Friday, September 05, 2008

Rock

A little over two years ago I first picked up a Guitar Hero controller. I've been playing it on and off ever since. I was driven to play Guitar Hero 2 with the blue button, so I moved up to medium, and while playing Guitar Hero 3 I fulfilled my ambitions of adding the orange button, so I moved up to hard. There were no more buttons to add, but I realized that I wasn't skilled enough to play certain songs on Hard, so to practice I played easier songs on Expert. It's probably been more then six months since I made that upgrade to the highest tier of difficulty.

At the first PAX I went to I saw someone who can play Guitar Hero better then anyone ever should be able to. He was playing Cowboys from Hell, on Expert, with his eyes closed and his back to the screen. That level of mastery requires you to destroy yourself, so I don't aspire to it.

When the rhythm game of choice changed from Guitar Hero to Rock Band my role changed. I'm one of the only people I know who likes the bass as an instrument in real life. It's at the top of my list of instruments I would learn to play if I had the time, money, and talent necessary to pursue it. This meant that I was one of the few people who was playing the bass on expert, and playing the bass willingly not because it was someone else's turn to play guitar.

The only problem with this is that the bass is much easier, in general, and as someone who had played a lot of expert guitar the bass began to get dull. This is when I decided to move from being one of the insane people who sings along under his breath to taking a serious try at singing in Rock Band. Since then my role in the impromptu band that has formed in my apartment has been that of Bassist/Vocalist on Expert and Medium respectively.

I would be lying if I said that I did this without ego. Playing while singing seemed like something that takes a lot of talent, something that would put me among the upper echelon of players.

Now cut forward to last Saturday. For most of PAX they had a Rock Band freeplay setup in the Raven Theater, which basically amounts to a small lounge area with an impromptu stage in it. The system was very simple. Get four people, and have at least one of you wait in the line. This was a little bit complicated by the fact that I didn't have three other people to form a reliable band, but the culture there was outstanding. It was half pick up group and half impromptu friend circles. I was lucky enough that I arrived in time to hear someone say with a bit of exhaustion in their voice "Does anyone want to play Bass?" The spontaneous appearance of an expert level bassist was, to say the least, welcome. It was while comisserating with my bandmates after making it to the impromptu circle of friends phase that I learned that everyone there could play something on expert, and that people playing guitar and singing wasn't that uncommon, and the fact that I wasn't doing both on Expert meant that I was on the low end of them. My ego successfully beaten back I went back to my role as Epic Bassist.

I've always wanted to play in front of an audience, it's natural for those of us who are pretending to have talent to seek a venue where we can pretend to have success. The actual experience is somewhat less grand then I thought. Playing in front of an audience makes the experience ten times as intense, and I ended up feeling both ends of that. When I was playing bass for Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and I heard the crowd cheer in response to me holding down the buttons of a long chord while flaring the guitar over my head it was amazing. It was a rush that is almost beyond compare. When I decided to try singing on stage and found that as soon as the song started all of the moisture in my throat spontaneously evaporated, leading to me get the guitarist in on it, and eventually trading instruments mid song with the bassist the shame was soul crushing.

The really odd thing. I had two good and two bad experiences, and I had them one after another in sequence.

The other odd thing, in retrospect, is that the crowd response during the song that I sung half of wasn't that bad. At the time it seemed clear that I was about to be burned at the stake, but I think the craziness of it kept them interested.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kevin said...

For the record while they were exchanging instruments, which occurred across my drum kit, I did not miss a single note.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

That's pretty sweet. And it'll only get sweeter once we start moving on to playing in public more often.

12:00 PM  

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