If there’s one good thing to say about Friday night’s Girl Talk concert, it’s that DJ Gregg Gillis makes some fantastic mash-ups. Beyond that, almost everything about Niteskool’s Winter Quarter show was overhyped, misrepresented or mishandled. The unresponsive and, at times, hostile crowd didn’t make the experience any better.
People poured in around 7 p.m. Some went to the bar; others showed up trashed. Uninformed underclassmen met unfortunate fates using fake IDs, while police and paramedics were on hand for the better portion of the night taking stumbling drunk girls out of the show.
All of the flyers and advertisements around campus read something along the lines of “Girl Talk: 7 p.m. Louis Room.” They seemed to say that only the one-man mash-up wunderkind was going to play at 7 p.m. I had no idea until a day before the show that Butterfly Assassins were playing. After about twenty minutes of idle time, they took the stage and began a lackluster evening. The Assassins sound like an American version of Muse, and that type of music is more suited to large stadiums. Their set was great, but it just wasn’t in tune with the crowd.
Once Butterfly Assassins finished, many people assumed Girl Talk would be up next. So when a bunch of rappers and a DJ who definitely wasn’t Gregg Gillis took the stage, people looked puzzled. This was The Hustle Group, some hip-hop guy and an R&B guy, neither one of whom really had the chops to energize the crowd or do anything memorable.
Everyone paid to see Girl Talk. A&O’s Web site doesn’t even list opening acts for the show. By the end of this second set, the crowd was unhappy, and had pushed most of its members far too close together up at the front. A few turf scuffles broke out, with people pushing and shoving each other bitterly. Every drunk person I saw thought they were having the time of their life, but a large portion of the crowd looked sober and upset at how the concert was being run.
Around 9:30, a full two-and-a-half hours after the advertised beginning of the show, Girl Talk took the stage. The crowd was packed against the edge of the stage, and about five minutes into his set, the first ten rows of girls climbed onstage around Gillis and continued dancing. Everyone was finally into the music, and we’d gotten what we came there to see, hear and do. Gillis is a master at his craft, blending up to eight different songs into one new, hyper-danceable mix. He sampled Tears for Fears, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Rick Springfield, Kelly Clarkson and the ubiquitous Soulja Boy. Girl Talk’s also a wonderful stage presence, jumping wildly, dancing with the crowd, weaving in and out, and even throwing off his shirt at one point. It’s amazing to see a performer do so much with just a computer, some speakers and himself.
After two encores, Girl Talk had met my expectations, but Niteskool and A&O had given themselves a poor showing. Had they properly advertised the show and handled the crowd better, the unexpected openers would have been somewhat of an interesting change of pace, but they ended up with a tired, hostile crowd before Gillis could even attempt to win it all back. His shows seem to be notorious for their mismanagement, the worst example coming from a concert at Wash U in St. Louis last November. Girl Talk’s set was wildly fantastic, but the surrounding ambiguity and unpreparedness soured the night for what could have been one of the best concerts NU has ever seen.