If the Vibe Shift is real, there’s no better artist to help soundtrack it than Girl Talk. Gregg Gillis made his mark tackling the mashup genre in his own way, deconstructing and reconstructing tracks with a cohesive vision, in a way that allowed for his titled songs to be played at times individually as standalones, but also part of the overall album experience. By taking cues more from borrowers like Daft Punk and the Beastie Boys, he had artistic license with his sampling, giving new life to otherwise standard songs from a variety of genres. It was in this spirit that he leaned heavily into music discovery, giving club kids, hip-hop fans, indie heads, and others a chance to hear tracks in a new light, finding the beat in the mundane or elevating a rap song into a metal-inspired breakdown.
Back with his first album since 2010’s All Day, Gillis has a lot to celebrate. Full Court Press is a collaboration with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., and Smoke DZA, and it’s far different from anything he’s released commercially in his career. The album elicits threads of different genres and eras, much like his sampling, but in much more cohesive, straightforward songs that showcase the rappers’ unique styles.
On the road to support the new album – and a return to touring that was delayed by the pandemic – Girl Talk’s energy is as infectious as ever, with a live show that mirrors the ADHD-fueled mania of his earlier works. At the Regent Theater on Monday, after an inspired homecoming set from opener Hugh Augustine, Gillis brought the entire indie sleaze era into focus.
The sold-out crowd was in it from the jump, in a room that as Gillis pointed out, felt “40 degrees hotter” than any other venue on his tour. The stage was an ever-evolving mishmash somewhere between Everything Everywhere All At Once and I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson. There were no fewer than 40 people on stage (including Augustine at one point), toilet paper guns, clouds above the stage that had images blasted onto them with projectors, various sizes of balloons, confetti cannons, gigantic light-up palm trees, t-shirt guns, guys in skeleton costumes, guys in tuxedos with ski masks, a hundred-foot long condom filled with confetti, enormous inflatables that resembles cornhole bags, a dude in a Sonic The Hedgehog wig, and Girl Talk with his laptop, shedding a layer of clothing at a time.
The set was a tight 90 minutes; any longer, and the danced-out, overheated, and dehydrated crowd might’ve been in trouble. What’s always made Girl Talk inviting and even more interesting as a creative project is the lens through which Gillis sees not just music, but how people consume music. His work in the 2000s forecasted the natural evolution of crate digging into mp3s into streaming, and even the TikTok experience. Songs on TikTok take on a life of their own independent of label, time period, or even context. A song may trend and get warped into having an entirely different meaning, and it’s less important how fans come to a song than it is that they discover it at all.
One of my favorite memories of 2008’s Feed The Animals was on “Hands In The Air,” where the first, instantly recognizable lines of “Whoop There It Is” spill out into the air. But the backing beat was one I couldn’t quite place. It took me much longer than I like to admit to learn that it was “In A Big Country” by Big Country, a song I eventually would put on a bunch of playlists and still listen to today. It’s entirely possible someone out there heard Gillis use “Lovefool” by the Cardigans over a Doja Cat song at a live show, and has spent days trying to place it before the sheer joy of connecting the dots, and listening to it on Spotify.
Monday night’s show felt similar to those early days of trying to track down any beat and any song that made me feel that way, and it gets me nostalgic, but also excited for any generation that can find songs — new, old, or reworked — that inspire them. Whether it’s Olivia Rodrigo utilizing the DNA of pop-punk songs that have been around her whole life, a Fleetwood Mac hit finding new breath on TikTok, or ’90s songs slowed down and inserted into dramatic movie trailers, the flattening of culture and the inexhaustable nature of streaming makes everything, everywhere, all at once a creative well that is equally as maddening and dizzying as it is inspiring.
It’s only fitting Girl Talk gets to have his encore, his chance to stand on a table and look out at it all.