Total Rock, Total Rewards 2010 in Atlantic City. Full breakdown of the entire event!
From left to right: Brad "The Riff" Tennen, John "Kirby" Arbe, Joe "Draktyr" Ostrom and Jason "vVv Paradise" Kuntz
Joe "Draktyr" Ostrom and I met up early on the morning of June 30th to begin our trip to Atlantic City. We flew out of Orlando International Airport and met our other band mates, Brad "TheRiff" Tennen and John "Kirby" Arbe, at the airport in Philadelphia. Upon landing, I received a call from our MTV contact, Nicole. She explained that she was waiting for us outside the gate. We met up, chatted for a few minutes, and afterward she walked us outside to our waiting limo.
This awesome ride would end up taking us to Atlantic City and our hotel room at Harrah's.
After settling down in our room, we had dinner at an amazing buffet and then took a cab from our room at Harrah's to Bally's Mountain Bar for the welcome party. There was rumor of a big surprise waiting for us there... and Harmonix didn't disappoint! Not only did every contestant receive a swag bag full of amazing goodies (games, hoodies, shirts, an amplifier, etc), there was also a demo of Rock Band 3 set up!
First players to try the game in public, aside from E3! Too cool!
The keyboard had a wonderful feel to it. Everything felt fluid and the song choice was exceptional for being only an Alpha build of the game. The party lasted until after midnight, with Harmonix buying all band members free drinks for the entire night. Needless to say, it was a hell of a way to start the trip.
A game that teaches you to play real instruments? I'll be shocked if this isn't Game of the Year 2010.
The next morning, the tournament began. Eighteen bands from around the United States had qualified to compete in the finals. The scoring for the event was supposed to be 1/3 game score, 1/3 performance and 1/3 band style. This is where things started to become a bit muddled. The entire scoring was subjective. The very first band of the day, Here Comes a New Challenger, featured former vVv Guitar Hero player f4phantom and a few other well known rock band pros. Their song choice, Screaming for Vengeance, was actually the hardest song choice of the day. The band pulled out gold stars on the song and had an amazing performance that included the bassist doing a backflip!
Here Comes a New Challengers Semi-Final performance: Click Here!
The judges scores, however, were a bit rough in regards to HCaNC's choice of clothing. In the end, this is what kept the band from competing in the final four. My band chose to play the song Poker Face by Lady Gaga. Apparently, some casino attendees didn't take too kindly to this song choice and ended up booing our performance. The judges gave us low scores for this fact and we were quickly eliminated from the event.
Drummer, Draktyr, dressed as Lady Gaga on the drums.
Other worthwhile notes from first round performances included a band getting disqualified for setting off sparklers during their song, bands throwing swords, money and instruments into the crowd and also multiple mosh pits. By the end of the day, four bands stood atop the competition. Multiple bands were a surprised by the end results. The most shocking of occurrences was that a band made it into the next day after only three starring their song choice, Smells Like Teen Spirit. While they're performance and cosutmes were quite elaborate, the band received higher "Game Score" marks than earlier bands, even though they had one of the lowest scores of the day! The entire category was overlooked due to the over the top performance aspects the band had included during their time on stage.
Science!!! plays Smells Like Teen Spirit
While the competition itself turned out to be quite a bummer at first... things quickly got better. After the first night of action, quite a few of the bands that had been eliminated from the tournament gathered together in one room and played Rock Band until three in the morning. We laughed, cheered, and drank until we could party no more. New friendships were created and bonds were formed. The players that were once upset about being ushered from the tournament stage now were happy to have been eliminated. Money and tournament winnings cannot replace the friendships that were formed that night.
Patrick from Delorean Racers, Laura "Sophrosyne" Clementz, and I.
Upon waking the next morning, eliminated band members ventured back down to the Wild West Casino to watch the finale of the event. Rules for the second day called for each remaining band to play two songs, one random and one picked by band's members. Everyone seemed incredibly irked by the idea of randomness helping decide the outcome of the event... and for good reason! The list of seven songs to be chosen from was quite unbalanced to say the least. FA/KE, one of the top four bands, ended up drawing the so called "song of death" from the random selections and was forced to perform Thrasher, one of the hardest full band songs in Rock Band. FA/KE made the best of it, however, by playing on Easy and Medium and focusing on performance.
Crowd members mosh during FA/KE's performance of Thrasher.
The Delorean Racers, led by Patrick Chavira, closed out the tournament with the best performance of the entire event... a moving rendition of Under Pressure by Queen and Bowie. What made this performance so grand? It wasn't stage theatrics. It wasn't jumping into the crowd or breaking instruments. What the Delorean Racer's did to steal the hearts of the entire Atlantic City crowd was that they performed with uninhibited emotion. Even the judges were blown away by the showing.
Watch the Delorean Racers performance of Under Pressure: Click Here!
Unfortunately for Patrick and his team, this performance wasn't enough to secure the Delorean's a victory. Instead, the band ROFL MAO from New York ended up taking home the tournament win. ROFL's over the top costumes and choreographed performances were way above and beyond any other band's efforts.
ROFL MAO, clad in full Rocky Horror Picture Show attire takes on Detroit Rock City by Kiss.
As the tournament ended, everyone congratulated the top bands and then posed for group pictures with the CEO of Harmonix, Alex Rigopulos.
Pictured center: Harmonix CEO, Alex Rigopulos.
With the conclusion of the tournament portion of the trip, band members went back to their hotel rooms and prepared for a VIP party at Harrah's Pool After Dark. The party lasted until four in the morning, but we didn't end up back in our hotel room until after seven. Tons of fun was had by all, including multiple bands jumping into the pool with all of their club attire on.
Cowshark and I at the VIP party. The picture is a little fuzzy... but then again, so were we.
Hard to believe, but even after all of this... MTV had more festivities planned for us. The next day, we used the first half of the day to recover from the night before by playing ample amounts of Rock Band in our hotel rooms and laughing about our antics within the game. As an example of what happened... watch this video of Youhas playing Valleys of Neptune on vocals for the first time.
Best part about this? There was a song he played before this on vocals, American Music, that was even funnier to listen to.
As night drew near, we made our way to Caesars for our final treat of the trip. All participants in the TRTR event were given free tickets to see Ringo Starr's All Star Band in concert. We weren't sure what to expect walking into this, but we came out incredibly surprised. Edgar Winter was a member of the all star band, and he ended up playing his epic instrumental Frankenstein. This was a huge treat to all long time plastic guitar rhythm gamers as that the song was featured in the original Guitar Hero.
Thankfully, one of the Delorean Racers band members actually recorded the entire Frankenstein performance on video!! Check it out: Click Here!!
As the end of the trip drew closer, we had one more party that was much too fun to put into words. Want an idea of what went down? Just watch this video (warning, video includes both drinking and swords being used to recreate genitalia). Afterwards, we went out to the docks to take our final group pictures and say our group goodbyes.
Our final group pic together in Atlantic City.
Before we left Atlantic City, there was one final surprise. Draktyr and I ended up in another Limo with the Delorean Racers. We had no idea we were getting it... and it felt great to share those finals moments of the trip with some of our closest new friends.
Our ride back to the airport. Pictures don't do it justice... watch the video! Click here!
Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to do this all again next year. While the tournament itself was flawed, how could we complain? We made friendship and memories that are so much more important than any possible monetary winnings. While it might sound cheesy, the bonds we formed on those nights in Atlantic City were the best winnings that any gamer could ever ask for.