"rock band" 
Ordinarily, we're not hard-core video gamers: Joni and the kids have some games they like to run on our PC, and we have one of those game consoles that you plug into your TV and it runs Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga and old-school games like that. But otherwise, we can pretty much take or leave video games.

But then our neighbors, the Beckers, introduced us to "Rock Band." It's a video game where up to four people form a virtual rock band and use game controllers that look like instruments to "play" music together. We're hooked. Absolutely hooked. And we're not the only ones: our other neighbors, the Harkemas, are too. We get together and play 'til all hours of the night, taking turns on the instruments. Because we usually play on Fridays, I call our little jam sessions "Friday Night Videos," in homage to that TV show from the early '80s (remember that?). 

"Rock Band" has a good range of music: classic stuff from Aerosmith and the Stones and KISS; 80's bands like Bon Jovi and Metallica and The Police; and more recent stuff like Weezer and Oasis and The Killers. Another nice thing is that each player can set his own difficulty level, so kids and beginners can play, too. Kickin' tunes, easy to play, and family fun--what more can you ask for?

Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version.

Beth, Nathan Becker, Jade Harkema, and her dad, Mike, jamming out; Joni and Ally prefer to sing; me on "guitar"
Ally likes to drum, but she recently fell and broke her arm, so she's strictly on vocals for the time being

Colored lights on the screen tell you what "notes" to "play"; Beth's wearing one of my
old Robert Plant concert shirts, from the "Now and Zen" tour in 1988

Mike is an excellent "guitar" player, and Jade is an awesome drummer. Nate really
gets into singing, but his brother Dylan (on the couch) is not always into it

Andy Becker on "guitar" and Joni on "drums;" Joni's a good drummer and an even better singer
For this get-together, I dug out a Skid Row concert shirt from the 1991 "Slave to the Grind" tour

Jade: the little drummer girl who head-bangs like a grown-up. Beth likes to sing newer stuff, like 
"Say It Ain't So" and "When You Were Young" and "Maps" and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?"

Andy can play drums for real, so he kills on "Rock Band." He often lets the younger kids, like his son Dylan 
or our daughter Ally, sit on his lap and help him drum. "Drums" are the hardest "instrument" to play.
Mike likes to play songs--like "Enter Sandman" and "Train Kept A' Rollin" with really hard "guitar" parts. 
As I said, he's really good. So good, I think his nickname should be "Van Harkema."

I like to play "guitar" or sing older songs. Some of our favorites are "Black Hole Sun" (by Soundgarden), 
"Suffragette City" (David Bowie), "Blitzkrieg Bop" (the Ramones), "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" 
(The Clash), "Dani California" (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and "Here it Goes Again" (OK Go)...

..."Detroit Rock City" (KISS), "Highway Star" (Deep Purple), "I Think I'm Paranoid" (by Garbage)
and "Learn to Fly" (The Foo Fighters). Andy loves anything by The Police, and Mike loves
"Wanted Dead or Alive," by Bon Jovi. If you ever get a chance to play "Rock Band," go for it!
It's a tremendous amount of fun!

Posted April 2008