Straight to the “strip,” and then some explanation afterward…
Alright, so there’s a long, semi-funny and possibly interesting story behind this. I hope…
Last summer, Steve Sunu introduced me to Rock Band. I’d played Guitar Hero before and enjoyed it, but Rock Band‘s drums really intrigued me. I enjoyed slamming away on those “skins” while shouting Weezer lyrics at the top of my lungs more than I’d expected, but not enough to purchase the game. Still, the seed was planted.
Like so many suburban wonders, I attempted the glorious rock dream of many middle American teens throughout high school and college. Encouraged by long-time good buddy Bill Trieshmann—a musical savant in his own right—to give bass a shot as my massive teenage size and large hands (I’ve been 6’3″ since age 15) would allow me to better navigate the wide frets of the sometimes harder to manage instrument, I attempted to learn how to play bass. A few years worth of lessons and occasional practice didn’t really give me any knowledge of how music actually worked, nor did they bestow upon me any great skill. Nevertheless, I found myself practicing alongside some really talented fellows here and there through portions of ages 17 and 18. Then known as Mr. Baker (A band name honoring my high school science teacher and water polo coach Jeff Baker.), Seaby Bess, Tony Andrules and Blake Olsen brought me in to play some bass despite the fact they were all way more talented than I would ever be in the musical arts (including each of their abilities on bass). Seaby later told me (something along the lines of…) that I was an awful bassist but fun to hang out with. I couldn’t argue with that. I still can’t. I was not good at bass.
My one great success in music was when I formed a kazoo band called Sweatshirts That Ate People (Hilarious name coined by Matthew Lubicky.) with my good friend Justin Wunsch, who was first chair saxophone in our state championship high school jazz band. Though we only had four glorious performances, the rock star moment of headlining the school talent show was considerably better than best experiences in most peoples’ “rock careers” and I’m grateful that we were that well received for an idea that initially started as a running joke at our lunch table.
Eventually, my great love of music and desire to be a part of it again came up against the realization that I really didn’t understand the subtleties of it or how it’s actually made. No matter how much I tried learn music, it was just too elusive for me. I figured I could overcome this with a great deal of effort, but thought it better to be really good at something as opposed to mediocre at many things, so I focused on my writing and decided that would be the only venue for my artistic and creative output (I’ve since picked up cartooning again, so…what can you do?). I put down my bass in college after a single practice with a fantastic bluegrass band called the Cotton Mollies that was comprised entirely of some of the best people and best friends I’ve ever known. I was replaced by another good friend who can not only play bass, but do so extremely well. Still, being the Pete Best of the Cotton Mollies was a good last moment in my rock career.
That long-winded recap of my life in music hopefully emphasizes the appeal that Rock Band specifically had for me. But, being someone who is more than just a gamer and less than a musician, the drums are what really inspired me because they were similar to actual drums. The idea that I could learn a bit about percussion through a video game really sold me and this urge struck me months after my first Rock Band experience. I was determined to bring the game home and do some “actual” drumming. However, I made this decision a month before Rock Band 2 came out and decided to wait for the superior hardware.
At this point, I should mention that I had begun a new Game Stop account and started trading in my old games for store credit. By the time I was considering Rock Band 2, I had about $100 of credit in my account. I had a habit of keeping video games around like they were old novels I’d go back and read one day. However, with a stack of graphic novels at home in my “to read” pile, replaying video games began to seem like overkill. Was I really ever going to replay that old Hulk game on Game Cube just because I was in the mood to smash? No. So I began trading in tons of games realizing that I only ever play one at a time and don’t need shelves cluttered with old discs.
Time passed and Rock Band 2 came out, but by the time it did, I was short on cash and something else assuredly had me a bit more intrigued. (I’m not sure what it was, but something was filling my hobby void enough to make Rock Band seem unnecessary.) So, my fake drum set sat in wait.
When Beatles Rock Band was announced a few months back at E3, I began to get excited about the premise of getting Rock Band again. I didn’t have a video game that I could pick up and just play for a few minutes here and there that interested me, plus I loved the idea of rocking out like Ringo Starr on the drum kit—not to mention the badass Paul McCartney bass lines this game would feature—so I was again inspired to purchase some incarnation of Rock Band. But, I needed to get Rock Band 2 before I could even consider getting the Beatles edition. I now had over $200 in my Game Stop account and figured a splurge on the $160 special edition bundle with guitar, mic and drums was a good thing to treat myself to even with my unemployment woes—it was just my birthday after all! I grabbed two other games I had to trade in and headed to Game Stop.
Amazingly, my local Game Stop had an unadvertised sale on Rock Band 2. It had been bumped down to $99. After trading in the two games I brought, the price was bumped down to $70—all of which was then covered by the more than $200 store account I had at the time of purchase. So, yeah, it was probably the greatest video game buying experience of my entire life, if not of all time. Rock Band 2 for no cash out of pocket? Not too shabby!
Safe to say, this year-long desire to rock out on Rock Band coupled with my amazing purchasing luck led me to neglect my cartooning exercise and wail on the guitar (Nope, didn’t even touch the drums yesterday…bizarre, I know.) late into the night and then scribble the above All Day Pizza Buffet installment before bed. All I can hope is that this rambling story makes up for the lack of a better cartoon.
The three things this story doesn’t mention from my “rock career” were…
- The large amount of notebooks filled with my fledgling rap lyrics compiled throughout 8th grade and my freshman year of high school when I was still watching BET’s “Rap City: Da Bassment” ever day after school.
- The 2/3 of a song I created with guitar wiz Ben Engstrom and giddy drummer Kevin Timony during our freshman year for a rap-rock group I named Paste. We broke up due to arguments over the name.
- The blog I started my freshman year of college for a band my buddy Jon-Erik Hansen and I created named Attractive Lady. More an idea than an actual band, we had t-shirt ideas and the title of the first album (“Dropping Pummelos from On High”), not to mention a blog I created. The blog was mostly used to talk about “Saved By The Bell.” More specifically, the dynamic of Mr. Belding within the show.
Hey, more All Day Pizza Buffet (and better editions of it) can be found by clicking HERE!