It’s 8/8/08, and while many around the world gathered to watch the historic Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, about 1200 slightly insane people gathered to watch the US Air Guitar Championship. And I’m serious when I say slightly insane. To watch and enjoy an event like this, you have to be willing to go there. It’s like watching karaoke on steroids. Wigs, blow up props, large foam devil horns…the crowd was decked out and mostly wasted, thanks to the free Cuervo shots at the door.
The Master of Airimonies, Bjorn Turoque, introduced the show, reminding us that it was the first time for the championship to be held in SF (because we ‘get it’ here). After going over the rules, he introduced the judges: Jeff Davis from Whose Line is it Anyway, a writer from the SF Chronicle, and Marc Hawthorne from The Onion- also a judge from the regional round- was a last minute replacement for Jello Biafra, who apparently had to drop out due to suffering some sort of injury. Apparently Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone fame turned them down.
25 contestants from around the US showed off their 60 seconds of air after humourous introductions on their background and how they got here. In comparison to the SF Regionals, these guys were mostly all great. The entertainment value of these 60 second sketches exceeded most things you could do on a Friday evening.
Below, a synopsis of the Round 1 performances:
Denver/Magic Cyclops: His ’80s hair metal tights helped him squeeze out a good performance…but not good enough. Going first is hard…
Houston/Rip Darko: High energy and punky attitude, but too early for good scores.
Las Vegas/Guitarsonist: The evening’s first use of blood set a new bar for theatrics in the performances.
Dallas/The Guardian: Ironically, The Guardian was the youngest competitor, and his lithe figure and Sergeant Pepper’s jacket made the judges ‘want to do drugs’.
SF/Awesome: A rehash of his SF performance plus a new shotgun move, but Awesome’s Airdo and general possession of Airness prevailed, putting him in 4th place for Round 2.
LA/Houston Rockit: The tearaway suit to Working for the Weekend was nicely constructed, but the half eaten banana down the pants that was thrown into the audience may have lost it for him.
Brooklyn/Bettie B Goode: She infamously lost her pinky toe in her winning regional performance, but her sacrifice didn’t secure her a spot in Round 2 due to a stiff performance.
Phoenix/Hardcore Henry: No frills performance was technically spot on, but he needed to spice it up.
Des Moines/Joseph of Air-imathia: The ‘I Live You Die’ chest paint didn’t save him.
Salt Lake City/D.R.U.S.A.: He couldn’t muscle his way into the Top 5….but I would pay to see him and Windhammer throw down.
Philadelphia/Windhammer: This guy was scary. His intensity and great technical skills made the crowd both fear him and love him.
Chicago/Nordic Thunder: Power performance in a Viking ensemble was fun, but not over the top.
NYC/Shreddy Mercury: great name, overrated performance tied him for 5th place in round 2.
DC/Hot Lixx Hulahan: High level of ‘airness’, his energetic performance put him in 2nd place for Round 2, and broke his thumb.
Austin/M.O.D.: His Hendrix inspired performance was a little too mellow this late in the round.
Boston/McNallica: Most technically on of all of the females, her boisterous performance put her in 3rd place for Round 2.
Minneapolis/Airosol: Decent air guitar skills+gymnastics skills+horny male judges=#1 in Round 2.
Pittsburgh/Will Clear Will: I don’t get the name, but I thought his lit up gloves were a cool effect. Hard to follow the #1 act, though.
2007 US Champ/William Ocean: Highly coordinated performance with help from minions in the audience was impressive enough to get him a tie for 5th Place in Round 2. And he wore pants with the ass cut out a la Prince.
San Diego/Rockness Monster: He tried to take it to another level, riding to the stage on a surfboard eating a slice of watermelon, but his slo-mo air guitar wasn’t well received by the audience. If only he had sped it up half way through…He announced his retirement upon receiving his scores (he’s been performing in the competition for years).
Portland/Ricky Stinkfingers- Best utilization of the bikini clad Cuervo Black girls, but the Stinkfingers performance was a bit of a disappointment.
Detroit/Stryker: His Nugent meets Flava Flav performance didn’t do it for the judges.
Aspen/Big Rig: Twin brother to Stryker, his performance wasn’t a stand out.
Cleveland/Derek Not-So-Smalls: His Spinal Tap themed outfit was not a crowd pleaser…at all.
Seattle/Chuck Mung: He looked too much like he might be in a real band to be taken seriously at an air guitar competition.
A brief intermission followed, where Air Bear, the new Air Guitar mascot, had an Air Guitar Off against Lou Seal, the Giants mascot. Air Bear, who had been stumbling through the crowd and onstage all evening, performed some drunken, sloppy air guitar that was completely outshined by Lou Seal, who had a stellar performance to Smooth Criminal.
After the 6 Round 2 finalists were announced, they listened to the compulsory song,
Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. Great choice- much better than the regional. Just from watching the contestants listen, my pick would have been McNallica, because she seemed to know the song the best, singing every word.
Shreddy Mercury, who didn’t impress me in the first round, had a much better run this time around as the audience supported his back while he played the end of the song. William Ocean stole a move from Rockness and rode a surfboard into the audience to finish his number. Awesome spit some blood and tore up the stage. McNallica commanded the song, but didn’t take it too far away from her first performance. Hot Lixx, whose broken thumb could have held him back, turned a fall over a speaker into a roll move that was quite smooth, and almost left the stage to wind up for a flip stage dive into the audience. Bold. Airosol pulled out some more gymnastics moves, which awed the audience once again.
In the end, Awesome took 3rd place, and Airosol took 2nd. Hot Lixx won his second championship by .1, and will represent us in Finland at the World Championship.
Air Guitar is a not to miss event. It’s music, it’s comedy…there’s just really nothing else like it out there.
venue (The Grand Ballroom): 8/10
value ($20.00/ticket): 8.5/10
Bettie B. Goode:
HRC and Awesome:
Video montage from HaightBeat.com