Diane Cletus' first-hand account of KC #usairguitar madness!

The following post is from current Denver champ Diane Cletus who judged the June 7, 2013 Kansas City US Air Guitar Qualifier. Judge Justin Kendall also wrote his own recap for The Pitch, which is totally worth reading.  




“Truly, he is risen.” In a night that was sure to make a believer out of anybody, last Friday’s Kansas City Air Guitar Qualifying event ended by crowning a new king of kings. It was anybody’s game at the Record Bar last Friday night, and with twenty one entrants clamoring for the title, it’s a wonder no one was crucified in the process…well, maybe for an encore. As a 2012 regional champ, I had the privilege of judging the night’s festivities as Diane Cletus, along with local wiseacres Justin Kendall (The Pitch) and Paul Chandler (Alice 102), who were perfect gentlemen. And let me just say this: Kansas City knows how to show a girl a good time, ya’ll.



Flying Finn and MC Mean Melin and give the Kansas City crowd a little "Fire On High."


Things revved up quickly as the night’s master of airimonies and KC air guitar guru Mean Melin and Midwest mainstay Flying Finn joined forces on stage for a thrash-up intro. The air reaching a fever pitch, the competition got off to a modest start, as Geof Hanneman kicked off the show with his loving tribute to the recently deceased Slayer guitarist of similar name. Geof, actually Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock, pulled a fast one on the audience by queuing up a deliberately glitched cut of “Stairway to Heaven”. Like most in attendance, Geof had the judges going for most of his sixty seconds, and it’s hard to think of a more appropriate way to jump into the insanity that is live air guitar. This judge was immediately smitten. Geof, honey, if you’re reading this, call me (maybe).


Following Hanneman’s Melvins-esque performance, the audience at the Record Bar was treated to a deluge of dynamic six string slingers. Early contenders Crystal Richter and Glory Wholesome established the ladies’ presence out of the gate, while porcine competitor Pork Sword somehow got the audience to sing along with Green Jelly’s “Three Little Pigs”. But the bar was raised the moment local legend Thunderball took to the stage, bringing his Asian fury and acrobatic glam moves with him. Thunderball writhed and shimmied his way into the heart of the judges, and became the first contestant to be second round-bound.




Glory Wholesome brought the cunairlingus…not to mention the best stretch pants I have EVER SEEN.


Following Thunderball’s explosive entry, the Record Bar was treated to a string of mouth-dropping performances, including fan favorite Peter ‘Stiff’ Dickens, who was recently lauded for his on-air morning show appearance. An air guitarist’s air guitarist, the Andy Kaufman of our sport didn’t disappoint this year, as he launched into a faux sound check, complete with obligatory Ted Nugent riffing. I have it on good authority that his edit required not only 10 hours to complete, but also “a shitload of cheap beer and good pot”. And it showed. His Dickensian triomphe de l'art was rewarded with a one-way ticket to round two, where he would join his friends The CorpAIRation and Sonic Bitch.


peter-stiff-dickens-mean-melin Peter ‘Stiff’ Dickens gets his scores while his wrangler Melin keeps up appearances.


A rising star in air guitar, The CorpAIRation took a political bent this year and pulled out all the stops with secret security agents, a walk-on from Mrs. CorpAIRation, and even a muckraking political ad leading up to the show. His impeccable attention to detail (and Billy Mitchell tie) somewhat outweighing his first round performance, the judges still saw fit to re-elect the candidate with an impressive 17.3 score. Another veteran to the KC scene, Sonic Bitch, lulled us into a false sense of security with Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”, before snorting a line of air blow and busting her ovaries all over Metallica’s “Hit the Lights”. One of the highlights of the night, this Bitch earned herself her first second round appearance, and fled to the bathroom to powder her nose in preparation.




The CorpAIRation unveils his strategy on boosting domestic Airrorism.


The compulsory line-up starting to take shape, the second half of round one still held enough surprises to keep the audience guessing. Denver old-timer Dick Diesel gave the performance he was born to give to WWF entrance song “Real American”, including requisite Hulk Hogan legdrop. An audience member later told Diesel, “You changed my life tonight, brother”, before both stumbled out to celebrate in his RV meth lab parked outside the Record Bar. Chief Concern, donned in scarlet Kansas City Chiefs, um, everything, lit up the locals, while John Wayne Gacy III (‘Bob’ to his fans) scared them back into the shadows to a deadpan version of Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask”. At least Bob brought his own candy to share with the kids! Two married newcomers, Dirty Bird and the Dapper Dwarf, also made a splash with their odd couple entourage, and encompassed both ends of the air wardrobe, from sunset strip to 1920’s steel tycoon. That’s the spectrum, folks. Look it up. As soon as these lovebirds find their niche, and remember that the clothes don’t always make the guitarist, I expect we’ll see great things from them soon.




Bob also plays children’s parties!


As the first round drew to a close, the audience still had two show-stopping performances to bear witness to. The first came from Eddie Hans Flailin’, a newcomer whose fear of heights didn’t stop him from mounting a couple bar booths and bringing the rock to the people. His high-flying antics were rewarded with a score of 17.2, edging the rookie into the next round. The final pièce de résistance came compliments of our lord and savior, Air Jesus. Laying down an ironically lively version of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”, it was hard not to love the jiving bearded one. My fellow judge put it best: “I may not believe in you, but I believe in your air guitar.” The heretic, still hoisted onstage by his Roman captors, was rendered a judgment of consecutive 5.9’s, before being removed to be fitted for his first place crown of thorns. air-jesus-crucifix


Air Jesus awaits his verdict at the hands of his harshest subjugators: the judges.


After Air Jesus was carried from his cross to the venue floor, the night took a turn for the strange (well, stranger). The final competitor of the evening, Stack Attack, ran into an iTunes malfunction, so yours truly was beckoned to the stage for an impromptu halftime show. Diane Cletus then treated her patient fans to a faithful rendition of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ honky tonk classic, “Christine’s Tune”. For our purposes, ‘faithful’ includes air pedal steel, spread eagle stars n’ bars, and a gratuitous flash of air titties. No autographs, folks.




They’re real, I assure y’all.


As scores were tallied, Melin returned to the stage for his own halftime show that would’ve made Yngwie himself shake his head in disbelief. Where does this guy get his energy? No, really. I want to drink from the source of his power! Following Melin’s scorching segue, the cream of Kansas City returned to the stage, with Eddie in fifth, power couple Thunderball and Sonic Bitch tied for fourth, CorpAIRation stumping third, Peter “Stiff” Dickens still soundchecking in second, and Air Jesus hangin’ tough in first place. It was then that MC Melin dropped a bomb on the night’s talent, and informed them of a twist on the second round.


Starting in fifth place, per usual, each contestant would be given a choice of a song they’d previously heard or they could roll the dice and draw a random track from The Trucker Hat of Doom (in no way affiliated with the Skull of Doom from the Brooklyn Qualifier, you guys. Really.) The catch? If you tempt fate, you’re stuck with the song, and you don’t even get to hear the edit ahead of time. The crowd loved the innovation, as did most of their champions! Going first, Eddie Hans Flailin’ wisely stuck with the previewed cut of Boston’s “Long Time”, and made an impressive second round debut, hands flailin’ all the while. Eddie went on from fifth to third place as a result; expect more from this kid in years to come.




Eddie Hans Flailin’ gets down on some round-two Boston.


Although Eddie’s conservative decision proved fortuitous, the remainder of the contestants threw caution to the wind, with mixed results. After Thunderball insisted on ‘ladies first’ (pricks second), the call of The Hat proved irresistible to his baby-mama Sonic Bitch, who drew Journey’s “Separate Ways”, a fitting fate for the woman who ripped Steve Perry a new one in her first round. Sonic Bitch earned a total 33.9, sealing her rightful place in the annals of Midwestern Air Guitar. Following his better half, Thunderball returned to the stage, rolled up his sequined sleeves, and demanded The Hat. The gods of rock rewarded his gambit to the tune of Heart’s “Barracuda”, and like fellow Asian artist Kobuyashi before him, Thunderball proceeded to DEVOUR this offering. His backbending show drove the crowd wild, earned him a 17.6 from the judges and Thunderball moved into a commanding lead.




Poor guy never learned not to air with his mouth full.    Sonic Bitch refuels for her return Journey.


But the Trucker Hat can be a cruel temptress, as well. With a mere two songs remaining, the CorpAIRation let his curiosity get the best of him and reluctantly extracted Focus’ “Hocus Pocus” from the hat (and you thought my word play was bad). From there, it was all over but the yodelin’. The normally poised CorpAIRation lost his footing, and in spite of a respectable 34.2 final score, this slip moved the candidate out of pole position. Poetic justice saw funnyman “Stiff” Dickens draw the least funny song out of the hat, Metallica’s “Battery.” Electing to crush beer cans instead of the thrash metal anthem, Dickens kindly petered out and let his competitors take a grab at first place…but not before using the stage’s rug to ensconce himself into a human-sized burrito. Let it never be said that Peter “Stiff” Dickens doesn’t give his entire self to his audience.


Speaking of self-sacrifice, the crowd fell to a hush as the night’s Forerunner took to the stage. Emerging from his burial cave in record time (take that, actual Jesus!), the chosen one surveyed his bounty and stunned the audience by closing the night with his unusual song choice. But lo, the Record Bar did gaze upon Air Jesus, and they saw that he was good. Bringing the airness to the masses, the sacrelicious lord committed his first official ‘mairacle’ by leaving no head unbanged to the keyboard-heavy edit of “Separate Ways”. As his apostles raised him over their heads for the final judgment, the judges gathered their jaws from the floor before rewarding him a 5.9, followed by two perfect scores.




It is accomplished!


By the time we hit the stage for “Freebird”, it dawned on me that this competition might’ve been the most fun this air guitarist has ever had at one of our little shindigs. Major props to Mean Melin for doing the lion’s share of the work (and an excellent job hosting), all the phenomenal competitors, near and far, and my fellow judges for putting up with my repeated abuse of the word ‘fingering.’ We sure had us a champagne jam. Without a doubt, Kansas City is rising as a force to be reckoned with in US Air Guitar, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Air Jesus and his prodigy Thunderball pick up some new disciples at the New York SemiFinal next month. Til then…




Y’all come back now, ya h’air?



Amazing Photos(!!!) by Pat Paulsen Photography

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