On any given day, Guitar Center’s 150 locations are filled with scruffy musicians strumming through the Zeppelin catalog and turning amps up to 11. But last Saturday, the chain proved it’s as much about scratching as Stratocasters, when it hosted the 2005 Spin Off Grand Finals at the Wiltern LG Theatre in L.A. Emceed by Guitar Center vp of marketing communications Jack Sonni (ex-guitarist of Dire Straits) and rapper DMC, the event marked the culmination of three months of competition among 3,000 contestants. Eight finalists performed six-minute sets each for a sold-out crowd. In the end, judges crowned DJ Illtraxx of San Jose, Calif., the winner; in addition to the coveted “hottest amateur DJ” title, Traxx walked away with swag including a Toyota Scion, Technics digital turntables, Boost Mobile phones and Royal Elastics shoes. Promoted via ads from Guitar Center’s in-house team, the Spin Off also featured roof-raising performances by hip-hop artists Common, Madlib, Talib Kweli and surprise guest Kanye West. A cushy lounge, the brainchild of Formula PR’s Matt Kovacs and Matt Draper, teamed GC staffers, DJs and celebs, including Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Jay Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob) and Andy Milonakis (MTV), with urban style-savvy sponsors Alize, Scratch magazine, the Scion and XM Satellite Radio, among others. Rock ‘n’ rollers needn’t worry, however: Guitar Center’s 2005 Drum Off competitions begin Sept. 21.
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