Kansas City Semifinal: Newcomers Uncrown Air Jesus
All photos courtesy of Pat Paulsen.
This post has been approved for publication by the Air Guitar World Championships.
WINNER: ROCKWARD SILENCE (Conor Taft)
2ND & 3RD: EDDIE HANS-FLAILIN' (Travis Arey) & Pork Sword (Cameron Hawk)
SECOND ROUNDERS: Air Jesus, AIR JUDAS (Brian Reeves), MAGIC CYLOPS (Christopher Fuller on behalf of Dianne Cletus), CindAirella (Beth Melin).
Kansas City, KS — What happens when the heartland’s top talent meets a couple of Christian “air” puns at a Kansas City honky tonk?
You’d think it might be sooo fucking awkward . . .
Instead, it was So. Fucking. ROCKWARD!
And so it was and so it shall be that Rockward Silence (Conor Taft), with the Air Force/TIGER CLAW 12-story trophy in-hand, joins this year’s very best and sort of brightest at the National Championships in Austin, TX.
Pleated Khakis?! ROCKWARD!
Of course Saturday night’s Central Semifinal brought out a who’s who of heartland air guitar talent, bringing travelers from as far out as Denver. The electrified crowd at Kanza Hall saw a pair of newcomers and a guy sporting a backwards pig mask with some way-too-tighty-whities win over our veteran judging panel in spite of damning odds and the next-door Hobby Lobby boycotting the show.
Saturday’s champion, ROCKWARD SILENCE , was joined by fellow newcomer EDDIE HANS-FLAILIN’ (Travis Arey)  and longtime weirdo PORK SWORD (Cameron Hawk) , in uncrowning longtime KC Champion AIR JESUS (JoJo Longbottom).
Air Jesus on tops.
Eddie Hans Flailin'.
That’s right, Air Jesus was denied three times a some-expenses paid trip to Austin. And although the night’s winners wowed us all, the drama hit a fever pitch when another “newcomer,” AIR JUDAS (Brian Reeves) immediately followed Air Jesus’ performance.
And Unplanned Parenthood’s – err, Hobby Lobby’s – Christian values be damned; even zealots can admit that last weekend AIR JUDAS put the riot in Iscariot. So when the crowd witnessed Air Jesus’ long robes and deep pockets as he made rain with his 30 pieces of silver, they lost their shit. In a simple twist of fate plus a little help from satan, Judas performed directly after the longtime champ Air Jesus, which sort of split the Bible ticket at Kanza and allowed a tiny opening for Rockward and his crew to dethrone KC’s once and future king.
Air Judas to Air Jesus: "I will go Anno Domini on your ass."
Of course, Air Judas or no, Rockward and his ragtag band of up-and-comers would have taken the show on their airness alone.
Pork Sword, performing to the early-90s noise-rock The Jesus Lizard and wearing (feeding, worshiping, weirdening) his trademark backward plastic pig mask – in some kind of “can you hear the screaming lambs?” dick-between-the-legs fucked up psychological thriller shit that flew clear over the audience’s head – made everyone love his act while having no clear idea why. The Jesus Lizard was a great choice: an Austin band whose album is called “Liar.” That’s some heady air guitar, people.
Also running circles around her competition and advancing to the compulsory round was CindAirella (Beth Melin), reminiscent of TOMMY FRETLESS’ epic 2012-ish, Washington, DC-ish, injury-laden Nationals performance to “Don’t know what you got.” If she was injured, the audience certainly couldn’t tell. In this heady era of air guitar it’s hard to tell if her ADA scooter was crutching a physical handicap or illustrating some deep cultural commentary.
CindAirella, an ADA-approved scooter & her glass foot brace.
The Best Names Ever Award, which doesn’t exist, was a 3-way split by ANVIL LATRINE (Spencer McElhaney), EDDIE HANS-FLAILIN' (pronounced “HONS”), and as always GLORY WHOLESOME (Whitney Young). For Eddie Hans, it was a particular challenge to come up with something good; his Christian name is Travis Arey, which also won the award.
MAGIC CYCLOPS (Scott Fuller), the quad-city madman himself, I’m told was superb on Saturday. But I was so busy dicking around with lights and sound that I didn’t catch any of it. Perhaps sensing my frustration through his one big eyeball, right after his round 1 performance he joined me at the sound booth and offered his help (Cyclops is also an amazing DJ, in case you live under a rock). Nearing the end of round 1, I took a look at my notes and told him there was a strong possibility he’d be performing again in the compulsory round in a few minutes, and so I asked him if he wanted to go backstage and prepare. “Nah, it’s just going to happen.” And it did, and I didn’t get to see him in the second round, either; until he received his scores, stepped off the stage and walked directly back to my sound booth to help me out again.
Magic Cyclops leaps toward the sound booth.
Veterans FLYING FINN (Andrew Finn), IRON DRAGON (Justin Fox) and THUNDERBALL (Nielsen Nacis) delivered technical perfection, with the latter probably having the evening’s tightest licks: he nailed every fret slide, the double-neck, the rise-from-the-dead and a slingshot heard ‘round the world that was timed perfectly with the amazing light show. Fucking AMAZING light show.
But neither Iron Dragon’s vagazzled shoulder spikes, Flying Finn’s fanning tassels, nor Thunderball’s Jersey Fury advanced to the compulsory round, because what worked best at Saturday night’s honkytonk – where doors open at 6 and the honkies are tipsy by quarter after – was a pairing of airness with pure fucking energy.
More energy and fresh air was provided by a dreadlocked SixStringSal (Saladin Thomas) – who thankfully removed a bit of honky from our tonk with his Hendrix-Metallica mashup – whom judge Van Dammage (Luke Sevcik) deemed “this year’s new thing.”
SixStringSal, this year's new thing.
Longtime KC Host (and still longest reigning Heartland Champion because Jesus missed the win by the shortest of curlies), MEAN MELIN (Eric Melin) deftly hosted the evening as Master of Airemonies, shuffling some 20 champion-caliber competitors across the stage with about 30 seconds to spare before a $300 fine could be levied for breach of curfew.
LHB, Mean Melin & Van Dammage.
In a heartstring moment, following a not-too-political “in this age of guns and bullshit thank Christ (and Judas) for air guitar,” 65 Roses (Steven Fuller) explained how his stage name was a wordplay on Cystic Fibrosis, a disease with which his young son currently fights for every breath of air. So “65 Roses,” (that’s what his son thought he heard the doctor say upon his diagnosis) uses air guitar as a platform to fundraise for his son and all others who fight for air.
So Saturday night we scored one for awareness. We scored one for new talent, for pure energy, for world peace and what the hell, for God, too. Above all, we scored one for air.