Rock Band Finals at ConnectiCon

This is your inside look at ConnectiCon and the Rock Band Finals. First read about the Con from the view of one of the Harmonix judges. Then read on to see what it was like to be a member of the winning band.

HMXHaughtness: Nothing really prepared me for my first Con. I had read the list of events, which was extensive, but still it paled in visual comparison. What blew me away was the precision and care that went into many of the cosplay outfits that were on display. As Jon Pardo and I walked through the front doors we were greeted by Ang, Zuko, and many fire kingdom characters posing for a picture. As this occurred, two state alchemists walked by with uniforms as crisp, clean and well done as any military uniform I've ever seen. It was phenomenal. More outfits were in attendance than I had any hope of ever naming.

Moving through the crowd we eventually met up with my contact, Rick, the VP of members, Sami, who was working the Con, and Mark from NationVoice. Rick arranged for Wylie, the guy running the gaming, to take us over to his area and we were more than glad to follow a guide through the maze of workshops, vendors, board gaming tables, miniature gaming tables, and groups of outfitted excited people posing for pictures. As we walked, Wylie mentioned that they had had the Rock Band 2 set up going constantly, and that there was always a group waiting to go on and rock out. Upon arriving I could only agree. Behind a pretty standard-sized TV stood about 20 people all happily watching the screen. Some were clapping along, others were singing along with the song, and everyone was having a great time. As we watched, a few groups changed out. Many were put together on the spot - if you needed an extra drummer,  one would emerge from the crowd. Fast forward three songs and you have a guitarist and bassist rocking out in unison who, 20 minutes prior, hadn't known each other. This being one of the first times I had seen our game played in public, I was struck again by just how fun it really is. Playing it all day, one can get jaded, and watching people really enjoy themselves blows that jaded-ness away.

After we watched the Rock Band set up for awhile, we asked to be shown where the Finals tournament would be held. Pardo and I walked next door to the adjacent hotel, which was booked up as well, and into a large room with a stage and a projector screen set up. I'll admit, I was impressed. There were speaker stacks, a 4-foot stage, two large stage-facing TVs and a 5-foot projector for the audience, as well as the actual performers themselves.

The first band up played through the songs well, scoring highly but not bringing a lot of energy into the performance. The singer was a mighty exception; he was moving the entire time roaming around and doing his best to really rock out. I believe he got Best Singer for his efforts. The second band had more energy with a bassist who not only removed an article of clothing (it was a shirt, people), but who also played with the guitar behind his head and still managed to hold Bass Groove on Expert. He did won Best Bassist for his efforts. Along with him there was a guitarist who you could tell really and truly loved the songs she was playing. The solos, while maybe not FCd, were played with pizazz. She won Best Guitarist. Together they played so hard they actually blew a fuse! Well, it was the projector, but we all knew it was the power of rock.

So what did we learn so far? That the players who bring the energy and really rock out end up scoring the best as well. And that's exactly what the third group did. Tanhaüser Gate brought the energy. The vocalist not only got into the songs, dancing and involving the other members in the singing, but also had some chops. The drummer started off by playing standing up, and all throughout the songs had an elbow driven flare that showed a more relaxed and confident drummer. Then there was the unified rocking of the guitarist and the bassist that lasted quite a while, not to mention some good ol' fashion head banging. After conferring with the judges, the vote was in and it was unanimously in favor of Tanhaüser Gate. For their trouble they got Rock Band t-shirts, AC/DC LIVE Track Pack, some sweet wall displays, and Mark hooked them up with some Ventrilo servers. Then each top scorer made off with a Country Track Pack. All in all, good times were had by all!

Tanhaüser Gate performing

Tanhaüser Gate: When all of the members of Tanhaüser Gate arrived at ConnectiCon this year, we could all agree on one of its many offerings: re-entering the Rock Band tournament. Due to some unfortunate events at the 2008 tournament, we didn’t even make it past the qualifier. The most disappointing part was that we weren’t able to realize our dream of playing Rock Band on stage together in front of an audience, which was what we believed to be the true prize in the competition.

This year, we didn't think we were going to get as far as we did, based on our previous experience. Little did we realize we would end up playing for judges from Harmonix, among others.

We had so much fun we didn't realize that we spent a total of eight hours hanging around for the tournament, playing sets, figuring out which songs to play and in what order they should be played, and how best to put on a good show. We didn’t even focus too much on trying to get the optimum score; in fact, we missed quite a few notes and phrases along the way, but we weren’t too concerned. We were having an amazing time. We'd injected some small amount of energy into our performances playing the game at home and gotten a taste of what a true rock-out session could be like, but the competition gave us the chance to let loose and see what we could really do. The band's interaction and the reaction of the crowd felt like a true rock show, living up to Rock Band's intention: we really felt like rock stars.

Darren, who organized the tournament, clearly put all his heart into it. Seeing how happy he was about his dream coming to fruition made it all the more amazing for us. Darren and Tanhaüser Gate had similar visions for a Rock Band tournament: the chance to really rock out and perform, without putting all the emphasis on score.

Everyone we met from the other bands was also incredible.  They were great at the game, very nice people, and as excited as we were to be playing. Every band cheered the others on.  The atmosphere of the final show was great, despite the small number of actual attendees.

We can’t wait to return for a repeat experience next year…Tanhaüser Gate will be ready to rock!