I wasn’t sure how to categorize this. I guess it was a concert, kind of…?
Be that as it may, about a month ago, I saw a playbill posted on a telephone pole advertising the Seattle qualifier for the US Air Guitar Championship. This, I had to see.
First of all, for those uninitiated, this is a thing. There are qualifier competitions that feed into regional competitions that feed into a national competition that ultimately feeds into a worldwide competition, held (of course!) in Oulu Finland (and no I’m not making that up).
Part of the US Air Guitar Championship mission statement (again, I’m not making this up) includes the following:
In a time when US political, economic, military and athletic dominance faces unprecedented challenges around the world, it is our belief that air guitar represents one endeavor our country can dominate without controversy. US Air Guitar is here to make this possible.
Part of the World Championships mission statement includes the following:
According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar.
Man, if only Bernie could figure out a way to integrate his beliefs with air guitar, we might achieve a true utopia.
Back to the actual event…Since the tickets were $7 and it was happening at a place called the Lo-Fi Performance Gallery, I was not expecting much.
South Lake Union used to be a seriously run-down part of Seattle. Paul Allen basically bought it, Amazon moved in, and it’s been Seattle’s finest example of out of control gentrification ever since. However, there are still tiny little pockets where the old character shines through.
The Lo-Fi is definitely a prime exhibit of this. It’s perfectly fine. It has a tiny bar, a couple of video games, an empty room with a small stage, and a balcony overlooking the stage that maybe can seat 20 people.
The first thing that I notice when I walk in is that Ronald McDonald is walking around, although it’s a Ronald McDonald who has probably done a little too much meth and has been homeless for at least a couple of weeks. I later look up and I see him in the balcony, with a woman dressed up like a little girl bouncing up and down in his lap.
It was supposed to start at 8:30. I ended up there around 9. I didn’t need to worry because the show didn’t start until 10. By the time 10 rolled around, there might have been, I’m guessing, between 100 to 150 in the crowd.
Where do I start? There were about 10 contestants. They each get to choose a 60 second set of music to choose from. To figure out their order of appearance, they pull numbers out of an empty PBR case. There are three judges. Each judge gives a score between 4.0 and 6.0 (like figure skating, of course!).
Much to my surprise, the dissolute Ronald McDonald is actually one of the judges. He’s apparently a local celebrity on the Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling circuit (?!). You can find him on youTube rapping the song “Keep Abortion Awesome”. His name is (and, for the last time, I’m not making this up), Ronald McFondle. The woman dressed up as a little girl, of whom I just noticed is also wearing white pancake makeup, is introduced as Diddles the Clown.
The emcee, Tony Tapatio, is an experienced air guitarist himself. He performed at the nationals in 2011 (available on youTube) and was apparently formerly the lead singer of an air band (?!) named Airpocalypse. He’s definitely got the party in the back mullet and possibly missing teeth, but he’s actually hilarious as he ushers contestants on and off the stage. Equally funny, as each judge scores each contestant, they comment (freely), and occasionally, relevantly, about the performance that they just witnessed.
The contestants themselves.
The cream of the crop was Eddie Van Glam (?!), who before his performance apparently swallowed a mouthful of fake blood, which he then spewed into the audience midway through. Eddie is not a small man. Near the end of his act, he does a full front flip, lands heavily on his back (THUD!), and then, on his back, completed his set spinning in circles, jamming away on his air guitar.
A fairly elegantly dressed woman did an awesome Prince tribute. Other performers did AC/DC, Motorhead, and Metallica.
Not the cream of the crop but the most interesting appearance was by a man billed as Oral Sex Robert. He performed without a shirt. He was completely covered in tattoos, front and back, with total black-out sleeves on both forearms. He at one point had worn gages but had removed them and let ear lobes droop. They were now dangling about 6 inches down from his ear. At the bottom of each, he placed a pirate gold earring. I was expecting a stronger performance from him, but alas was rather pedestrian.
Bottom line, it was punk rock entertainment at its finest. This is exactly the kind of thing that you want to see when you pay a $7 cover charge at a dive bar.
I need to start practicing now.