Young Airistotle wins U.S. National Finals: “A breath of fresh air” (video)

Photo credit: Dave Ingraham.


DENVER, CO – It is oddly fitting that in the tenth anniversary of U.S. Air Guitar, the youngest competitor in history, New York City’s AIRISTOTLE (Matt Burns), was crowned National Champion.  Fitting because following a season that most experts are calling one of the finest in a decade, it seems obvious that Airistotle, along with the 19 other Regional Champions he defeated in Saturday night’s competition, have breathed new life into the heart of the organization.  After winning this past weekend’s National Finals in Denver, the young man will now be sent to Oulu Finland on August 24th to compete against two dozen other countries in the Air Guitar World Championships.


To put this into context, when we first introduced America to competitive air guitar in 2003, Airistotle was twelve years old.  He has clearly been practicing the entire time.


Airistotle is now a member of an elite club of athletes who dominated their seasons and post-seasons as 22/23 year olds, and who were in most cases the youngest to do so in their respective sports’ history: Willie Mays (1954 MLB MVP), Wilt Chamberlain (1960 NBA MVP), Muhammad Ali (1964 world heavyweight boxing champion) and Cal Ripken, Jr. (1983 MLB MVP).


But the soul of this competition is not sport but rock.  Most of Saturday’s competitors and fans who were available for interview today have complained of delays at TSA lines and liquor store counters across the nation – for there is no likeness to one’s ID after one’s face has been melted off and brushed into the compostable bin in an epic show at Denver’s Bluebird Theater.


Photo credit: Nicole Sevcik (Cleoplectra).


Celebrity judge and Comedian Sam Talent was joined by 2008 World Air Guitar Champion HOT LIXX HULAHAN (Craig Billmeier-ret.) and multi-regional champion DREAMCATCHER (Ryan Laymen-ret.), who officiated the event admirably (if occasionally harshly).  Among my favorite judging quips of the evening, (to KARA PICANTE) “I would have scored you really high if it was an air blowing eight dicks competition.” And (To WINDHAMMER), “If I scored you any lower you’d skull fuck me later.” I guess the judge’s panel was unaware that Windhammer (Rob Weychert) also expresses appreciation that way (I hear there is some parking lot facebook evidence to this effect).



Windhammer hearts skullfucking.  Photo credit: Denver Westword.


Although the judge’s don’t always get everything perfect, their main purpose is to make sure the right guy/gal wins, and therefore they were unarguably successful Saturday night.  However, there were a few judging blunders in round one, and according to the crowd none were more egregious than Dreamcatcher’s issuance of a 4.9 to SIX STRING GENERAL (Tim Granlund).  The following day at the official air guitar barbecue (air guitarbecue), I was going to ask 6SG if he was upset about it but I never got the chance.  He was too busy laughing over beers and burgers with the BBQ’s host – none other than Dreamcatcher himslef.


Truth is, every National Champion’s performance Saturday night would have received perfect sixes at any regional in the country.  The level of talent unearthed some vulnerable and unflinching candor from several Hall of Famers, including CHUCK MUNG (Garth Donald), who has four regional titles and did that whole America’s Got Talent thing, but did not compete this year.  “I’m retired . . . the bar tonight was so high.  It was tough, but last season I had to admit to myself that Tony (Tapatio, Mung’s protégé) was better than me.”


Photo credit: Denver Westword.


Celebrity choreographer WILLIAM OCEAN (Andrew Litz) and producer Charlie Kaufman created a halftime performance within a halftime performance within a meme on top of a love story that happened inside of a pack of Camels.  Indeed, the Seth Leibowitz meme is a challenge to explain: SHREDDY FUCKING MERCURY ([the real] Seth Leibowitz) is a New York National Champion from 2008 and a constant runner-up every year since.  Shreddy Fucking Mercury is a terrifying dude, who makes scortums jingle and labia flap in that Marilyn Manson kind of way.  Seth Leibowitz, who created the Shreddy persona, is a mild-mannered teacher from some cliché in New York.  In several cities this year competitors performed as Seth Leibowitz, and somehow one of those guys fucking won.  There is even a working telephone number if you want to interview a Seth: 347-450-SETH.  San Francisco was so confused that multiple publications plastered the wrong photos across their front pages.


With a 70s Apache video backdrop – you remember, the band that introduced you to upstate New York Jewish culture in the U.K. – William Ocean introduced his halftime stars one by one: “from New Rochelle, Seth Leibowitz! And joining us from Chicago, Illinois, Seth Leibowitz! And all the way from Salt Lake City, twin brothers Seth Leibowitz and Seth Leibowitz!” And so on.


Click to embiggen.


The last person announced was, in fact, the real Seth Leibowitz (Shreddy Fucking Mercury).  My balls decended an additional quarter inch when I saw him prance onto stage.  The season-long narrative then came full circle, the Malchoviches stopped talking to each other, and the performers rocked out to some Andrew WK.



After the halftime show, Björn Türoque announced the second rounders.  Here’s how it looked (in no particular order, sort of):



Seth Leibowitz (Justin Hypes) broke character when, no longer mild-mannered or Jewishly precautions, he cinched up his air guitar, scaled the 12-foot balcony and shredded while suspended by his legs, upside down from the guardrails.  Lt. Facemelter (Jason Farnan), a legend in the smaller pond of San Diego, who heard the compulsory track fewer times than Nordic or Airistotle, proved himself capable of big stage dominance Saturday night and is becoming a favorite pick among 2013’s odds makers.  The others also melted faces, but from my vantage point way back in the sound cage I couldn’t see shit over the flailing crowd.


Photo credit: Nicole Sevcik.



After the second round mayhem and Seth Leibowitz's death-defying reverse cowboy, Denver finally saw the bigger picture:



Saturday’s compulsory track, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” was made for last year’s champ and this year’s top pick competitor, Nordic Thunder.  Nordic oozes metal aggression, albeit in a new-age Viking kind of way.   AIRISTOTLE (Matt Burns), on the other hand, is more of a cuddly Maroon 5 type of guy.  But when he tiptoed onto the stage and mouthed “I’m so nervous,” then seemed to surprise even himself with how he tore our entire edit to shreds, the whole crowd shared a “you had me at hello” moment.  He fucked with our emotions, really; first we felt, “I’m so scared for that poor little guy!” And then before we knew we were afraid for our own safety and chastity as he impregnated our souls with his cuddly metal seed.


Here is USAG’s official prediction for Finland 2012: Airistotle by a landslide.


We caught up with the champ after the dust had settled, the confetti was vacuumed, and the nitrous inside the balloon-drop tapered off.  We asked about his thoughts on going to Finland on August 24th.


Photo credit: Denver Westword.


“I have never left the country before," our new champ confided.  "In fact, last year at Chicago was the farthest I have ever been away from home, until this year in Denver. Air Guitar is directly responsible for most of the traveling I have done . . . my parents made me put in for a passport. I did it as a ‘just in case’ but they were pretty confident that I was going to win.  No one was more supportive of me over the years than my parents and air guitarists, and now that I have won the National title, the outpouring of praise and support has been pretty overwhelming.”


As we were wrapping up, Airistotle added that he couldn’t have done it without Seth Leibowitz. All 2008 – 2012 posts written and photographed by West Hays unless otherwise indicated.



Airistotle’s first round, as seen through a Borg vagina.


Facemelter, now comfortable on the national stage, nails everything until 1:04. And then right when you think a slip on his own intro spiddle will fuck him up, he continues to shred and the crowd squeels ”fucking awesome!”


It's not a youtube feed delay, it's reality catching up to MEAN MELIN'S (Eric Melin's) chops.


Nordic Thunder.