The Pacific Northwest is no longer the smelly, flannel-clad, somewhat amateurish “let’s race around stage like madmen while breaking every string on my air guitar” I remember from my youth. Rather, Seattle and Portland have become smelly, flannel-clad, totally professional air guitar communities. They have matured into consummate professionals who don’t need shampoo to prove they’re consummate professionals.
Everyone who still watches television knows that Airpocalypse – international superstars who call this region home – are as talented as America gets. Members Whalin’ Big Air (Mahlon Koopman), Air Guitar X (Jason L. Cheung), Tony Tapatio (Antonio Cervantes) and Chuck Mung (Garth Donald–ret.), can enter any venue in the country moments before panties fly and scrotal cages shatter. And they did just this when performing their halftime show extravaganza. But what about those for whom no legends have been written, no head cheese* consumed?
Ever-Irish Chicken Paddy (Patrick McLaughlin), for instance. He played a track that was so, um, unique, that while in fact being a Bouncing Souls song, he had us all fooled into thinking it was his own very undiscovered band. Yet the face painted Paddy was so secure in his trademark Skinny Chicken style, and had every impromptu twitch and seize so perfectly planned that his on-stage ecstasy became our own. Yet the brilliance of so many other performers placed him buried somewhere in the middle. For both nights Dick Lazerus had spunk, and Thrash Browns was golden, and who can forget Portland’s Erik Ittar’s (Erich Hacker’s) super imposed on-stage heart attack upon all our sweaty, face-melted cardiovasculars? Portland-local Ittar has over the last half-decade performed stages from San Francisco to New Zealand, honing his style into a well-polished and crowd-pleasing second-round-bound act.
I can even remember when veterans Whalin BigAir (Mahlon Koopman), Conrad Irons (Derek Beck), Stephen ColbAIR/Air Guitar X (Jason Cheung) were free-flying Attention Deficit Disorders racing from one end of the stage to the other like a freight train dragging another shorter, plumper freight train behind it. But now they’re polished: they stay within their character, they work the crowd just right, and they pack a handful of really important moves instead of two dozen sloppy ones. Again, consummate professionals.
Celebrity judge Angelica Allen, visiting scholar from UC Berkeley’s Peace and Conflict Studies department (for air guitar is about peace, friends; if you’re holding an air guitar, you can’t be holding a gun), whittled down Seattle to three men: a sadomasochist named Grin And Bear It (Ben Hamill), hometown hero Tony Tapatio (Antonio Cervantes), and San Diego’s undisputed local world heavyweight champion Lt. Facemelter (Jason Farnan). Dick Diesel made a strong bid for himself with his red and orange spandex unitard, but was dismissed by Ms. Allen for “reminding [her] of the condiment counter at Hot Dog on a Stick.” He finished last.
The crowd was treated to Grin And Bear It’s nethers after a wardrobe malfunction, which is bound to happen when you steal clothing from Pulp Fiction’s Gimp, and were nearly treated to an air-off between Lt. Facemelter and Tony Tapatio. Despite the recent surge in local sustainability, transplant Lt. Facemelter had the strongest showing in Seattle and rightfully took the title. His outfit was a perfect 90’s blend of stretch pants, Reebok high tops, and sleeveless beaded things. His lieutenancy was obvious and his facemelting undeniable. Lt. Facemelter took Seattle, hands down, by two tenths of one point.
Celebrity judges (above) Sweet Smell of Success, Hot Lixx Hulahan, Zero Prospects, and Angelica Allen look on as Grin and Bear It (below) bears all.
Portland’s round two was packed with multiple Seattle second rounders, plus Erik Ittar and some Airpocalypse members who coincidentally played our (kick ass) half time show. Female competitor Um (Sheri Dietrich, so-named because last year when we asked for it she just said, “Ummm”) broke the second round glass ceiling but didn’t take the regional title. Instead, it was our old friend Tony Tapatio, who in fact lives in and swears by Portland, OR. This guy is almost too good looking for air guitar, and could easily be a lead man for a sexy Latin-flavored revival of the boy band era. He came out chewing gum, then stuck it down his pants. At one point in his performance he played his air guitar inside an air vagina, before delivering it into the world and fathering it until college. Backstage, he’s the sweetest young man you’ll ever meet, but on stage he’s a Ravishing Rick Rude for the new millennium.
After being crowned champion, Tapatio remembered his gum. He then dug down into his pants and popped it back into his mouth.
Thanks again to Janis Marie for all of today’s photos.
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