Santa Cruz: CSR cruises to victory

Date: June 29, 2018
Venue: The Catalyst
City: Santa Cruz, California
Host: Dirty Airy
Organizer: Thirsty Motion
Judges: Jon Face, Milt, Matty Macabre

Hosted by local air guitar legend Dirty Airy, the night kicked off with an unusually awesome way to introduce the evening’s judges—a full-on air battle. That’s right. Judges Jon Face, Matty Macabre and Milt proved that they were more than just voices deciding the fate of competitors from their cozy stools afar. They could totally shred too.

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Before the actual games could begin though, the Santa Cruz Air Guitar community took a few minutes to honor a beloved, fallen member of the U.S. Air Guitar tribe. Earlier this year, the USAG family lost Maxwell Silver Hammer (Maxwell Priestradofski), former Santa Cruz champ and all-around awesome human being. The night’s show was dedicated to his memory.

But before the night could get too solemn, it was time to rock hard and get weird—just as Silver Hammer would’ve wanted. 

First up was Thirsty Motion (Derek Tobias) who, as an organizer, really should know by now that one of the few rules is that you must play only…you guessed it…AIR. He must’ve taken a seriously liking to that mic stand though because he played it beautifully, and got promptly DQ’d. 

Prompting the first of many judging outrages, GendAIR (Ai Nakamura) stripped down and attempted to clean up with an on-stage shower while performing to Ninja Sex Party’s, Eating Food In the Shower. Matty Macabre threw down a 4.0 and earned the first of many "Fuck That Shit" chants. 

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Note to self: Judges love to hear sweet nothings. While performing Pantera’s 5 Minutes Alone, Skip Legit wandered over to Jon Faces, whispered delicately in his ear, and quickly earned solid enough scores to score a spot in the second round. 

Next up was Mind Voltage (Matthew Thomas) who is new to USAG this year, but already bleeds it. Coming all the way from Salt Lake City, he’s already clocked in over 2,500 miles on his odometer for those 60 or so seconds of air guitar glory. Exact-ish quote when he rolled in to perform at the USAG Denver Championship: “Hey. I just drove in from Utah. How does this whole thing work?”

Complete with red blazer, and a hat full of glitter, he brightened up the stage. Despite his energy and indisputable dedication, he didn’t quite snag a spot in the second round. I’m confident we’ll be seeing him next year though.

Another solid candidate for this year’s Road Warrior award, Chewrocka (Jason Smalridge) competing for the third time this year. Throwing down a solid performance—complete with Chewy growls—he earned the respect, and likely a little fear from the judges, snagging the best scores so far. 

There’s no pressure like that of being the reigning champ. That pressure didn’t seem to stop Blood Sausage (John McFadden) as he shredded his skills, and his many layers of Santa Cruz Air Guitar shirts. Too easy giant sausage jokes aside, he easily slides into the second round.

Cruising down to the Catalyst via outer space (or Highway 17) after performing in San Francisco the week before, Mr. Universe (Richard Sprague) entranced the crowd with skin tight galactic leggings and absolute airness. He gave more emotion and poise than Santa Cruz has seen in a damn near millennia giving him a sure slot in the second round. 

After narrowly missing out on winning the title in SF, Cold Steel Renegade (Matt Feldstein) decided to head south for a second chance at glory. Trading in his zebra leggings for an edgier look with metal flair, his impeccably chiseled body, majestic hair flips, and epic skills earned him a perfect score. Can CSR be beat?! 

And is there a better way for the first half to end then by a still unidentified competitor crawling onstage, sorta kinda playing to Evil Has Landed by Queens of the Stone Age, throwing his clothes at the judges, passing out in the corner, and being escorted out by security? We didn’t think so. End round one.

The halftime artist showed a whole different side of playing with air. Barney the Theremin Wizard performed a way-out-there set with darker tones and mysterious vibes that entranced the crowd into just the right mood for a second round battle. 

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Scores were in and lines were drawn. In the second round was: Mr. Universe, Blood Sausage, Skip Legit, Chewrocka and Cold Steel Renegade. 

Finalists had the option of performing a compulsory song drawn out of hat, or take their chances by picking a new mystery song not known until it’s drawn.

As the first to go, Mr. Universe’s options were slim. Stuck with Glass on Water by Dangerkids, he did as well as he could for a song he’s likely never heard.

Up next was Blood Sausage. Deciding to live life dangerously, he decides against Dangerkids and draws a number. This was one gamble he certainly lost. Saddled with Ashes in the Fall by Rage Against the Machine, he shakes his head in frustration and knows there’s only one thing left to do—strip down to his skivvies. 

Following Blood Sausage’s lead farther than necessary, Skip Legit also went with a surprise edit, drew a track by Igorrr—and also stripped down. This isn’t air sex, you guys!!! Rather than bothering with silly things like playing air guitar, he jumped off the stage to again bug the judges.

Somberly coming onto the stage with an urn of Han Solo’s ashes (RIP), Chewrocka kept the Igorrr trend going. He also absolutely shredded, and showered himself and the crowd with Han’s sacred ashes. What would Leia think?! Considering he was now in the best position to overtake CSR, I think she’d understand.

Knowing he had serious competition, but still holding onto perfect scores, Cold Steel Renegade chose not to take the risk with a surprise song. Now having heard the Igorrr track three times, with hair flips and athleticism, he confidently displayed an incredible combination of skill, energy and perfect airness. Six. Six. Six.

The winner was indisputable. With a perfect score for the night, Cold Steel Renegade takes the Santa Cruz Air Guitar Championship. He’ll be representing Santa Cruz at the Wild Card National Qualifier in Brooklyn, NYC on August 2nd, 2018. Top competitors get a spot in the U.S. Air Guitar National Championships on August 4th, 2018 at Rough Trade.

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Final Top 5 Scores
1.     Cold Steel Renegade (36)
2.     Chewrocka (35.4)
3.     Skip Legit (35.1)
4.     Blood Sausage (33.9)
5.     Mr. Universe (33.8)

Kriston Rucker