One thing we know after the Girl Talk show in Miami Beach Thursday night is that the Fillmore could withstand a rather violent earthquake. There were moments during the two-hour set when all the hyperbole one has ever heard about bass — “teeth rattling”, “ear shattering”, “ground shaking” — rang true and even seemed understated. For example, right around the time the General Public “Tenderness” sample made its joyful debut in “Let It Out” (track two off Girl Talk’s latest album, All Day), my esophagus starting vibrating like a milk frother.
Once I rode a horse on the beach in Puerto Rico, and I remember the discomfort of my organs bouncing around as Bonita cantered across the sand. At times Thursday night, I felt like I was seven seconds into a bull ride.
This was my second time seeing Girl Talk (known at the Thanksgiving table as Gregg Gillis). As I mentioned in last week’s ticket giveaway, I saw him perform at Chicago’s Congress Theater on New Year’s Eve 2009. I didn’t know his music at the time, just went for something to do on the last night of the year. It ended up being one of the best shows I’d ever been to. Sweaty, sensual, ecstatic, utterly uninhibited without being sleazy, pure fun. Wouldn’t have noticed one year gave way to the next if Gillis hadn’t gotten the thousands of us to count down to midnight together (which, coincidentally, suggests that the ability to count backwards may not necessarily indicate an ability to operate a motor vehicle).
Thursday night, with the Fillmore about three-quarters full and the crowd (average age: 11 years old) chanting his moniker, Gillis ran out in a red hoodie, his shoulder-length hair bound in a torn shirt sleeve, bounced along the rim of the stage reaching out to the pit, then climbed atop his laboratory table and implored Miami to “Make Some NOISE!” Typical DJ stuff. But there’s something about Girl Talk’s energy that is anything but typical. To call it “infectious” would be to give in too easily to cliché. It is that, for sure. But infections are malicious things, and Girl Talk’s vibe is about as salubrious as it gets.
Check out more photos from Girl Talk on the Beached Miami Facebook page
And even though certain aspects of the Girl Talk experience are gimmicky — balloon drops, toilet paper streamers, confetti blizzards (see below) — these touches are mere party favors compared to the aural spectacle of Girl Talk’s music, which gets a crowd bouncing faster than the post man gets a dog barking.
A lot of people take issue with Girl Talk’s mashups of other artists’ choruses, verses, bridges, and melodies. (A typical track on “All Day”, one of Gillis’ less frenetic albums, features 20 samples, ranging from a one-second horn blast from the Beastie Boys “Paul Revere” to the guitar strumming from Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.”) The critics of mashups in general impugn Gillis for his ostensible inability to create his own music. Reasonable folk can run with that argument — but only as far as the entrance to a Girl Talk show.
Once inside, you see thousands of people dancing (and not just from the shoulders up), and you hear snippets of some of the most famous music ever written, both good (“Shout”, “Thriller”) and bad (“Shot Through The Heart”), and, as you your-skeptical-self start to bob, you realize that not only is Gillis not stealing anyone’s music — he’s saving it. Furthermore, you realize that a Girl Talk track is not a mashup of song samples — it is itself a song. And a damn good one. And what you may not realize is that you’re already dancing to it.
This is how I view Girl Talk anyway. Not as a musical thief, but as something closer to a musical archaeologist-preservationist-regifter hybrid. What I love most about him, something I think came through powerfully Thursday night, is his ability to see the worth in all music, even in something as insipid as a Miley Cyrus song. I hear no mockery in Girl Talk mashups, only fascination and joy and revelry. And that trinity has the rare power to loosen limbs and dissolve hang-ups and get people dancing. And that is what we did Thursday night. And it was good.
Girl Talk has another show Friday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach (tickets still available). To see a ton of photos from the Thursday night show, visit the Beached Miami Facebook page.