At the US Air Guitar National Championships this past Saturday, the country’s fiercest air shredders went neck-to-neck to see who’d get the axe. The winners from air guitar qualifiers in 12 cities across the country competed to see who would be crowned the champion and represent the US in the world championships in Oulu, Finland.
Each performer comes ready with a one-minute mix of whatever song they please, and is then (un)fairly judged on technical skill, stage presence, and “airness,” which is the mojo, or the je ne sais quoi that puts their act on top. The scores are similar to ice skating and range from 4 to 6, with a 6-6-6 being highest. With five judges, the highest and lowest scores are dropped for a more even average. The guest judges were Shreddy Mercury (2011’s Brooklyn air guitar winner), Cassie J. Sneider, a previous air guitarist, as Tony, an A&R rep from the ‘70s; Peter Grosz, actor on The President Show, and Ross Asdourian and Mike Denny, both writers and comedians.
The evening was hosted by “Seth Leibowitz,” a 2012 air guitar finalist from San Francisco, and included a smattering of other air guitar royalty at the beginning and half time of the evening, such as 2012’s world champion Nordic Thunder, and three-time US and the current (two-time) world champion, Airistotle.
The performers came out in random order starting with Dad Bod Jovi from Austin, who came onstage with a baby carrier worn on his front, packing baby wipes and a PBR for the host, and kicked off his set with a plume of baby powder. Many of the performers had a schtick costume-wise, like Agnes Young, a frail old woman who was helped onstage by two men; The Virgin Airy, who competed while 32 weeks pregnant; Mairty McFly; Brozone; and Old Glory, who came through the crowd with patriotically dressed supporters and gave out American flags.
After all 18 of the contestants showed their stuff, with many low scores given by the judges where the audience clearly thought they deserved otherwise (as evidenced by very loud booing), the top 5 were announced. There was a three-way tie for first place; with 17.7 points were Georgia Lunch, Jolly Green Shredding Machine, and Old Glory. Tied for fourth place with a score of 17.5 points were Windhammer and The Marquis.
Round two is a little different: You have a choice of playing the given one-minute clip of a song, which included the complicated guitar solo from “Hot For Teacher,” or picking a random song from a hat. The next performer has their choice of playing either of those two songs they’ve already heard, or picking a new song at random. Some contestants get lucky and draw a random song they know, or they are familiar with one that’s already been played. Sometimes they must improvise with a completely new-to-them song they have to try and memorize in one minute, and then play along the best they can.
While you may have your own routine down pat, it’s really the second round that shows just how good of an air guitarist you are. It seemed like most of the contestants were comfortable with the songs they picked, but it was Georgia Lunch who knew her song that was chosen at random so well that she shredded people’s faces off. After blowing the judges away and coming out with a perfect 6-6-6 in the final round, she was given the belt as the Air Guitar champion and will represent the US in the world finals.
All-in-all, the night was full of amazing performances, great costumes, and a ton of guitar solo faces, where everyone in the room had a huge smile for a few hours and had a great time. Be sure to keep an eye out next year for the air guitar qualifiers, and hopefully New York will be host to the nationals again as well.