Kalamazoo: Strutt your stuff


Kalamazoo’s champion, Thundergland, takes a moment to pose with Hot Lixx Hulahan while the audience wonders when he’ll start his performance.

The judges: Ben Bowman, comedian; “Chafe,” local legend, venue owner, lifelong band guy; Björn Türoque, the face of US Air Guitar.

The contestants: Arrived on time.

The challenge: Melt some fucking faces.

For her first regional ever, Kalamazoo was surprisingly unabashed.  Our master of airemonies was HOT LIXX HULAHAN (Craig Billmeier), who singlehandedly marched Kalamazoo into womanhood and kept her smiling the whole way through.  Our venue was called The Strutt, a major player on the open mic circuit and veritable who’s-who of Western Michigan University Bohème.  Among the performing virtuosos was local Mexican white supremacist PODER BLANCO  (“White Power”), a wildcard entrant who opened the show with a latin-flavored take on Scorpions’ “Hurricane.” Just before his performance, Poder Blanco was overheard saying he chose that track because he “fucking loves Germans.”


Flying Finn (Andrew Finn) wolfs out.

Our judges quickly dispatched the round one duds from Kalamazoo’s elite.  When we played the round two compulsory track, Darkness’ “Get Your Hands off my Woman,” two distinct looks fell upon two distinct faces on stage: The adorable ROCKY RHOADES (Gina Czarkowski) pantomimed a very clear “I’ve got this shit” and “I came here for a fight!” before shredding her way into second place overall by way of air-punching the entire judging panel.  On the other side of things was THE LOST HEARTBREAKER (Rob Nechanicky [“Neck-uh-NECK-ee”]), who had clearly never heard the song in his life.  This pleased some of us to no end, as it’s the quintessential song at the penultimate moment of the climactic blockbuster AIR GUITAR NATION, the DVD that best explains what we do and why we do it.  The film’s star, Björn Türoque, judged him accordingly. LHB’s unfamiliarity with the song secured him a fourth place finish, right above FLYING FINN (Andrew Finn), who will continue to be one of my favorite acts.  If you’ve never seen Teen Wolf, well, then you were probably on our judging panel Thursday night.


Rocky Rhoades managing her anger. Photo credit Miriam Doan (in absentia).

Cannonball Maven reverse-births her air guitar. Photo credit: Miriam Doan.

Another female performer rising to the top of Thursday’s competition was the prim, dainty, satan-faced CANNONBALL MAVEN (Chelsie Jangord).  Ms. Maven drove up from Chicago with last night’s halftime performer and Chicago’s reigning champ, NORDIC THUNDER (Justin Howard).  Nordic moseyed on stage in a suede fringe jacket.  He then peeled off his top layer to remove a second suede fringe jacket.  He was greeted by raucous applause and a lot of “you suck!” – most of which was pumped through the PA on a track of his making.

Lost Heartbreaker has yet to surpass the bar he set for himself last year, when he was two pubes away from besting the soon-to-be 2010 Minneapolis champion, AIREOLA (Meg Linafelter).  There will be a LHB-Aireola rematch Friday night in the Cities, so grab tickets now because it’s gonna be crazy.


Thundergland melts my camera lens.

Last night’s champ was THUNDERGLAND (Matt Barats), the 2010 Boulder champion, who selected a masterly White Stripes edit.  As pointed out by Björn, his track worked because Thundergland created an intra-band medley — he didn’t try to wedge an epic queen moment in the middle as we often see in amateur edits.  His use of negative space in round two separated him from the pack as we catwalked across the support beams of the Strutt’s mezzanine level.

We’re two hours deep into our nine hour drive to Minneapolis.  This blog is dedicated to Chicago’s TETRAD (Mike Dee), who met us on the side of the road with homemade chocolate chip cookies.


Champion cookies, presented by Tetrad and Flying J. Photo credit: Björn Türoque’s (Dr. Daniel Crane, Ph.D) smartphone.
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