Chapel Hill's Local 506 (506 W. Franklin St., 942-5506, www.local506.com) may be onto something. Owners of the popular live music club have fused two previously autonomous social phenomena, video game mania and simulated stardom, into one incredible combination: Guitar Hero Night.
On sporadic Thursday nights when no concert is scheduled, rock star wannabes flock to 506 to take the stage themselves and try a hand at the bestselling video game Guitar Hero. This interactive experience lets players take control of their musical destinies as they try to win over a virtual audience with performances of well-known rock 'n' roll chart toppers.
Guitar Hero and its descendents Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero Encore have already enjoyed explosive sales and rave reviews for their use in the privacy of players' homes; now, finally, connoisseurs and first-timers are being given the opportunity to publicly showcase their talents (or lack thereof). Local 506 has its copy of Hero hooked up to the club's big screen, so Thursday night patrons can test their skills in front of audiences real and virtual at the same time—and it's free to play, notwithstanding cost incurred to pride if booed off the stage.
506 owner Glenn Boothe says the events are put on by a bartender and his friends, so the scheduling is up to them and has remained somewhat sporadic.
"So far, we've done three," Boothe says. "The first two did really well, with about a hundred people coming out. The last one didn't do so hot, mainly because they didn't promote it very well. We're in the process of determining how this will work in the future."
So are the days of old-fashioned, sung karaoke waning?
Don't pack up those vocal cords just yet; Guitar Hero III hits stores this fall facing some serious competition from a concurrent release, Rock Band. Band will boast an optional drum set and microphone, so players can form an actual band and choose their favorite role in the imagined ensemble.
Gamers are heatedly debating as to which release will "rock" more, but the intricacies of that debate are well beyond the scope of this piece. We'll suffice it to say that self-imposed public humiliation (aka karaoke) is on the move, and it's moving toward a much more hi-tech existence.
But for those karaoke purists, here are some listings for area venues where you can still grab that mic, clear your throat and do your thing the conventional way.