If you looked one way, a postcard-pretty sunset colored the lake with a warm glow. In the opposite direction, abandoned industrial sites loomed, and tall billboards beckoned.
A stage was built in the midst of it all, sitting modestly at the edge of a rolling outcrop of fried August grass.

After the sun went down, people crowded close to get a good vantage point of the artist they came to see, the one-man mash-up extraordinaire Girl Talk.

Then a drippingly ironic playlist of 1980s adult contemporary hits from the likes of Michael McDonald and Lionel Richie blared from the speakers, and the crowd full of tattooed millennials sang along as they pulled out their glow sticks.

This was the vibe of the first-ever installment of the Outer Harbor Concert Series on Thursday, an event that often felt like "The Outer Limits."

And I mean that as a compliment. Compared with the idyllic cul-de-sac in which the wildly successful Thursday at the Harbor series takes place, this plot of land that The Pier once called home underlines the vastness of Buffalo's underutilized waterfront.
You could think about it and get depressed if you wanted to, but there's something exciting about the surrounding emptiness, something wild and full of possibility.

Something that perfectly suited the music of Girl Talk (aka Greggg Michael Gillis), which chops up rhythms, vocals and melodies from songs you've heard a million times, and reveals their inherently endless potential.

The 30-year-old Pittsburgh native put on a full-body thrum of a show that was impossible not to get swept up in, propagating a constantly evolving, seamless stream of inspired mash-ups, like an eclectic jukebox with ADD.

The artist walked out alone, but that didn't last for long. As his first beat hurtled out of the speakers, two guys started shooting toilet paper guns into the crowd, and the stage filled with dancers.

Skeptics about the whole idea of mash-ups, or celebrity DJs, would probably say something about real artists playing instruments or the like. I'd like to think that Thursday's show would squelch that line of thinking to the uninitiated.

The way Gillis wove in such seemingly disparate things just sounded effortless – Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" with N.E.R.D.'s "Everyone Nose;" 50 Cent's "In Da Club" with Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk;" Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" with Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." This kind of thing requires a clear artistic vision, intense passion for the material, and a brilliant sense of timing.

If you don't think a DJ can be a great performer, Gillis was there to prove you wrong again. Every time he had a few seconds to breathe, he spent it celebrating – head-banging by his consoles, falling back to thrash around with the dancers, grabbing the mic and exhorting us to somehow get even more excited than we already were.

It's too bad that more people didn't come out to this staggeringly fun event – it looked about half-full to me. Thursday at the Harbor happening at the same time probably had something to do with it.

While it was tough to see how the venue would handle a sell-out crowd, everything seemed intelligently planned, right down to the closed-off beer area that still gives a cherry view of the stage.

Here's hoping that hordes of people descend on the next two outer harbor shows, and that more of us get to see what an odd thrill it is to experience inspiration while surrounded by beautifully wasted potential.


Girl Talk

When: Thursday evening

Where: Buffalo Outer Harbor