The night starts early at a house in North Park where a handful of 'Guitar Hero II' aficionados have gathered for a warm-up session. Before heading over to Club Kadan for the real competition, they practice a few of the songs they had problems with the week before and discuss strategies to defeat competitors.
Will takes hold of the guitar and explains to me how it works. Instead of a normal Playstation or XBox controller, you use a plastic likeness of a guitar that sports large colored buttons in place of strings. You pick your song and your difficulty level, and do your best to mimick the challenging rhythm sections and laser-fast solos of some of the most insane rock songs ever written. Will informs his opponent, Barry-who is a real-life session guitarist (but a 'Guitar Hero' novice)-that they're going to play 'The Beast and the Harlot' by Avenged Sevenfold.
Barry gets his ass served to him on a platter.
A few hours later, the party moves to Kadan, where a couple of people are already battling over 'Sweet Child O' Mine.' A big-screen TV, two leather couches and a fully stocked (and rather inexpensive) bar make Kadan feel more like a college kid's dream living room than a neighborhood watering hole. Although the place is not packed, bartender Bethany, says Guitar Hero Night has done surprisingly well as a regular Tuesday event. With a pretty stable crowd of people looking forward to challenging each other each week, and occasional prizes sponsored by companies like Pilsner Urquell (which recently donated several real guitars), it starts to make sense why Guitar Hero Night has become so popular.
Tonight, however, it seems less like a vicious competition and more like a bunch of friends hanging out and challenging each other, which gives me enough confidence to wield the plastic axe. Bethany and I play The Toadies' 'Possum Kingdom.' Even on 'easy' mode, I can barely keep up. I hit less than 20 percent of the notes and get beat by something like 30,000 points. The next pair on stage play Megadeth's 'Hangar 18' on 'expert' mode. They both complete with note accuracy of more than 95 percent.
'It's like the new karaoke,' the winner tells me. 'It's awesome. Instead of getting in front of people and murdering a song with my horrible voice, I can play the guitar. I get to be Tony Iommi or Eddie van Halen. Those guys were always my heroes, anyways, not the singers....'
As the night progresses, more people file in. By midnight there's a good crowd, and there's a sign-up sheet to play next. Will is looking forward to taking on somebody who beat him a couple weeks prior. Before he takes the stage, he tells me his strategy.
'He's really good at rhythm guitar. I tend to be better at long solos, strings of syncopated notes. I'm gonna challenge him on ‘Can't You Hear Me Knockin''' by The Rolling Stones.'
His strategy proves to be sound. Will blows him out of the water. The people gathered around him raise their drinks and whistle in support of the victor, their virtual guitar hero.
Guitar Hero Night happens every Tuesday at Club Kadan. www.kadanclub.com.
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