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December 27, 2009

Girl Talk throws a party at Mandel Hall

Concerts are very tricky social situations. There's always the dilemma whether you should dance and look like an idiot or just stand around and look like a pretentious tool. But that wasn't a concern at MAB's fall concert. It was clear that there was only one thing to do: Abandon all dignity and dance like a complete and utter maniac.

However, the night started out on a rather bizarre note. The opener—Juiceboxxx—wasn't very well publicized, so it was disconcerting to see someone who looked like a scrawny U of C student walk on stage and start rapping. Some of the crowd seemed to get into it quickly enough though as the MC galloped around the stage with the energy of a 12-year-old without their Adderall. The confusion continued as the set went on, as it became apparent that Juiceboxxx's music sounds like something out of a early '90s dance club.

Then things got awkward. The crowd started booing, to which the rapper responded: “Do I hear 'Booo'? Or 'Juuuice'?” Poor guy. But you have to hand it to him, Juiceboxxx did keep the crowd's energy up, which also provided an amusing contrast to his DJ/guitarist who looked like he needed a hug and a long nap. Fittingly enough, his set ended in the most uncomfortable, bizarre way possible: Juiceboxxx screaming into the microphone as his guitarist played some riff, both masked by enough distortion to burst the eardrums of everyone in Mandel Hall.

Girl Talk finally took the stage around 9:30, after a rather long break filled with mellow indie pop to let our eardrums recover. As soon as DJ Gregg Gills—a.k.a. Girl Talk—took the stage, all of the awkwardness and uneasiness leftover from the night's earlier events was forgotten and replaced by lots and lots of dancing. Girl Talk's shows are known for their high energy, but, according to Gills, since this was going to be the last stop on his college tour, we were in for one hell of a night.

What transpired afterward was a pretty solid two hour dance party. Girl Talk was up to his old tricks: streaming rolls and rolls of toilet paper into the crowd, inviting people to come dance with him on stage, and thrashing around in his gray sweatpants and sweatband. There were also balloons, confetti, and a colorful projection behind the stage that would flash oddly encouraging phrases (“Do you want more?”, “Keep Dancing”, etc.).

Gills doesn't mix songs on the spot, so what came out of his laptop were clips of songs from his albums Feed the Animals and Night Ripper combined with new content. As everyone knows, part of the fun of Girl Talk is identifying all of the songs he samples from, which was even more thrilling when you're dancing and singing along with about 100 other people. One highlight of the night was a mash-up of Snoop Dogg's “Woof!” with Miley Cyrus's “Party in the U.S.A.” Besides sounding surprisingly awesome, it was exciting finding myself singing the lyrics with my friends and any other random person nearby who knew them.

The night ended just in time, because it was apparent that the crowd was getting tired—we had been dancing nonstop for nearly two hours. Gills ended the night with what can only be described as the 21st century's response to “Shout,” with the crowd's jumping threatening to split the wooden floors up near the stage. No one called for an encore; everyone surely had had enough cardio to last them a week.

The concert was fun, to be sure, but it wasn't without its faults. As most students had predicted, Mandel Hall proved to be a bit awkward when it came to hosting such an act. A dance party of this magnitude ideally should have a big dance floor and some place to get something to drink, but there is nowhere on campus that has a huge open room with a bar. Of course, no one fell off the balconies, and those in the seating area were able to dance, but oftentimes it was pretty uncomfortable dancing. In the standing area, it was stifling having so many people on such a small dance floor, which is what happened after the concert started and most people who had seats rushed to the front of the stage. Add on top of that drunk people with no concept of personal space and, well, there were a few elbows to the face. But, frankly, that was to be expected, and as long as no one minded getting other people's sweat on them or having to figure out a way to dance in a square foot area, everything worked out fine.

Indeed, the message of the night wasn't to get hung up on minor stresses and inconveniences. It was quite the opposite: Forget everything and just have fun. I think Girl Talk himself put it nicely halfway through his set when, drenched in sweat and standing atop his DJ table amidst confetti and lights, he yelled, “Fuck your homework!” and “Fuck midterms!” U of C students don't hear that nearly enough.