All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Welcome to the shredding. How can I write about this sport? (I called it a sport, in case you missed that.) It’s not a concert with real instruments but it’s a concert with real heart and real soul.
The DC leg of the 10th annual US Air Guitar championships were hosted by Dan “Björn Türoque” Crane, who introduced the show saying, “The winner will go on to represent the United States of fucking America…” in the International Air Guitar Championships hosted in, wait for it, FINLAND. And some might look at this, as Türoque took the opportunity to say, as the “Finland Countdown.”
Yes, then Türoque ripped into the air guitar (and sang, not air sang) during a version of “The Final Countdown” modified to narrate the championships (with a “Zou Bissou Bissou” breakdown). Joined by a second hero and lead judge Hot Lixx Hulahan (Craig Bilmeier), the two stroked their air guitars with a classic spinning-clock motion, jumping from amp stacks and swinging legs up on monitors to pick the air notes on their air instruments.
After, Türoque described the three criteria judges look for in an air guitar champion (please forgive this redundancy if you’re a professional air guitarist). You can make it if you’ve got (1) technical merit (“It should vaguely resemble what you’re hearing”), (2) stage presence (“air jizz”), and (3) Airness (“You’ll know it when you see it”). Following a second introductory air number (hosts pulling a couple audience members onstage to be air drummer and air bassist) complete with tiny air mandolin (read it again: AIR MANDOLIN), the finals began.
Round one highlights: mesh shirts, frayed suede jackets, confetti, innumerable devil’s horns hand signals, blue lipstick, throwing an air guitar up and catching it on its fall, last-minute wildcard entries. Those who prepared a routine were of course epic in a fireworks-exploding, bald-eagles-crying type way, but there was also something special about wildcard Liz (coordinated hair swinging and playing) and wildcard Thin Lizzy McGuire (sweet rocker chic outfit, eyes-closed-level of intensity in rockin’ out) because they showed the airness in everyone. I can do this, you can do this, anyone who feels passionately about the feeling of playing an instrument can do this. America, let’s do this.
On to the rest of the show. After one minute each of the rockingest, rollingest, pre-determined solos these mast-air-minds put together, it was all over, until round two: the “Whole Lotta Rosie” round. The finalists improvised on this song, showing what made them the best acts of both rounds. Judges delivered verdicts like, “You give air guitar a bad name” and “Your guitar kept getting smaller and smaller,” but ultimately they recognized the prowess behind the final six.
President Baberaham Lincoln (Bianca Cevoli) barefoot and clad in animal print tights couldn’t top her spirited, hip gyrating cover of a technical solo spliced with the chorus of “Call Me Maybe,” but she still got us pretty excited (schwing!).
Doug Thunderstruck kept us screaming like little girls with his creepstache and liquid glitter leggings, plucking and hip thrusting with all the glitter and intensity of a silently rocking Freddy Mercury.
A jumping, running and generally pumped performance by The Shred (Lance Kasten), father of three and laborer by day, was a high point, but his first round craziness won my heart: he arrived onstage ringing a bike bell attached to his plastic multicolored tricycle in a soda jerk outfit, lobbing candy into the audience between strutting onstage energetically air-playing AND mouthing the sounds of the guitar.
G. Tso Money (Del-Kun Chen) whipped belts around in his mouth and on his wrists while stalking the stage and letting ‘er rip.
Doug Towering Giant Kolb “Vlad DM Wailer” Ettenger coyly pulled his red leisure suit jacket over his paunch and shoved a chocolate cupcake into his mouth before ripping into his head shakin’ solos, to great effect.
Tommy Fretless (Adam Lee) ultimately won his second DC regional competition in a row this year with antics that included jumping off the side stage amps, ripping off his pants to reveal red shorts, turning on his back with his air guitar in hand and kneeling backwards on stage to kiss his girl who stood front and center, cheering (and cursing off drunkards who wanted to take her place).
Oh yeah, and we got a sweet metal/Spanish style air-off by former champions, the red bearded bullet Windhammer (Rob Weychert) and tall chAIRismatic Airistotle (Matt Burns).
Have you ever wanted to be an air guitar champion more than you do right now? I thought not. If you’re a little jealous because you didn’t get to attend, tune in next year. The rest of us are still re-assembling our melted faces and drying our tears–you won’t regret it.
[ed. A special THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE to Björn Türoque, who just announced this will be his final year hosting the US Air Guitar Championships, after a decade of service/airitude. We salute you.]
AND NOW YOUR COMPETITORS:
G. Tso Money:
Toy Boy Piccolo:
THIN LIZZY MCGUIRE:
Vlad DM Wailer:
SEE. YOU. NEXT. YEAR.