Rebel Without A Pause

 by Butch Rosser, DJBrotherDarkness
s1s5: Girl Talk, About The Passion

“The best ideas are common property.”

“I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like.”
–Marshall Mathers

I’m halfway to slumped over in a chair, and I literally have no idea what’s possessing me after what I’ve seen and done tonight to keep me upright and conscious to spit this out in the dark of the night other than the fact I’m a vampire. All I know is what it feels like:

like some celestial bully took my ribcage and shook it upside down for lunch money, a process that started some 7 hours ago and shows no signs of abating
like John Cena slammed a chair full-speed between my shoulderblades when my back was turned in front of 15,000 strong at a Monday Night Raw
like my eyes don’t have an X and Y axis but’re rather marbles being fiddled by a nervous suspect in a precinct
like my jaw will never hinge again
like every single part of my legs from the Calvin Kleins down is hanging on by mere strings and no longer full tendons
like a goat headbutted me in my right ankle

There’s so much to remember. So much.

I remember staggering out of that little sweatbox having completely sweated through my Word Life tee, using the rail as a support and then when that was gone, just staggering through the little oddly boxed lobby. I can only assume I looked like a non-functional alcoholic. Confetti (from either the 2nd or 3rd drop, like I can even remember) was falling off of my head, and I was reaching up to my forehead to knock off the couple pieces that’d adhered there because of the sweat. I saw a friend of mine and we both smiled gratefully at each other before dodging hugging, and even the shaking of hands to grasp each other’s wrists with the circumferences of our wrists. She’s an awesome human being and I think under other circumstances we could’ve caught up with a fine conversation. She walked away into the night. My mouth felt like I’d been chasing cotton balls with spiderwebs. I let her keep going.

She was merely the third female friend I’d lost in the chaos up to that point over the course of a couple of hours, and that was nothing compared to outside.


I think I might remember this above everything else. Maybe forever.

People looked flat-out stunned. Desperate searches for friends were on. A couple of enterprising bakers were just a skoch downstream selling wares, profitting off chaos, the American Dream’s cousin the Captialist Nightmare. People had lost their clothes, their shoes, some their shirts. A young man in a ripped shirt was pissing between parked cars. Someone was on the pavement face-up, a disoriented smile on their face. Those who could coalesced into vehicles and fled the scene.

As for me? I ran into two other friends. I think I said something in English to them. I’m not sure. I staggered into the night for Powerade, the hookup I can’t quite shake of beverages; something I deride and insult openly in public when opportunity presents itself but a time or two (or three or four or…) a year I find myself sucking it down like Keith Richards finding a barbituate in St. Tropez in 1971. Tonight was one of those times. I felt it. I saw it in the barely more than waking dead that were clogging the roads, parking spaces, and greedily devouring bear claws. I needed that Powerade something fierce. Despite having a healthy dinner that covered all of the major four food groups (meat, cheese, fries, milkshake) I felt like I’d fired the biggest round of my sexual life all over Scarlett Johansson’s chest four times in succession. And it suddenly occured to me as I staggered out of 7/11 for my first walk of the evening (the one where I wouldn’t be stunned into silence over the thrill of it all for 45 minutes straight with the only soundtrack being cars passing and my own footfall) that what remaining brain cells that were still firing had all only one thought:


That Girl Talk show was rigoddamnmotherfuckingdonkuawesome.

I talked a bit about personal musical heroes in my last missive. I will be doing so again here, but with a bigger one in this instance.

I am to Girl Talk what Bell Biv Devoe is to New Edition. I am the Kourtney and Khloe to his Kim, the suicide attempts to his Rebecca Black video. Without him, my life as I know it would be exactly not that.

Let me elucidate.

A little over four years ago I was drifting aimlessly through life just having been divested of my corporate employment in which for some reason it was important that I looked like an extra from Shining Time Station while I gave out information and fetched the door. Not the Playboy Mansion of jobs, I admit, but it put money in my wallet and for the first time in a while gave me a reason to have a wallet. I don’t remember who hipped me to it, exactly: I think my friend Michael had seen something on Pitchfork about it. He asked me if I’d heard Girl Talk. I said I had no idea who they were. He told me they was a he. For a second, I briefly thought he was running the Who/the Band/Yes game at me. He then confessed what for him was a rarity: he’d been listening to this Girl Talk in succession for days in a row at the expense of the rest of his catalogue. Michael (or whomever) never did this. I asked him “Well, what sort of style is this Girl Talk?”

There was silence. I thought my modem had died out on me. This was also in the dark days pre-Wikipedia.

Michael said to me after this pause “It sounds like everything ever.”

Since I am a vampire, and the farthest thing from tied down at this writing, that may’ve been the most important thing anybody’s ever said to me. Not the most beautiful, not the funniest, but the most important. Those five words set off a Chinese fire drill in my head. Questions sprung to mind so fast you would’ve thought I was the Riddler’s dry-cleaner in the late sixties. The $64,000 apex of which was: how the fuck could music sound like everything ever? Music belonged to PLACES, categories, boxes one could check off if they were so quiz—

–that’s when it hit me. I had what were the vague stirrings of what music that sounded like everything ever sounded like. ONCE.

I’d walked out of work with my Walkman (I told this happened a long time ago) set to my favorite local rock station. I was picking out a CD when it happened. I still remember the exact block downtown it happened on, especially since it’s under three minutes away from my current place of employment. I was listening to Eric B. & Rakim.

How the hell was this local rock station playing Eric B. & Rakim? How the hell was anybody playing Eric B. & Rakim on a Saturday night? Had I died in my sleep and I was walking in heave–that’s when it happened. I heard Jack White singing.

Eric B. & Rakim were still going on in the background.

Pieces of my brain were being picked up by homeless people in a four-block radius for the rest of the month. It was My Doorbell. It was Paid In Full,

Simply put, it was Party Ben’s Pump Up The Doorbell.

It was the first mashup I’d ever heard. It was crack-level addictive, and the fact he’d mixed two of my favorite songs (currently, at that time, and ever (forever ever, forever ever)) sure upped the dosage. I staggered into my favorite bar at the time with my flabber in a state of gasted to the nth. I tried tuning in again. I never heard that program again, and wouldn’t hear that mashup again for almost two years. But it laid dormant, like a splinter in my mind, driving me mad. It was that splinter Michael had accidentally grazed when he’d said what he said.

Journalism majors don’t get to be journalism majors by letting sleeping dogs lie, at least the good ones don’t.

I asked him to send it to me.

I knew it was called Night Ripper. It should’ve been renamed what it was: a 16-song long red pill. It was the familiar wrapped and undercut with the unfamiliar. What the White Stripes & Rakim (as I had thought of it as the time) had merely flirted with me for four minutes, this album would grab me, throw me into the bushes, and ride me like a dime story pony for the better part of an hour, leaving me a gasping, disoriented, but ultimately happy mess.

If only Powerade had been around.

Once the shock went away, I listened to it, and relistened to it. It was like being a Simpsons addict, something I knew all too well: you had the main level jokes, but if you paid attention in the background and had a history of things that happened in the show, it was like finding easter eggs. Hell, this happened so long ago I’m not sure those DVD treats were even called that at that point. But that was it. That was what took hold. It turned it from a splinter to Jack Torrance feng shuing a door at the Overlook, so far as my hard drive and future were concerned. I ran online and started looking up Eric B & Rakim and the White Stripes. And when I found that, there was a whole list of other links that were approved by the maker of this particular mashup of other DJs and a whole San Francisco scene.

I was suddenly occupied. Of course I was.

I knew kung fu.

That winter I held a holiday party at my apartment, which mostly consisted of two things: me chugging Grey Goose from the bottle and me burning copies of Night Ripper for my friends as secondary Christmas presents. I got hooked on their reactions quickly. For many of them, they were being birthed into it the same way that I was. They didn’t have the extreme reaction to the music that I did — of course not, they were a bunch of civilians and civilians in training — but that tilted head up look of disorientation and confusion was like watching a dog think it’s people. The volume went up as the drinks flowed and the night went longer. People thought they might’ve heard something they didn’t before. Rememebered songs their brain had buried four tons of crap on top of. And I did hear well into January people were bumping this in their own Walkmans and cars. They didn’t have the extent of the reaction that I did, but they got the splinter of it.

And what’s happened since? Girl Talk put out two more albums although to his credit, all it took was Night Ripper putting the fair use argument in the music industry to this extreme and his own craftsmanship to blow up like the World Trade. And me? Those people in San Francisco gave me way too much of their time and their faith, and now I’m going to be starting the first official all-mashup night in San Diego after two shows I performed at in the Bay Area mothership got over a combined 3,000 in attendance. I’m a mashup addict.

It began with Night Ripper, and the latest iteration is all the Adele “Rolling In The Deep” ones I downloaded when I first got up this morning, four or five of them.

But that was this morning.

This evening?

After a 103 fever and a couple of my own gigs kept me from seeing him, I saw Girl Talk live for the first time. I can only think about how appropriate it was seeing the familiar wrapped in the unfamiliar all over again: he got progressively more nude as the night went on, but managed to stay in a pair of gym shorts at show’s end. The show ended, but not after one encore, but a second one fueled by a ONE MORE SET! chant that rocked my ears as well as anything else he’d done all night. Balloons of myriad sizes and confetti fell from the sky like a Flaming Lips show, but they were also girls on shoulders (no guns in holsters, thankfully), and guys on shoulders, and both genders taking the opportunity to crowdsurf at various intervals. No longer allowed to pull front row folks on stage a gaggle of young locals came out with him, right away, and proceeded to dance their ass off and fire lengthy toilet paper rolls into the crowd.

And the LED screen embossed with the massive G and T flickered on and off throughout the night, transfixing eyeballs as they seared them with a rainbow of effects from the notorious two-word logo to a taco to simply dazzling color schemes. The moments of temporary darkness, where the crowd seemed to be exhaling as one, the rare intervals where one could get a moment of surcease from DANCE FUCKER DANCE that personified what ended up being a set longer than any of his CDs at something resembling the 90-minute mark, were like small miracles. And then, blinded and enthralled by the light, it was back to pogoing, grinding, bumping, two-stepping, and all of that. All types of people were on top of each other sweating and going blind and it didn’t matter an iota.

It was so appropriate he started with his opening gambit from his latest All Day, Ludacris/Black Sabbath. Because out in the lobby, they were selling a shirt that said All Night with his logo splashed across the front. And that’s how far the crowd from youngsters to old men in khakis & plaid-covered Keds (no, seriously) seemed fueled up to go for, as he not only dipped into the familiar stuff from that and Ripper but Feed The Animals (the middle child release) so far as well, in addition to making some new additions and twists on familiar things with newer songs since their album release–quelle surprise that the Pittsburgh native would be bumping Black & Yellow hard almost full-length in his set, even if the Cars were behind it.

That was my favorite thing about Girl Talk, when I first found out about him: he was being Clark Kent. He was an engineer who’d ditch out early Friday, go fly somewhere, do a show or two, fly back in Sunday night and pray he’d survive Monday without falling over. Of course, those days are long gone. But it was comforting to see him work as if he had a day job to go back to when the lights went up and the staff would have to go about the business about getting down all the balloons that’d somehow floated straight up to the ceiling upon release. As usual, when I watch a DJ now I can’t completely take myself out of it: I take mental notes on what I like, what I would like once I modify it to my own tastes, and certain parts where I just step back and respect game and let them do it on their own.

I didn’t do that so much yesterday/earlier. I was too busy dancing, singing along, sweating, and paying homage to my own Yoda with about 500 single-serving friends and a handful of more than that to really get into it. I remember looking over at the bleachers that ran up to the speaker bank during the second encore, some 90 minutes in, almost 4 hours into the whole show at this point, and a girl was pouring water on her head while singing along to every word. At every other point at my life I probably would’ve found this horribly erotic: at that point I just wanted the water. I was sweating rivers. And so much more. But that’s the funny thing about adrenaline and fun live shows: they carry through so much that can hurt, that will be amiss later. They bring together different decades and people who normally wouldn’t talk to each other if they were looking each other in the face are the first to help with singing arm-in-arm or a quick pull off a soda.

I think I’m going to think about the scene outside after the show forever. I wonder what it felt like to be that girl in that moment, and how long I’m going to think about it, too. I tend to be kinda obsessive about music, ever since I heard everything ever. It’s why there’s no playlist for the evening, why I’ve been listening to Gregg Gillis’ live shows for the past–ha, I’ve been writing as long as I was dancing and partying my ass off.

You see, ever since this splinter was birthed, I always feel no matter how much I talk about it there’s always something I’ll miss, something my own limited worldview is going to obstruct accidentally that’d help you understand what goes on in my head especially when it comes the tunes that form the backbone of my life.

I’ll tell you what the problem is:

I can’t tell you what it really is.

All I can tell you is what it feels like.

And right now?

It hurts like a bastard.

And I wouldn’t trade it — or everything that it’s given me — for anything.


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