the performance last Saturday night at Chums. The coffeehouse should have been renamed Club Chums in honor of Girl Talks Punk, Rock & Roll, Club-sponsored performance as the lucky two hundred or so audience members danced on every available surface in the glow of the strobe light. The hour-long set of spastic mash-up dance heaven by Gregg Gillis, the mastermind laptop musician who has been making interracially composed songs under the name Girl Talk since 2002, made up the best dance party that Brandeis has ever seen.

A few hours before his set, a rather reserved Gillis entered lower Usdan in search of a quick meal without any of the massive fanfare he would receive after the show. Gillis managed to blend into the crowd of bleary-eyed undergraduates with the ease of a chameleon;

the only thing that set the recently critically acclaimed musician apart from those stammering around him in search of sustenance was the slightly visible difference in age. As Zach Lipkin-Moore 09, the student responsible for recruiting Girl Talk for the event, eagerly asked Gillis questions regarding his future projects and the publics newfound appreciation for his work, it was a little hard to picture the quiet and rather introspective Gillis as the artist who has quickly captured the attention of the music industry. It appeared as if Gillis was the musical incarnation of a superhero;

while munching on chips, Gillis discussed balancing his double-life as a mild-mannered scientific researcher in Pittsburgh and a vigilante musician poised to bring fun back into music by traveling across the country on weekends. When youre busy juggling the needs of the science community and heeding the calls to remix Beck, Grizzly Bear, and Good Charlotte, its no wonder that Gillis was more than a little quiet.

As Brandeiss own TASSFGP warmed up the consistently growing crowd, those who clamored about Chums were completely oblivious to the man who would have them dancing in ways they never thought possible;

Gillis quietly sat on a couch stuffed in the back of Chums, surveying the ever-growing crowd. By the time Gillis began setting up, the crowd was swarming about the place, teeming with a sense of excitement while curiously staring at Gillis fumbling around on his laptop. Gillis quickly set up, made a short announcement to the crowd, and abruptly ran out of Chums;

as the atmosphere in the crowd teetered between anticipation and confusion, the words Girl Talk began to spill out of the speakers at an ever quickening pace as Gillis dashed through the crowd to the stage. Here he was, in his full-out superhero-like persona, and Gillis morphed into Girl Talk in front of the crowd in a flurry of frantic jumping.

After a quick crack at the setup of Chums in relation to his parents basement, Girl Talk was off and running;

Gillis launched into Once Again off of Night Ripper and, within seconds, launched himself into the crowd. Although his attempt to crowd surf was quickly aborted and Gillis crashed to the floor, he remained undeterred, marching back to the stage and dancing about frantically all while mixing the body-shaking music pumping from the computers on his little laptop set-up. In no time, much of the crowd flowed on stage and Gillis became lost in the swarm of flapping arms and bodies. Just as fast as Gillis disappeared into a mass of sweat-stained dancers, Chums faded to black, lit only by the flash of the strobe light and pulsating with the dance moves emanating from the feet of hundreds.

Enthusiastic audience members found themselves onstage, offstage, on couches, on tables, and on Chums oft-rickety counter that usually sees more movement from milkshakes served to eager customers instead of the skittish movement of feet, all the while Gillis chugged down any liquid he could get his hands on, removed his clothing at jump speed, and frantically clicked his way through the nights performance of Night Ripper. Although the live performance of Night Ripper differed somewhat stylistically in the instrumental production, the musical effect was just as appealing as the album. Feeding off the crowd, Gillis brilliantly matched the dance-crazed mood that filled Chums with the live translation of his critically-lauded album.

After a few years of mashing together music from all genres, Night Ripper finally brought Gillis the well-deserved fame and exposure that many current DJs dont deserve. Since Danger Mouse revolutionized the music world with the Grey Album, no artist had been able to replicate the ingeniousness and creativity of mash-ups until Gillis released Night Ripper this year. Instead of combining two unlike artists for one album, Gillis crams dozens of aesthetically different musicians into a two-minute span;

from Kanye West, Daft Punk, the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Fall Out Boy, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Hall & Oates, Seales & Crofts, M.I.A., Paula Abdul, Joan Jett, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Weezer, Boston, and a continually growing list with every new song he creates, no artist is safe from sampling as long as Gillis can fit it into the gears of his musical chimes. His music has caught the attention of elitist review databases (Pitchfork), an array of notoriously creative musicians (Beck), and the watchful legal eye of the recording industry.

Musical genius or not, the most important and pervasive matter at Chums this past Saturday was how to possibly keep up with quirky beats flowing from the speakers and Gilliss jarring dancing. To end the hour-long dance party, Gillis grabbed a microphone, ascended the shoddily assembled table that his laptop rested upon, screamed into the microphone, and jumped from the very top of Chums to the floor next to the stage. As the music faded out, Gillis climbed back onstage, waded through the gleeful masses on stage, and shouted thank you. The panting and excited crowd stood there, waiting for another outburst of frantic music mixing and dancing. Unfortunately, after an hour of non-stop entertainment, Gillis was done, and a jubilant crowd slowly made its way out of Chums or towards Gillis to thank him for the best hour of dancing theyve had in their college experience.

Whether or not Gillis intended his life to end up the way it did, he embodies the spirit of a superhero: mild-mannered blue-collar workaholic during the week, and weekend dance warrior who entertains the masses from the smallest coffee shops to the biggest New York dancehalls. When the lights flickered on, a half-naked Gillis appeared to be the musical incarnation of Bruce Banner;

after transforming into the Hulk, prancing around the stage like a maniac, once the music stops, he slowly morphs back into the wry little Banner, almost oblivious to the lack of clothing and assessing the physical damage done to his body. While Gilliss life has certainly encountered somewhat of a dramatic life change since the explosion in praise for Night Ripper (not unlike the change Banner encountered after a certain nuclear explosion), the affects of Gilliss output isnt quite as dangerous as that from Banner. The Hulk may destroy cities whole with brute force, but Girl Talk destroys apathy with manic musical production, proving that the music of a skinny white kid is certainly more powerful than the strength of a grumpy green giant.