Six-String General wraps up the LA #USAirGuitar extravaganza
The following is a guest post from Six-String General (Tim Granlund), last year's LA US Air Guitar champ, and host/promoter for the 2013 LA US Air Guitar Qualifier:
“Let’s have a party tonight, maybe with an air guitar competition somewhere in the middle.” This is what I said on Saturday when briefing the competitors for that nights LA qualifier. I certainly got what I wished for, and then some.
Top billing. We’re kind of a big deal.
Saturday night’s even was held at Busby’s East, a fantastic sports bar with a ballroom known as the “Mile High Club” that was perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, it was also perfect King Trivia’s city championship, which they were having that afternoon in the same space. Excuse me, afternoon and night, since the event ran 4 and a half hours long, causing us to start over an hour late. But no worries; despite their best efforts to ignore Busby’s management and kick us out of the various bars inside, we prevailed and had several hours to party before that air guitar competition somewhere in the middle. Plus, we had time to pick up 2 wild card entrants (in addition to the 2 pseudo-wild cards who had signed up around 4:00 that afternoon).
Once we did finally get started, boy what a competition it was. We kicked things off with a Van Halen medley by yours truly; Van Hagar tried to worm its way in there, but the audience was having none of that. The crowd was well lubricated (thanks to the performance and more crucially the plentiful cheap drinks they quaffed beforehand), and the judges were ready to do their duty. But first Leia Christiana, our Playboy bunny judge, needed to… strip into something more comfortable.
Those air sex dweebs wish they had this.
Now this was a party! Fellow judge Rockness Monster (Fatima Hoang) tried to follow that up by taking off his blazer, but strangely it didn’t have the same effect. Those two, along with Rob Peek from Fearless Records, made up our most excellent Dream Team of judges. Emphasis on excellent; throughout the night the night they were fair, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and damn entertaining.
Rob Peek, Leia Christiana, Rockness Monster
And so we got to the main attraction, our 12 competitors for the evening. Tim Reaper (Tim Curns) was kind enough to sacrifice his soul and go first. His performance was heavy on anguished screams, but a little too light on guitar.
Next up was our first wild card of the evening, Windz (Lindsay Clug), who signed up about half an hour before showtime. She may have had little to no practice time, but as an award winning Michael Jackson impersonator, she had no problem putting on a helluva show for the crowd, which nabbed her a tie for first going into Round 2.
Airy & The Fendersons (Will Herndon) followed. A veteran who posted a 10 minute rockument-airy earlier in the week hyping himself, Airy delivered on his promises, owning the crowd and being rewarded with great scores for it. Somewhere, John Lithgow applauded with pride. (He was also the first of many competitors to rape the stage monitors. They better get tested…)
M.U.R.F (Chuck Barnhart), fresh off a flight from London earlier in the day, dragged himself up on stage next. Despite jet lag and drunkeness, he delivered the most pure air guitar performance of the night, devoid of any BS and just plain ass-kicking.
A slew of LA veterans proceeded to parade across the stage next. Soulstice (Gemini Pankey) has been inching closer and closer to a victory of his own. He proved he was ready for his moment in the sun with a bold first round performance that was next-level performance art. Coming on stage in an orange prison jumpsuit, he eluded the FBI for 60 seconds while rocking out, ultimately getting a (air) bullet to the head for his troubles.
Put your hands where we can see them.
Kei Tsutsumi (Kei Tsutsumi) emerged from hiding to bring his usual hip swiveling boogie, contrasting with his song choice of Steel Panther’s “It Won’t Suck Itself”. As reliable as ever, he earned typically strong scores to ensure a spot in round 2, but would he be able to break through this time?
On a night when everyone was turning right, Andres Segoviair (JD Frankland) chose to go left with a rocking acoustic performance to Rodrigo y Gabriela, remaining seated the whole time. It suited him, as he was rewarded with his highest scores in 8 years of competing and his first round 2 appearance.
Next he’ll be doing it while laying down.
Satan’s Only Bastard (Dan Adams) rounded out our streak of LA vets, proving practice makes perfect. Finding the balance of creepy and badass, he stormed into round 2 as well on his high scores.
Love at first sight.
Our next competitor easily has the best story of the night. Being the super-on-top-of-things guy I am, I ran across the street as competitors were arriving that night to get some posters printed up at Staples. The guy in the Copy and Print Center was so intrigued, he walked over after the store closed and said he wanted to sign up. And so our final wild card of the night Sklyer Walker (Gregory Barricades) was born, complete with Star Wars t-shirt. He even wrangled a couple of groupies to escort him on stage. Alas, he was a little green and needed some work, which meant he didn’t move on, but he instantly became infatuated with air guitar and can’t wait to return next year.
Our two aforementioned pseudo wild cards came up back to back. Freddy the Machete (Fred Melchiore) mixes his slasher metaphors and shuns pants on stage, and he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about that. His friend Black Mamba (Alex Hall) was next, delivering the most manic and wired performance of the night, despite having nothing stronger than Sprite in him. They did admirably considering they’d prepared for all of 4 hours, and despite some low scores they had a great time and couldn’t wait to return next year as well.
Arora Nasty (Cassondra Scott), who we heard from in San Diego, brought her gravity defying mohawk to the LA stage next. She brought that punk energy everyone loves and performed admirably, but in a deep and crowded field, she was unable to rise above. Still, there’s no denying that few love air guitar more than she does.
Our final competitor for the night was San Diego veteran Sweetness (Kyle Privette). Despite driving down from Sacramento last year for the SD regional, he seemed to have forgotten our little city until Saturday night, but it will never forget him. He brought a sexy rockstar swagger that few can match (and a bottle of Fireball that few could stomach), earning the first round 2 appearance of his career.
While scores were tabulated, Joe Manente treated the audience to a hilarious acoustic comedy set. Like that guy who shows up mid-party with a fresh case of beer, just as people were starting to tire he cranked things up to 11, setting the stage for Round 2. He may have needed a There Guitar, but we forgive him. This party was a’rockin once again.
Sorry West, our ATC looks way cuter hitting spacebar than you.
LA had one of the deepest and most well rounded fields of competitors it’s seen in years, and so we found ourselves with 8 people in round 2. Alas, as the Highlander movies say, there can be only one. And so out came PLINKO (a stones throw from where The Price Is Right is filmed). After waiting for judge Rob to finish smoking and M.U.R.F. to wander back into the theater, we got underway, charging ahead to the end of our show.
Tied for 3rd were Sweetness, Kei Tsutsumi, M.U.R.F. and Airy & The Fendersons. Sweetness and Kei did what they could, but had to rely on the same tricks they used in round 1, receiving modest scores from the judges as a result. M.U.R.F. finally succumbed to his long day and petered out, getting a little testy with the judges when they decided to give him decent but not great scores. Airy & The Fendersons was the first to step up his game and bring the fury, nailing his song and once again riding the wave as the crowd favorite.
In 2nd place was Andres Segoviair, making his long awaited and hard-earned first round 2 appearance. Despite having the wrong song played by ATC, Andres soldiered on and simply shredded as best he could from in front of the stage amongst the adoring masses. But without any familiarity with the song, he couldn’t muster strong scores from the judges.
1st place was a 3 way tie between Windz, Soulstice, and Satan’s Only Bastard. Windz, being the pro she was, certainly entertained. But by spending more time dancing with adoring fans, she didn’t prove her chops on the air guitar enough to merit scores that would send her onward. Soulsitce came up, and taking a cue from Leia, proceeded to disrobe on stage (somehow revealing an outfit even skimpier than hers). He wasn’t just some Magic Mike ripoff however, as he showed that he can shred with the best of them (in addition to having shredded abs). The bar having been set so high, Satan’s Only Bastard had a lot to live up to. Not one to be outdone, SOB went nuts, taking his evil all the way over to the judges table, where he gave our Playboy bunny his own Magic Mike impression with a Satanic lap dance.
The final results: In 3rd place, Airy & The Fendersons; Runner up, Satan’s Only Bastard; and your 2013 LA Qualifier Champion, Soulstice!
Like any great party, this one meandered on into the wee hours. We jammed out to “Freebird,” we hung around and had more beers, and many drunk hugs were exchanged. From the rookie wild card performers, to skeptical friends, to 300-lb. Samoan security guards, everyone was giggling like children and raving about what a great time they had. The security guards were fighting over who got to guard the door and watch our show! It was abundantly clear that air guitar truly is a vessel for world peace; we took a wide range of people, drank/danced/partied, and yup, played air guitar somewhere in the middle, coming out the other side of it all together as one.
Special thanks to Patrick Adair and Cassondra Scott for the photos; JD Frankland for the videos; Youngmin Joo for being a spectacular rookie ATC; Gricel Sahagun and Jolene Curns for manning the door like champions; and Busby’s East for hosting us and taking care of us through thick and thin.