Hanging mistletoe. Being jolly. Boughs of holly. These are just a few of the many things people may enjoy during the holidays, but I have one more to add to that list: Rock Band.

It all began a couple of years ago at the Thanksgiving potluck my friends host every November. We ate. We weathered food coma. And then we pulled out Rock Band. I had yet to experience this musical phenomenon, but after bearing unfortunate witness to some friends playing Dance Dance Revolution, I had serious doubts about partaking in yet another interactive abomination. So instead I remained seated and observed.

I quickly realized that most band members are adamant about what they will or will not do; it’s only lead guitar or only vocals. I also learned to consider long and hard before volunteering for drums because then you will most likely be stuck on them all night. No one wants drums; too much hand-eye coordination involved. And then there’s song selection. A band can easily break up because of this most important of decisions. Some want Beastie Boys, and others, Blue Oyster Cult. Yet one name can unite all: Bon Jovi.

After about an hour of watching, I finally took a chance and got on bass. However, being one of those absolutely musically incompetent people, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know much about guitar playing, but I did know one thing – the real ones have strings. How exactly would that translate with plastic buttons? I also noticed that everyone’s percentages were displayed after each song ended and felt an uneasy queasiness as if I was taking a test in front of my closest friends.

I did okay. In fact, I began to enjoy myself rather quickly. There was something so soothing about shutting out the rest of the world and focusing solely on that sparkling trail of colored notes. I barely paid any attention to my band mates. I just kept thinking, “green, green, yellow, red, green.” Getting forty notes in a row was a major milestone in my young Rock Band career.

That was my first experience with the game, and I didn’t pick up another guitar – plastic or otherwise – until the following Thanksgiving. Though a year had gone by, it was just like riding a bike. I even left my comfort zone to sing vocals on a few songs. “Eye of the Tiger?” Yes, please. A few weeks later, someone broke out Rock Band at our company’s holiday party. And since nothing was going to get accomplished at work the day before Christmas, we played a little Rock Band to pass the few hours we were forced to remain in the building.

But like all Rock Band musicians, I’ve gone through my moments of self-doubt and despondency. Given my soaring success last year, I felt pretty solid about my bass skills, yet suffered a rather serious setback this past Thanksgiving. The highest percentage I could manage was a sixty-six and that was on the “easy” setting. Very disappointing indeed. I guess I should have practiced more between January and October. And though I just recently scored a one hundred percent on vocals, it’s hard to be respected as an artist when your song of choice is “Sister Christian.”

Yet my favorite Rock Band moment to date occurred while I was a mere spectator. Just a face in the crowd. It happened while at a holiday party I attended over the weekend. The host and hostess went all out for this shindig: the front door wrapped as a ginormous present, the television transformed into a digital fireplace and the family dogs dressed in their finest Christmas sweaters. The man of the house was also dressed up – as Santa himself! – glasses and beard included.

We proceeded to gorge ourselves on a delicious dinner. We then engaged in an alarmingly competitive ornament exchange. And finally we broke out the microphone and keytar. Tributes were sung to both Amy Winehouse and Huey Lewis and the News. A group rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” brought everyone to tears. And then I received the bestest early Christmas gift ever. Santa took over the mic. His song of choice? Rammstein’s “Du Hast.” In case you didn’t know, Rammstein is a German industrial metal band. I Wikipediaed them. Aside from Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie, who also are included in this musical niche, here are a few other bands that fall into the same category: Freak XXI, Godkiller, Jesus on Extasy, Necromance, Painflow and Spineshank. Fun, right? Words cannot adequately express what I felt watching dear old Santa as he screamed the following lyrics: “Du… Du hast… Du hast mich… Du hast mich gefragt… Du hast mich gefragt und ich hab nichts gesagt!” Over and over and over again. Yet another holiday memory that I will cherish in my heart always.

Thank you, Rock Band.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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6 Responses to “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”

I too fell in love with Rock Band over the holidays. How does a song like Du Hast even make it onto a Rock Band playlist? That song is crazy!

December 16th, 2010

Seriously! Maybe that’s Germany’s punishment to us for sending over the Hoff. 😉

December 16th, 2010

Great blog 🙂 BTW……..I totally love to sing and I refuse to play the drums.

December 16th, 2010

Hahha… Then why didn’t I get to hear you Saturday night?? The only thing better than watching Sterling rock out “Du Hast” would be if you sang it!

December 16th, 2010

Sounds terrific!
Now if only Rock Band had a holiday edition…. How great would it be to perform Bob Dylan’s version of “Must be Santa”? Or cheer on a dynamic duo singing the Pogues’ “Fairy Tale of New York”?

December 17th, 2010

Angie, that’s a great suggestion! Seriously. I’d find out with whom you’d need to touch base, but you just came up with a $$$ idea.

December 17th, 2010