Boston Air Guitar Blog

Recap: 2015 US Air Guitar Eastern Conference Finals

Posted by Camille Barichello on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 @ 11:09 PM }

The last semifinal/Conference Final of the 2015 US Air Guitar season was the Eastern Conference Final, in New York. I had the immense good fortune of competing in it, so a few of my memories are a blur due to being immediately before or after my turn. But we'll do what we can.

Everyone was nervous coming in. Oh, not to go on - I mean, some of us were nervous for that reason as well, but most of the worries were around how the evening would go. After the controversies surrounding every other semifinal this year, the likelihood of this one going smoothly seemed low. But we soldiered on anyway, because we are air guitarists, and we will endure a lot just to pretend on a large scale.

First out of the gate was Dagnasty, but his track never played when he pointed up. It's bad enough having to go first, but imagine having to go first AND then having a technical malfunction on your song. How he didn't scream and run out into the night is beyond me.

So he hustled up to Air Traffic Control land to get it sorted out, and the second air guitarist, Boston's Big Red, went first in his place. He had the giant inflatable weiner like he had in Boston, but this time it was dangled in front of him on a fishing pole by an accomplice in the audience. I don't have his exact scores, but they were typical going-first scores; not very high but points for toughing it out.

Dagnasty came back with his song handled and did his routine; I was basically completely unaware of it because I was up next.

I can tell you that AIR2D2 got herself a 5.3, 5.2, and 5.5, which are pretty much exactly the scores I anticipated getting, so I was quite pleased with myself. One judge did tell me that I must be either drunk or high or both (I was neither) but he gave me my highest score, so I guess he thought that was a compliment.

Filthy Fingers, also representing Boston, blew a hole in the theory that going early means you can't get a good score. While two of his scores were middling, he also got a 5.9! One day he's coming to Nationals and then all of you will understand.

I think I may be missing someone in the next few competitors, but I know I missed The Wizard - who had a staff made of beer cans and whose guitar hovered in the air as he summoned it to his hands, and who also completely kicked ass - and Tammy, who is Gary's lovely lady friend and had like half a dozen cigarettes in her mouth at one time.

I missed them because I was helping Captain Airhab get ready. He took the stage in a slightly different costume than usual, but no one noticed because they suddenly realized that the song that was playing was a rock version of the playground classic, "Diarrhea." You know, when you're sliding into home and you feel a bit of foam... yeah. And then he turned around. The situation on the seat of his pants was... extreme. He waved his bum in the front row's faces, and when the song ended, some guy who had been offended by that chucked a beer over him. This was unplanned, by the way. This was one of his best performances even outside of the poop butt, in my studied opinion - maybe the poop joke freed him up to do more sassy moves than usual or something, but I thought he did great. The judges were a bit "eh" on it, except for one who gave him what I thought was a pretty solid 5.7. The other two? 5.3 and 5.4. From here on out, I know scores.

Sonic Bitch was up next and as such was the only other person who knew about the pudding surprise. It didn't hurt her at all, because she NAILED her routine. The tearaway pants removal always gets a great reaction, but that's a big crowd-wow moment and I'd like to testify that the rest of the routine is also great. I'd like to thank the judges for recognizing and giving her 5.9s across the board.

But oh man, we were just piling amazing onto amazing this year, because she was followed up by the erstwhile Windhammer, now competing as Friend Zone. He came out having feelings all over a song, because that's what that sort of (real-life) guy does when he can't deal with a woman not deciding to sleep with him, then ripped his shirt apart to reveal that his chest was labeled "but I'm a NICE GUY." Even better. Especially in light of the decidedly-not-a-nice-guy persona his usual character displays. The judges were in agreement that this was a perfect performance and handed out straight sixes!

Having to follow those two would be tough for anyone, so I don't envy Fat Peoples, back from a hiatus from competition in the NYC area. I do, however, envy his ability to do one-handed cartwheels. The judges were coming down from their high-score high and gave him 5.8, 5.6, and 5.5.

In another example of new names/characters this year, the former MARTEEKA came in as HystAIRia, with some of the best stage makeup I've ever seen. I wish I had a better picture of it, but it was a skull, and she had really dramatic hair with it, and it was just a great look in general. She did her "beer spray heart" move from a couple years ago again, and while the judges didn't really give her great scores, it wasn't because she was reusing moves. That's something that's been coming up a little as I've watched other performances - plenty of judges have judged before and will say so, speaking to someone's evolution as a performer, so is it a problem when someone's big money move is the same as the one they did last time out? I don't know where the line between having a signature move and identifiable style versus just repeating yourself stands.

MathromancerNext up, Mathromancer, coming in with a great routine and a burning desire to win one last time before moving away. He was swigging beers! He was leaping off speakers! He was whipping around his luxurious hair (which, as everyone agreed later, smelled really good)! He was down on the floor writhing around and I don't know, man, this was some top-level stuff, but the judges weren't there with me. They gave him what would be pretty good scores normally - two 5.8s and a 5.7 - but first of all, this wasn't just "pretty good," and second of all, they'd been throwing 5.9s and 6.0s around a few minutes before, and do not try to tell me this wasn't in the same league.

Boston's own Jim Hatfield tried out his "Metallica Shreds" routine against this set of judges, after the Boston ones had only kind of seen the magic in it. These ones were mixed, too; a judge who had a history with US Air Guitar appreciated it and gave him a 5.8, but the other two were not on board, for a 5.6 and 5.2.

Another of Boston's own followed him up - The Airtiste, who got to do the routine he wanted to all along. He had meant to have a guitar stand and play around it (so as not to be using it as a prop) back in Boston but that didn't work out; now that he had it, it kicked him into another level or something because the judges gave out their second string of straight sixes of the night!

Have I told you lately that I love Thunderball's routine this year? Yes I have. But I continue to love it, and he just killed it this time out. His score put him right behind his ladyfriend Sonic Bitch with 5.9, 5.9, and 5.8. 

Operation Rockapussy came up as Boston's champ; he did his glitter snort/spew move to great delight amongst the crowd, but after he got his scores - 5.8, 5.8, and 5.7 - we got bad news. Since he had had his glitter tray delivered to him onstage, rather than having it held up to him from the crowd, that constituted having someone else onstage during his performance. That is not allowed. There aren't a lot of rules in competitive air guitar, but one of the few is that this is a solo sport, and once the music has started, there cannot be anyone else onstage but the performer. So, in a rare move, he was disqualified. This was a bummer and also became really interesting later on; since he did well, he would have made the second round, and that could have changed up some of the other results.

Smiley Rod has some interesting moves that are more straight-legged than other people; he always impresses me at semis and I wish he'd be able to come to a Nationals sometime. The judges gave him two 5.7s and a 5.8.

Last in the first round, Chode Soda bounced all over the stage but only got a raft of double-nickels for it. The audience didn't like that, and I imagine neither did Chode Soda, but sometimes going last isn't so great after all. Going almost-last is the thing to do. If you're going last, they know that they can hold you up against everyone who went before you and judge you by comparison, and no one else will come later to invalidate the score.

But here came halftime to make everyone forget their worries. I've decided that Airistotle needs to be involved with all halftimes in perpetuity, because he does amazing stuff. Like playing "Here Come the Hotstepper" by Ini Kamoze. I'm not kidding. Ber-der-a.

And if that wasn't enough? Up onstage comes Rocka Khan and his reluctant ladyfriend (I mean, not reluctant to be his ladyfriend. Just reluctant to go onstage). But the power of peer pressure and beer compels her, and it's a good thing, too, because what happens but Rocka Khan drops to one knee and pulls out an air jewelery box... from which he extracts a real ring. And proposes. And is accepted. Everyone's cheering and crying. Somehow everyone has to pull themselves together, though, because the second round is about to start!

The second round was, in order:
5th: Smiley Rod
4th: Mathromancer 
3rd: Thunderball
2nd: Sonic Bitch and The Wizard tied
1st: The Airtiste and Friend Zone tied (with perfect scores)

The second round song was a Royal Blood song and it was a great edit (and a great song), although it seemed really long the first couple of listens. This year I've thought that the round two edits were way over a minute, but I've been wrong. First out of the gates with it was Smiley Rod, and he impressed - straight 5.9s. But going up against a couple of guys with 6.0s, you know that even that may not be enough. No one was resting on their laurels this round.

It was a perfect song for Mathromancer's style, I felt, and he maximized his stature by stage-diving. Listen, if you're portable, you leap onto people. You know it's going to work! If you're a bigger person, that's a risk and people might not be able to handle it (see: Mean Melin jumping on Airhab a couple years ago). But if people can carry you, why would you NOT jump? He did well, but again, a couple points shy of perfect, and I feel like at least one six was in order here.

Back-to-back were spouses Sonic Bitch and Thunderball, who both got at least one dumb score or remark: Thunderball getting a way-off 5.6, and Sonic Bitch who got a comment about her being new. She's not new, you goon. She's just from somewhere else.

Sonic Bitch and ThunderballSonic Bitch and Thunderball. Yes, I know that photo of her is from round 1 because she still has her pants on, but it's a better picture than I had of her round 2.

I was glad to get to see The Wizard in round 2, since I had missed him in round 1, and I wasn't disappointed: he started by pulling forth some 20-sided dice from his crotch (what? Wizard robes don't have pockets) and when he threw them, at least one of them came up 6. So that was a sign. A sign that was ultimately disregarded by the judges, but whatever, he jumped off a speaker and he has a 6.0 in my heart. The judges went with straight 5.9s. Still good.

And then the tied-for-first guys. Friend Zone went first and pulled out some Windhammer realness - he can only be a soppy whinebaby for so long before he cannot help but shred like hell - which, making up for last season's festival of shortchanging, he got straight sixes for. There was really only one way now for The Airtiste to keep up... AND HE DID. Straight sixes for him, too. We were going to an air-off!

They rolled The Wizard's crotch dice for who went first in the air-off, and it was The Airtiste; he went for a long shoulder ride and was near-perfect with a 6.0 and two 5.9s. But near-perfect leaves that door open. Friend Zone kicked the song's ass, though, for two 6.0s... and a 5.8. You don't have to be Mathromancer to know what that means. Another tie! Air-off again!

The Airtiste and Friend ZoneAir-off #2 is "Killing in the Name Of" and even if you haven't thought that song rocked since you were 15, these dudes were selling it hard. The audience was so into it that the guitars basically took form in a mass hallucination. But listen, these are two guys of the right demographic to have heard that song about 50,000 times starting in high school, and they both just nailed it since you can believe they knew every single note. There was no option but to give them both straight sixes. So we were onto a historic THIRD AIR-OFF.

This time around, it was "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Friend Zone engages the audience and does some cool no-look moves, and bags sixes. The Airtiste showcases his manic, angular style as he has been doing, and... also gets straight sixes. Things were really getting out of hand now. After some deliberation, the choice was made to let the audience go home and go to bed (and The Wizard to get to work), and a tie was officially announced. Both would be considered the winners, and both would advance, as well as The Wizard, who was in second place.

At some point, the judges appeared to get into a perfect-score groove. This may have been due to high-ish scores they were giving out earlier on, leaving them with what felt like nowhere to go. But both air guitarists had subtle slips at some point in one air-off or another, and if the judges were trying to nitpick and find a way to break the tie, they should have been watching for exactly that. This is the flipside problem of DC's semifinal with the unreasonably low scores - if you're generous instead, you might wind up in this situation. It's a conundrum! Except that literally every other competition has neither problem. Just be sensible with your scores and it'll be fine.

Okay! I've got half of the Dark Horse post written already so that shouldn't be too too long! See you soon, nerds!

Photo of The Airtiste and Friend Zone by M. Root

Tags: recaps, dark horse, 2015 season