You too can be a guitar god — sorta

As I sat there watching some guy rip through solo after solo in Megadeth's "Hangar 18" on the Xbox 360's tiny plastic "guitar" I couldn't decide if I was witnessing the tragic death of the bar band or the birth of a revolution in booze-hound culture.

Video games will one day become top bar attractions. Don't believe me? Stop by the Jefferson State Pub in Ashland on a Monday for the Guitar Hero II tournament. Go on. Do it.

Guitar Hero II works like this: You choose from one of more than 50 songs, ranging from rockabilly classics from the Reverend Horton Heat to old-school metal standards like "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden, to challenge yourself.

The songs, which are not performed by the original artists, begin with a digital band taking a stage. You then strap on the "guitar" dotted with colored buttons representing strings.

It is then up to you to press the corresponding button to "notes" that scroll toward you on the screen. For instance, if a riff contains a series of green notes, you have to continually press the "guitar's" green button before the note disappears off the screen.

The more successful button combinations you hit, the higher your score. Penalties accrue upon missed notes.

The game is famously addictive. A close friend of mine, whose taste in almost everything I trust, told me that sometimes when he hears songs on the radio he imagines them as a series of colored notes flying at his face.

"It's changed the way I hear music, man," he told me.

Red red red red blue blue blue green green green red red red...

The above is how I believe the next generation of kids will experience the opening riff to Danzig's "Mother." We are now strangers in a strange land, folks.

I showed up at the J-Pub after learning of the competition earlier that day. I wasn't expecting much. No one plays video games in a bar. Do they?

The place was busy, and be damned, everyone was having a good time, including me.

I cheered as a newbie girl stumbled through the early minutes of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" only to finish in a fist-raising fury. Go girl!

Dig the nimble finger work of some dude pouring out the Allman Brothers' instrumental classic "Jessica" to a standing ovation from a crowd enjoying $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon — one of the best PBR specials in town, by the way.

At first, I feared for our drinking future. What's next? Madden NFL tournaments at Martino's? Kingdom Hearts III sit-ins at Ground Zero?

Does this spell doom for bar bands?

Maybe. But is that such a bad thing? When I think about the generic reggae and shoe-gazing emo tossers I've suffered through over the years in bars across the U.S., are these digital rock gods at the Guitar Hero II tournament really the Antichrist?

Oh, did I mention the $1,50 PBR?

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail

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