By Emily Johnson – Editor-In-Chief
The Sokol Auditorium was packed to the max on Friday night as a sold-out crowd jumped, bumped and cheered to the mashup magic of Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, during the first stop of his fresh 40-city North American tour.
UNO’s student-run Maverick Productions shelled out $25,000 to bring the DJ musician to Omaha, where he played for some 600 UNO students and locals. Though nearly four inches of snow fell in some parts of the city before, during and after the show, the crowd wasn’t fazed. It showed up expecting a party, which was exactly what Gillis gave them.
A “mashup” remix is a compilation of dozens of songs (oftentimes unauthorized) to create a new song. Gillis has made waves during his career internationally as one of the most famous experimental musicians of the 2000s, protesting accusations of pirating music with citations of fair use and calls for an overhaul of copyright laws. Whether you believe Gillis is just a hyped-up, overly promoted pirate with little original talent or an iconic, revolutionary leader of a new genre of music to be respected and protected, he definitely knows how to work it.
The crowd’s excitement, already built by hype and alcohol, began during the performance of opening band Vibenhai. The Lincoln musicians busted out an hour of songs that ranged from slow, relaxing reggae grooves to plucky, harder rock rhythms. While the band was well-received, the crowd’s anticipation was overwhelming as it chanted for Girl Talk before Vibenhai’s set was even finished.
The chanting continued as the stage was outfitted with a single table up front bearing laptop and sound system hookups, and a canvas backdrop that would later host an explosion of psychedelic, youthful and colorful images, such as puppies, cherries, Jacko’– lanterns, sports balls and flowers. When Gillis casually strolled on stage, the cheers were nearly deafening.
Eager to meet the crowd’s energy, he jumped on the table a few times and spoke directly to his fans. A lot of his recent time has been devoted as a shut-in in his basement, where he’s been cranking out material for his new album (his last, “Feed the Animals,” came out in 2008). Appearing a little ill, his exhaustion showed a little as he jumped and spoke less and less, working with the music and letting the crowd ebb and f low between sweaty exhaustion and revitalized fervor.
The canvas’ images complimented the mashups from his latest project, comprised of mixes from this generation’s favorite (and, some would say, cheesiest) tunes of the last three decades. As per typical Gillis tradition, a group of about 20 audience members (including a fan in a chipmunk suit) jammed and danced with Gillis on stage as he played nonstop through almost two hours of old and new material. Giant beach balls and balloons were tossed and rigged leaf blowers shot streamers of toilet paper and confetti into the screaming crowd. Though the show was strictly declared dry (no alcohol allowed), bottles of vodka and marijuana were passed around and left behind after the show’s conclusion.
Gillis was a one-man musical monsoon, throwing out mashups like candy as the crowd’s interest oscillated between intensely and feverishly upbeats and slower but still mesmerizing downbeats.
It’s little wonder why he was called the “ADD mashup king” by Pitchfork. com on Nov. 5; more like a king cobra, Gillis fully seduced the generation musically, visually and emotionally.