“If you call your new song a face melter, you better be damn sure,” warns the massive projection screen as the next two contestants lift their miniature plastic guitars into the ready position.
After little hesitation, the two select Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones,” and put their finger bones to the fretboards. These are just two of the headbanging hopefuls competing in the Darkroom’s Second All-Chicago Guitar Hero Tournament, celebrating the release of “Guitar Hero 2,” a rock-star simulation game for PlayStation 2. Standing at the front of the bar, the two men appear as black silhouettes against the manic screen, whirling graphics surrounding their immobile figures. Friends and onlookers crowd the dance floor, equally paralyzed by the thumping metal and hypnotizing colors. The MC tries to rouse the crowd by offering an honorary prize to any contestant who “looks good doing it, but is not necessarily the best.” Still, the contestants plunk out their power chords with concentrated determination, throwing style by the wayside in favor of sheer skill. After all, a $300 gift certificate to Sam Ash is at stake here.
A leather-jacketed man by the sidelines leans back on his stool, his face cast in the red glow from the illuminated bar. He takes a swig from his beer and drawls, “No sex before a match,” turning to watch the next two guitar heroes begin their rendition of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” A snort of derision comes from another onlooker, “They picked the Average skill level,” the man laughs as Kurt Cobain wails about his “little complaint.”
Everyone knows a real hero always goes for “Hard.” (Brenna Ehrlich)