There Was Fire in the Air at Burning Man.....
- This is a guest post by Seth Leibowitz, who has just reported on the earliest qualifier ever, last August, at Burning Man. So, y'know, a bit late. It's fine, no one's mad.-
BLACK ROCK CITY, NV - After several days of wandering aimlessly through the desert, like tumbleweed, a new star emerged from the playa dust. THE AIRISTOCRAT (Michael Miller, Oakland, CA) used a different kind of dust in his theatrics to give him the strength needed to slay 20 other competitors and take the first official Black Rock City Air Guitar Qualifier. The Airistocrat will represent Black Rock City and advance to the 2015 Northwest Semifinal.
The event took place at 8:30 and Esplanade at the world famous Freestyle Palace where a crowd of people (some fans, some passer byes completely blown away with what they were seeing (probably with the help of other substances), and some veterans of the air guitar community). Huge thanks to the Freestyle Palace camp mates for their love and support of air guitar.
The Airistocrat had to fend off the likes of FOR REAL CALLILE (not sure if his ID was verified), CYBER RHINO, THE ENDANGERED SPECIES David Sabistina, Lake Tahoe, CA), and PINKY SHREDDER (Detroit, MI) in the second round.
Other notable performances came from many newcomers to the sport. Out of the 21 competitors, 16 of them signed up within 10 minutes to 24 hours of the event. After an opener from Air Guitar hall of famers COLD STEEL RENEGADE (Matthew Feldstein, San Francisco, CA) and SETH LEIBOWITZ (Justin Hypes, San Francisco, CA), a newcomer from Australia, ROCKABOUT (Owen Lundy, Melbourne, AUS), drew a little torn piece of paper with a 1 on it and kicked off the competition with a ripping rendition of Queens of the Stone Age's "You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire". VELLIE VELL's use of the stage left trampoline while whaling to Barracuda definitely brought in some roars from the crowd. While most of the performances were explosive, a few may have lacked the technicality of a semi final. BEEF TECH (Artie , Chicago, IL) summarized that notion with a rock out to TNT, but forgot to "play" the air guitar. Other competitors like HOT COTTON COMRADE (Pamela, Reno, NV and direct blood line to an Air Guitar Hall of Famer.....think about it) crafted a routine that should've received higher marks from the judges, but to no avail. Her lust driven performance of "I Want You to Want Me" gave me Cheap Trick flashbacks to Kansas City. Another last minute entry, GUINI PIG, had zero stage fright, got up there and ripped Panama, but also didn't seem to impress judges, Cold Steel Renegade, AIRDISA (Adisa McKenzie), and DIRTY JESUS (Reese ). Our filthy savior went quite the opposite of his caring self and sat himself in the asshole judge chair and was none to shy to let the competitors know what he really thought.
As a few more shredders came and went, a gallop was heard in the distance in the deep playa and MR. SHRED emerged to neigh and slash to a disqualification due to a self induced tranquilizer shot at the end of his performance. Another disqualification occurred after a competitor brought an inflatable guitar on stage. Clearly not sanctioned by official US Air Guitar rules. As some last minute competitors were singing up before the event, a familiar face approached and said "I want in". WOLFGANG PUNK's (Christian , San Francisco, CA) metal version of Stayin Alive and bounce effects from the stage trampoline weren't enough to get him into Round 2, but should have. This veteran had the right chops and got completely screwed by the unholy Dirty Jesus before his performance even began. Master of Airimonies, Seth Leibowitz had the beitsim to argue with Dirty Jesus, but no holy war erupted as they both had an underlying respect for one another. Another legend in the air guitar community actually showed up, but just as a spectator. Seth Leibowitz tried to convince SHRED THEODORE LOGAN to enter (and most likely win) the event, but he exclaimed that he needed to rush to a telephone booth to be transported to another place and time. Excellent to see you Shred. A few slots later, a flashback to 2012 had all Seth Leibowitz'z'z's cheezing from ear to ear when AUZZIE ? (Paul , Sydney, AUS) took the stage and an all too familiar song started....."I threw a wish in a well....". While Auzzie's grin lit up the playa, his technical prowess wasn't enough to get him to the second round.
After blazing through 21 competitors, the scores were tallied and 5 rockers advanced to round 2. Here they are with their round 1 song picks:
5. Pinky Shredder (Cult of Personality) 4. The Endagered Species (No More Tears) 3. Cyber Rhino (Gay Bar) 2. The Airistocrat (unknown) 1. For Real Callile (No Sleep till Brooklyn)
Second round song "Paradise City" seemed to be a solid choice as both the crowd and competitors ended up with a sly smile on their faces in anticipation of what they were about to see/do. After lackluster performances from Pinky, Species, and Rhino, For Real Callile, who drew 3 6's from the judges in round 1, ended up being the third person disqualified when he couldn't produce his identification to prove his age. This left the door wide open for The Airistocrat to take what he came for. After trying to sabotage The Airistocrat's performance, Black Rock City's version of ATC (METH SKEEZOBLITZ) finally got the right track and watched an arm full of white powder disappear into the face of the soon to be champion. His technical skills mixed with a little I don't give a shit about this, but I am somehow going to win attitude was the right formula in the end.
All in all it was a special night that the playa will never forget....