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May 07, 2009

The Guitar Hero 2 house band is living their own rock ’n’ roll fantasy, even if they still have to pay for their own drinks.

By Zack Teibloom

They’ve played Madison Square Garden, but still pay their own bar tab at gigs. They’ve performed on Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel but tour in a van that breaks down on a regular basis.
These contradictions are at the heart of Bang Camaro, the Boston-based band that’s living a 21st-century version of the rock ’n’ roll dream.
“Hey, it’s our San Antonio crew,” exclaims guitarist Alex Necochea as he steps out of Emo’s, the Austin, Texas, venue where Bang Camaro is playing later that night.
The club’s doors don’t open for two hours, but four eager fans are already lined up, decked out in matching Bang Camaro T-shirts.
The fan group is comprised of high school seniors who drove up from San Antonio—on a school night no less. When asked how they got into the band, the answers are all the same: "Guitar Hero 2."
Each of them played Bang Camaro’s song “Push Push (Lady Lightning)” again and again until they yearned for more. They were drawn to their “arena rock” sound, which is made up of 1980s metal guitar solos, easy-to-learn lyrics and catchy choruses.
But more than anything, it was the band’s crew of lead singers that struck a chord.
At every show, Bang Camaro performs with anywhere from six to 20 lead vocalists. On stage, this small army of front men—most of whom have their own bands in Boston—act as a unified force, singing every word in unison.
“It’s what makes them Bang Camaro,” explains 18-year-old fan Brian Lollis.
Touring with so many guys has its good and bad points. On the up side, there’s the sense of brotherhood that defines the group. It has helped them develop a fan-friendly reputation as a bar band that’ll take the time to have a drink with the audience after a show. The many members also boast of trips to karaoke bars where they’re able to completely take over the room.
But it’s not all fun and games.
“Communication can be tough,” says Dan Seiders, the band’s tour and production manager. “Having 15 guys means asking the same question 15 times a day.”
The guys also admit that when they hit the road, they’re forced to sit packed elbow-to-elbow in the van.
And then there’s the van itself, which according to founding member Bryn Bennett’s blog, broke down twice in April alone, once when a wheel caught fire on their trailer.
But such minor setbacks aren’t going to slow down Bang Camaro. The band has over a million listens on MySpace and recently appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
But video games continue to provide the band with their greatest exposure. After the release of Guitar Hero 2, their listens on MySpace jumped over 1,000 percent. They also have songs in Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and The Sims 3.
And in what’s sure to provide another big boost to their popularity, their new single, “Revolution,” was featured in a preview for "Madden NFL 10," one of the biggest video game franchises on the planet.
It’s a good thing, too. Because when you have as many mouths to feed as Bang Camaro, every bit helps.

Playing in the Band

Bang Camaro let me join them on stage to sing with them during the last two songs of the set.
But since I hadn’t gone through the usual audition, I didn’t get the lowdown until we were about to start.
“There are two rules,” one of the band’s other singers told me right before my first song began. “The first rule is that I hold the mic.” I nodded.
“The second is, if you don’t know the lyric—if you’re not sure about it or if you have any doubt about the next lyric—right before you sing it…don’t. Other than that, let’s rock!”
As the music played, I went through my entire repertoire: I pumped my fist in the air. I threw up the double rock sign and motioned for the crowd to get loud. I played air drums and air guitar. And I broke rule number two. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be. I pulled out all the stops on “Push Push (Lady Lightning),” the song that first exposed me to the band.
I humped the air every time they said “push, push” and had a jazz-hands twinkle move for “lady lightning.” I led an overhead clap. I sang into the face of my fellow singers and imagined I was George Harrison sharing a mic with Paul McCartney.
I never stopped smiling.
As the song ended, I hyped the crowd up one last time and tried in vain to wipe the smile off my face. As I left the stage, I was unsure whether I should follow my photographer back to the crowd or follow the band to the dressing room.
I choose to end the dream there. I had my night.

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