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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Last Night: US Air Guitar Championships at The Independent

Posted By on Sun, Jun 28, 2009 at 8:20 AM

Beardo Weirdo shreds an air solo. - ANNA MCCARTHY
  • Anna McCarthy
  • Beardo Weirdo shreds an air solo.
The US Air Guitar Championships

Sat, June 27, 2009
The Independent
Better Than: The Real Guitar Awards.

They came, they air shredded, they conquered. In the world of air guitar, high kicks, spandex, and bodily fluids floweth like water -- and everyone knows Skynrd's Freebird solo by heart. It's a booze saturated, rock-powered, pants-stuffing, crime-inducing, go-big-or-go-home kind of world. And when all of the air-rockers and their fans gather in one place for San Francisco's fiercest air-rock competition of the year, it's truly a beautiful, dirty thing.

Last night, SF Air Guitar contestants performed their air-pants off, sometimes literally, at The Independent for a chance to compete for the reigning champion title in the US Air Guitar Championships, which will take place on August 7th in Washington, DC. The Championships tour 25 cities to find their one all-time best national air guitar champion.

MC Bjorn Turoque, who spent the evening chugging a bottle of pink Boone's ale (the evening's sponsor), told a rowdy crowd at the start of the show that judges would score contestants based on three criteria: technicality, stage presence, and "airness." But it soon became clear, as judges began scoring, that the real test for air-rockers was coming up with something truly original. It also became clear that these judges were as serious about their nit-picking critiques as air-rockers were about their performances.

Hot Lixx shows contestants how it's done. - ANNA MCCARTHY
  • Anna McCarthy
  • Hot Lixx shows contestants how it's done.
The surprise guest star judge of the evening was none other than Mr. punk rock himself, former Dead Kennedys lead singer and song writer, Jello Biafra. Biafra quickly adopted the most abrasive critic role, and much like American Idol's Simon Cowell, quickly managed to piss-off contestants and crowd members alike. This prompted the two other judges sitting next to Biafra to don black plastic garbage bags in order to avoid being pegged by drinks launched by angry air-rockers (aimed mostly at Biafra) into the judge's box in the balcony. Apparently all of the drink throwing last night was tame compared to the previous night's show, during which a judge accidently dropped a bottle from the balcony onto the head of a security guard.

However, unlike Simon Cowell, Biafra told contestants that he would give a perfect score to anyone who dropped trou. One contestant did this and made it to the final round (during which he did it a second time, which helped get him into the top three). Other less nudity-driven judges included bay area local and last year's reigning national air guitar champion, Hot Lixx Hulahan.

Contestants had a hard act to follow after the previous night's champion -- a big-haired, red-bearded air guitar dynamo named "Awesome" who was wearing so much fluorescent it hurt to look at him -- had blown away judges with his performance. Last night, a total of 22 contestants performed, including just two lady contestants in an otherwise completely testosterone-dominated show. It was a talented group overall, and as one judge pointed out, anyone who competes deserves a consolation cahones award because, "it takes a lotta balls and/or labia to get up there."

Highlights from the preliminary round included: at least three failed stage-dive attempts, a contestant dressed as a demon who the judges accurately described as "
Champion Cold Steel Renegade cartwheels his way into our hearts. - ANNA MCCARTHY
  • Anna McCarthy
  • Champion Cold Steel Renegade cartwheels his way into our hearts.
The winner was long-haired air rocker "Cold Steel Renegade" who was wearing space-age white tennis shoes with springs for heels and pink spandex that left little to the imagination. Cold Steel won over audience and judges alike with his spastic ballet around the stage that one judge said was "a little too Riverdance for my taste" and another said brought air-tears to his eyes. 

For the grande finale, all 22 contestants plus some of the rowdier crowd members packed onto the stage to simultaneously air rock together to Freebird. And for one moment in time, everyone in the room was air guitar champion -- even Biafra got up and air rocked-out. The patriotism in the room was palpable. Because, as the MC pointed out mid-competition, "If there's one thing America deserves to dominate, it's air guitar." 

Critic's Notebook:

At the end of one performance from a contestant named Tiger Claw, whom judges deemed the "anvil of air guitarists" after a somewhat dragging air-performance, it came out that Mr. Claw had recently suffered a mild stroke. Whether his decision to perform nonetheless was dedication or insanity is in the eye of the beholder. But this beholder gives major props to Tiger Claw -- way to take one for the air team. We hope he recovers soon.

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Anna McCarthy

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