When I first heard Girl Talk live I was disappointed, and I never went back. And it wasn't that I didn't think he was doing any work on that stage. Gregg Gillis has an immensely impressive talent and skill set. It was just because I didn't dance.
Not really, really dance the way I imagined I would when I was listening to his albums in my car or at house parties. Or even at the occasional club, when a DJ was so lazy they would dare play a Girl Talk track. That show was one of the first times I was finding myself nearly surrounded by a crowd a generation or two younger than me, and I remember finding that disarming. That they all appeared to be future SMU alumni was also something I remember standing out. But mostly, I remember just wishing I had been at a club. Or, I suppose, to be in the group of people dancing on stage with Gregg. They seemed to very obviously be having have the most fun.
So after that, even though I kept downloading all the albums, I never went back.
On his recent stop at Index Festival I was even on my way to see a set from Sam Lao once the night went Girl Talk, but a different set of circumstances presented themselves. First a call from an old friend who was nearby meant we could catch up. Once we met, his enthusiastic, "I love Girl Talk!!" meant I would finally see him onstage again. I am no Scrooge.
It's difficult to offer meaningful criticism of the live Girl Talk experience. If you like the albums, you will at least sonically respond to what's going on onstage. But those who want a peek behind the curtain are definitely rewarded. This time I didn't worry about dancing, so I did, because that's how it goes. On a related note, Absolut had Jameson in their promotional areas. And this time I made an attempt to get a little closer to witness Gregg in action.
An attempt to climb to the front was thwarted with young ravers. The luxury of a backstage pass still only provided a view of those same dancers who were having so much fun onstage the first time I saw this exercise. A push towards the side stage, though, revealed a little unguarded staircase, and that was that. My chance at redemption.
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It all felt so silly. There was a toilet paper gun. Confetti bomb after confetti bomb. Whatever reservations I had previously had about the "youths" in attendance were wiped completely by the young girl, maybe nine years old, on stage right. OK, some white people started a conga line, and it was embarrassing. But! It was so joyful up there. Gregg was pushing and pulling and tweaking and jumping and stomping on his deck conducting the music and the crowd. Two teenage girls were very clearly keeping an eye on that nine year old. In an attempt to see Gregg a little closer, I forgot to pay attention and danced with one of my oldest friends instead.
And to be honest, it was more fun from the stage. I felt like I had been right about something until, that is, I looked out into the crowd. Manic with energy, the Girl Talk set went by quickly, but from my view, happily. I saw dancing, yes. And beach balls and all that other stimuli seemingly from an EDM birthday party. But the main thing I saw from the perspective of Gregg Gillis were the contagious smiles of fans high off the endorphins of a dance party (and perhaps some narcotics), led by a shirtless, jumping, frenetic musical architect.
And I wondered. Maybe I was being too critical.