by The Spin
Our options for Halloween rock 'n' roll felt awfully limited this year. True, Grace Potter was playing The Basement and, of course, Hank III was playing yet another show in town. Yes, we could have braved the Hallow East pub crawl that was swarmed with west siders. We're pretty sure there was a Misfits cover band playing somewhere within a 50-mile radius. But all of those paled in comparison to the pop-music orgy going down on 12th Avenue, where Girl Talk was set to spin on the ones and twos outside Mai and 12th & Porter.
Up until JEFF the Brotherhood got booked as an opener for Die Antwoord, How I Became the Bomb opening for Girl Talk was one of the strangest local support choices we had heard this year. We're fans of Jon Burr and his cronies, but when we think “frenetic DJ dance party,” we don't go straight to “Devo-inspired dandy-wave.”
The Bomb went on a little after 9 p.m., costumed as a jester, Pagliacci, a bearded lady, a cartoonish muscle man and (of course) a P.T. Barnum-style ringleader. At this point, we know what exactly what we're going to get from a HIBTB show: a mixture of their old standards — "Fat Girls Talkin' 'Bout Cardio," "Killing Machine," "Secret Identity" — along with a few of their choice dance party cuts — "A Formal Occasion," "Gay Guy" — and maybe a new song or two. Most people we spoke to didn't know there was going to be an opener, and most of the crowd wasn't dancing, but a handful of people seemed to be into their very un-Girl-Talk-y ways.
The downtime between sets gave us an opportunity to play that favorite of seasonal people-watching games — Halloween or Hipster. We pretty much pegged anybody wearing headbands, feathers, captain's hats or make-up that wasn't Halloween-y as belonging to the latter category. Sexy R2-D2, chubby Jack White and the laundry basket were probably costumes. The two full bands' worth of ’80s hair metal dudes could go either way. We also tried and failed to determine if the “sexy cop” costume was really a complex statement about power structures or simply unchecked ho-itude. If you couldn't tell already, there was a lot of downtime.
Eventually, Girl Talk came onstage in a Freddy Krueger mask to start a show that never paused or hesitated. Here's the thing about Girl Talk shows that people don't always understand: Although he's using the same samples that make up the songs on his records, there are differences in his live shows. Contrary to detractors' beliefs, you're not going to see Greg Gillis press play on iTunes and sit back. The samples are extended, the songs lose a few ounces of their schizophrenia and he isn't afraid to try something new. That was our biggest beef with The Hood Internet at Next Big Nashville — we had heard all of this shit before. In the case of Girl Talk, we've still heard most of this shit before, but enough of it was new or twisted that it didn't feel like we could've held our own damn dance party. He even kicked in a “Monster Mash” sample. Festive! We'd make a “monster mashup” crack but Jon Burr beat us to it during HIBTB's set.
By the end of the night, Girl Talk had sprayed us with fake blood, covered us in toilet paper like low-rent mummies and transformed the crowd into a mass of frothing, howl-at-the-moon maniacs. We can all disagree about whether or not Gillis' music is worth listening to past its initial novelty value, but it's hard to argue with his results. He set out to make people dance in the middle of a blockaded street, and that's exactly what he accomplished. The hundreds of people in attendance didn't pay to watch Girl Talk, they paid to get freaky while in costume at what amounts to the night's best Halloween block party. In an ideal world, we'd be at a GWAR show on Halloween, but Girl Talk wasn't a terrible substitute.