By Zachary Swickey
NORMAN, OKLA. – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that the world’s greatest party-thrower, Girl Talk, was going to be at the Opolis – a tiny venue in the college town of Norman, Oklahoma, that showcases indie acts and local bands with a capacity well below 200. This must be some kind of mistake, I thought, but just the thought of seeing such a huge act in such an intimate setting was awesome.
Turns out, Girl Talk – also known by his common name, Greg Gillis – is in the midst of a guerilla tour of sorts that is hitting up only eight college cities across the states. For the AXE One Night Only Tour 2011, Gillis is going old-school by performing secret shows in low capacity venues, announcing details of the gigs just days before show time via the AXE Facebook page (four more secret stops are scheduled for this Tuesday through Friday, so be on the lookout). Gillis treated me to a quick phone chat before the show and said this tour is a way to give back to the fans and reminisce over his pre-breakout gigs. "Prior to 2006, I would play anyplace, anytime," he told MTV News. "The circumstances did not matter."
Gillis performs anywhere from 150-200 plus times a year, so I knew he'd have some strange show stories. Asked if anything stuck out, in particular, he recounted opening for Blues Traveler and the Violent Femmes at Colorado’s famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the 4th of July in 2007. "I think they were expecting me to be some kind of background DJ or something who played music as everyone walks in," he said. "Instead, I was up there shirtless and screaming doing what I do right as the doors were opening and the first 100 people were shuffling to find their seats."
I was also curious as to whether any of the musicians that Gillis has sampled have approached him to give their seal of approval, and was surprised when he told me that Big Boi caught his show in a "small, sweaty club" in Atlanta sometime in 2007-08. An even bigger glowing sign of approval apparently came from Mike Patton (singer of Faith No More). Gillis samples Patton’s group along with Busta Rhymes in a song and when a reporter asked Patton how he felt about it, he responded, "It was an honor to work with Busta Rhymes." (How’s that for a glowing recommendation?)
When Gillis finally took the stage Saturday night, the crowd showered him with applause before things even began, and it didn’t take long for our party commander to lead us into "Oh No," the opening track of his 2010 release, All Day, which finds the mash-up mastermind mixing the rhyming talents of Ludacris over the notorious "War Pigs" riff from Black Sabbath. I was wondering what a Girl Talk show without his onstage party henchman was going to be like, but lo and behold, he brought them! Two or three crew members (it’s hard to tell who was official or not) still managed to fit into the small venue to shoot confetti cannons and blast spiraling toilet paper rolls over our heads (not to mention the hundreds of small and giant-size balloons being tossed about).
It’s a good thing Gillis wraps his laptops in saran wrap for protection – he told me he’s had "only one" computer casualty this year – because by the time he got to "Bodies Hit the Floor" (which is the only time you’ll hear Foo’s "Hero" next to Luda’s "Move B**ch") midway through the set he was drenched in sweat from head to toe and dripping all over the place as he danced while hovering over his laptop.
One of the crowd favorites – another All Day track, “Steady Shock” – was a trip down memory lane that brought together Outkast’s "B.O.B.," Nirvana’s "Aneurysm" and some Bones Thugs N Harmony, while also keeping it modern with a little Nicki Minaj and J. Cole thrown in the mix. Time flew by as the show soon ended and Gillis flung himself into the crowd with high-fives coming from all directions.
I asked Gillis if he’ll be continuing his pattern of giving us a new release every two years (we’re due for one in 2012), and while he wouldn’t comment specifically on what he’s up to, he assured me he'd be releasing something in 2012 and that it might be "something different."