U.S. Air Guitar National Finals

House of Blues


Neon spandex, fake blood, dick bulges, and such luminaries as “Cold Steel Renegade” and Peter “Stiff” Dickens were all in effect at the U.S. Air Guitar National Finals on Saturday night. There was also plenty of head banging, jumping in the air, pelvis thrusting, and, of course, invisible guitars.

This was the 11th national finals of its kind, and over 200 people competed for one of the 21 finals spots in L.A. The winner would get a real guitar and the chance to go to Finland for the Air Guitar World Championships, where the competition originated and has been held since 1996.

See also: Our slideshow of the event

The proceedings were hosted by the now retired, former perennial contestant Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane. The judges included comedian Kristen Schaal and former 2006 and 2008 national air guitar champ Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier.

There were banners with past champions hanging from the rafters and a bunch of red, white, and blue decorations. Given that the U.S. is still considered an outsider in the young sport of air guitar, we get it. And we're all for national pride. But it was a little frightening at times.

"Your Mother"; Credit: Timothy Norris

“Your Mother”; Credit: Timothy Norris

As for the rules and makeup of the standard air guitar competition, here's a quick rundown:

In the first round contestants have 60 seconds to perform any song they wish, and in the second those who've moved on must perform to a song which is a surprise. Contestants are judged on technical merit, stage presence, and “airness.” Lastly, of course, all instruments must be invisible and a guitar.

After an introduction and short collaborative performance from “Turoque” and “Hulahan,” the competition began.

First up was the oldest competitor to have ever entered, a 63-year-old dubbed “Smart Old Broad.” Though she wasn't the most acrobatic or the most mobile of all the competitors, we give her a lot of credit for showing up and giving it her all.

After that was “Your Mother,” who came on stage with a cooler bag and proceeded to toss juice boxes out to the audience. During her song she detonated confetti explosives, one of which nearly took us out. Then “MathRomancer,” with the “Pi” symbol shaved into his chest hair, executed a perfect stage-dive into a screaming audience.

Though the place wasn't packed, there were definitely over a hundred excited (read: surely intoxicated) fans in attendance. Some in the audience had makeup and crazy outfits that gave the competitors a run for their money. One attendee with far too much “airness” was forcibly hauled out by security. But for us, the guy sweating it out in the giant teddy bear suit won the audience award.

Towards the middle of the first round things started to drag a bit, but here are some highlights. “Steel Renegade,” shirtless with shiny green tights, shot fire from his hands as he air-picked his way into the second round. “Van Dammage” received a rose from an audience member that he then used to cause bleeding all over his face. And a skipping “Seth Liebowitz,” wearing pink and black striped socks and a pink headband with a small girl's backpack strapped to his back, won the judges over with a metal take on the Hall & Oates classic “You Make My Dreams.” Maybe it was the alcohol in the tiny water bottle that helped him out.

"Cold Steel Renegade"; Credit: Timothy Norris

“Cold Steel Renegade”; Credit: Timothy Norris

Half time consisted of 6:66 minutes of Slayer with the half-naked Viking — aka world champ “Nordic Thunder,” who you might know from his Dr. Pepper commercial. Let's just say there's a reason competition performances are only 60 seconds.

"Aristotle"; Credit: Timothy Norris

“Aristotle”; Credit: Timothy Norris

When the competition was cut down to seven in the second round — there were a few ties — things picked up a little. Though because none of the competitors had time to prepare, their movements weren't always synced with the music. “Seth Liebowtiz” got on someone's shoulders and rocked all the way to the judges' table, stepping off the crowd members' shoulders and rocking on top of it. And the no-frills defending national champ “Aristotle,” who wears nothing but jeans and t-shirt, put on a technically sound performance.

But none could compete with “Lt. Facemelter,” who wore a gigantic blown-up mask of his own face. When he threw the mask off midway, he nearly took out some unsuspecting woman. Still, no one seemed to care, and his combined first and second round scores won him the national title.

"Van Dammage"; Credit: Timothy Norris

“Van Dammage”; Credit: Timothy Norris

All in all, it was a strange night. We're not sure if there's a bright future for air guitar, or what any of the contestants are like off stage. Also, we're definitely sure that a majority of the performances would be physically impossible for someone with a real guitar.

Still, we found ourselves laughing with everyone on a number of occasions. And if everyone is having fun, there's nothing wrong with a lot of air humping.

Final Rankings:

1st – Jason “Lt. Facemelter” Farnan

2nd – Eric “Mean Melin” Melin

3rd – Justin “Seth Leibowitz” Hypes, Matthew “Aristotle” Burns

4th – Matthew “Cold Steel Renegade” Feldstein

5th – Jaime “Danny Tanner Tantrum” Farnan

6th – Peter “Stiff” Dickens

See also: Our slideshow of the event

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