Alternate title: "What do you get when you put a couple thousand white people in a venue and play every pop song ever all at once?"
When Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) made his 2009 stop in St. Louis, I went with a few of my closest friends, drank my weight in gin, danced a month's worth of cardio and most important, had a fantastic time. All in all, it felt like a really great dance party in some friend-of-a-friend's house with a few thousand strangers who were all pretty nice.
Meanwhile, at the 2011 show, I was sober, seated and attending more as a voyeur than a participant. I'm not sure if it's the change in perspective or another two years passing, but man, was it weird. When the house lights came on and the 40 or so audience members who'd been chosen to dance onstage were awkwardly trying to figure out where to go, I felt less of those warm fuzzies and more like 30 years of pop music got wasted, trashed my house and puked on my shoes.
Originally I thought that maybe I'd just changed more than I'd realized. Although, I'm not the only variable - perhaps Girl Talk's explosion of popularity had something to do with it, maybe it was a change in his demographic, and it might even just be the fact that he didn't use that Khia sample that I love so dearly.
Also, it's hard to not go into a show like this without some preconceptions. No matter what your opinion on him and his "illegal art," there's no arguing that Girl Talk is a polarizing figure: You either love him or hate him, respect what he does or scoff at it. And although I understand the frustration his critics find in the practice of profiting and building a career so dependent on the creativity of others, I've always defended mashup art in itself, and Gillis in particular. Not only does he do a great job of making incredibly fun, nostalgia-ridden dance tracks, but he really does perform when he has a gig - he'll use a lot of the same samples that are present on the album, but pit them against different tracks and play them at different speeds. And, of course, there's his ultra0energetic dance style (think "jump! Jump! Jump!") and penchant for shirtless, sweaty hyping.
This show altered my opinion a bit. Although Gillis' energy and talent were present as ever, he clearly put a lot more effort into the stage design and visuals. And while he did mix together some different tracks, a vast majority sounded exactly as they did on the album (especially those samples used on All Day, the most recent record). Frankly, I began to feel like I may have been better served listening to All Day while staring at the iTunes Visualizer.
Admittedly, your experience at a Girl Talk show is what you make it. You'd have to try pretty hard to not have at least some fun -- and If you spent hours listening to the records at home while you get dressed in your glow-in-the-dark feather hat and tutu before piling into a car with all of your friends and splitting a bottle of Peach Schnapps (as many folks appeared to have done), it's impossible not to have a great time. If you go to a Girl Talk show with a reviewer's notebook and watch from the balcony (please understand, I did dance - you can't just not dance - but I was severely limited by my seating arrangement and sobriety) you're simply dealing with a different animal: one that looks like somebody turned all the lights on at the party.
Personal Bias: Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this type of show. Maybe if we could go back in time, reschedule the show for Friday and do this all over again, I would have abandoned my notebook and grinded all over some scrawny white dude in a greenman suit. Maybe.
The '09 show was ridiculously fun, and this was never going to live up to it, no matter what happened.
Favorite Moments: -Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" mashed up with Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz's "Get Low."
-The crowd erupting in cheers as Kelly Clarkson shouted "Since You've Been Gone!" and confetti fluttered from the ceiling.
-Hearing Missy Elliott sampled twice ("Gossip Folks" and "Work it").
-Gregg Gillis' varying states of undress- from sweatsuit to sleeveless T to no shirt to sweaty back with confetti stuck to it.