The 'Rock Band' era is upon us and there's no turning back

Slash_lI have seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s a video game. Specifically, MTV Games’ soon-to-be-released Rock Band (out Nov. 20). I only fully wrapped my head around this revelation a couple weeks ago, when a group of us LA music journalists were invited to a private demo at MTV’s Santa Monica offices. Oh sure, I’m acutely aware of the Guitar Hero franchise. Rob Thomas introduced me to the game, which he often toyed with between vocal takes in the studio; something I found a bit peculiar — here are all these amazing musicians, dozens of priceless guitars lining the hallway, producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Dave Matthews Band) at the console, yet Rob, who’s no slouch on the six-string, would rather click away on a glorified Simon posing as a pee-wee-sized plastic guitar. Go figure! But he loved his GH, so much so that when it broke, a studio runner was immediately sent out to Best Buy for a replacement.

So yeah, I get it and appreciate its enormous popularity. Even last week’s South Park was devoted entirely to a Guitar Hero story line (which included a bold declaration by Kyle that "real guitars are for old people"). And at the recent LA launch party for Guitar Hero 3, I was dumbfounded to walk into a rooftop affair with several hundred in attendance (including Slash, pictured; Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden; and some of Slash’s Velvet Revolver bandmates) to find the bars nearly empty and the hors d’oeuvres trays full because all the guests were off gazing into fluorescent screens. I basically spent the whole night staring at peoples’ backs (when not scanning for Rock of Love contestants — past or present — there to see Poison perform), which was not only freaky in a futuristic sort of way, but kind of sad.

addCredit(“Slash: Bill McCay/WireImage.com”)

So now comes Rock Band, taking the playing experience to anentirely new level, with four instruments and a killer soundtrack thatincludes classics by David Bowie, the Clash, Rolling Stones, theRamones, the Police, and the Who along with more current tracks by thelikes of Radiohead, the Killers, Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Yeah YeahYeahs. Plus, let’s not forget that the Sex Pistols reunited ostensiblyjust to rerecord songs for GH3.

Which makes me wonder, will kids in the future discover pivotal,genre-defining bands like the Rolling Stones through this very medium?And of those who maybe get inspired to start a band or jam with theirfriends, how many will forgo the garage experience for the living room?Will we read, in an interview with the next Kurt Cobain, that the firsttime he heard "Gimme Shelter" or the Sex Pistols was in a video game?

I shudder to think, but this could be our new reality. And perhaps that South Park episode, with its hilarious spoof on a guitar hero audition (all clicks, no licks), hit the nail on the head.

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  • FM

    Is the future of Rock going to be influenced by Guitar Hero/ Rock Band? Yes, but not in the way many fear. They will help the genre in an explosive way.
    These games, unlike any before them, offer such a close tie to the music that the players actually feel accomplishment through their use.
    Certainly for most it will be fine to play a few games and walk away, there will be some, perhaps many, who want the experience to go further, and that means they will want/ need to pick up a real instrument.
    If even 0.05% of those who play the game become interested in real musicianship, then we are going to see a glut of new players show up 5 to 10 years from now.

  • Greg

    Yeah, but wasn’t the final point of that South Park that if you play guitar hero long enough, you are a f**?

  • Ep Sato

    A whole generation of teens discovered Dick Dale because of Pulp Fiction. I’ve no beef with how people discover kickazz classics, I’m just glad the mediums are available.
    Shucks, I re-discovered Clarence Carter thanks to My name is Earl and got back into the Pointer Sisters because of Grand Theft Auto:Vice City myself.
    And not to worry, as long as Rock and Roll has sex, drugs and parties, there’ll always be someone who’ll want to be the next great rock star.

  • bee

    My husband and I were so into Guitar Hero I that Guitar Center became the new place to drop some money. I bought an acoustic, then he bought a bass. Then I bought a digital piano. Then I started talking piano lessons again. And now, at 37, I am feverishly practicing “Christmas Time” on the piano for my first recital in 25 years. I don’t even have time to buy GH2 or play GH1. So yeah, video games are evil. Stay away.

  • t3hdow

    Ep Sato never ceases to amaze me with his plethora of pop culture knowledge (along with a nice dose of common sense). Anyone thinking Guitar Hero’s going to kill the rock genre because of its simplification of guitar playing is fooling themselves. Look around the internet hard enough and you’ll find some guitar purist fuming about that. Why? It’s not like Dance Dance Revolution made anyone the next Michael Jackson, so what’s the logic behind watered down rock from Guitar Hero?

  • Hi

    I doubt the first time a kid hears The Rolling Stones it will be in Guitar Hero. It will be in a Chrysler ad or a commercial for smart investing. Spare me the romanticism of rock and roll.

  • Stephanie T.

    EP is right. In the past media has influenced people to listen to music that has already been out. When American Graffiti and Grease were released in the early 70′s, people were interested in Do-Wop. Sha-Na-Na marketed that sound into a Saturday Morning television show. In the early 80′s Urban Cowboy got people interested in Country music and line dancing, the mid 80′ John Hughes influenced people to listen to underground new wave groups like The The. In the in the late 80′s, Dirty Dancing got people listening to 60′s music. Now it is a video game that will get new audiences to listen to guitar rock. Where I work Guitar Hero is huge. I am really glad that where I work, kids love Black Sabbath’s Iron Man.

  • Stephanie T.

    BTW: is there any possibility that Jon Bon Jovi will stop impersonating John Mellencamp and go back to singing some decent rock?

  • LK

    “will kids in the future discover pivotal, genre-defining bands like the Rolling Stones through this very medium?”
    oh yeah def…i mean my little brothers hear Sweet Child of Mine on the radio and go “oh this is in GH2!” its no different from hearing about a band through another medium besides radio…
    just the other day one of the other writers (Slezak i think) typed about how Enrique Islglesias (sp?) did a cover of a Ringside song from 2005, one of the people who commented said they never heard of Ringside and only found out about them cuz Slezak commented on how Enrique covered their song

  • Scrantonicitiy 2

    Sports games sure have killed off real sports havent they? The NFL is about to fold thanks to Madden. People around the world have quit dancing thanks to DDR as well, right? Oh wait, they havent. I’m tired of the snobbish comments of the musical elitest. Its a GAME, its fun, just enjoy it for what it is!

  • Robyn

    Well, my 11-year old has been begging for tracks from Heart, Iron Maiden, and Rage Against the Machine, not to mention My Chemical Romance and Primus, for his Ipod. All because of GH2. You better believe we got 3 when it came out. Nothing on today’s radio has broadened his ear like these games.

  • John

    well it is just a fuckin game people geez! I mean rock music ..well music ingeneral is music and no game is going to kill that off..and they are a few good bands out there today but most of them are only concerned with money and I play guitar and I say the music industry is a waste of time I just enjoy playing music and writing songs and I think I will leave it at that….Peace

  • Ryan

    I think my love of Guitar Hero was ruined when I saw them playing it at a party on Gossip Girl. Worst Fake Guitar playing ever!!!

  • Andy
  • Andy
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