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Girl Talk @ Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI 2/25/2011

[ATTACH=CONFIG]190257.vB5-legacyid=713[/ATTACH]I first heard Gregg Gillis’ (a.k.a. [URL=”″]Girl Talk[/URL]) work late last year after the release of his latest album, [URL=”″]All Day[/URL]. I thought it was a lot of fun, certainly clever, definitely not the usual DJ fare. I downloaded a copy for free, as well as Feed the Animals (which I don’t think is quite as good), and threw them in my car’s CD player. When I did a little more research and found that GT was coming to Lupo’s, I got tickets for me and the Ms. so we could have a rowdy night out. Having never been to Lupo’s, heard almost nothing about Gillis’ live act, and not having paid to go to a live music show in probably three years I went into the evening ready for almost anything.

[URL=””]Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel[/URL] is a very interesting venue. Spacious interior, a balcony that doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the venue (although I never once looked up to see how much actually being on the balcony might suck), well situated bars, multilevel seating and standing room with retro discotheque decor, professional security folk, and nice little seating areas around the sides. Amenities for a road house looked good: plenty of points in the ceiling, spacious backstage, and two large control positions on the floor just in front of the balcony lip, house left for audio and house right for lights. Eight elements a side of what looked like JBL VerTec 4888, with a Soundcraft MH3 at FOH (a console I have always had a crush on), and 3 big double 18 sub cabinets per side. The rig certainly had enough get up and go for this show. The hangs looked high enough to get the whole balcony and the downstairs well, and there were some promisingly beefy looking under balcony fills halfway’ back which I never heard. I chose to experience the show from just behind FOH, for convenient proximity to the bar and in hopes of fewer pushy ravers. Hard to judge sound quality from a show like this, but it sounded to me like they were using some homebrew processing on the arrays. It sounded fine, but it was a little more “raw” than I know VT4888 can be. The venue is also badly in need of some front fills, which didn’t affect me at all but the first 10′ of audience was probably not getting much off the mains. That aside, I’d be happy to mix or see a show there, it seemed like a pretty cool venue to me.

Of the two openers I saw, the one that went on just before GT’s set was worth watching. I know I was there to see a guy play a laptop, but I only wanted to see [I]one[/I] guy play a laptop. The openers were just more of the same and, while the last was entertaining, I am thankful at least that their levels were kept around 90. Walk in music, I suppose, although the opener that was on when we arrived had a drummer with him which was a nice touch. I know this is a little hypocritical, I don’t think people complain much about “too many four piece rock band openers for the four piece rock band I went to see”, but I think the mashup DJ genre is perhaps a little more strained.

How do you take one guy playing a laptop and make a whole show out of it? Million dollar light show is how. VERY well done light show, really kept the energy up, extremely impressive video wall that was being drawn on live by some artist at FOH, and then halfway through the show it got even more impressive when lighting broke out the wall full of movers [I]behind[/I] the skeletal video wall. Assorted balloons, confetti cannons, and other toys helped highlight the high points of the set.

Here’s a shaky video I found with a quick search to show you what I’m talking about, I was probably about 25′ behind this guy.

It was a really fun show, and Gillis played for almost three hours. Thankfully SPL levels were reasonable, mostly around 95 with some bumps up into the 100 range for very high energy sections of the set. I left with some threshold shift but no ringing, it was nice to not feel uncomfortable about my ears throughout the evening. Watching who I assumed to be GT’s engineer babysit two faders for the entire set was amusing, it looked like Gillis pretty much ran the show from on stage. I don’t know what apparatus he’s using to weave samples and tracks together but it sounded pretty seamless to me, and audio quality stayed good the entire evening with little harshness or obvious heavy compression, either dynamic or perceptual à la MP3. I try very hard to not be a critical audio nerd when I go out to a show that isn’t mine, and it was easy to pull off at this event.

What Gillis did play for those three hours was recognizable to anyone who’s thrown All Day on their car stereo a dozen times or so, but also different. He drew from some older material as well, and at no point did I feel that he was just playing back the album, live. It was especially fun to hear hooks from All Day re-mixed with other elements from the album in new and interesting ways, and watch him keep his playback in tune with the audience. After midnight, he played a 20 minute encore of completely bespoke mixes that really helped cap off the evening.

If you are interested in this kind of music and in hearing a really excellent DJ play “live-ish” music, catch Girl Talk when they come to a venue near you. I had a great time and, at $22 a ticket, it was even cheaper and more fun than monster trucks a few weeks ago.