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The parents of New Haven should have heard of this tale. They should have attempted a bribe, offered large sums of cash, an attractive retirement plan or something, in exchange for Gregg Gillis not announcing his presence Friday night. But they didn't, and Girl Talk arrived, lifting the town's young people into oblivion and transforming the long-established Toad's Place into a chaotic, sweat-drenched celebration of youth.
The night began, however, with Cambridge, Massachusetts' own Passion Pit. Led by a tri-synth assault, the five man collective galloped through half an hour of ecstasy-injected electronic power pop. Without a guitarist, the group relied heavily upon the interplay between the three keyboards on stage to take the spotlight, but it was the rhythm section's performance that really deserves a special nod. Adam Lavinsky's percussive force was in full effect for the duration of Passion Pit's set, and it was his vivacity and energy that poured gasoline all over the emerging flame that the group's performance revealed. While all of the originals were capable and strong, the incandescent highlight of Passion Pit's set was the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere," which saw the band transforming a partially lobotomized FM radio staple into an exuberant monstrosity that played to all of the group's strengths and provided what was truly some of the most fun I've ever had at a rock concert.
|Passion Pit (photos by Beth Gratzer)|
Would anything make Gregg Gillis prouder than to see a Fleetwood Mac cover performed by a band of Passion Pit's genome? Girl Talk's entire platform is the re-contextualization of recognizable bits and pieces of music into a new entity, with the aim always to facilitate the production of as many endorphins as possible. Appearing on stage just before eleven o'clock in a faded purple Nirvana shirt that was later traded for a tattered sleeveless tee and a cream hoodie, Gillis was received like a messiah to the masses of teenagers before him. He holds his finger over the pulse of youth culture, embracing sex rap and file-sharing, placing community and the thrill of being alive over accountability while retaining a sense of humor over how far this all strays from reality.
Yet, there is no separation between the fantasy and the seemingly unworthy at a Girl Talk show. Within ten minutes of the opening of his set, as custom has necessitated, about half of the audience rushed on stage where Gillis was working two laptops, covered in plastic wrap on a white collapsible table, and everyone got the chance to feel like a rock star. There are no spectators at a Girl Talk show - everyone is an element to the grand design, dancing to music from everywhere that is familiar to all of us. The set list ran from Birdman to Kelly Clarkson to the already classic "Tiny Dancer/Juicy" combination, a mashup that was more than likely being played simultaneously at a college dorm party somewhere in America. Added to all of this was the little extra spice of pop touchstones like Michael Jackson and Pilot's "Magic," mixed in just to coat the already sweet tasting night with a thin layer of powdered sugar.
The lasting image from this past Friday night, however, is that of the ever-present glow of Gillis' smile amid the chaos that erupted all around him and his laptop and hung in the air for almost the entirety of his set. Gillis has the gift of being able to feel like he's seventeen for as long as he wishes to, but he is also a performer of the purest kind, in that he is aware that none of the Girl Talk live experience is really about him. At some point in the show, a mischievous young audience member hunched over the front of Gillis' table and began twiddling random knobs on the electrical set-up. As began doing this, the kid looked up at Gillis, readying himself to be scolded and shooed off, but no reprimand ever came. Instead, Gillis just smiled at him, the two then smiled at each other, and the audience member continued to twist and twirl knobs for the next thirty seconds. Gregg Gillis is just a normal guy, a biomedical engineer by day, a working stiff for an anonymous company. Girl Talk is something else altogether, a mashed-up explosion that happens when people get excited about life and tell the potential repercussions to go fuck themselves.
|Greg Gillis as Girl Talk.|
SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com/passionpitjams
SEE ALSO: www.toadsplace.com
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.
See other articles by Dave Toropov.
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