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Then, a final ritual: He pulled out a box of Glad Wrap and started tearing off long sheets and wrapping them over every surface of his laptop until it was fully encased in translucent plastic, held together with strips of Scotch tape, safe from dripping sweat and spilled beer. Downstairs, the club, a high-ceilinged former warehouse not far from the town square, was full, and the audience was feverish, chanting “Girl! Somehow, in those moments, the mild-mannered former biomedical engineer disappeared, and when Gillis ran on stage a few seconds later, he had magically transformed himself into David Lee freaking Roth.
He grabbed the handheld mike sitting next to his laptop, strode to the lip of the stage, and yelled, “Mississippi, make some fucking noise!
These security guys are huge, with biceps like rugby balls, arms folded thickly over their white polo shirts, which have a crest that says cobra security under a picture of an angry-looking snake.
They’re looking up at Scheid, skeptically, as he crouches down on the edge of the stage, and you can tell they’re all thinking more or less what Scheid thinks they’re thinking, which is: Shouldn’t we be beating the crap out of you for resisting arrest or something?
Judging by the thousands of sweaty, writhing bodies packed in at every show and the women leaping onstage to get next to his near-clothesless body, we’re going to say yeslook, it’s not like it’s a bad job, being tour manager for Girl Talk. If you’ve tour-managed for, say, Broken Social Scene (and David Scheid has), where you’ve got, like, twenty people in the band and vanloads of guitar pedals and high hats and trombones to keep track of, it’s a relief to manage a tour where the entire band is one guy and the sum total of his equipment is one Panasonic Toughbook laptop.
And then you’ve got to understand that we’re in Oord, Mississippi, deep in the Deep South, and that they don’t get a lot of experimental electronic/dance/whatever-Girl-Talk-is acts coming through town.
“Okay, here’s how we do it,” Scheid says, a little haltingly. Some intro music will play, and Gregg will come out, maybe slap some hands. And then the cue is that he’ll throw a handful of confetti.
And when he throws it, you can just sort of step back.”As Scheid sweated his way through his security tutorial, the performer known as Girl Talk was backstage, up a narrow spiral staircase, in the greenroom, where there was a couch and a flat-screen TV and a fridge full of beer and Red Bull.
He’s tall and skinny, in his late thirties, with long, stringy Axl Rose hair.
To understand the scenario, you’ve got to be able to picture Scheid.
Also, each night you spend most of the concert onstage next to the guy and his laptop, which has its pluses and minuses, the pluses being the eighty or so amped-up young people up there with you the whole time, a lot of them cute girls, all jumping up and down and sweating and taking off various articles of clothing and occasionally singing, en masse and at the top of their lungs, lyrics like But there’s one part of the job David Scheid just can’t get comfortable with, and that’s the five minutes each night where it falls to him to instruct the local security crew on the details of working a Girl Talk show.
His name is Gregg Gillis, and at that moment, anyway, he didn’t look like a guy who regularly sells out thousand-seat venues in small towns in the South.
He’s 27, with shaggy brown hair and a scruffy beard and blue eyes; a gentle-looking guy, intense and ironic, cool and nerdy at the same time.