Grammy All Access

Last week was one of the awesomest weeks of my life. So awesome, in fact, that I don’t even care that “awesomest” isn’t a word.

Let’s start at the beginning. John D and I headed out to Los Angeles last Tuesday to help with the Grammys in a couple different capacities. The first capacity was to educate. We showed up at USC bright and early (way too early for either of us probably) to participate as panelists for the Grammy Foundation. The Grammy Foundation is sort of the educational arm of the Grammy’s and they are active across the US. Our job that day was to talk to some LA-area high school students about careers in the music industry, in this case- music in the video game industry. We were joined on the panel by Steve Schnur who is the Worldwide Executive of Music and Marketing for EA. Also he is awesome.

So anyways we show up early for the press reception where press can interview panelists and the Grammy Foundation people and the like. John and I figure there won’t be too many people who want to interview us once we see who else is giving talks. Steve Vai, Boyz II Men, Akon, Trinitee 5:17, Dave Koz, the cast of “Once”, Paul Wall, and Jimmy Jam (of the Time, holy crap). It was kind of overwhelming. They even took pictures of the lot of us together where I was in between Jimmy Jam and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It was crazy.

We were especially surprised that after that lineup anyone would even show up for our panel. That 60 kids showed up for our panel with that lineup in competing panels to see us jamokes talk about how we rarely venture out into the sun and play video games all day surprised me more than just about anything. The panel rules. Steve is a cool guy, and John and I are more than happy to act dumb for laughs so it all worked out. We brought 10 bundles with us so after we were done talk all the kids could play for a while.

From there we had to jump in our rental car and head to the Staples Center where I was scheduled to work at the Gifting Lounge (John continues to the Style Studio in West Hollywood but we’ll get to that later and in his blog). The Gifting Lounge is a large tent with multiple rooms where various companies are giving out free stuff to celebrities. We were the last setup the talent had to go through before shoving their gigantic duffel bags filled to the brim with goods (plus a 360 Rock Band Bundle) into the trunk of their nearby limo. Having been involved in a similar setup last year at a different show I wasn’t expecting much. At that show only one band ever came through and I didn’t actually know who they were (nor did anyone else really). The rest of the talent just sent someone else to go pick up their swag.

This was a bit different.

Within 15 minutes of being there I had talked to Solange Knowles and Taylor Dayne who were both very nice. They didn’t play the game per se but were happy to take a picture with our peripherals so that was cool. Jesse McCartney then stopped by and played the drums which was pretty cool. Things kind of slowed down after that. We got a few executives through and some people who worked for the Grammys but it was mostly quiet. That was fine. I just played the game with some media outlets that were coming through including the awesome and very entertaining crew from who were pretty much owning me on drums by the end of the day.

As I was saying things were slow for a bit. They picked up when Andrea Boccelli and Josh Groban came through. Andrea Boccelli was first. The man is amazing. First of all, to be honest, he has one of the most beautiful voices on Earth, second of all the dude is very tall and kind of royal seeming (in a good way). I was impressed. He didn’t have much time to hang out at our booth but he felt the outline of the Strat (he’s blind) and declared it “beautiful”, which was the only thing I remember him saying in English. Rad.

Josh Groban came through next and for some bizarre reason on my part I thought he would not be interested at all. Turns out he was jonesing for Rock Band since it was announced because he wanted to play some drums. John and I decide that deep down inside Josh Groban wants to thrash. He also didn’t get a chance to play the game (he and Andrea Boccelli were being pulled back into rehearsal) but was stoked to get it and play later.

It was right around then that John got back from the Style Studio which closed earlier than the Gifting Lounge. It was also right around then that the guys from Daft Punk came through. I, and many other Harmonix folk, am a huge Daft Punk fan so this was particularly awesome. Guy came through first and I explained the game to him. He didn’t play it but I think he was excited. Thomas came through right after and that dude rules. He sat down at the drums, ruled the songs he played, and talked to us a bit about the mechanics. At one point when I didn’t think he was listening I told John that “the song Technologic is always stuck in my head when I am answering emails.” Thomas started laughing, looked at me, and said “We did that on purpose. To brainwash you.” I’m still not sure if he was serious. Either way I am ok with it.

We were feeling pretty great about ourselves. Daft Punk. Damn. It couldn’t really prep us for the next person through though – Album of the Year winner Herbie Hancock. Here is what you need to understand – Herbie Hancock is awesome. Some of his songs are the first songs I (and probably many of you) ever remember hearing (Chameleon, Rockit, the Fat Albert theme song). He came over and was one of the coolest, nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. We asked if he wanted to play and he seemed stoked to try the game. I hopped on the mic, John jumped on the drums, and Herbie grabbed a guitar. We started going through the song list (we brought all the DLC with us) and asked him what he wanted to play. His daughter yelled out “play Roxanne!” Now I am sweating. I have to sing “Roxanne” of all songs in fron to THE Herbie Hancock. Luckily with fear I managed to pull out my “A” game and not stink up the place too bad. John ruled it on drums. Herbie managed an awesome 82% notes hit on the guitar (first try, very little tutorial).

I watched the Grammy’s from my house on Sunday night. When Herbie won Best Album I immediately ran to my computer and shot off a congratulatory email to Hancock Music Company (I was wicked happy for them). The next day his daughter responded “How many people can say they played a cover of 'Roxanne' with Herbie Hancock on guitar?” Just us lucky two as far as I can see. Herbie doesn’t actually play guitar!