October 29, 2008

So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star

Then all you have to do is play Rock Band 2. This video game has swept the country. I have noticed for about a year that, whenever I'm in a Best Buy store, guys from ten to over thirty years old are lined up at the Rock Band display, playing the guitar to Aerosmith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other mostly classic rock tunes.

Then, last Saturday night, I went to a Halloween party at a private home in Hollywood. There was entertainment everywhere, including a pumpkin carving contest outside. When I glanced inside, I saw a band playing, including one guy I know on guitar. However, instead of interacting with each other, the musicians were all looking forward. Later, when I walked inside, I saw that it was a six-piece (guitar, bass, drums, lead vocals and backup singers) Rock Band 2 rock band, playing along to Rock Band 2 songs on a tv set up in front of them. What a blast! Other folks in the room were also singing along as the band attempted to master Rock Band 2, which entails trying to match the lyrics and the musical chords, notes, and beat of such classics as Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" and 80's dairy staple "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. I even stepped up and took over lead vocals for the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." This was a huge evolutionary step forward from karaoke. In fact, when the drummer finished playing, having broken into a sweat, he told me that friends of his have set up a weekly Rock Band 2 karaoke-type event at a bar in Los Angeles, and that it has become so popular that MTV is now filming the goings-on.

MTV's sister channel VH1 also has its own Rock Band 2 reality show, where bands compete by playing songs along with Rock Band 2, and one member of the losing team is eliminated each week. And VH1 Classic airs "Rock Band 2 Riffs," which are the original music videos (mostly from the 80's) of the songs that are available on the Rock Band 2 video game.

Coincidentally, I was in a Circuit City store yesterday, and, like Best Buy, it had a Rock Band 2 demo set up with guitar for Microsoft's XBox 360. I tried my hand for the first time at playing the guitar, to Aerosmith & Run DMC's version of "Walk This Way." Impossible. Those notes just flew at me on the screen, and I had no time to catch up. Then I saw the Rock Band 2 "bundle" (which includes the Rock Band 2 game, a guitar, a drum set, and a microphone) for both the Sony PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 video game platforms, as well as a bundle from competing rock video game Guitar Hero. I was tempted to buy the Rock Band 2 bundle, but I may need to wait until the stock market rises again, since my original XBox machine won't even play Rock Band 2. In addition to the necessary PlayStation 3 ($400), XBox 360 ($200-$400), or $300 Nintendo Wii game console, the Rock Band 2 bundle runs nearly $200, and another guitar (for use as a bass) runs about $70.

On the other hand, given that aging, past their prime classic rock bands such as Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, and others now charge upwards of $250 per ticket to perform just one concert, the Rock Band 2 bundle just might be a bargain. It's certainly a bundle of fun.

(Flickr photo by David Markland, used with permission)

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