Playing Like a Girl

Last Friday, musician Girl Talk performed his signature mash-ups of popular songs as he remixed the academic quad into a club dance floor in a free SCOPE-sponsored show that was equal parts riot and revelry, pandemonium and party.

Upperclassmen may remember when Girl Talk played his first Colgate show at the Creative Arts House (CAH) way back in spring 2007, when he was still an up-and-coming “audio and sound collage-ist,” the term he has said he prefers to DJ, promoting his breakthrough album Night Ripper. Girl Talk (real name: Gregg Gillis) was then only beginning to garner critical acclaim, as well as some legal criticism, for his trademark mash-up style. Gillis uses hundreds of samples from pre-existing songs, editing loops on a computer hard drive to create a new piece of art with its own unique character. For Gillis, live shows are an integral part of his creation process, a chance for him to test out a mix of artists as distinct as Ace of Base and Lil Scrappy.

“Everything I make is building up to a live show; it is going to an album. There is no goal higher than an album,” Gillis said.

Since the show at CAH, a lot has changed for Gillis: he has had enough success as a recording artist and live performer that he has quit his day job as a biomedical engineer, and even graced the Best Of lists in Rolling Stone, Blender and Spin. Gillis has been invited to play music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, and has remixed songs for artists like Beck, Grizzly Bear and Of Montreal. Gillis has also played sold-out tours across the nation made famous for their over-the-top antics and on-stage nudity, and released a fourth album, Feed the Animals, available for a pay-what-you-like price online.

And so it was that when Gillis, 26, made his triumphant return to Colgate’s campus, yelling, “This is the only college I’ve been to twice in my life,” and clad in a red sweatshirt with a blue bandana hanging over his shoulder-length hair, the crowd of an estimated 1,000 went wild. So wild, in fact, that the audience of students kept pushing towards the front of the stage, refusing to move backwards even at the continued requests of show coordinators. As Gillis ripped into material from Feed the Animals, looping songs like Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” over a Big Country tune, as well as trying out new material that included songs like Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” the crowd attempted to climb onstage to dance with him.

According to junior Jake Epstein of SCOPE, Gillis’ stage, placed between the Colgate Memorial Chapel and Lawrence Hall, began to dent under the weight of the speakers. With no room between the stage and the audience for the stage to be fixed, it ended up collapsing, shortening the concert from a predicted hour and a half set to only about 40 minutes between the starts and stops of music and announcements.

The mayhem was certainly distracting for some, and grumblings about poor stage placement were heard throughout the quad. Harris Calaninero, a senior at SUNY Utica and one of the many non-Colgate students in attendance, was among them.

“I thought the entire experience was amazing until the mob mentality set in and stormed the stage like a civil war, like cavalry ready to rush the enemy line,” Calaninero said.

But for others, the technical problems did not put a damper on the night, and in fact, the stage collapse was even seen to be the mark of a successful concert.

“This is what happens when events are too awesome,” said SGA President senior David Kusnetz.

Senior SCOPE member Joel Feitz’nger heartily agreed.

“This is absolutely terrifying. I love it. If I die, tell them I died partying,” Feitzinger said with enthusiasm.

Gillis reacted in his characteristic easy-going way, remaining unfazed by cords unplugging onstage and speakers blowing out.

“Girl Talk loved [the chaos],” Epstein said. Some people say it was a bust because of the stage collapse, but if you ask Girl Talk, he’ll say it was one of the best shows ever.”

Gillis’ reaction shows that despite his new-found fame over the past few years, he is still excited to make his music on his own terms, even if it causes a little trouble along the way. He said assuredly that his life is no different than when he played CAH a year and a half ago.

“I’m into the same movies, the same TV shows, the same people. Everything is peripheral to playing music,” Gillis said. Some things never change.