FOXBOROUGH - Gregg Gillis, who performs as Girl Talk, is fond of a statement he had emblazoned on one of the first T-shirts he used to sell at his shows. In big block letters, it says: "I AM NOT A DJ."
And he's right. He's a rock star whose instrument just happens to be a laptop and whose stage moves are restricted to bobbing his head alongside crazed fans who cram themselves on stage with him.
Gillis makes a living using other people's songs, mashing them up into his own shape-shifting creations. You're bound to connect with his songs because you already have - back when they were originally performed by AC/DC or Beyoncé or the Beatles.
Live, the question becomes whether Gillis gives a concert performance or simply hosts a dance party; he does a little of both.
Here's how the party got started at Showcase Live on Friday. As soon as the first note sounded from Gillis's laptop, the floodgates crumbled and the crowd bum-rushed the stage. This is customary at a Girl Talk show, even if the security guards looked overwhelmed. Within a few minutes, Gillis was completely surrounded, always at the eye of the storm and obviously loving the sense of community. And that's where everyone stayed for the next 90 minutes.
It was an all-ages show (and had sold out months ago), which seemed ideal for Girl Talk's audience. In the sea of outstretched hands, you could easily count the number of red wristbands (read: old enough to drink). Even the venue lent an air of attending your high school prom, from the plush carpeting to the high ceilings to the wood dance floor (never mind the gleaming bar on the back wall).
The party favors came fast and furious. Two people wearing police hats emerged with odd contraptions that were basically toilet-paper guns. Made of a leaf blower with a paint roller affixed at the end, the guns repeatedly showered the crowd with an entire roll of toilet paper in 10 seconds flat. That was in addition to confetti, '80s-inspired visuals on the projection screens, and beach balls and giant balloons that bounced across the room.
A Girl Talk show isn't about song titles or even standard song structures. It's about deciphering Gillis's samples and marveling at how he puts them in bizarre, and often funny, contexts.
In Girl Talk's world, it makes perfect sense to fuse a sped-up Sinead O'Connor ("Nothing Compares 2 U") with Lil Wayne ("A Milli"), and then the Band ("The Weight"; future story idea: Why do so many teens know this late-'60s anthem?). A snippet of Eric Clapton's "Layla" might bleed into Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl," and you start to think, "Yeah, I can totally hear that."
As the party came to a close, Gillis, now shirtless and completely soaked with sweat, surveyed his young admirers. He left them with some parting words of wisdom: "Be true to yourself. Drop out of school. Do some acid."
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.