Guitar Zero

Maybe the next generation won't even play instruments. Clapton and Hendrix? So passé.

"Matt being so good and having that reputation has made the game more popular," says Wright, a pastor at the church. "Everyone wants to come and watch, and that leads to, 'Oh, I'll play...' "

Wright, who plays real guitar, has tried the game and finds it great fun. "From a musical standpoint, I think it's awesome," he says. "It's starting to get kids interested in spending time learning a musical instrument." Although he wants to avoid negativity, Wright admits he'd rather Lozano would spend a little less time playing Guitar Hero "and a little more time reading his Bible."

When the game is played in Lozano's absence, his name inevitably comes up.

One time in New York City, Micucci and her boyfriend were in the MTV store, where a few kids were playing Rock Band. Her boyfriend turned to her saying, "If Matt was here, these people would be like, 'Oh... my... God!' "

"Everyone is pretty much amazed by him," Micucci adds.

That includes his parents.

Robert and Lisa Lozano are originally from Orange County, California, but they moved to their stucco yellow Hollywood home in 1992, just after Hurricane Andrew hit. South Florida was the right time and place for their business, says Lisa Lozano, who with her husband runs an asbestos- and mold-removal business.

They have two sons — game whiz Matt and drummer Jacob, 13. Both play football, and they share a bedroom that's equipped with an HDTV, a keyboard, a drum set, and a variety of videogame consoles. The parents are strict about when the kids can play, but they encourage their children's passions. And they exude hipness.

Lisa Lozano, a petite, effervescent blond in dark-framed glasses, flew out to California twice last year to see Bright Eyes. She calls Matt "my vidiot" and makes fun of his real guitar, a red Jackson Flying V, which he bought after friends suggested those "magic hands" might be able to make real music.

"It's so '80s!" she says. "Um, hello, a Jackson Flying V? Are you serious? You're going out in public with that?"

Though she kids around, Lisa Lozano has a serious hope that her son can turn his rare talent into a career. She's been doing research on gaming programs, particularly at the University of Southern California, which recently added a video­game major. If only her son would get those grades up...

"A lot of schools are now jumping on the game design," she says. "But it's hard to see which ones will be accredited and able to give a good stable basis to have a career... I mean, he can't play the games for a career."

Robert Lozano, who loves AC/DC and attended the Warped Tour last year, is equally enthusiastic about his son's talents. "He practices more than the average person, and it's more intense," he says. "When he wraps his brain around it, he's focused for four hours. I don't want to embarrass him, but he'll damned near poop himself."

Lozano, who has picked up the Guitar Hero controller and is now dominating on expert without even looking at the screen, just shakes his head. He's used to this kind of humiliation, and it's clear that the teasing is balanced with respect.

His gaming abilities became clear at just 18 months, when he defeated Super Mario 3. At age 3, he conquered Aladdin on Super Nintendo. By 4, Zelda was toast. And Matt didn't mind helping others either. Desperate to advance in Zelda, Lisa Lozano's father used to call up her toddler and say, "Matt, how do I beat this level?"

Matt first picked up a plastic guitar controller a year and a half ago at his friend Michael Boyett's house. He was instantly drawn to it, and he persuaded his mom to buy the game. Six hours later, he had defeated it. On expert level.

But there was still plenty of fun to be had. Lozano went back and practiced each song until he could "five-star" it, or obtain a very high score by missing very few notes. He did that with each successive version of the game, and he acquired new songs for the Xbox as they became available.

The greatest challenge of any of the games, Buckethead's Jordan, took him two weeks to five-star. "I was staying up all night over spring break," he says. There are highly trafficked videos of Lozano five-starring Jordan on his MySpace page.

In the first week of the Java D'Lites tournament, Lozano dominated, easily making it to the next week's finals. For his final song, Lozano chose his favorite, Killswitch Engage's "Curse," and performed it almost flawlessly. Some rapt onlookers burst into cheers after the solos. Others clasped hands over their mouths.

After nailing the final notes, Lozano performed a single headbang. Two strangers from the crowd got up and hugged him. And the grand prize, a Brownsville Les Paul, was his.

If only there were more tournaments like this one.

As New Times leaves the bubbly Lozano household, two more cute high school girls show up at the Guitar Hero's house.

They want lessons too.

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