We’d All Like to Flee to the Cleve


On June 8th, US Air Guitar rolled into The Winchester Music Tavern in Lakewood, OH for another smashing, shredding, rocking show. The Winchester, once again, giving our Airness wings as eight ready and able performers took to the stage to show Cleveland, OH how to rock. 

Hosted for the second year in a row by Cleveland’s own Richard ‘Dick’ Diesel, the show got off to an amazing start with an awesome audience inspired ‘air’ band. Dick Diesel then welcomed to the stage, legendary air guitarist and one of the night’s judges, Dave “The Rocktopuss” Ayling. 


The complete list of judges for the night was an epic line-up of seasoned air guitar aficionados and first-timers; The Rocktopuss, Jeff Neisel, music editor for The Cleveland Scene, and local artist and graphic designer, Gilberto Rivera. 

But let’s talk about the main event, the air guitarists.


The first competitor of the night was a mysterious newcomer whose insisted legal name was Brutus ‘Cleveland’ Maximus. His intensity was palpable, and no one, not even Dick Diesel himself, knew the track that Brutus used. The judges appreciated the difficulty of going first, as well as the brass balls it takes to get on stage for the very first time. They called Brutus’ performance electric and gave a score of 5.2, 5.0, and 5.1. 

Brutus was followed by veteran and crowd favorite, Toy Boy Roy Piccolo. Toy Boy owned the whole stage performing Pilot’s Tragic and not once losing his luscious, curly blond locks which earned him a 5.3, 5.2, and 5.1 from the judges. 

Up third was Cleveland favorite, Thrashcan Willie, who brought the meat with Beef Bologna by The Fear. And while no actual bologna was harmed during his performance the judges felt the beef; giving Thrashcan a 5.3, 5.4, and 5.3.

Another first time performer went fourth, LyNerd SkaNerd. LyNerd repped his incredibly stylish Alltel Team bowling shirt, which didn’t go unnoticed by the judges as he shredded his way through Reel Big Fish’s, Beer which earned him a reserved 5.1, 5.3, and 5.3 from the judges. 


When it came time for the fifth competitor to take the stage, all the way from Washington, D.C., the judges were warmed up and ready. Rockstache flashed into action ‘playing’ a version of Lazaretto that would bring Jack White to tears. He was duly rewarded with the highest scores of the night so far of 5.6, 5.7, and 5.6. One judge claiming the bar for the night had been set. 


Next up performing for her second year in Cleveland was AIRphrodite. Coming onto the stage in a luxurious fur covering a shimmering, blue body suit. AIRphrodite quickly let the crowd and the judges know she wasn’t one to be messed with. Performing a classic USAG cut of Ace of Spades, she launched herself into the crowd and created a moment that was pure rock and roll.  The judges rewarded her acrobatic prowess with a 5.5, 5.6, and 5.5. One judge calling her “slicker than snot on a doorknob.” 

With nowhere to go but up, Stonehenge came next and determined to uphold his reputation as the “Most Interesting Man in the World in Training,” he gave away a real-life, autographed by him, electric guitar to one lucky audience member before taking his light-up kicks up to the stage. Stonehenge performed an intense Twisted Sister and got himself the highest scores of the night, so far, with a 5.7, 5.8, and 5.6. 

Then round one came to an intense—some might say bloody—end as crowd favorite, and returning Cleveland champion AirLeigh Legal took the stage. Playing the role of both Angel and Demon; AirLeigh used the whole stage, and some of the crowd, to earn the night’s first 6.0 and finishing round one with a strong lead with scores of 5.8, 6.0, and 5.8. 



Thrashcan Willie, AIRphrodite, Rockstache, and Stonehenge were all hoping to knock Cleveland’s Air Guitar Queen from her throne, so unsurprisingly, round two kicked off with a band!

The audience members in attendance were more than gracious while they listened to the second round song, Metallica’s Four Horsemen, five times. 

Even still, the audience cheered for each competitor as they finished their performance and received their scores. Thrashcan Willie stepped up his Airness, and destroyed his round two challenge and scored a 5.9, 5.9. and 5.8. And set the bar for round two higher than an Olympic pole vault.

The crowd was ready for more and that’s when AIRphrodite took the stage. Not to be outdone, however, she fell just a smidge short of Thrashcan Willie, scoring straight 5.7’s. Next was the man who set the bar in round one, Rockstache, who was trying for his first Cleveland win. He took the stage and after some frightening attempts at acrobatics with a stage speaker and a mic stand. He left it with an awesome score of 5.8, 5.9, and 5.8. The judge’s obviously respected the attempt. 

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Stonehenge followed and turned the competition up to eleven. Looking to unseat his rival, AirLeigh Legal, he used the stage, the judge’s table, and the crowd with perfect intensity. Stonehenge earned straight the incredible scores of straight 5.9’s—but wasn’t able to grasp the lead.

AirLeigh Legal refused to go down without a fight and when she took the stage for round two, that was made abundantly clear. AirLeigh owned the stage, she encompassed the spirit of Air Guitar past, present, and future, as she slayed and shredded to a 5.8, 5.9, and 5.8. With a total score of 35.1 to Stonehenge’s final score of 34.8, AirLeigh Legal once again took the Cleveland.

After announcing the winners, Shawn Perry and his band took the stage and led our competitors and the audience in a rousing live version of FreeBird where everyone came together in the spirit of Air Guitar and World Peace to shred it out, one last time, for the night. 

All photos by Beth Ann Sadowski; Follow her on Instagram @thebeltwaybroad or on her website, www.bethofthebeltway.com

Rob Messel