Hey, what’s going on? It turns out that I will be one of the judges for the final rounds of the Total Rock, Total Rewards Rock Band competition. If you’re reading this your band has already qualified (or is about to qualify) to get ripped apart by me after your performance, to see your dreams spill out across the stage like a bag of precious, fragile baubles passed down from generation to generation only to shatter at the force of my caustic …umm…judging.
Because in the end there can be only one band awesome enough to open for the B52’s, and that band isn’t you.
Or is it?
I have now spent almost two years travelling around the country watching many amazing RB bands play. I have seen them in competitions, I have seen them for fun, I have accidentally stumbled into informal parties. I have seen every type of band there is and I know what I like to see. And that’s how I’ll judge. What do I like? Presence.
What is presence? It is that ability to hold the crowd’s attention beyond the music. It is gravitas. It is me knowing that you are having fun making me have fun. Ultimately it is blurring the line between a game and a performance, and making me forget that what is coming out of the speakers and what I see on stage is years of code on a disc in a console.
I have seen far too many bands that think they are good because they get high scores. That doesn’t mean anything to me if you are standing on the stage staring at the monitor flawlessly playing some ridiculously difficult prog rock track and not moving like you are some sort of unfeeling robot programmed to press buttons without really caring why.
That’s missing the point.
You see no one wants to watch other people play video games, not really. People do want to have the feeling that they just saw something amazing, something that went above and beyond their expectations. They want to get rocked.
You can do that.
How, though? Is it costumes? Is it props? Is it a theme? Yes and no. All these things are great but you have to be able to pull it off. I have seen bands that wore ridiculous and awesome costumes but then didn’t do anything with them - they just stood there. I have seen props that were used and forgotten and sat lifeless on the stage only getting in the way. I’ve seen themes that should have been awesome but the band felt awkward about and never could quite pull off. Don’t be like that.
We want to see you up there. Whatever you wear it should aid you in entertaining me, not just in a few cheap laughs at the beginning but as part of a whole show. Props are cool but only if they mean something to your performance. A theme can pull everything together but only if your whole band believes in it, one holdout and the whole thing tumbles down.
The best bands transcend the game and become true performers. Other than plastic instruments they should be indiscernible from real bands, and if you do your job right we won’t remember the plastic, we’ll just remember the rock.
Come out and see the Total Rock, Total Rewards Rock Band Competitions!
Regionals at Harrah's Las Vegas, April 16th - 9pm, Horseshoe Hammond, April 24th - 9pm, Harrah's New Orleans April 30th - 9pm, Harrah's Atlantic City May 7th - 8pm and finals at Showboat Atlantic City, Club Worship, May 8th - 9pm.