Rock Star alter egos are rising in numbers

(LifeWire) – Jess Hu is a childcare worker from Brooklyn, New York, but she’s a rock star 20 hours a week. She appreciates so much that she plays the video game “Rock Band”.

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Alex Hedquist (left) and Jess Hu show off their best rock star poses during a Rock Band competition in Brooklyn.

“It’s like a part-time job,” says Hu, 27. “I’ve given up sleep.”

“Rock Band” has joined “Guitar Hero” as a must-have video game and is another way for would-be rockers to make their dream come true.

“Rock Band,” released in the US on November 20th by MTV Games and Electronic Arts, records up to four players at a time: a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a lead singer.

The performance simulator allows players to look and sound like real business – so much so that Rock Band enthusiasts post videos of themselves on YouTube, talk about faux concert triumphs on online forums, and from the bar are storming hosted “rock band” festivals.

Haven’t you heard from the band Something Ridiculous? They are legends of their time that would take place on Sunday evenings in the Living Room Lounge in Brooklyn. This is “Rock Band” night. Hu and his colleagues Alex Hedquist (25), Darce Grillo (19), Saori Tsujimoto (21) and E. Pena (21) even made their own t-shirts.

“When you’re doing Guitar Hero, you’re like a comedian – alone,” said Living Room Lounge bartender Gerard Grillo, who brings the game to the bar on Sundays and projects it onto a big screen. “Now you have three other people to act stupid with.”

Karaoke’s successor

From Brooklyn to the Bay Area, bar evenings devoted to music games are popping up. “Guitar Hero” night in the Living Room Lounge brought 60 people on Sunday evening, estimates Darce Grillo, the bartender’s son; with “Rock Band” it’s about 80.

Arshan Sadri, a restaurant clerk, slips into a showbiz alter ego as soon as he straps on the stringless guitar replica and asks three strangers to band together and scream, “Let’s go, band!”

“You make a fake band – that’s what you do,” says Sadri, calling the game “the best part of karaoke, adding a drummer and guitars.”

The lounge players play electric anthems like “Gimme Shelter” by Rolling Stones, “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

Or at least they seem to be playing.

Guitarists press colored notes on the neck of the “instrument” to match the colored bars on the video monitor. You press a Strum key with the other hand to “hit” the note before it disappears.

Drummers pound in sync with a color code, and singers perform with a real microphone as the words pour across the screen, their voices merging with those of the real artists. You tap the microphone to simulate a tambourine.

Tsujimoto of Something Ridiculous said “Rock Band” requires a certain level of skill similar to “Dance Dance Revolution”, in which participants combine dance steps with flashing colored lights.

“Rock Band” doesn’t bring anyone on stage at Madison Square Garden. Computer generated characters dance and clean. Players can choose between archetypes like the muscular punk, the earthy baby, and the handsome boy with the mop. Strong appearances bring bands to a classier virtual tour bus and better video game venues.

Something for everyone

The imagination is all it takes. Newly mated Mary Tchamkina, 24, says she is fulfilling her long-cherished dream of playing the drums. She had never tried a video game before “Rock Band”.

Others like the game to participate in a social environment – in the living room or garage with friends or in a bar with strangers. Although bands can keep up, the atmosphere in the Living Room Lounge was more communal than breakneck.

“It’s all about fun as long as people feel it,” says Darce Grillo. “When you compete, you are not having fun.”

Roy Tumminia, a 25-year-old plumbing worker on Staten Island, plays “rock band” with coworkers among garbage collectors. Jared Fletcher, Tchamkina’s friend, used “Rock Band” in his apartment as a perk to advertise a potential roommate.

The explosion in virtual performance brings “a whole new crowd to the rock scene,” says Tumminia.

“Rock Band” and its ancestors of “Guitar Hero” also attract non-gamers, said Brian Crecente, editor of Kotaku.com gaming blog and judge at the Spike TV Video Game Awards. He was hosting a charity event in Denver with “Rock Band” being the main entertainer.

“It’s so big because it gives people who don’t have musical talent the opportunity to play the way they have musical talent,” says Crecente. “It makes you think you can do this amazing solo.” Email to a friend Email to a friend

LifeWire brings original and syndicated lifestyle content to web publishers. Ron Dicker is a New York-based freelance writer who reported on sports for the New York Times from 1996 to 2005.

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