Guitar Hero Aerosmith at Hard Rock Cafe

By Joseph Golfen

Surrounded by autographed guitars and gold records, twelve aspiring rock legends took up their plastic axes in Hard Rock Cafe to compete in the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Rocks the Hard Rock contest. With a chance to fly to Boston and meet Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler (not to mention scoring his Red Wing Motorcycle) on the line, these video game virtuosos tried to out-rock the competition in the newest version of the popular rhythm-based video game.

See more shots from the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith competition in our slideshow.

Guitar Hero debuted in November of 2005, introducing the concept of musical instrument-shaped peripherals to the home console market. Since then Guitar Hero has had multiple sequels including the latest version Guitar Hero: Aerosmith featuring numerous tracks from Aerosmith’s catalog.

“We’ve had a really good response from the contest,” says Adam Hughes, who hosted Sunday’s event and has traveled around the country with the tour. Phoenix is stop 14 on the 15 city tour. “People usually pick a favorite person and just cheer them on the whole night. Sometimes people cheer loudest for the people who get up there and have never played before, which is really cool.”

Players seemed loose despite the prestigious prize they were vying for. No one tried to complain that the controllers weren’t calibrated correctly or that the song selection was unfair. Most people smiled cheerful as they fell behind a superior opponent, usually taking the opportunity to showboat a little in hopes of landing the crowd favorite prize.

The plastic guitars were tossed around in true rock 'n' roll fashion, with players raising them behind their heads, resting them on their shoulders like violins and holding them high in the air as the songs reached their fevered crescendo.

Goofing around aside, the competition was not for the casual player. With the tunes picked randomly out of a hat and the game difficulty cranked to expert, it didn’t take long for some competitors to fall out of the race. The first three rounds of the contest belonged to the ladies who easily rocked their way past their male competitors.

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“I thought the competition was going to be a little harder,” said Jamie Ferguson, who was the only woman to make it to the final round of competition. “When I got up there and started playing these guys I thought ‘No problem. I got this.’ Obviously I didn’t have it completely or I would have won, but it was a lot of fun.”

The crowd at the Hard Rock stared intently at the projection screen while the colorful lights of the game flew by, cheering enthusiastically at every 100-note streak or every time a lighting-strike signaled a player had received “rock power.” Aerosmith tunes filled most of the set list for the contest, leading players to click along with tracks like “Walk This Way,” “Toys in the Attic” and “Back in the Saddle.”

Christopher Wilcoxson, who played the game with a casual smile, managed to beat out the stiff competition with a near perfect rendition of “Train Kept-A-Rollin,” landing him in the number one spot for Phoenix and a chance to win the trip and the bike.

Wilcoxson says he got into the game when his roommates bought a copy of Guitar Hero II, and he’s been hooked on competing ever since. He took home first prize at a Guitar Hero contest last year at the Hard Rock, but he said this year’s competition still took some practice.

“I don’t have a copy of the Aerosmith game, so when I heard about this competition about a week ago, I went down to Game Crazy a bunch of times to try and learned the songs before I got here,” Wilcoxson says with a laugh.

“But winning this is great,” he added. “The trip alone would be awesome, but winning the bike would be even better.”

Several of the players stayed to the end of the show and competed for crowd favorite prize and a chance to win some Guitar Hero merchandise, donated by local Game Crazy stores.

Ferguson, who went home as one of the night’s favorite competitors with a new guitar controller, said she just came down to have some fun.

“I’m glad I got to get up there a couple times and take on the competition,” she said. “I’d defiantly try it again if this comes back through town.”

If you’re anxious to show off your inner video rock god, be sure to register at Hard Rock Café for a Rock Band competition coming at you live on Thursday, September 11with proceeds benefiting the Arizona Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. If you want to win, make sure you bring the rock!

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