Saturday night marked my favorite annual event in DC: the air guitar championship at the 9:30 Club. On the line were three spots in the national championship (which will be held in Kansas City in a few weeks). I've been going to the competition since 2008. This year's crop of performers was consistently solid, though there weren't any major incidents that will go down in air guitar history (a la 2008's incident with multiple people jumping off the balcony -- with The Shred breaking his ankles -- or last year's epic jump onto, performance on, and jump off of the balcony from Tommy Fretless). Here are some of the highlights.
The competition kicked off with two videos, this promo video of former World Champ Hot Lixx Hulahan (to which the guy next to me asked, "How do you get a job after making that?") and a compilaltion training video of most of the evening's competitors:
Hot Lixx, Air Guitar Nation antagonist Bjorn Tu Roque, and my favorite air guitarist Nordic Thunder kicked things off with an opening performance:
In the evening's first truly random and humorous moment, Bjorn asked for a few volunteers to form an air band behind him for another opening number. Before he was halfway through his sentence, a drunk guy hopped onto stage and took his shirt off, preparing to play air drums. A quartet of drunk girls volunteered to play air bass, but it looked more like they were playing mandolin or a washboard -- unless they were pioneering a new bass technique that the world hasn't seen yet.
G.Tso$ kicked things off with a very underwelming performance (I've never been a huge fan of his after his swinging belts into the crowd incident a few years ago which left me and everyone else in the front row ducking with fear, but he is normally much better than he was on Saturday). A drunk thundercat themed lady was next, who spent much of the performance lunging around the stage like a cat, so at least she's good at sticking to a theme.
One of the competitor's mom was standing next to us in the front row. She was very nervous. Her kid had awesome pants and finished middle of the pack:
After chugging a beer and setting his chest hair on fire during the DC qualifiers, Tobias Slaypool went with a more subdued performance this time around and also had awesome pants:
Mitt Umlaut delivered the first truly impressive performance of the evening, earning himself a spot in the second round. Both of his performances were better than his scores indicated:
Brock McRock had a lot going on with his outfit: Skynyrd-esque hair, a cowboy hat, a firefighter uniform, and the biggest Texas belt buckle I've ever seen:
After wowing me at the DC qualifiers, Ultimate Warrior inspired Dick Diesel was dissapointing on the big stage. Ditto with the Fah King Rocker, though at least he randomly brought a pinnapple onto stage (a sign of hospitality perhaps?) and proceeded to do nothing with it (Bjorn later gave it to Brock McRock's father in law as a birthday gift).
The end of the round one line up featured a slew of all-stars. Doug "the Thunder" Strook and President Baberham Lincoln delivered solid performances, easily moving themselves on to round two. The surprise of the evening was that The Shred came out of retirement (the dude was old when I saw him break his ankles in 2008 and he's had multiple hernias since then). I've been critical of Shred in the past, calling him overrated on this blog. On the margins I still think that is true, but he delivered a truly epic performance on Saturday and deserved the perfect score that he got. It was by far the best I've ever seen from him. Well done, Shred.
With round one in the books, Tommy Fretless and Nordic Thunder delivered halftime performances. Tommy won the DC regionals last year and it was never brought up why he wasn't competing. Does he have an automatic qualifier to nationals? Is he injured? It's unclear.
The compulsory song for round two was a Weird Al track, which didn't seem to go over well with the crowd. The scores didn't reflect it, but Baberham Lincoln had the best round two performance by far (it was even better than her round one performance, which rarely happens because the song is a surprise). Doug the Thunder Strook was probably also better than eventual winner The Shred in round two, but it's hard to quibble with the end results since 1) they all did great and 2) will all get to compete at nationals.
The night ended, as all air guitar competions end, with the crowd joining the competitors on stage to air guitar to "Free Bird." You know, to promote world peace. Because air guitar is awesome and random like that. So your assignment before next summer: rent Air Guitar Nation, become hooked on the ridiculousness of competitive air guitar and join my growing entourage at the 9:30 Club next year for the fun.
Pictures from BYT here and video footage from Ruptly here.