Launch Festival certainly knew who to call on to throw one hell of a party to kick off their first night in Cesar Chavez Park. But how does one begin to describe the spectacle that is a live Girl Talk show? There really is no comparison to make, no precedent set. Describing Girl Talk’s set or the music he makes is equally as difficult as trying to explain how he transformed from Gregg Gillis, the Biomedical Engineer from Pittsburgh, into one of the world’s most sought after performers. Since putting out his first album in 2002 on Illegal Art, he’s been making labels furious by releasing his content under Creative Commons licenses (and it only gets more complicated from there). His last album All Day consists of 372 samples of different artists all mashed together along with original beats on his laptop either on stage or on the road. To truly understand Girl Talk as an artist, however, one point should be clear: he is NOT a DJ.
As he took to Tower Stage on Saturday night, Gregg was joined by 20 or so people from the crowd who were all dancing like their lives depended on it. That wasn’t hard to do to his opening use of the classic guitar riff from AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” that somehow morphed into the familiar lyrical hook from Trillville’s “Neva Eva,” and then next thing you know he slaps you in the face with Andre 3000 rapping “Bombs Over Bagdad.” One of the wonderful things about seeing Girl Talk live and being familiar with his albums is that he plays certain samples that his fans look forward to like you would look forward to your favorite band playing one of their own songs. While it may sound corny, hearing Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” laid on top of a different beat reinvigorates your love for the way he fits songs together (in addition to relaxing paranoid thoughts that you’re the only one that likes the fact he used Kelly Clarkson). For those that are not as familiar with his material, the surprises were endless Saturday night. You’ll catch someone who may look like they aren’t having as much fun as everyone else until Metallica starts blasting through the speakers with Missy Elliot rapping over them proving there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
As a diehard fan, one of the best parts about seeing Girl Talk live today is being able to hear new material. It’s been 3 full years since All Day was released and although there are several albums and a few E.P.s to keep fans satiated, the hunger remains for more. You can’t help but crave it after hearing how he mixes genres that you’d never think would go together; you’ll be walking around the mall or grocery store and hear a song and have that ‘oh yeah!’ moment when you think about what other song Girl Talk mashed it up with. Hearing him on Saturday use Eminem’s hook from “Forgot About Dre” blend into fan-favorite “Whoop, There It Is” brings a welcome sense of familiarity while getting you that much more excited when you hear something completely new like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” underneath Michael Jackson’s vocals. That coupled with Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” spread out over both new and familiar beats and vocal samples makes the hair stand up on your arms as they’re waving through the air without a care.
Sacramento was truly treated to a party Saturday night. Overall the first day of Launch Festival had a wide variety of performers that represented many different genres of music. Each of those performers brought different groups of people up to the stage, but only one brought every single person in attendance together and unified them. Let’s hope that we don’t have to another 6 years for Girl Talk to make his glorious return back to our capital city.