Georgia Lunch is Your 2018 US Air Guitar Champion!
Out of Thin Air:
A Quick Recap of Hometown Hero and Wild Card
The 2018 US Air Guitar season has been a rollercoaster wrought with ups, downs, and sudden left turns. All across the country, long-time champs were dethroned, and new faces quickly became performers to watch. Plus, after a complete reimagining of the tournament trajectory by USAG coordinators, the game changed entirely.
While traditionally the Dark Horse tournament consists of all invitees chosen for a plethora of reasons, this year it was renamed the Wild Card and featured only first-place winners from the qualifiers of smaller cities like Lawrence, Kansas and Sacramento, California, and this year’s many incredible show organizers. Now, the night which had a previously carefree vibe became an enthralling presentation of some of the most heightened Nationals weekend competition ever seen.
An air of mystery and intrigue surrounded the Wild Card show; perhaps foreshadowed by USAG’s insistence on keeping the venue a secret until the day of, and further heightened by the legendary St. Vitus Bar’s lack of clear signage. Patrons and performers taking smoke breaks out front became more like traffic directors to those who arrived confused, wondering if they were in the right place. But eventually, everyone found their way to the action.
In addition to the rebranding of the beloved Dark Horse to Wild Card, USAG did something else a little different: the introduction of Hometown Hero, a one-round tournament featuring eight NYC air guitarists attempting to shred their way straight to Nationals.
With such a prize on the line, the competition came out firing on all cylinders. All eight performers wowed a tough crew of judges, but in the end, the legendary Windhammer and shooting-star rookie Georgia Lunch tied for first (even after an air-off) and won spots in Nationals. It was like getting the best of both worlds: Windhammer’s no-nonsense technical precision contrasted with Lunch’s flailing passion together encompassed the purity of airness.
Coming in a very close second was semi-dormant USAG legend Mathromancer, who immediately went on to compete AGAIN in that night’s Wild Card show. Many have said that Math, after being accidentally (?) abandoned at a brewery in Colorado during 2012 finals weekend, finally found his way back home just in time to compete that night.
By the time of his performance midway through the second round, it was apparent that Math was back with an unconquerable vengeance. In the end, Mathromancer climbed the stage in tears as he was pronounced the 2018 Wild Card Winner— in many ways, an historic USAG moment.
Alongside Mathromancer, Sacramento’s Kit Kat & Sweetness, Portland’s The Marquis and Cleveland’s Dick Diesel made the top five and were off to Nationals on Saturday night.
2018 U.S. Air Guitar National Championship:
The Greatest Show You Never Knew You Were Starring In
Traditionally, Wild Card/Dark Horse represents a litmus test for Nationals Weekend where new competitors and “Summer Camp” regulars alike can re-calibrate their livers and set the tone for the ensuing chaos of the next few days. Sometimes people take it a little too far and end up with the worst hangover of their lives; but hey, if that happens at least there’s a whole day before Nationals to relax and recover, right?
For those lucky enough to go straight to Nationals—not so much. With a front row view to their upcoming competition at the St. Vitus show, those “winners” certainly weren’t feeling that usual sense of relaxation on Friday. The Wild Card routines were honed and precise, not wrought with gimmicks or those “just for fun” vibes of yesteryear. They were serious, high-bar competitors to watch out for.
Continuing the amazing venue choices for the weekend, Rough Trade NYC was the perfect home for air guitarists as they gathered to prepare for the evening. An amazing record store bridges the gap between entrance and venue, which was a great time-killer while waiting for doors to open. (Believe it or not, a lot of us are music geeks. Go figure!)
As is tradition, the surrounding walls were decked out with banners featuring the national champions past, many of whom have been retired and/or absent from USAG attendance for years. However, the champion most noticeably missing this year was Mom Jeans Jeanie, our 2017 U.S. Air Guitar Champion.
Not just a clever name, Mom Jeans recently became a mom again, keeping her a little too busy to defend her title. Through her shiny new banner though, she still proudly kept a close eye on us as she left the belt up for grabs—and a feisty group chomping at the bit even more for that win.
Hosted by Seth Leibowitz (it’s still up for debate as to which one it was), the show fired out of the gate with tons of energy thanks to an engaged and eager crowd. The crowd was absolutely packed to the brim all night, showing an amount of audience participation that rivals the best in USAG history.
While not always positive, the interaction was always in the spirit of fun, and made the audience a pivotal key player in the evening’s festivities. Even the beloved opening Air Band segment was rowdier than usual, with a few USAG vets joining show patrons onstage to rock out to a medley of favorite edits with former World Air Guitar Champ and Dr. Pepper Spokes-rocker Nordic Thunder.
The initial celebration was short-lived as tension quickly filled the air at the start of Round One. Austin champ Dad Bod Jovi (a.k.a. Brock McRock) drew the raw draw in going first. His confidence was unwavering though, as one would expect from a red-blooded Texan. Dad Bod straight-up attacked his rocking version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble”, achieving a great balance of hilarity and undeniable skill. The crowd was clearly sold—but as per usual—the judges weren’t quite warmed up yet and the scores were low.
As if following someone like Dad Bod wasn’t hard enough, many amazing performers felt the pangs of having early spots on the bill and going up against a polarized group of judges, consisting of The President Show and VEEP’s Peter Grosz, USAG vet Shreddy Mercury, 70’s music mogul Tony Barbairy, author Ross Asdourian, and local NYC comedian Mike Denny.
Even if they didn’t seal the deal into Round Two, they still proved to the crowed why they deserved to win their regional championship. Here are some of the highlights:
- Kit Kat and Sweetness are always standouts. Technical wonders, they not only have the skills, but always ooze pure fun and never fail to bring the party.
- If only all grannies were as badass as Agnes Young. Her nursing home must’ve put something in her prune juice because she showed those young’uns a thing or two about a proper rocking.
- Entering the stage as Darth Vader, Shorty McShred convinced us that joining the Dark Side might not be so bad. Who knew Vader had such killer moves?
- Boston champ mAIRty McFlair turned it up to 1.21 gigawatts and took us Back to the Future with some killer shredding.
- The Crusher did simply that—he absolutely crushed it like a rockstar. No gimmicks or cheap gags necessary. Just pure airness.
However, the bar was really set when Windhammer took the stage. As a Hometown Hero winner, the crowd was definitely on his side, eating up every second of his technical mastery and looming presence. Windhammer’s meticulous precision landed him by far the highest score of the evening up to that point.
It was a bar that, try as they might, not many beyond-worthy competitors were quite able to surpass. Some got close, like Kansas City’s the Virgin Airy (formerly Sonic Bitch). Performing while seven months pregnant and truly blessed by some unholy divine, Virgin Airy presented a fantastic mix of bombastic glam and technical prowess, landing her a mere .2 away from the second round.
Also barely missing out on the next round was the gold-masked SF champ Human Airer. Completing one of the fastest routines of the evening to a metal version of “Flight of the Bumblebee”, he frustratingly was only a tenth of a point from advancing.
Portland bigwig The Marquis, fresh from the Wild Card Top 5, came out and swept everyone off their feet with a technically crisp, virtually perfect routine. The crowd was enthralled, the judges gushed, and those familiar with the Marquis called it the performance of his USAG career. At this point in the show, the effort was enough to get him a tie for the top spot right up there with Windhammer.
Next was Wild Card winner Mathromancer, who unfortunately didn’t have similar luck here. While his performances Thursday brimmed with excitement and confidence, his attempts at the same tricks at Nationals fell a bit short (quite literally when one attempted stage dive was awkwardly cut off) and the judges weren’t impressed.
Portland, Oregon’s winner Air Banger followed-up with a super slick routine, confidently proving why he’s one to beat on the West Coast. Unfortunately, with tonight’s unparalleled competition, it wasn’t quite enough for the judges to push him through to the next round.
The next four competitors signaled Act III of an incredibly eventful Round One, as all of them eventually ended up at or near the top of the heap that night. Three-time San Diego winner Jolly Green Shredding Machine, Human Airer, Chicago’s Old Glory, and Hometown Hero Georgia Lunch all brought new levels of energy to the show and sent the judges into some controversial scoring frenzies.
After these four completely shredded the stage, there wasn’t much even solid showings from Philly’s Brozone and Dick Diesel could do. It seems the judges had already decided on their Top Five. Despite tons of crowd love, they both received underwhelming scores, and a massive onslaught of boos from the crowd.
With such tight, incredible performances, scores were insanely tight going into the second round. The tension of who would move on was nothing short of frenzied. In the end, there was a three-way tie for first place with Jolly Green Shredding Machine, Old Glory, and Georgia Lunch, and a tie for second with Windhammer and the Marquis.
There was another surprise shake-up this year as Seth decided to make this the first Nationals to utilize the TRUCKER HAT OF DOOM for Round Two. Rather than every competitor performing to the same song, they have the option to choose a random song out of a sweet trucker hat, or play the initial compulsory song, Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.”
Needless to say, the stakes were high for Round Two and no one—crowd nor competitors—was letting up on the excitement.
Windhammer was up first and after choosing to draw from the hat, completely slayed to a metal rendition of “Stayin’ Alive”. Some even swear they saw him smile during the routine, but that can’t be proven. While not able to lock down a real 6.0, with two 5.9’s and a 5.8 it was one of the best-scored rounds of the night.
Marquis was up next and chose play it safe with “Hot for Teacher.” After such a technically perfect first round, he made himself a hard act to follow—and couldn’t quite live up to the expectations he set.
Also, “Hot for Teacher” is a song with an incredibly storied USAG history and has become a bit of an untouchable track. If you’re going to do it, it better be flawless. And if you’re skipping the trucker hat AND it’s the second round of finals, it better be Beyoncé levels of flawless. Though it was a stellar second round performance, flawless it was not. You’ll get that belt one of these days, my wigged friend.
Jolly Green followed and opted to pull from the hat. To his chagrin, he pulled “Kiss” by Prince. An excellent song—with some very subtle guitar. Not your ideal game winner.
Fortunately, if any of these competitors could skate by on dance moves alone, this is your guy. But this particular Prince song didn’t offer him quite the balance he needed. Was this an air guitar performance—or just a performance? The judges quickly sent him packing.
In Round One, Chicago’s Old Glory wowed the crowd and judges with a bombastic patriotic display as he entered through the crowd and climbed onstage. He ripped away a pair of American flag shorts to reveal an identical pair of said shorts. He had tons of energy and charisma, which the judges felt set him far enough above the rest to be tied for first going into Round Two.
However, Old Glory took the Marquis’ route and opted for the compulsory track of “Hot for Teacher”. While it wasn’t enough to get him the win in the end, he was able to one-up Marquis with his fierce attack on the track, and it was the only score that came close to Windhammer’s in Round Two.
Unless, of course, you consider Georgia Lunch.
Georgia always begins her routines by walking onstage with a lunch box, opening it and pulling out a hamburger flask filled with Jagermeister, taking a huge gulp and commencing the rock. Her approach is at once no-nonsense and passionate. While shredding, she dons facial expressions that would send young children running and screaming for mommy. It’s awesome.
While some air guitarists have that vibe about them as if they spend hours practicing in the mirror in the weeks leading up to these competitions, Georgia seems more like the type that would roll out of bed, throw on her favorite metal shirt, head to the show, and let the song itself completely and effortlessly control her. She owns the song as much as it owns her.
As she took the stage for Round Two and drew a new song from the hat, host Seth Leibowitz announced the track: “Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC. A smirk crossed Georgia’s face—she was going to win this thing, and she damn well knew it.
It was a palpable confidence that quickly spread throughout the entire venue as she pummeled viciously through the edit. By the end, everyone in that room was eating right out of Georgia Lunch’s hands. The judges showered her with love, praise, and 6.0s.
With that, Georgia Lunch was crowned the 2018 US Air Guitar Champion. To the traditional outro of “Free Bird”, USAG organizers, competitors, and audience members alike celebrated Georgia Lunch not just as the second-consecutive female champ, but as an extraordinary competitor. After only two years in the USAG fold, she floored an entire country with her passion and commitment to our weird, wonderful sport.
As the audience members crowded the stage, finally breaking that barrier between audience and performer that had been gradually crumbling throughout the night, it became clear that every component of an air guitar show—performers, judges, audience members, crew, staff, etc. is just as necessary as the last.
And when we all lose ourselves in the experience, we can transcend what a show actually is. We don’t have to just watch the show—we can be the show.
All Competitors and Scores
- Old Glory (17.7)
- Georgia Lunch (17.7)
- Jolly Green Shredding Machine (17.7)
- The Marquis (17.5)
- Windhammer (17.5)
- Human Airer (17.4)
- The Virgin Airy (17.3)
- Kit Kat (17.2)
- Agnes Young (17.0)
- Shorty McShred (17.0)
- Mathromancer (17.0)
- The Crusher (16.7)
- Air Banger (16.7)
- Sweetness (16.5)
- Dick Diesel (16.5)
- Brozone (16.5)
- mAIRty McFlair (16.2)
- Dad Bod Jovi (16.1)
- Georgia Lunch (35.6) [WINNER]
- Windhammer (35.1)
- Old Glory (35.1)
- The Marquis (34.6)
- Jolly Green Shredding Machine (34.2)