Attention, pre-adults: there is a place for you, a place where a laissez faire attitude and zero musical talent will not only get you by, but get you laid. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to San Francisco, the American hotbed of would-be air guitar heroes.
No, champions. No, gods. In fact, such is the level of air guitar talent in the Bay Area that the organizers of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships decided to hold not one, but two regional competitions last weekend at the Independent.
Authentic nerds (minus the "ironically cool" schtick) took the opportunity to trade their tighty-whities for more creative duds and rise to the heavens.They came, they shredded -- they melted the ears off a boozed-up crowd that heartily welcomed beer, candy, rubber animals, and body parts thrown at their heads, not to mention catapaulting, oversized bodies. What would a rock show be without stage diving?
On night one (Fri/24), the "master of airimonies" was Bjorn Turoque, the dark horse 2003 winner of the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland (a victory documented in the film Air Guitar Nation). Judges were Hot Lixx Hulihan -- two time SF winner and one time national winner -- as well as Onion A.V. Club's Mark Hawthorne and some other dude that everyone hated. In true rock and roll spirit, the crowd expressed their disgust for any unfair scoring by hurling random objects at the judges.
On night two (Sat/25), Hot Lixx mastered the airimonies, while judge Turoque was joined by nemesis and legend C Diddy (co-star in the aforementioned documentary, first ever U.S. champion, and a world champion himself) and Dr. Frank of Mr. T Experience, who is also the author of King Dork. The crowd showed much more love and respect for this bunch and kept their fist-pumping hands to themselves.
Participants on each night's lineup battled imaginary axes in two rounds: air noodling to a minute-long song of one's own choosing, and a surprise song from the judges. The judges scored the performances on a scale from four to six, looking for technical skill, stage presence, and something called “airiness” -- the unexplainable something that "you'll know when you see." In the end, the winners with the highest combined score on each night -- Shred Nugent and seasoned champ Cold Steel Renegade -- represented San Francisco in Chicago's national throwdown.
The winner from night one, Shred Nugent (a.k.a. Airy and the Hendersons, get it?), shows excitement for his high score. All photos by Jackie Andrews
Cold Steel Renegade, now a two-time SF champ, emerged victorious on the following night to join Nugent in Chicago
While more performance art than concert, the night involved all of the elements of a good rock show: a rowdy crowd, lights, fog, and energetic "musicians." Along with rock 'n' roll comes baggage -- sex, drugs, booze, hurling television sets out windows, trashing hotel rooms. And while none of the contestants got super creative, a few did pulled out some of those stops.
Toward the end of his performance, this contestant pulled tall boys out of his pockets and sprayed onlookers with the froth. His score was dinged for playing something other than air guitar.
Creepy fake cocaine moment No. 1: Singar the Goat Demon and his "groupie" snort lines of the faux blow and then prance around the bag in a strange pagan-like ritual.
Creepy fake cocaine moment No. 2: The Six String General snorted lines of the spurious nose-candy off this young ladies bum before whacking her from behind.
An otherwise unmemorable performance became noteworthy with a freakishly high jump into the crowd to a perfectly timed confetti explosion.
Opting for Marilyn Manson shock, posing pretty for the camera.
And so it was -- the San Francisco leg of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships came and went, blowing minds and leaving a huge mess. We hear that our SF contenders did well in Chicago, but unfortunately neither are going to Finland for the World Air Guitar Championships. Next year!