Monday, February 25, 2008

'Guitar Hero' Slash Returns from Small Screen to Stage

In the music world, Slash is known mostly for his time with Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver. But since October, no auditions are needed to play with Slash. In fact, he’ll come right to your living room.

Slash is featured on the cover of Guitar Hero 3, and is a playable character in the video game. The player uses a guitar shaped controller and pushes buttons to play the notes that appear onscreen, mimicking a real song that plays. On Jan. 21, according to Activision, the Guitar Hero franchise surpassed $1 billion in total sales and Guitar Hero 3 became the biggest selling video game for a single year.

“There’s like a demographic I’ve never met (laughs) that all the sudden recognizes me as the guy from Guitar Hero, but then as a result exposes them to Velvet Revolver and Guns ‘N Roses and whatnot,” Slash said in a phone interview. “You can’t knock that. If you really want to resurrect rock and roll, the first place you got to start is with kids.”

Detroit Free Press Digital Life writer Heather Newman says that Slash’s presence might lead to the introduction of his music to younger players. “While playing is nowhere near as difficult as playing the real thing, it does hint at the complexity of some of the guitar riffs in famous guitar-heavy tracks and solos – which might lead some new audiences to better appreciate the work of some of the ‘older’ masters,” Newman said.

Putting Slash on the cover might also help to bring more credibility to the game, according to Robin Kaminsky, executive vice president of Activision Publishing. “Guitar legend Slash, combined with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock's robust soundtrack and innovative new game features, will continue to solidify the brand's leadership in the rhythm-action genre," Kaminsky said in a statement.

Newman said that the cover is important for video games. “You always need an iconic guitarist for the cover of Guitar Hero, and despite his goofy hat, Slash is certainly one of the best-respected and best-known modern guitarists out there,” Newman said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a guitarist in a more recent band that had as big a name.”

But Slash, the man behind riffs like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child of Mine,” says the actual guitar skills don’t necessarily transfer to the game.

“I got good enough at it at one point when I was exposed to Guitar Hero 2, and I beat it, but only on medium,” Slash said. “I didn’t have the time or the patience to get into hard and expert and all that. I put it away because I was so addicted to it that I completely shirked any other responsibilities I had for like two weeks. When Guitar Hero 3 came out, they sent me one, and I thought, ‘This will be easy. I’ve been playing real guitar for the six to eight month interim.’ I was completely rusty playing Guitar Hero so I had to start completely over again.”

Does that mean that Slash, who Esquire named “Best Guitarist” in 2005, can’t even beat the video game with his face on the cover?

“I haven’t even gotten past the first concert,” Slash said laughing. “I’m scared to because once I start I know I won’t be able to stop. I’ve got a lot of things going on right now so I can’t really afford to be sitting there kicking on the jams on Guitar Hero.”

His already busy life is about to get busier, as Velvet Revolver kicks off a tour on Jan. 24 at the Riviera Theater. Slash, 42, says that despite all his years in music, he still gets excited to go out on the road. He said, “I love touring, I’m a sicko that way.”

Guitar Hero 3 Commercial with Slash

Video of Guitar Hero 3 Battle with Slash

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From the Front Row to the Last Row, Wilco Shows Are a Hit

With the wind chill down to 2 degrees there aren’t many people outside on Monday at 4 p.m. in Uptown, except for the clustering of about 20 people standing outside the Riviera Theater, waiting in line for the third night of the Wilco Chicago hometown residency. With two hours to go before the doors open, blanket and hot beverages are aplenty as the fans try to move around to keep warm.

Sitting in folding chairs at the front of the line are Chris Cross and Leo Cahalan, who drove up from Michigan to go to the shows. Wrapped in blankets head to toe, exposing only a bit of their faces. They have been in line since noon, taking turns switching off from the bitter conditions with friends.

They purchased tickets to all five shows through the presale and have been waiting outside of each show early. Friday they got in line at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. and waited until the doors opened at 7 p.m. “We weren’t first (in line), but we were pretty close to the front, within the first 10 people,” Cross said from behind a thick teal blanket.

Getting in line early is something that Cross and Cahalan say they do at a lot of concerts, and not just for the chance to be close to some of their favorite musicians.

“Half of the fun is just spending time with these people and just the adventure of it,” Cahalan said, peeking out from under his hood, looking more like an artic explorer than a concertgoer. “A lot of us have met at these shows. You get to meet a lot of like-minded people. We might seem crazy to do this, but it’s a lot of fun.”

“It’s so worth it,” Cross added.

But not everyone finds bracing the cold for hours fun. Sitting in the last row of the balcony on Saturday are Jerry and Kim Voris who came from the suburbs. They have been to seven or eight other Wilco shows. After missing out on tickets though the presale (“those were gone in like 30 seconds,” Kim said), they purchased tickets for all five nights off Ticketmaster’s website the day they went on sale.

Sweat drips down Jeff’s face as he sits down for the intermission. “It’s hot up here, but it was even hotter last night down lower,” he said. “Last night we got here at 7 and we got to pick where we wanted to sit in the balcony, so we were right up front. Tonight we got here a little later, around 7:20 or 7:30, and the only seats we could get were in the last row.”

Although the view from the top isn’t as intimate as from the front of the stage, the seats in the balcony gave them the option of sitting down or getting up and dancing when they wanted. And they weren’t complaining.

“Where else can you pay $35 and hear this kind of great music for a night?” Kim said.

Hell is Chrome Clip

Handshake Drugs Clip

Muzzle of Bees Clip

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Roses are Red and Sometimes Blue

Roses are Red and Sometimes Blue
Milan David Richardson
Scott Bolohan
February 5, 2008

On a cold Saturday morning Rose Hannigan walks into a neighborhood coffee shop to warm herself before embarking on a search for cans, coins, and Valentine camaraderie.

Homeless, Hannigan is known in the Lakeview area for her personable nature, ruby red jogging pants, and chatting up customers from a corner chair at Argo Tea. “I saved my coins for three days last year to get these pants,” she told one man while fumbling through her red mesh pockets for a Tootsie Roll, the start to a plethora of discarded chocolates she hopes to find post-Valentine’s Day.

“I love Valentine’s Day and here they have it in a cup,” Hannigan said. “ValenTea,” a hibiscus flower and pomegranate February promotional beverage by Argo Tea (see video at the bottom of the page), has fast become a favorite amongst regulars and people like Hannigan who struggles to stay warm.

Argo Tea manager Alex Langenfeld admits to breaking the rules every now and then by offering hot tea to local homeless right before closing for the night. “It's just hot water but it makes the difference in them feeling warm for that evening,” Langenfeld said. It's a sentiment people like Hannigan seem to appreciate during the “love month” that for some brings negative thoughts.

While most girls her age are preparing gowns for senior prom, 19-year-old Hannigan prudently organizes a Red Eye newspaper into her jacket to keep herself warm for another day. “Its not easy, but I get by,” Hannigan said. “People help me out if they can around the holidays. I think it makes them feel better about me having to sleep out in the cold over Valentine’s Day,” a feeling some Chicago residents understand very well.

Hannigan is one of 26,000 homeless youths living in Illinois according to the Lakeview Action Coalition. Not-for-profit, non-denominational groups such as The Night Ministry on Chicago's North Side, are working extra hard to tend to the needs of those without shelter. “Since 1976, The Night Ministry has served Chicago’s most vulnerable youth and adults," Night Ministry Coordinator for Public and Media Relations Kari McLean said. "We accept people where they are regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual/gender orientation, or social status.”

The group distributes warm meals and clothes to the less fortunate, providing Hannigan and many others the necessities to make it through another day. "During winter, we see a lot of people with frostbite," Mark Bradley, Night Ministry Director of Outreach & Health Ministry said. "We give out a lot of coats and gloves. People are driven into the shelters or they'll die from exposure."

Bradley said that about 200 people a day visit the shelter in the winter, but their youth housing programs turn away two or three youths every day because of only 32 beds available.

At The Night Ministry, they don’t forget about Valentine’s Day either. McLean said they were planning a youth Valentine’s dance a few days before Valentines Day and the Youth Outreach Team will have some Valentine's goodies at their street outreach program Valentine's night.

Hannigan may not be struck by Cupid’s arrow this year, but with places like Argo Tea and The Night Ministry out there, she can still be shown some love this Valentine’s Day.