OULU, FINLAND (extremely breaking news) — Have you heard the news, America? A million miles away, in the name of world peace and smoked reindeer and with the blessing of the Official Capital of Northern Scandinavia, for the first time in its 18 year history one country took four of the top five spots in the Air Guitar World Championships.
And that country is our own.
Maybe because of the the United States’ new bracket format, maybe because the U.S. is now mid-stride into its own second decade, or maybe we just function better after a week of tunafish pizza replacing pepperoni and karaoke replacing sleep. Or maybe, not unlike Superman, 18 daily hours of Finland’s yellow sun augments our strength to limitless and incalculable levels.
Or maybe we’re just really fucking good.
Freshly crowned Air Guitar World Champion, Kansas City’s (Kansas fucking City!) MEAN MELIN (Eric Melin) has put Kansas City (again, Kansas fucking City!) back on the map. Rumors of parades and a possible key to the city abound. As in his U.S. Semifinal performance, his first round was performed to a song of his own creation. The track is good enough to get him laid – and yet he chooses to nullify that fact by air guitaring over it. Yet so much more was going on behind the scenes: Melin arrived a day late, forcing him to suffer the 9 hour time difference a little more than others; he had to compete in the qualifying Dark Horse, against the most talented group I’ve seen in the past half decade; and he had to crash with Thunder Strook, which has its own ecstatic consequences.
But for these guys, performing at 100% is rarely an option. Like any other professional athlete, when their name is called they play through whatever deficit or injury creeps through after an entire season of deficits and injuries. Melin was half drunk and sleepy, Strook’s underpants were too tight, and Nordic had stigmata:
Like former World Champion NORDIC THUNDER (Justin Howard) in 2012, Melin traveled on his own dime and competed as a long shot dark horse. As such, there was no guarantee he would even be allowed entry onto the world stage. He proceeded to crush the qualifier the night before, finishing in first place. That was just two spots ahead of the United States’ very own DOUG THE THUNDER STROOK (Doug Stroock), who also made it to the World Stage after flying himself to Finland and delivering an unforgettable dark horse performance – retribution perhaps for Doug getting the shaft at last year’s qualifier.
Thunder Strook, at a sinewy six-foot-one (1.9 meters), has a perfect physique for stages big and small, and on the World Stage earned himself a compulsory round air-off with countryman Mean Melin. And so, for the first time in modern history, Finland had itself a tie-breaker. Yet unlike the expertly edited compulsory track HOT LIXX HULAHAN (Craig Billmeier) edited for AGWC (Wedding Crashers’ “Electric Butt”), the air off track was instead a sleepy “Hash Pipe” by Weezer, apparently an homage to some yonder year World Championship competition. Mr. Hulahan also celebrity spacebarred the event while his countryman and roommate Air Traffic Control (me) attended to other matters. While the third round air off was close, it was still clear to the judges that Melin took the round handily.
Hot Lixx spacebars from a nearby peep show.
After getting relatively shafted by all but one judge in the first round, U.S. Champion LT. FACEMELTER (Jason Farnan) made a truly heroic comeback in round two, finishing one spot behind last year’s U.S. Champ, and certainly Finish fan favorite, Nordic Thunder.
As I see it, there are at least two reasons for Lt. Facemelter’s deflated first round scores: at that point in the show, the stage had almost no front lighting, and the light director was running the crowd-blinding yellow stagefills on overdrive – the glare was too bright to see any of the subtleties. In fact, those yellows were so hot that during our soundcheck earlier in the day I felt them burning through my shirt. So LFM’s trademark facials – his money shots, as it were – were neutralized. The second (lesser) reason he may have been down scored, and we’ve said it before, is people really hate those wrestling Zubaz and although we really love the part of his routine where he smacks the shit out of himself, even those smacks were neutralized by the lighting – check the video at 1:17.
You know, a couple weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals, the talk on and offstage was all about “a level of talent heretofore unseen in the history of competitive air guitar.” As we wrote earlier, any competitor from the West Hollywood House of Blues show would have had a strong chance of winning on the world stage. And, as if to prove this blog’s shamelessly flagrant assertions, each of the four competitors (three and a half, since Nordic had a bye but still did some halftime stuff) who flew to the World Stage from our Nationals finished in the top 5.
The only non-American to finish in the top five was United Kingdom’s W!ld Th!ng 37 (Thom Wilding), who delivered two tremendous performances. The genius of his second round was his understanding that the lights (and his round one wig) were not working in anyone’s favor. So, forsaking his own facials, he donned a shadowy hoody and utilized negative space to highlight the song’s more dramatic moments. Watch in awe as his pasty British face vanishes, replaced by the back of his hood and a pair candyraver dayglow gloves poking out. What is his secret? How was he able to pack so much into a sixty second track he had never heard before? I asked him, and his response shouldn’t surprise anyone. “Before I went on, Melin was backstage coaching me the whole time.”
Also from not America, Belgium’s MISS ISSIPY (Emmanuelle Stempniakowski) nailed her round one performance, earning her a first place berth heading into the compulsory round. Issioy’s first round performance included a little air violin, a little outfit, and a whole lot of sass. But it was all rehearsal: in round two, she was strumming as much drums and silence as she was guitar. She entered round two in first but finished tied for sixth.
Japan’s INOGAMI KOUSHOU (Mitsuaki Inoue) – the nicest guy you could ever share a naked sauna with – endeered himself to all when, like many a supporting Asian character in most 80s movies, and after partying with us all week, he waited until the perfect moment to reveal that he knows karate. He began his routine by quieting the crowd before speaking inaudibly into an air walkie-talkie in a language no one understands. But when, dressed as a military rescue officer, he finds a little dying air guitar buried deep beneath the rubble, he lets out a forceful “OH MY GOOOOOOD!” that melted our hearts. In round two he went from aid worker to paramilitary – not a great concept to begin with, which was made worse by how much of the song he wasted tearing himself out of the costume. The song ended on the tootsie pop’s last lick, revealing the words “no gun” written across the 51 year-old’ss lithesome chest. He finished tied with Miss Issipy for sixth.
While the U of F Dept. of Mathematics worked out scores, there was a performance of a Finnish song called “We’re All A Little Gay,” complete with singalong karaoke lyrics. And it was fabulous.
Center: Björn Türoque, a little gay like the rest of us.
Among Finnish Keith Richards (Juha Torvinen) and a handful of international celebrity judges, our very own five-time Google Webbie Award for Punctuality winner AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL (West Hays) was broadcast live to an estimated 50,000 viewers in an unforgivably blemish-enhancing, pound-adding, high definition stream. ATC (again and again, me) observed, first hand, a moment of judiciary panic when, for no reason at all, his fellow jurists debated whether Belgium’s AIRGUS’ performance was a disqualification for riding the shoulders of countryman organizer-slash-groupie NU MANIC (Eric Mertens) through the crowd. Because Nu Manic was effectively creating a new stage among the crowd, absurdly asserted some jurists, Airgus was arguably not performing “alone on stage,” as required by international law. As dramatic as it was contrived, cooler jurists prevailed, citing common sense and nearly identical stunts by WILLIAM OCEAN (Andrew Litz) in 2008 which landed him in second place overall.
After the show, a dozen performers and organizers from across the globe got all convivial into the wee hours in the name of world peace and Salmiakki. The next day, AGWC chartered a bus and ferry that delivered everyone to a little island called “Hailuoto.” (Loosely translated: paradise, with three bowls of salmon stew for dessert.) The ride home was itself a who’s-who of darling sleeping champions.
Earlier in the week umpteenth-year host and Master of Airemonies BJÖRN TÜROQUE (Dan Crane), with the wisdom of a movie, a book, and a near-disastrous game of Battleship behind him (all three were based on a true story of air guitar), was overheard declaring with joyful pride, “Finland, you are my Groundhog Day.”
Björn Türoque (Dan Crane), who remodels his House of Air after our every misguided fart.
The official final results:
1. Eric “Mean Melin” Melin (US) 34.2 (17.7)
2. Doug “The Thunder” Stroock (US) 34.2 (16.8)
3. Thom “W!ld Th!ng 37″ Wilding (UK) 34.1
4. Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard (US) 34.0
5. Jason “Lt. Facemelter” Farnan (US) 33.5
6. Kereel “Your Daddy” Blumenkrants (RU) 33.3
6. Emmanuelle “Miss Issipy” Stempniakowski (BE) 33.3
6. Mitsuaki “Inogami Koushou” Inoue (JP) 33.3
9. Georgi “Photo” Nikolov (BG) 32.6
10. Corentin “Airgus” Fermont (BE) 31.6
11. Daniel “Moredrive” Oldemeier (DE) 16.4
12. Kasper “ThunderFlesh” Toernstroem (DK) 16.3
12. Altair “Rockin’ Rabbit” Kassymov (KZ) 16.3
14. Benjamin “Benny Fairguson” Thiebaut (FR) 16.0
15. James “The Beast” Lowe (NL) 15.7
16. Vladlena “Ivana Rock” Kaminskaya (RU) 15.6
17. Christian “Heart Buckboard” Sweep (DE) 15.1