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MUSIC REVIEW

Girl Talk rapidly turns into one big dance party

When not performing as DJ mash-up artist Girl Talk, Gregg Gillis, 25, is a biomedical engineer from Pittsburgh. When not performing as DJ mash-up artist Girl Talk, Gregg Gillis, 25, is a biomedical engineer from Pittsburgh.

CAMBRIDGE -- Downstairs at the Middle East Saturday night, it took less than 15 minutes for a sold-out crowd to storm the stage and swallow up the DJ mash-up artist Girl Talk. The rapidity with which the audience surged like a sea and turned the show into a free-for-all dance party was almost as fast, furious, and exhilarating as the speed at which the chop-and-splice samples whiz by on Girl Talk's much blogged-about new CD, "Night Ripper."

Though he was impossible to spot onstage soon after he interpolated the chorus of Soul II Soul's "Back to Life" with Eric Clapton's signature guitar riff in Cream's " Sunshine of Your Love" and Mya's vocal on "Ghetto Superstar," Girl Talk is Gregg Gillis, a 25-year-old biomedical engineer from Pittsburgh. Gillis's knack for cross-pollinating four decades' worth of Top 40, classic rock, R&B, techno, dance, and hip-hop into one big house jam has gotten the attention of high-profile acts such as Good Charlotte and Beck (another mash-up master who's asked Girl Talk to do a remix for him).

As engaging and inventive as "Night Ripper" is, Girl Talk's artistry -- like that of most DJs -- ultimately shines brightest when beamed onto the dance floor. The search for a massive, communal groove and good time is what this music and these mixes were made for. Early on, the show consisted mainly of Gillis, his laptop, and his bag of gleefully amateurish dance moves made up on the spot, like something out of "Napoleon Dynamite." The stage may as well have been a suburban bedroom or a school assembly talent show, as Girl Talk jumped and flailed about randomly, every so often swilling from a beer, firing up the next program sequence, and wigging out to his own mixes. "This feels really good!" Gillis shouted from the stage. "This feels like the day I was born!"

The pace and sequence of his DJ set were, thankfully, substantially more artful. Fragments of the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" crested into Druid & Stormtrooper's "Pump This Party " and later segued into Kool & the Gang's "Celebrate." The beats slowed and then sped up without warning, morphing into a world where grunge icons Nirvana sat seamlessly alongside earnest classic rockers Kansas, and Dee-Lite partied with Elastica and the Cars.

At one point, Lady Sovereign's "Love Me or Hate Me" shape-shifted into CeCe Peniston's "Finally " and downshifted into the drum sample from either Van Halen's chrome-plated metal classic "Jamie's Cryin' " or Tone-Loc's bawdy '80s party anthem "Wild Thing," which borrows the Van Halen drum sample. Girl Talk's reconstitution of that particular bit of ground breaking genre splicing -- and our inability to pinpoint whose sample, exactly, he used -- somehow seemed perfect.

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