Playing 'Rock Band' Is A Family Affair
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Remember when rock and roll used to terrify grownups? Well, today kids and parents are rocking together online, says essayist David Kushner.
Mr. DAVID KUSHNER (Writer): "Rock Band" saved my kids. Not just any band, but "Rock Band," the music videogame that's sweeping the country and schooling a generation in the 3 R's - Radiohead, Ramones, and Red Hot Chili Peppers - and doing it long before they can wrap their tiny fingers around a real guitar. I'm a 39-year-old rock geek who has made frequent attempts to breakout, downloading a White Stripes song to my nine-year-old daughter Sammy's iPod and queuing up an old Rush video on VH1 for my six-year-old Mia. But nothing could dethrone Hanna Montana.
Then we got "Rock Band." It was a follow up to "Guitar Hero" which came with the guitar-shaped controller and brightly colored buttons on the neck that you press in synch with a cartoon band on T.V. When "Rock Band" came out last November, it added three more instrument-shape controllers, a base guitar, drums, and a microphone for vocals. Now a group could play together, either in the same room or online. The better they jammed along with the game, the higher they scored. The list of tunes was awesome, from Aerosmith to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As soon as homework was done, I herded my daughters into the playroom. Sammy choose the first word of our band name
Ms. SAMMY KUSHNER: And I said Pink.
Mr. KUSHNER: And Mia chose the other.
Ms. MIA KUSHNER: Monster Trucks, made by...
Mr. KUSHNER: We outfitted our pixilated alter egos with leather boots and mirrored shades, and strapped on our instruments. Though it took practice and mom helping out Mia on drums, Pink Monster Trucks scored.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. KUSHNER: But the ultimate bonus was the most surprising of all. One afternoon, I heard Sammy humming a familiar song around the house. Nirvana, she explained, matter of factly. Friends of mine reported similar experiences. When my girls heard I was going to see Radiohead in concert, they begged to come along so they could hear them play their hit "Creep."
(Soundbite of Kushner sisters performing "Creep")
Ms. SAMMY KUSHNER & Ms. MIA KUSHNER: (Singing) But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo.
Mr. KUSHNER: I broke the news that Radiohead rarely plays it anymore, but queued up a few other songs they might like. Mia picked up my real electric guitar and begged me for one of her own. When "Rock Band II" comes out with a whole new list of artists, including some of my old favorites, I'll be the proud father on drums tossing my sticks into the air.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: David Kushner is a writer who covers digital culture. This is NPR News.
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