Girl Talk/Matt & Kim
Wednesday, August 24
Better than: Shuffling through Pandora while making spreadsheets.
Stories of Girl Talk’s shows are legendary, passed down from one generation to another of college kids like Biblical messages from on high, hallelujah. They are the Bill Brasky of concerts, tall tales amplified in adjectives with each telling: onstage free-for-alls that recall a rave version of Plato’s Retreat, a drug-fueled Technicolor Animal House, a life-changing balloon animal zoo with a Napster soundtrack. Feathers falling and glitter flying, sweat and drugs and rap and rock all smooshed into a Play-Doh container.
And so it’s a shame that last night’s Girl Talk show—my first—was as boring as it was. (It’s my own fault for attending a heavily sponsored Girl Talk show, where the clientele arrived with shirts and lips buttoned; where a 45-year-old man in a blue plaid shirt stood in the middle of the hubbub and clapped so off-beat that after a while he was almost on-beat.) There were other problems: volume was low, as was attendance—the cavernous Terminal 5 has never felt so vast. The toilet paper, balloons, glitter bombs and inflatable pool toys thrown at us couldn’t fix the lack of people, not even if we started molding them into trash snowmen.
Collars outnumbered bandanas by an honest ratio of about 100:1. (There were around 200 people in attendance.) A slicked-back blonde gentleman in khakis standing in the second-floor VIP section sprayed water on those below, giggling. What a dickhead.
This was a corporate retreat for many, an excuse to party like the weekend had landed on a Wednesday night. But party seemed to be in quotation marks. It all felt like a sanitized version of 2005 Brooklyn, a time capsule opened in another zip code. (That Girl Talk was shilling for Heineken and not, like, PBR? For the US Open, as opposed to curling or bowling? Well. $Yeah.) Dancers were herded onstage, spinning and stepping with effort—Wii Fit made live. If the only instruction was to just keep moving, then that was what they did. A bearded fellow put his hand in the air, the wrist limp. Two girls wore shutter shades, one of them grinding on a twink in boxer briefs and a Polo golf tee. I saw grown men fight over a balloon.
Greg “Girl Talk” Gillis is sort of fun to watch, arrhythmic spasms and all. His head bobs, sweat pours; he jumps onto his decks like Gollum, crouched on all fours. A friend said, “He usually strips to his underwear and jumps into the crowd.” Thankfully, that didn’t happen, or else he’d be paying someone’s dry cleaning bill. (Not that there was anyone to catch him.) (Never mind.)
Girl Talk’s playlist seemed catered to the crowd, pureeing recognizable rap lyrics (Kanye, 50, Ludacris) and obvious rock instrumentals (Ramones, Ozzy Osbourne). I found no surprises, except that he didn’t use any Soulja Boy or Gucci Mane samples in his set. Whereas many in the crowd seemed to enjoy the irony of hearing Mash Out Posse blended with Miley Cyrus, I felt that the Sweet & Low riddims rendered “Ante Up” into mush. (Maybe they’d never heard it; maybe YouTube is blocked in their cubicle.) Still, there was some humor in putting “Bad Romance” with “Thriller,” which caused members of the crowd to claw dance toward one another. Meta on meta on meta.
As an opening act, Matt & Kim were similarly minded, performing a run of covers in their short stage-time: “Jump On It,” “Move Bitch,” “Just a Friend.” Black people music that whites could understand. (Also Alice DeeJay’s “Better Off Alone,” which fucking rang out.) Behind her bass drum, Kim flailed like Lloyd Christmas; she looked like she was running at an incredible rate. (Another analogy that works: Kim plays the drums like Animal.) Matt stood up from his piano bench, the anti-Karmin, Statue of Liberty posing while holding the sustain pedal. They seemed fun, like two Brooklynites who would be fun to hang out with on any other night.
Their smiles were wide, and so were their wallets. This was a night for closed-door advertising, a fact that the few people allowed in weren’t allowed to forget. Kim stood up and challenged the those standing before her: “I have a game. For every song we play, you have to drink a Heineken!” Sure, that seems genuine and off-the-cuff. Girl Talk thanked Heineken, asked everyone to drink Heineken. Heineken, Heineken, Heineken.
Critical bias: For rap blends, I prefer DJ Green Lantern or, going back, DJ Ron G.
Overheard: “How did you end up with two balloons?”—some guy to a girl, after the show. She clutched them tight.
Random note dump: Last week, I finally got the chance to ask a Heineken PR rep why hot dogs have been served at every secret music show in New York this summer—theirs, as well as others’. He had no idea. Last night, for the first time, there were no hot dogs! For a few moments, though, a baby dressed up in a hot dog costume made it on the Jumbotron. (Girl Talk’s graphic team basically resorted to using the After Effects screensaver program, all flashing text and GIFs and patterns and weirdo Photoshop jobs. I just wished it was all flying toasters.)