Umloud in San Francisco, 12/9/2010
I’ve been to countless concerts San Francisco’s DNA Lounge, but never one quite like this. Umloud is held yearly at the venue, raising holiday-season money for Child’s Play, a worthy charity that provides games and goodies to terminally ill children. Their main income stream last night was rock ‘n’ roll.
Bands signed up in advance, paying a hefty fee of around $100 for a shot at playing Rock Band 3 on the big stage. Once each band’s turn came, they strode excitedly up, bedecked in matching costumes and other quirky, extreme garb. A Harmonix employee situated stage right did his best roadie impression, stretching out the wireless guitar’s strap so it was easily donned. The lucky drummer got to ascend all the way to the riser, some ten feet above the rest of his cohort.
Once all the band members were settled onstage, the familiar Rock Band countdown clock began, and they launched into whichever song they had selected. For my taste, the choices were dubious — The Bee-Gees and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were both represented — but the level of verisimilitude was impressive, especially during the former’s balls-in-a-vise vocal harmonies.
Those without deep pockets could still play Rock Band in the “Lounge,” an area that usually serves at the DNA’s backstage area. I imagined all the hard-bitten musicians who had inhabited that area over the years, in stark, hilarious contrast to the bubbly crew I encountered powering its way through “Rainbow in the Dark.”
There were other charitable options as well, including a swag raffle and a silent auction that promised more prestigious loot, including a couple Halo: Reach review kits in snazzy metal briefcases. There was also a table of oddities for sale, which included all manner of forgotten curiosities, including a stack of PS2 games that are either collector’s items or drink coasters now.
I wasn’t slated for a main-stage appearance, and the line for the Lounge games was getting long, so I resisted the temptation to splurge on long-forgotten videogame novelizations at the oddities table by the door, and slunk off into the night. If you live in ‘Frisco and love Rock Band, consider it next year. If you don’t, keep your eyes peeled, in case it comes to your town.