Dancing shoes required: Girl Talk shakes things up

By Amy Shaunette

Since the 2006 release of his third album, “Night Ripper,” Greg Gillis, working under the name Girl Talk, has come frighteningly close to taking over the world, musically speaking. The Pittsburgh native has mastered the art of the music mash-up, layering sample after sample to create mind-blowing dance songs. “Night Ripper” alone includes over 150 samples from contemporary artists like Ludacris and Weezer to classic musicians such as Chicago, The Five Stairsteps and Aerosmith. There’s something for everybody in a Girl Talk song and as would follow, everybody’s gone crazy for Girl Talk.Quickly becoming the king of laptop dance music, Gillis just recently quit his day job as a biomedical engineer. Girl Talk has been in the works for seven years, with three full-length albums released on Illegal Art and several mix tracks available on vinyl. As easily traceable as the evolution of his music is the change seen in Gillis during his rise to fame. Comparing photos from 2006 and 2007, his face is gaunt, his full beard creeping down his neck, his friendly smile absent in video interviews, his eyes full of the wisdom of an artist who knows what people want. And his laptop, the tool of his trade? Upgraded from a Dell to a shiny new MacBook. But at least one thing has remained constant throughout Gillis’ rise to the top: his ability to put on a killer show.

At the sold out Girl Talk show last Friday, First Avenue was at its capacity. Lost in the sea of neon American Apparel outfits, shaggy haircuts and Ray-Ban sunglasses were armies of Mac students-at least a fourth of the audience had to be from Macalester. Once the dance party began, the night resembled a KAADATT dance minus the cramped Dupre basement and plus a few famous musical geniuses.

The Show is the Rainbow and Pitchfork sensation Dan Deacon opened the show with well-received sets, but it was Tay Zonday who really got the crowd ready for Girl Talk. The YouTube celebrity known for the offbeat music video “Chocolate Rain” took the stage in his traditional uniform of a white t-shirt and classic nerd glasses. His lyrics flashed behind him on a simple black screen, allowing the audience to sing along with his comically deep voice, and when he began his song “Do the Can’t Dance” by dedicating it to all the kids who can’t dance, the crowd went crazy. By the time Girl Talk took the stage, sweat hung in the air, signaling that something big was about to happen.

During Gillis’ set, fans rushed the stage, boogieing down right next to Gillis. It was him, his laptop and a stage packed with amateur backup dancers. Glowsticks were everywhere; girls danced on platforms and the crowd on the floor was tightly packed. Still, everyone found the energy and the space to dance, and dance they did, nonstop. Gillis expertly steered his set from song to song, playing most of “Night Ripper” and the highlights from his older albums. He thrashed around with his fans, one hand on the laptop at all times. It was clear that he was enjoying his music just as much as the audience was, and judging from various interviews on the Internet, Gillis is definitely a musician that cares about the quality of his live show. He wants people to have as much fun as possible, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen-even if that means shedding his clothes and head-banging until he can’t see straight.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Never have I seen so many satisfied fans staggering out of First Ave. Maybe I speak for myself, but after seeing Girl Talk live, it’s been hard to remember that there’s other music out there that matters. Girl Talk is taking the world by storm, one city at a time, and when the tour’s done, the music world won’t know what hit it.