November 2, 2006

Going Postal With Girl Talk

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My friends and I had been jonesing to go dancing for weeks, and while you can throw a stone in New York City and half a decent chance of hitting a club, Ithaca isn’t exactly lauded for its thriving nightlife. So after a failed trip to the Big Apple in which the car broke down and we found ourselves stranded at a sex motel in the Bronx (tip off: mirror on the ceiling), it could only have been karma that brought Girl Talk to Castaways last Friday night.
At around 12:15 that night, Gregg Gillis was shaking me by my shoulders as we freaked out on stage to his first track. Okay, wait, let me back up. After donning our costumes (two sexy postal workers and one Andy Warhol), hailing a cab and arriving at the venue, we were astounded at the club that had emerged from the depths of crunchy, eco-friendly Ithaca — meaning a real live line with bouncers who looked like they could actually hurt me. Having waited in said line for an amount of time that actually made me feel privileged to get inside, we were greeted by the impressive beats of Cornell’s very own Electronic Music Collective.
We snuck (read: walked) up on stage during Professor Murder, a band whose sounded reminded me a little of The Rapture and were just as fun to dance to; because their set bled nicely into Girl Talk’s, we merely remained on stage while Gregg Gillis set up his lap top and checked his sound. He began with a few samples from “Warm it Up,” and with the crowd shouting “my humps, my humps my humps my humps!” over and over, those of us on stage transformed into a writhing mass of costumed godliness.
And suddenly, after about twenty minutes of peaceable dancing, everything went wrong. Without warning or explanation, several Castaways’ bouncers closed in on us and literally shoved everyone off the stage. Kids crumpled onto a giant pile beside the raised center; I tripped on my heels and, of course, fell flat on my ass. As we slowly climbed to safer ground, the three of us watched curiously as the bouncers let random people — mostly girls — back on. How could this possibly be fair? We hadn’t been causing trouble, we’d been keeping a safe distance from the performer, and no one was in danger of getting hurt; we had paid just as much to get in as the girls on stage, and I thought that I looked pretty hot in my costume anyway. As if this wasn’t enough of a mood-killer, I turned back only to find my housemate (and beloved costume partner) being forcibly led out the side door by a bouncer. Now, whether or not the bouncers thought they had a reason for kicking my friend out still eludes us; most likely he had merely been too slow in getting offstage, and security had misread this as resistance. Regardless, the confusion as to who was and was not allowed on stage certainly left a bitter taste in many mouths that night, especially when we rejected found ourselves confined to the sides of the floor, equipment and columns obscuring our view of Gillis.
This leads me to my second gripe about the concert: exiled to the ground, it quickly became clear the area was simply not conducive to dancing anymore. Everyone was leaning, shoving, pushing towards the stage, and when my boyfriend grabbed my hand and made a break for an open space, I was literally elbowed to the ground. Nothing that anyone was doing could be considered dancing, and as more people fell around me, it seemed that I was more in the middle of a mosh pit than a dance floor.
Thus, finally emerging outside into the mud and rain, my night all but ruined, I wondered how the crowd could turn so violent; how, indeed, a pleasant night of dancing turned into ego-tripping bouncers and a gaggle of screaming, pushing fans. My first thought was that Girl Talk had simply gotten too big. The DJ is by nature an obscure artist, heard but not seen, and certainly not meant to be the focal point of a show (this, of course, should be your dance partner). However, Gillis worked the crowd like a rock star, reaching out to kids in the audience who, in turn, pushed as hard as they could to get close to him. A more daunting suggestion is that Ithacans simply aren’t ready for a club scene. Maybe we were all so starved for the nightlife that Cornell’s location had denied us that such an amazing headliner, a show for which my friends at urban universities would have died to see, sent us all into sensory overload — leaving me battered, bruised, and struggling to reconcile my alma mater with my favorite pastime.