San Francisco recap: Cold Steels the Show

FreeBirdLeft to right: SIX STRING GENERAL, SETH LEIBOWITZ, DIRTY AIRY (ret.?), GUY IN BLACK, POP ROXXWELL. Photos by Richard Haick courtesy of  

A couple hours after Saturday night’s show, after the sold out crowd was tucked into bed and dreaming of cover art from Boned, I overheard the venue staff one-upping each other at the rear bar.  It’s a ritual: the tips were split and the floor was clear, so after a job well done a dozen music nerds were lighting cigarettes and drinking tap beer from dixie cups, each one claiming to have worked more and better shows than the others.  The same thing was happening in every venue in every city on the planet.


Only in San Francisco, sound guys and house managers cut their teeth on air guitar, and the top dogs are the ones with the most notches in their belts.  While posting a photo from a dark corner, I overheard a spirited “I was the only guy here who worked both days in 2010,” and “Fuck that shit, Leibowitz made the front page because when he climbed the mezzanine I figured out how to light him,” etc. etc.


San Francisco’s Semifinal was a Finals-caliber affair in every way: the performers, the judges, venue staff and the capacity crowd.  For his part, Cold Steel Renegade (Matthew Feldstein), forever toeing the line between impressive theatrics and losing every penny of USAG’s deposit, incorporated nonflammable, low-grade stage flashers.  And although the spectacle added to his routine, it was his timing in both rounds that secured him a place in the U.S. Finals.



Joining CSR with invites to the National Finals were runners-up Lt. Facemelter (Jason Farnan), Finger Lickin’ Good, and Seth Leibowtiz (Justin Hypes).  Seth, who took last year’s SF Regional with a track from Carly Rae Jepsen, this year went with a subtler yet no less catchy “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates.


FacemelterLT. FACEMELTER, despite the outfit, quickly wins over the crowd.  Photos by Richard Haick courtesy of


Finger Lickin’, a newcomer to competive air guitar, not only took a tie for third but also took the best picture of the night:


Finger LickenPhotos by Richard Haick courtesy of


Just millimeters away from advancing into round two in an epic three-way tie was Seattle’s Whalin BigAir (Mahlon Koopman), Santa Cruz’s Dirty Airy (Aron Carlton) and Portland’s Tony Tapatio (Antonio Cervantes).  Tapatio replaced his old “I’d fuck your mother in a heartbeat” routine with something altogether new and fresh, while maintaining his edge by scribbling this across his back for the entire audience – including Rolling Stone's writing legend and celebrity judge Ben Fong-Torres – to see:


Tony TapatioPhotos by Richard Haick courtesy of


And from what I’ve been told, with just millimeters of flesh protruding from his pelvis, some jerk in the crowd was heckling the performers (especially the ladies) for half the night.  My favorite part of the story was hearing that before long the crowd turned on the heckler, offering everything from a pithy “go fuck yourself” to a more thoughtful “Have you ever done this before? Do you know how hard it is for someone to go up on stage and do this in front of all these people? It’s really hard, man.  You would know if you tried it.  Now please, go fuck yourself.”


To all those who had to suffer through micropenis’ blatant overcompensations, Team USAG extends its sympathy, regret and apologies; we should have been on top of this.  And for anyone who may incur similar shitiness in the future, I remind you that those big dudes in black shirts that say “SECURITY” work for us, and that in musicland “the talent” is big boss.  All you have to do is point and someone will make sure that guy shuts the fuck up in a hurry.




Above, Kara Picante (Kara Muir) with Cold Steel Renegade in a photo borrowed from Instagram.  Below "UM, I'm gonna rock this shit," quips UM (Sheri Dietrich).  Photo by Richard Haick courtesy of


And to all those who had to suffer through profuse nipple bleeding, i.e. Six String General (Tim Granlund), I recommend not using a staple gun to affix a sheet of paper to your deliciously upper body with “6.0” printed across the front.


Six String GeneralSix String General, sponsored by Bloody Nipple Fingers.  Photos by Richard Haick courtesy of


And to longtime competitor Tiger Claw (Dan LaFever), though you were sorely missed you were thoroughly celebrated.  Good luck with rehab and we hope to activate you off the DL real soon.


And to Dr. Frank and Mr. Ben Fong-Torres, thanks for your expert judication.  Sure, one of you could have sold out three of these things and the other of you interviewed the Beatles and Santanta and The Dead, and, and . . .


—and thanks again for playing with us, San Francisco.

The Night Before, Touradmin