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I have mixed feelings about The Beatles: Rock Band after playing it for a few hours now. It’s hard to describe. There are so many things where you can see the designers had good intentions, but just doesn’t have the je ne sais quoi that prevents it from being truly great:

  • The story mode takes you through the Beatles’ career, but there’s no dialogue or flow to make it seem like you’re living the story
  • There are 45 43 songs, including many of the classics, but there are just so, so many great songs that were left off. Making money off DLC is not a good reason.
  • There are only 43 songs, and even if there are many great ones, you can only play so much before it becomes a radio station
  • There are all these weird songs that I have never heard of, and if on first listen you were to tell me they were by the Beatles, I would not believe you!
  • The online experience is no fun at all unless you are playing with people you know. I blame this on limited song selection and lame story mode
  • I think they put a lot of work into the dreamscapes, but I can’t really tell because with all the hype, you still can’t watch them while you are playing. Plus they make the notes hard to read sometimes.

I can’t decide if this is a game or an experience. There game aspect feels so limited, yet there are a lot of goodies for diehard Beatles fans, like the dreamscapes, photos and short videos. I kind of imagine people buying this game for a few reasons:

  1. They are fans of The Beatles
  2. They support this new direction of games/experience
  3. They were suckered in by the hype

I think for me, it was a little of each. Although I regret buying it so early now since there is a lot of style and polish, but not enough substance.


This arrived in the mail today. I’ve been waiting to get it instead of lining up the first day. Instead I grabbed it for $49.99 at Dell ($10 off). The caveat is that they estimate 5 to 7 days before they ship it out. Well lo and behold, I ordered it yesterday and it arrived today! Now I don’t know what to do since I have this, NHL (which I finally figured out how to play) and Scribblenauts to play. Woe is me.

* moblogged from my phone. How cool is that?


The Beaches jazz festival is probably my favorite street festival in Toronto. It’s not overly crowded like the Taste of the Danforth and there’s free, live music! We went on Friday after seeing Harry Potter.

We didn’t listen to as many acts as the last time I went, since HP was two and a half hours long (!?) and the festival ended at 11PM. But they were quality. The first act we saw was Scott McCord & the Bonafide Truth. We saw them preparing and they all had cowboy hats on so I was worried they would break into some country twang. Fortunately, they just played some great music to dance too, and there was a crowd of random people dancing in front!

After awhile, we walked on and came across God Made Me Funky. What caught my ear was a tribute to Michael Jackson. The mixed in a bunch of old MJ disco/funk classics like Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Off The Wall, and included Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music and Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back!

Live covers are awesome, and I just caught the end of Sultans of String performance where they covered The Who’s Pinball Wizard made famous to me by Rock Band. They had a real drummer (as opposed to the video on their website) which had an awesome drum solo at the end. Too bad I can’t play drums like that!

This was also an excellent opportunity for me to test out how my kit with IS would work in low light. I tried to stress it at 55mm (and thus f/5.6) with ISO1600 and the IS was useful, but not infallible.

If there was ambient light, then it’s ok, but otherwise things started getting blurry (i.e., all my pictures of the bands). Plus focusing was a bit off.


I can’t stop reading this thread on why bands are named the way they are. It’s
like a version of Pop-Up Video on crack. Here are some good ones:

The Killers

The name was featured on the bass drum of a fictional band in the video of New Order’s song, Crystal, from the 2001 album Get Ready. The video, directed by Johan Renck (a.k.a Stakka Bo) depicted a young American band miming to New Order’s music and words, with a large number of people coming on stage towards the end to pull them off stage.

Cibo Matto

Italian for “crazy food”.

Pulp

Originally called Arabacus Pulp, after a tradeable commodity seen by Jarvis Cocker in an economics textbook. “Arabacus” was later dropped since nobody knew what it meant.

UB40

The band is named after the paper form issued by the UK at the time of the band’s formation for claiming unemployment benefits (UB40 = Unemployment Benefits, Form 40).

Spandau Ballet

The name was chosen after a visit to Spandau (a section of Berlin), the inspiration being from graffiti one of their roadies, BBC London 94.9 D.J. Robert Elms, saw there.

I like the juxtaposition behind Spandau Ballet, maybe I need to think of a better Rock Band band name, The Sevenths doesn’t cut it.


Here are some more of my celebrity rock band characters, except this is the black people edition. When I created my fun characters, I liked the big afro hairstyle, so I made one character with that. After fooling around some more, I found some badass clothing and accessories and so he became my Samuel L. Jackson:

His face is off because when I originally created this character, I didn’t expect him to become a celebrity! There are only a couple of face shapes so it’s pretty hard to make them look identical. It’s more of the recognition of their dress and accessories.

Oprah was a bit difficult to make because while there was a lot of cool clothing, there weren’t a lot of serious business-wear. But Oprah the brand is so big that everyone knows who she is and what she somewhat looks like.

I’m pretty happy with how Michael Jackson turned out. I wanted to have him his military-type suit, but this punk version is a close replacement. Characters with accessories over their eyes are also much easier to make.

Justin Timberlake is my latest creation, I had difficulty even making his name because Rock Band puts a limit on the characters! He did not turn out as well as I wanted because I wanted to dress him in a vest and shirt, but the only version of that was in a gothic style.


Rock Band has this cool feature where you can create your own character to rock the guitar, drums or vox too. It was neat to design a rock star in my image (or not really my image but whatever) the first couple of times, but then I got a bit bored and decided to have some fun. I started making characters from some unique celebrities. Here’s my first attempt, in making Avril Lavigne.

I thought it turned out pretty well so I had some confidence and decided to try my hand controller at some others. Here’s John Lennon

I thought Lennon was a bit iconic with his hippie hair and glasses. But in actuality, it was pretty difficult since he doesn’t have any iconic clothes. Here’s Bono of U2 fame. He was pretty easy to create with his greasy hair and stylish clothing. The only problem was that Rock Band didn’t have glasses like the normal ones he wears.

Another easy one I thought was Elvis Presley, except that I hit another road block because they didn’t have his unique jumpsuit. But I think Elvis turned out pretty well!

Even though Rock Band has numerous tops, bottoms, and shoes; but even then I couldn’t find a lot of the clothing I needed! Too bad I couldn’t download them.


I think I’ve hit my peak in Rock Band in terms of guitar. I’m at a point where, if I were to get better, I’d have to actually practice the songs. And that’s just too much work for a video game. Instead, I’ve played enough that “playing” is natural and I can play by virtue of sight reading, but am being held back by lack of muscle memory and rhythm.

Recently, I have taken to learning the drums. I was at a point where I could pass drums on medium, and that’s how I got my Drum Legend achievement. But, because it was so easy, I didn’t enjoy playing drums! Now that I’m playing on Hard, it’s much more fun – but also too hard sometimes. My lack of rhythm and limb independence is really hampering my game (and I already incorporated these tips from Wired).


I saw some links for Microsoft Songsmith a few weeks ago, but kind of glossed over them since I wasn’t at a good time to follow them. I finally caught up and boy they are pretty funny. Songsmith is a Microsoft Research project which listens to your singing and adds some fitting music. It’s like having a garage band on your laptop! If you don’t get it, watch this catchy commercial about Songsmith.

People have played around with Songsmith by taking the vocal tracks from various well known songs and running it through Songsmith. The results range from … awkward … to wildly hilarious. Here’s Billy Idol’s White Wedding:

I don’t know why there are so many songs from Rock Band, it’s either that Rock Band picked the classics, or they picked Rock Band songs since so many people know them now. Here’s Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger:


One of the fun aspects of Rock Band is the ability to customize your band. You can create your character, deck him or her out in genre specific clothes and create some stand-in characters if you don’t have enough (virtual or IRL) friends to form a real band.

There is a neat bit of integration between Rock Band 2 and the RockBand.com site in that you can sync your profile in the game up with the online site. Your bands, characters and stats are then visible online (although it’s a shame they didn’t flesh out the stats aspect, you can only see total score and fans). There’s also an ability to “take pictures” of your band or characters by posing them with various expressions behind several preset backgrounds. This takes “your band” out of your Xbox360 or PS3 and into the real world! For example, here’s my character in an official band picture (if you print it out and bring it to me, I will autograph it for you):

RockBand.com takes it a step further and allows you to create merchandise (i.e., t-shirts) featuring your band and even models of your characters. I won’t fall into that trap but the ability to bring your gaming experience into the real world is cool.


We hadn’t seen Mike and Maggie for awhile (since our wedding which feels like forever ago), so Mike suggested we meet up to go to the TSO along with Victor and Hannah. The performance that night was Holst’ The Planets and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. I think each piece on its own could be a feature piece of a concert, so it’s a good deal to see both on one night!

This time, we got seats directly behind the orchestra in the choir loft. We weren’t able to see the brass or timpani but had a great view of the percussion. The percussionists were very serious about hitting the snare drum, much in contrast with how I play Rock Band. We were also able to see Peter Oundjian as he conducted and he looked very passionate and engrossed in his conducting, with lots of face contortions. I suppose you need to be like that in order to be a great conductor.

I enjoyed The Planets more than Rite of Spring (here’s The Star’s review of The Planets). The guide had a quote about the premiere of The Rite of Spring where a patron beat on the head of the person in front of him, but neither noticed because they were so absorbed in the music. I have a hard time believing that, but it certainly was blasting.

For dinner, we went to the restaurant underneath the new construction on Queen St West, Nota Bene. It is somewhat upscale dining and actually looks like it would fit in the lobby of a hotel. We tried the rabbit and scallops which where neither amazing nor horrible.


One of the reasons I decided to get a Xbox360 was because of Rock Band. RB is available for the other systems, but Wii doesn’t have a storage story and PS3 is too expensive, so the 360 was the best choice. Shortly after I bought the Xbox, I bought RB2 (October 14th I think).

I actually scored a great deal on it, thanks to RFD. The RB2 Special Edition (includes drums, guitar and mic) retails for about $189 or $199, but it was priced in the Sears catalog at $169! Plus there was a $20 off coupon so I paid $149 for the package.

Because it was so cheap, the tradeoff was that I wouldn’t get it on the release date of October 19th, and instead had to wait until October 30th. Not a big deal, except the date got pushed back to November 13th and finally November 20th. I was ok with the wait though since I had lots of other stuff to play.

The great thing about Rock Band 2 is that there are a ton of songs! There are 84 songs on disc, 20 free DLC that comes with buying RB2 new, 3 free DLC songs from RB1 and 55 songs from the RB1 disc (although you have to pay a $5 licensing charge). That’s 162 songs in total! Even if I don’t like as many of the songs as I do on Karaoke Revolution, it’s still a lot of variety.