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Review Tue May 17 2011

Review: US Air Guitar Championships Chicago Regionals @ Double Door 5/12

Chicago crowned a champion Thursday night at the Double Door. Twenty contestants took the stage, strapped on their air guitars and shredded for greatness, but only one could could take home the title of Chicago's air guitar god.

And in the end, it was a familiar deity: Three-time Chicago champion Nordic Thunder will once again represent his home turf when the National Finals rock the Metro July 23 after a near-perfect score in the first round. But in the process the crowd met some amazing air guitarists, and fell in love with a worthy rival to Nordic Thunder's greatness -- a manimal by the name of Dry Ice.

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals
Nordic Thunder - photo by Chris Foresman

But let's start at the beginning. Emcee Björn Türoque and judge and 2008 world champion Hot Lixx Hulahan opened the evening with a duet of classic air guitar, then introduced the other two judges for the evening, Wisconsin State Rep. Gordon Hintz -- himself a past regional champion under the name Krye Tuff -- and comedian Ben Bowman. After a brief explanation of the rules, the first guitarist, Leather Locklear, took the stage. Unfortunately, and possibly because she was first, Leather Locklear earned some of the lowest marks of the competition. As Bowman remarked, "You know, at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, someone had to be the first off the boat."

From there, the crowd cheered on The Flying Finn, Van Dammage (whose "VD" chest hair got plenty of laughs), Cannonball Mavin (who hid her black metal makeup under a creepy doll mask until a few seconds into her minute performance), Van Jupiter, Airleigh Legal, Hand Solo (who got compliments from Björn Türoque on his muscular legs), Eric von Airicsson (of whom Hintz said, "It looks like Joakim Noah and Benny the Bull had a lovechild."), Claire Guitar and Cleoplectra. The performances ranged from merely good to seriously great ...and then we reached Nordic Thunder. To the screaming chant of "Thun-Der! Thun-Der! Thun-Der!" the battle-tested hall-of-famer took the stage in his trademark leather Viking garb and proceeded to teach a 60-second master class in air guitar:

It was hard to believe anyone could follow such an act, but we had yet to make Dry Ice's acquaintance. He arrived onstage wrapped in a brown paper sack, which he ripped open to reveal his wildman look -- bare chest and face smeared with black, hands reddened up the to forearms with the blood of the vanquished, silver tights with his name down the legs. He began his brutal attack on the air guitar, and when it was over, the crowd began chanting his name as loudly as they'd just done for Nordic Thunder.

"You don't know what to expect from a man who comes out on stage in a homemade burrito outfit," Bowen said. And while his 5.8/5.7/5.9 (on the Olympic 6.0 scale) showed how well he played, it fell short of toppling the Thunder's 5.9/6.0/5.9.

Super Mairio had the unenviable task of playing next, followed by the Thundergland and his light-up codpiece. Slywkavision played directly to the photo pool and was roundly booed by the audience because of it; he earned the only sub-5.0 score of the evening. Old Glory brought an entourage, while Rocky Rhoads went solo. The final contestant of the night, Mr. Serious, arrived on stage in a suit but left in his underwear, which capped off the first round nicely. While scores were tabulated, past US champion Romeo Dance Cheetah and his Flavor-Saver All Stars performed an air guitar medley.

The second round normally pits the first- through fourth-place guitarists against each other, but thanks to a couple of ties, seven axmen and -women strode onto the stage: Mr. Serious, Cleoplectra and Rocky Rhoads in fourth, Old Glory and Van Dammage in third, Dry Ice in second and Nordic Thunder in first. All seven played the same compulsory song, Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker." When the dust settled, Thunder and Ice had blown everyone away. The fierce competitors -- and, it was revealed, mentor and protégé -- earned identical 17.7s.

Added to the first round scores, that meant that while Dry Ice gave his master a good run for his money, he fell just shy of victory. No doubt we'll see him again next year. Or possibly sooner: the six runners-up got automatic entry into any of the other regional competitions, so if they can make it to Milwaukee or Kalamazoo, they could have another chance at making the finals.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the US Air Guitar Championships as the finals get closer. And get your tickets now -- this is one show you don't want to miss.

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Leather Locklear

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals The Flying Finn

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Van Dammage

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Cannonball Mavin

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Van Jupiter

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Airleigh Legal

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Hand Solo

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Eric von Ericson

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Claire Guitar

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Cleoplectra

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Nordic Thunder

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Dry Ice

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Super Mairio

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Thundergland

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Slywkavision

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Old Glory

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Rocky Rhoads

2011 US Air Guitar Championships - Chicago Regionals Mr. Serious

All photos by Chris Foresman.

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Arina / June 2, 2011 4:24 PM

Are you kidding me? This is hilarious!

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