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Wannabe rockers get their licks in

March 01, 2007|Jeff Miller | Special to The Times

ON a Wednesday outside the tiny, sign-less Hyperion Tavern in Silver Lake, you can hear the strains of Guns N' Roses' classic "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Onstage inside, a coed duo of shredders go at the song, destroying and perfectly aping the licks made famous by Slash two decades ago, roaring through the bridge, and echoing the reverb-drenched licks of the song's "Where do we go now" breakdown. They finish, and the 20-or-so twentysomething drinkers surrounding the beer-only bar roar with applause.

Funny thing: There's not a real guitar in sight.

That's because the duo onstage -- wanna-be shredders Justin Carlton and Angela Berghoefer -- are at Guitar Hero night, a weekly ode to the PlayStation 2 game that allows players with no musical talent whatsoever to be, well, guitar heroes, aping songs from not just Guns N' Roses, but rock bands such as Nirvana, Heart and the Allman Brothers. Lynyrd Skynyrd's lengthy noodle-jam "Freebird"? It's on the menu as well.

The game's concept is simple: As a song plays, notes move up the screen to a bar that signifies when you should accurately hit the notes -- accomplished with five buttons on the neck of a plastic guitar controller and a lever on the body of the faux-ax. But becoming an expert is nearly as difficult as mastering a real guitar, although the Hyperion is the only place where becoming a Guitar Hero champ could lead to recognition for your button-pushing talents.

Thankfully, those who miss notes don't have to brave the flying bottles that sometimes greet second-rate cover bands. The familial vibe of the Hyperion leads to high-fives, no matter if the accuracy on the screen at the end of the game is 100% or 20%. Players sign up by telling the bartender, who writes the first name on a behind-the-bar chalkboard, karaoke style. When your turn's up, a shout from the bar indicates it's time to take the stage.

OUTSIDE after their stellar performance, Carlton and Berghoefer are enjoying a celebratory cigarette. So why excel at Guitar Hero rather than learning to, you know, play the real thing?

"Lack of ambition, I guess," Carlton claims, though the amount of time tackling "Sweet Child" on the game's "hard" level has to be at least equal to how long it takes to learn a G chord. But Carlton and Berghoefer have another, more serious goal in mind.

"Next week," she says, "[the Rolling Stones'] 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' -- on 'expert.' "


Hyperion Tavern

What: Guitar Hero Night at Hyperion Tavern, 1941 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake

When: 10 p.m. Wednesdays

Price: No cover

Info: (323) 665-1941

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