Nothing stressed me out more at CES last week than agreeing to participate in SanDisk's "Battle of the Bloggers" Rock Band 2 Challenge. Held on Friday afternoon at the SanDisk booth, the event was held to try and see which gadget bloggers could "rock the hardest" during an 8-team elimination tournament of the game Rock Band 2. The event was held to promote SanDisk's new 2GB SD card that can be used with the Nintendo Wii version of Rock Band 2, so of course the teams were playing that version of the game (more on that later).
I was invited to try and pull a team together for the "Network World" team, but since the only people going to the show from NW was me and Jason Meserve (who was already on a plane home when the event took place), I had to figure out some other ways to recruit for the team. I met PC Magazine Senior Editor Kyle Monson at an event on Wednesday night, and he was also participating in the event. Kyle told me how great he was on drums, and I immediately said, "I want to join your team." We also had a great singer from PC Magazine lined up, digital camera/camcorder analyst PJ Jacobowitz.
Now for the kicker – we needed a bass player, and I ran into some PR people from Voce Communications, and discovered that Robin Schultz, a client supervisor, was a Rock Band "goddess". We also recruited another Voce staffer, Nicole Rodrigues, to handle some additional singing duties. With three journalists and two PR reps on board, we named our band "Conflict of Interest".
Other teams that participated included folks from USA Today, Crunchgear, Joystiq, Sarah Lacy (Business Week reporter/blogger, and NonSociety (a team of blogging girls who apparently had never played Rock Band 2 before). All of these bloggers probably have thousands of more fans, hits and downloads than I ever will, but with our super-band we were now in it to win it.
We got a first-round bye thanks to the team from Wired not showing up (whoo-hoo!), but we still went out and played our first-round song, "Eye of the Tiger" from Survivor. We didn't get off to a great start, as we started arguing with an audience member about whether the song was from "Rocky III" or "Rocky IV" (it's Rocky III, by the way, although they do play the song in Rocky IV, so that could have been part of the confusion). As the lead guitarist, about three seconds into the song I noticed that the fret buttons I was pushing were not registering, indicating that after a couple of days of use, the equipment was getting a bit dodgy. SanDisk was using the stage to allow attendees to play and compete for other prizes during the show, so the guitars had gotten some use.
In our second-round matchup (against CrunchGear), we played the Journey song "Any Way You Want It", and we ramped it up more. With more guitar solos in this song, I figured it was easier to move closer to the drummer and screen, to make sure that I could hit the notes at the appropriate time. We advanced to the finals, against the team from Joystiq (who were showing the same amount of enthusiasm for the contest as we were, they were just as good). The finals came down to them singing "Pinball Wizard", versus our very awesome version of Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son". A classic "encore" song if I may say so. With enough whooping and hollering, we were able to pull out the win, earning bragging rights at least until next year (I'm on record now as saying I'm willing to defend the title).
Whether Conflict of Interest will ever do another gig is up in the air (you know how hard it is to keep bands together after such atmospheric success right out of the gate), but for at least one afternoon in Las Vegas, I was a rock star and "lived the life." I'm back to reality now, and my two kids have yet to understand how their father rocked the house, but I'm sure they'll see these pictures at some point.
Thanks to the team from SanDisk and my fellow band-mates for a great time during CES.
Here are some photos from the event, please enjoy:
Robin Schultz (Voce) and Keith Shaw rock the house during 'Eye of the Tiger'
Conflict of Interest play "Carry on Wayward Son" during the finals of the competition.
The team celebrates winning the competition