Welcome to the Total Rock Total Rewards Rock Band competition blog.

April 6, 2009

B52sThe Total Rock Total Rewards Rock Band competitions are advancing towards the regional competitions starting in mid-April, there is still time for bands to become a part of music history by scoring a once-in-a-lifetime slot as the opening act for the legendary B-52’s at the House of Blues in Atlantic City on May 9th. To register your band go to the official site.

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Exclusive Interview with Total Rock Winners, The Gurn Killers

May 12, 2009

As promised, today your Blogmaster brings you the best in Internet reporting with an in-depth look at The Gurn Killers, who won the Harrah’s Total Rock, Total Rewards Rock Band 2009 tournament this past Friday.

Here’s a refresher in case you’ve been snoozing. We here at the Total Rock blog have been following the career of The Gurn Killers (Chris Daou on guitar, Joel Micalizzi on vocals, Miguel Molinari on bass, and Luca Fusi on drums) very closely. They started on the road to the winners’ circle at the local competition at the Showboat in Atlantic City, and then went on to win that venue. The GK’s then went on to take the last of four spots in the finals, representing the eastern region with relish.


If you weren’t able to come to the finals in Atlantic City, you can check out videos of all the bands, thanks to @SaikoSakura.

Now that they’ve had a few days to let the awesome settle in, your Blogmaster sat down with the bandmates in an electronic sort of way to talk about the tournament and what comes next for The Gurn Killers.

First things first: did the guys have any idea that they’d go all the way?

“I’d like to say super-confident, but we had our doubts almost immediately,” says vocalist Joel. “After winning the very first time, we were super excited to play in the next round because we thought it would include performance scores. The next day we find out it’s only score. Then we find out we are playing against MoB and GurnKiller.” For those of you outside the NYC plastic rocker scene, these are some of the best players around.

“Guys like Azuritereaction and GurnKiller, whose YouTube videos I used to watch in order to learn HOW to play Rock Band…needless to say, I was a little starstruck,” says Miguel. Their strategy became one of focus.

“We practiced Down With The Sickness until I could play the entire song without looking – seriously, we have footage of this – and then practiced some more,” Luca adds. “I knew we could score as well as anyone in the world on that tune if the stars aligned and we all had a great run of it, but like Miguel mentioned, the teams we were up against in that round were world-class players – consistent, if nothing else – and so the odds of us coming up and over them on tournament night were pretty low.”

“I was definitely confident in our overall skills and showmanship, but you NEVER know, especially when it comes down to judge’s opinions,” Chris points out. Good thing for them the judges liked what they saw.

Speaking of, erm, what the judges saw: costumes. How the heck did those come about? In case you haven’t had this image burned into your brain yet, here it is again.


“When the strategy is to ‘take it to the next level,’ then your regular shopping isn’t gonna cut it,” Chris says. “Major thanks to Tic Tac Toe (my favorite NY sex shop in the West Village) for providing us endless options for the drag outfits (pre- and during the run up), also Inven.tory in Soho for some awesome jeans and shirts.”

“For the finals, we knew we didn’t want to do the exact same costumes. We were close to doing ‘You Oughta Know’ for the finals, and were starting to make costumes for it, but then we decided that song might be a little to mellow for the instrument players and the costumes a little too boring,” Joel told me. “After a quick change to ‘Kids in America,’ we ran to the gift shop downstairs hoping for pastel shirts and shorts.”

“I can’t believe it turned out as well as it did, but then, that’s sort of the way the whole tournament went for us,” Luca says.

Now that they have $10,000 in prize money, what are they planning on doing with it?

“I’d like to go see my mom in Orlando and maybe the rest of my family in Puerto Rico,” Miguel says, prompting “awwwww”s from all the women in the room. “Maybe treat the GK army to nice meals for the next week or two. Those guys are all awesome.”

Chris has a solid plan. “Finally take my girlfriend Jess out (a veritable saint for putting up with soooooo much Rock Band).”

An ION drum kit and a real drum throne is Joel’s goal, which is already realized.

“I’ve just started playing real drums again after meeting Chris the night of the first competition – we’re in a metal band together now – and I’m thinking about a really nice electric kit so that I can practice on the off-nights,” Luca says. Anything else? “I missed my girlfriend’s graduation from her Doctoral program for the sake of the finals and probably have a lot of flowers to buy.” A fine idea, the room of women concur.


So is this the end of The Gurn Killers, the plastic rock band that could? Hell ‘naw.

“We are researching possible marketing opportunities for The Gurn Killers. We’d love to hear from MTV, Harrah’s and/or Harmonix to see how the GK army can help them spread the Rock Band gospel,” Miguel, who, by the way, can be reached at TheGurnKillers.com, says.

Joel agrees. “We will also be looking for other interesting opportunities to play Rock Band in front of people. All four of us are great friends, so we’ll be hanging out no matter what.”

“We’ll definitely be back at the Pourhouse on Tuesday to wrap the whole experience up with friends,” Luca adds. “We’re not splitting up just yet!”

“Expect a ton more stuff happening over the next few weeks as the our website ,” Chris promises.

The guys have a ton of people to thank, so get ready for some rapid-fire shout-outs: Brandon, Sarah, Dylan, Izzy, Moe, Megu, Sneezy, Chris, Ryan, Laura, Geo, Mario Speedwagon, James, Mark, Afshin, Shannon, Dave, Eric, Alex, Jess, Joyce, Dalia, the b-i-m band (Matt, Anthony, Jon, Jenna), Lisa, Dr. Iwalani Crush (the most understanding girlfriend in the world), the staff at Showboat and Harrah’s (Susan, Kaila, Mindy, Kathy, Kyle, Kerith), and Johnny Limo. Also, of course, there’s the Gurn Killer Army who cheered from the sidelines.


“Without them, we’d have been out of the competition long ago,” Luca says.

Miguel adds, “We certainly couldn’t have taken home the prize without their support.”

Your Blogmaster can attest that it’s been a crazy fun ride to the end of the tournament, and that the best may be yet to come. Thanks to everyone who makes Rock Band great, and congratulations to the Gurn Killers!

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
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Complete and Total Rock: an overview of awesome

May 11, 2009

Hello Rock Banders, your Blogmaster has just gotten back from Atlantic City after an epic weekend. I want to thank all the bands: Wet Nelson and the Hot Commodities, Ninjas in Disguise, FA/KE, and The Gurn Killers. You were all awesome dudes, and the shows you put on were unbelievable. As I’ve said before, if there were a way to give all the talented plastic rockers in the world the trophy at the end of the competition, I’d do it. You are all rock stars.

It was such a close competition, again. Only 3 points separated FA/KE from The Gurn Killers. Here are the results from the finals.

In fourth place, winning $500, is Wet Nelson and the Hot Commodities, whose helmets were seriously heavy and deserve props for rocking out with them.

Wet Nelson in round 1 (pic courtesy of @GeOMaTrix on Twitter)

Wet Nelson in round 1 (pic courtesy of @SaikoSakura on Twitter)

In third place, taking home $750, is Ninjas in Disguise. The guys entertained the pants off everyone with their for serious ninja threads. They are also not bad dancers, if you ever find yourself on the dance floor with them.

NID rocking round 2 (pic courtesy of @SaikoSakura on Twitter)

NID rocking round 2 (pic courtesy of @SaikoSakura on Twitter)

In second place, a seriously close second place, and winning $1,500, is FA/KE. They put on a great show, and they had everyone going crazy for their God of Thunder’s pec dance. FA/KE was amazing on stage; I’ve seen riots with less excitement then their final act. If you’re sitting at your computer right now, please give them a standing ovation.

FA/KE in all their costumed glory.

FA/KE in all their costumed glory.

And finally, winning $10,000 and an opening spot at the B-52’s concert at the House of Blues was The Gurn Killers!

Now that I think about it, there's no need for a caption.

Now that I think about it, there's no need for a caption.

Here’s what the agony of waiting for their win to be announced looked like. MTV’s Sway delivers the news. Very. Slowly.

That was some dogpile of love! I want to give special thanks to the Gurn Killer Army, a group of regulars from the Rock Band nights at the Village Pourhouse in New York City. They came dressed in GK tee shirts to support their friends, but they were fans of everyone who took the stage. The army made the finals a true rock star experience, getting the crowd pumped and rocking out to every performance. That’s true Rock Band brotherhood!

Props should also go to Sway from MTV who hosted with some serious swagger, to Harrah’s, MTV Games, Harmonix, and Pepsi for putting together such an epic competition, to everyone who came out to see the shows, to everyone who competed, to the judges who had such a difficult job, and to everyone on Twitter and the Internetz who shared their photos, news, and videos with us here at the blog. Your Blogmaster hopes that everyone who was involved had just an iota of the fun that she herself had.

Soon we’ll be giving you an in-depth look at the winners, The Gurn Killers. Stay tuned.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.

The End of the ROCKIN’ Road

May 8, 2009

This is your Blogmaster, live-updating from the beautiful Showboat in AC where the Gurn Killers have won the Total Rock finals! There was some amazing performances and it was so, so close. By just 3 points, the boys from NYC have won $10,000 and they’ll open for the legendary B-52’s tomorrow night.

Honestly, your Blogmaster’s head is spinning from all the excitement. More pics and vids will be forthcoming. But for now, congrats to all the bands! It was a fantastic night. Thanks to MTV’s Sway who just asked who I’m texting. Keep rocking everyone!

The Gurn Killers: The Final Finalists for the Finals

May 8, 2009

This is sort of breaking news, so please excuse your Blogmaster’s lack of what we in the business call “facts.”

Last night at the Eastern Regionals at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, a ton of awesome and deserving plastic rockers competed for the fourth and last spot in the finals.

The winners were, by one teensy point, The Gurn Killers! We’ve followed the boys from New York City through their wins at the local levels and they’ve been rocking it since the beginning. Their closest rivals, both literally and figuratively, were Strippers for Stephen Hawking, but all the regional bands deserve a standing \m/ for all their showmanship and awesomeness.

The Gurn Killers have been reached for comment, and they assure me that they have a solid plan for victory tomorrow that requires concentration, dedication, and preparation.

Okay, seriously now. If you are vacillating on whether you should come to the finals TONIGHT at the Showboat in Atlantic City, then please allow this Blogmaster to make the decision for you: DO IT. It’s going to be a huge party featuring the best Rock Banders in the country (who are over 21. Sorry, 11-year-old little brother!).

Again, the bands that will be competing are:

The Gurn Killers
Wet Nelson and the Hot Commodities
Ninjas in Disguise

Only one of these bands will will the $10,000 grand prize and the chance of a lifetime to open for the B-52’s at the House of Blues. Good luck to everyone, and rock it!

Blue Steel: Going to the Eastern Regionals

May 6, 2009

Here’s another band that’s headed to the Eastern Regionals this Thursday at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Blue Steel is made up of Chris Yoder on vocals, Alex Corkhill on guitar, Jason Ruggiero on bass, and Alisa Gonzalez on drums. And they rocked Harrah’s in Atlantic City with (what else?) “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They rocked the last local stage of competition at Harrah’s Resort with around 1.8 million points.

Three of the friends work together at a health system business, and vocalist Chris is a teacher in nearby Camden. Blue Steel all met at one of Chris’s real life gigs. He’s a real musician. You can see the proof at ChrisandRich.com.

The Blue Steel bandmates, decked out as ’70s glam rockers, are planning to get the crowd on their feet and dance for some major performance points. Are they worried about being upstaged by younger and more limber competitors?

“We’ve beat them before,” vocalist Chris says with confidence. That’s the old school spirit that rock is all about! “Plus we’ve got an edge. We’ve seen the videos of the other winning bands on the Harrah’s web site and we know what we’re up against.”

Guys, your Blogmaster keeps repeating herself on this point, but only because it’s true: if you are anywhere in the vicinity of Atlantic City tomorrow, May 7, you NEED to come to Harrah’s Resort and watch the clash of the Eastern Regional titans. The fourth and last finalist band will be chosen, and it’s going to be amazing.

The Finalists from the South

May 4, 2009

Sorry for the delay, guys, but now your Blogmaster can finally share the good news: the third band that will be headed to the finals is Wet Nelson and the Hot Commodities! They won at Harrah’s New Orleans in an incredible competition.

The Guys Hanging with MTV's Sway

The Guys Hanging with MTV's Sway

You might remember Wet Nelson and the Hot Commodities from an earlier profile following their win at Harrah’s Metropolis. But the Southern Regionals was no cakewalk. In fact, it may have been the most hardcore showcase of Rock Band prowess ever in the world.

The facts, as they have been relayed to your Blogmaster by witnesses, are these. WN&THC (as I have just termed them) rocked round one with “Down with the Sickness” for 913,890, 24 style points, and 26 performance points. A clear winner there. For round 2, however, they didn’t do so hot with Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vaseline” but they felt they’d given a good show. Wet Nelson et. al. waited for the judges’ decision, for their fate was truly in the hands of the style and performance scores.

And then. A near mathematical impossibility: a tie was declared between Wet Nelson and Clutch Bananas. As per the judges’ decision, a guitar-off was held.

If you’ve never seen one of those teen movies from the 1980s where everything comes down to one guy and a guitar, then man, you should have been in New Orleans. Because it totally happened for real.

Chris Smith from Clutch Bananas went up against Stephen Ragsdale from Wet Nelson. They both played the guitar portion of “Ramblin’ Man.” The tiebreaker results: 54,891 to 119,448. Ragsdale won it for the Nelsons.

To give credit where credit is due, the Southern Regionals were a fantastic competition with some of the best plastic bands in the world. Clutch Bananas were an amazing act, and as your Blogmaster has said before, every band is awesome. But there has to be a last man standing in the end.

Most Airlines Will Not Accept a Giant Ticket These Days

Most Airlines Will Not Accept a Giant Ticket These Days

Guitarist Stephen agrees re: everyone’s rockability. “We want to say thanks to the other bands in New Orleans. The sportsmanship and professionalism of all involved was top notch,” he says.

When asked what the game plan is for Atlantic City, he adds, “Focus on correcting some of the things the judges criticized us for in style to hopefully boost our points there, and to pick a 2nd round choice that will net us more overall points than we did the first time around. We had two pretty solid performances, but this time it’s for all the marbles and we are choosing a song with more score potential (not Ballroom Blitz, and we challenge all other bands to choose something else as well!)”

There ya go, other Finals Bands. You’ve been challenged.

Seriously, folks, if you want to see some of the best Rock Band playing this side of Impossible, you have got to come down to Atlantic City this Friday, May 8. And heck, may as well stay for the B-52’s on May 9, when the best Rock Band band in the world will open their concert. See you there.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.

Quick Reminder about Twitter

May 1, 2009

So the Southern Regionals are over and your Blogmaster hopes to have a write-up of the winning band done soon! But for those of you who just can’t take the suspense, you can follow the drama and the magic that was Harrah’s New Orleans on Twitter.

Just follow the #totalrock hashtag here.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.

Strippers for Stephen Hawking: Winners from Bally’s

April 30, 2009

Here’s another great plastic rock band that’s going to be heading to the Eastern Regionals at Harrah’s Resort on May 7: Strippers for Stephen Hawking! Don’t let the slightly disturbing name fool you; these rockers mean serious business.

Pictures courtesy of SaikoSakura on Twitter.

Pictures courtesy of SaikoSakura on Twitter.

S4SH (an acronym I just made up for them) is composed of Laura Clementz née Ramkissoon on vocals, Ryan Clementz on guitar, Christopher Julio on bass, and Jovanni Fernandez on drums. The foursome are also patrons of NYC’s Almost Famous Tuesdays at the Village Pourhouse, just like the Gurn Killers. Will they show their friends any mercy at the regionals? Man, let’s hope not! This is a competition!

As some savvy readers might have already guessed, Laura and Ryan are an item, and guys, he proposed VIA ROCK BAND. That is seriously the most adorable thing your Blogmaster has ever seen. Rock Band: bringing people together.

Back to unsentimental competitive statistics! Strippers for Stephen Hawking won at Bally’s by playing Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” which is rapidly catching up to “Give It Away” as the preferred high-scoring song. If you have any doubts as to S4SH’s skills, you can check out bassist Chris’s YouTube videos. He definitely rocks “Sickness.” But they still bring the fun when they compete. When asked what their strategy would be going forward, they replied: “We wing it! :P” They came out with a score of over 2.5 million.

The maddening results of winging it.

The maddening results of winging it.

😛 indeed.

Strippers for Stephen Hawking will be at Harrah’s Resort, May 7 for the Eastern Regionals, and so should you. Honestly, all the cool kids are going to be there, so save the date.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.

Ninjas in Disguise: the Finalists from the Midwest

April 29, 2009

In our younger, more innocent days (namely, last week), we knew only of one band that was certainly heading to the Total Rock Finals on May 8 in Atlantic City: FA/KE from the Western Regionals. Now, however, we know of a second band that will bring the rock to the finals.

It is your Blogmaster’s distinct pleasure to inform you that Ninjas in Disguise have won the Central Regionals at Horseshoe Hammond!

Bringing the Rock to Hammond

Bringing the Rock to Hammond

Your blogmaster didn’t have a chance to profile N.I.D. (Erik Schwenke on vocals, Rudy Scoggins on bass, Ryan Heckman on guitar, and Ben Schwenke on drums) prior to the regionals, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes on how they made it this far: the band killed at Harrah’s St. Louis with “Ramblin’ Man.”

Ninjas in Disguise then went on to win the Midwest crown at Hammond by playing Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” for around 1.3 million points. Here they are being presented with a boatload of prizes by MTV’s Sway Calloway.

Victory. They has it.

Victory. They has it.

So what’s going to motivate them to rock the finals? “After our Regional battle in Hammond, most of the bands got together back at the hotel for an after party. These people were some of the coolest adult Rock Band players we’ve been able to talk with and play with,” guitarist Ryan says. “These bands requested that we never stop for a moment – to take the finals, and we attend on honoring that request.” Spoken like a true student of the ninja arts. Your Blogmaster hopes they represent the Midwest well!

There are only two other slots open in the finals now that the Western and Midwestern Regionals are over: the Southern Regionals will be taking place on April 30 at Harrah’s New Orleans, and the Eastern Regionals will be on May 7 at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. If you want to cheer on N.I.D. you can go check out their Facebook page.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.

The Gurn Killers: Showboat Winners

April 28, 2009

This past Friday, April 24, saw an epic showdown of Rock Banders at the Showboat in Atlantic City. This was the last local competition at the Showboat venue, and the winners are going to the Eastern Regionals on Thursday, May 7.

Those winners? The Gurn Killers.

Four faces of victory. Left-to-right: Joel, Luca, Chris, Miguel.

Four faces of victory. Left-to-right: Joel, Luca, Chris, Miguel.

You might recall the Gurn Killers from a previous post. They are fun dudes, all incredibly excited to move on to the next stage of the competition. Joel Micalizzi, Chris Daou, Luca Fusi, and Miguel Molinari played Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness” (NOT “Give It Away”) and scored over 2.6 million.

“It was an extremely close round,” says guitarist Chris. “The bands that bookended our performance were both within something like 50,000 points of our score, and we edged out the second place band by only 15,000.” Sounds like all the bands at the Showboat deserve some hearty applause! What an awesome showing of rock prowess.

So what’s their strategy going into the regionals? “This round’s going to be about putting on a great show for the crowd and letting our personalities shine through,” said Luca, the Gurn Killers’ vocalist. “We are fearless!”

Totally fearless score.

Totally fearless score.

The boys from New York would like me to give them a shout-out on their behalf. A big thank-you goes to the rest of the crew from Almost Famous Tuesdays at the Village Pourhouse for coming out to support them. Reminder: if your friends are competing in the Total Rock tournament, it is your duty to come cheer them on. Otherwise, you are a terrible friend.

Fans of the Gurn Killers can visit their web site and even follow them stalker-like on Twitter. Congrats to the GK’s and all the bands that will be in Atlantic City on May 7. It’s gonna be awesome.

Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
To leave a comment you must be 21 years of age or older.