1.26.08 The Metro, Chicago
Apart from the fact that this was a Girl Talk show, this one was special for two reasons: It was at the Metro and Dan Deacon was opening. Dan Deacon started things out by doing his crazy set in the audience, something I wasn’t expecting at all. He set up his table of laptops, synths and crazy boards in the middle of the pit and the crowd went nuts. People were forming tunnels for others to dance through. Those unfamiliar with Deacon’s work were learning the words and everyone was having a blast. By the end of his set, I was grinning from ear to ear, sweaty and exhausted.
Oh, I even found this nice clip I took from that Dan Deacon show:
And THEN Girl Talk came out and kept that energy going. I don’t mean to say that Deacon made the show, but when Gregg Gillis took the stage, the audience was pumped. For me, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know he was going to let people up on the stage, I didn’t know he’d be shirtless and sweating all over his computer by the end of the show. I had no idea how many indie rock kids could sing along to Kelly Clarkson- this was pre-Feed The Animals. The whole thing was a breath of fresh air. It was probably my favorite show that I saw in 2008.
3.18.2010 Slayter Hill, Purdue University
So, my friend and I found out about this free show at Purdue and we decided to go. I went to school like 2 hours from there. So we drove down in the morning and got there around noon. The show started around 3. We got a good spot hoping that we could get on stage. We sat through the sound check. We got up close during the opening band who was some average regional rapper. Pretty much 80% of the people in attendance were sitting down during the opener.
When Girl Talk came out, I was right up front, it was still light out and still most of the audience was sitting down. He started playing and the people who were standing up around me started dancing. Eventually, more people were around me and thing got pretty physical around the pit. The security was trying to hold back their shitty barrier, and the crowd in the middle was getting more restless… BECAUSE WE COULDN’T HERE THE MUSIC. The filler speakers were broken, so everyone front and center could only here the stage monitors. Not only that, but only the friends of the people who ran the concert got on stage. By the time the show was over, I hadn’t really heard anything, I felt like I had just had the shit beat out of me and I was pretty annoyed. So ends my love affair with Girl Talk, though I realize that nearly 100% of the things that bothered me about the concert were the fault of the Student Senate of Purdue University.
This brings us to…
1.18.11 The Pageant, St. Louis
So, I went to this show wondering if my experience was going to be more like my first one in Chicago ro my second one at Purdue. The Pageant is set up more like The Metro than a random hill outside, so it had that going in its favor. The opening band was pretty good. People generally enjoyed them. I was pretty far up front and thought I had a small chance of getting on stage. All signs pointed to this being a much better show than the one at Purdue.
Fortunately, it was. I didn’t get up on stage but I did have a fantastic time. I heard all of the music well, got pushed around in a much less hostile way and left feeling like I had just had an exhilarating experience. A lot of his mashups fed pretty heavily from his recently released All Day, but there were a fair amount of curveballs as well. Runaway (Kanye West) made an early appearance. The encore featured a fantastic mash of Bittersweet Symphony/Ice Cream Paint Job. Even things that people already knew from All Day felt fresh and sounded slightly different than they did on the live CD.
All of this was enhanced with production values that have skyrocketed. His entire screen is some LED display madness. Same with the front of his table. There are confetti canons, toilet paper machines and a ridiculous amount of balloons and inflatables. People come squirt the audience with much needed water. The whole thing is a pop culture mega-circus.
I can’t help but wonder how much longer he can keep doing this. The more people know what to expect, the more difficult it must be to make shows interesting. This goes not just for props and stage management, but for musical mixes as well. I’m not saying that he’s tapped out pop culture music. Certainly he could keep making albums of new material for awhile. But the more familiar people are with his albums, the less room there is for serendipity. Other than a new hit or two that has come out since All Day came out, the show was basically a greatest-hits type event, rather than an exploration of new material. I think it’s because people expect certain things to go together. People expected the show to start with (the admittedly fantastic) War Pigs/Move Bitch mix and end with Imagine. And he did. All the classic mashups were great, but all just slight album variations.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never recommend passing up a Girl Talk show if he comes to your town, especially if you’ve never seen him before. I still wouldn’t dream of it. But I might consider not listening to his next album (if he makes one) just so I can be surprised by some of the material next time I see him live. At a regular rock show, you want to know their songs going in. At a Girl Talk show, you expect to know all the songs, but would like to be surprised by how they are put together.
And a brief shaky video clip (sorry that it is vertical. #phonevideofail)