April 9, 2009

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Video game dreams
MCAM creates televised Rock Band contest
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

Fans of the Harmonix video game Rock Band have long been relegated to living out their rock star dreams in their living rooms, or at the occasional game night at the local bar. But now MCAM-TV 23 in Manchester is holding a live Rock Band competition, hoping to match the success that the Manchester Superstar talent show created for the station in the fall.

“With Manchester Superstar we found out that it was mostly a lot of young girls competing,” said MCAM operations director Lauren Horton. “After that we thought, ‘What about something geared more for young boys?’ There aren’t a lot of opportunities for young kids to go and compete like this and we thought this would be a great chance for them to build their confidence and show what they can do.”

The contest will feature several rounds of battle, leading up to a band-on-band face-off finale, with proceeds going to the Theatre Knights of Manchester. The young theater company incorporates students from the Manchester School District in grades 8 through 12. The company is trying to raise funds to attend the prestigious Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in Scotland, which will be held in August this year (see a story about the group on page 20).

However, there are prizes for competition winners, including GameStop gift certificates as well as a $1,000 cash prize to the winner.

Each band will be made up of four members — a singer, drummer, bassist and lead guitarist — and all the equipment will be supplied for the competitors (the game is being played on the Xbox 360 system).

At registration, groups need to pick a band name, as well as songs from MCAM’s approved list, with tunes from artists like The Rolling Stones, Blondie, Sonic Youth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Panic at the Disco. However, if bands have a rare song they’d like to use, they are permitted to bring their own Xbox hard drive. Participants may even play in more than one band in the competition, and don’t even have to have a band with them at registration to enter.

“We can certainly put bands together if people aren’t able to get one together on their own,” Horton said. “And there’s no age limit. Even though this is a game obviously geared towards young people, we want it to be for anyone who wants to have fun. It’s an escape, a chance to be a rock star, if only for a little while.”

The audition and battle rounds are taped on Wednesday nights at MCAM studios, and episodes run on Mondays at 7 p.m. The first round of battles will be held April 22, May 6 and May 20. Up to 15 bands will compete each night, with the top five each night moving onto the live semi-finals on June 8.

The live finale will be held June 15, where two remaining bands will go head to head.

“One band will pick a song for the other band to play, and then they get to choose a song the other one will play,” Horton said. “So it gives the groups a chance to try and trip each other up.”

Voting for the competition will work in much the same way as Superstar did, through online, in-studio, and judges’ votes.

“When you play the game you get a score as to how accurate your keystrokes, guitar-playing and notes are, but we’ll also be judging on your look and stage presence,” Horton said.

Though they are still working on finalizing the panel of judges, Randy Curtis from GameStop has been confirmed, and the show will be hosted by Nick Campenelli, who currently co-hosts PFG-TV with Scorch on Monday nights.

“We really think this will be his place to shine,” Horton said. “We’re excited to have him join us — it should be a lot of fun.”

Bands or individuals who want to apply need to visit the official competition Web site at www.mcam.org/rockbattle.htm to download the registration form. Registration costs $40, and entrants who are under 18 will need signed permission from a parent or guardian to participate. Application materials can be mailed to MCAM TV-23, 540 Commerical St., Manchester, 03101, or delivered in person the studio.

“We’re really hoping to replicate the success we had with Superstar,” Horton said. “That was kind of the start of it — it really kind of pulled viewers in. Even though this is a game, it’s still a talent competition. They have to dress, sing and play the part, and it’s always so rewarding when you see people [who] improve week to week and are really invested in going after their dreams.”


Next Rock Band audition
When: Wednesday, April 15, 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: MCAM-TV Studio, 540 Commercial St., Manchester.