There are two things that make New York City one of the toughest markets in US Air Guitar:
- The staggering amount of top tier talent, both local and imported, and
- The Daily Show’s Jason Jones, whose commentary has reduced all but the most thick-skinned competitors to quivering heaps in the backstage bathroom.
Alongside ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner and music biz free agent Leigh Lust, Jones returned on Thursday night to his perch in the Bowery Ballroom balcony to pass his acerbic brand of judgement on some air guitarists.
Several contestants gave him ample opportunity to live up to his reputation, including Marteeka (Marquina Iliev-Piselli), who failed to impress Jones when she made US Air Guitar history by performing eight months pregnant (to Danzig’s “Mother,” naturally). But overall, Jones found less to criticize than he has in years past, thanks to some strong performances from familiar faces.
Shreddy Mercury (Seth Leibowitz) performed an enhanced reprisal of his 2008 Queen / Liquid Tension Experiment mashup and incited perhaps the world’s first audience chant of “Jew-y!” Ricky Stinkfingers (Alex Forbes) had no trouble interpreting a Weather Report sax solo on an air guitar, with a strut taylor-made for the Florida retirement community circuit. Seth Leibowitz (Andrew Litz) emblazoned himself with his phone number, begging the crowd between hip thrusts to “Call Me Maybe.” (Some audience members insisted that Leibowitz bore a suspiciously strong resemblance to two-time national champ William Ocean (Andrew Litz), but they were also handing out “9/11: Fact or Fiction?” pamphlets.)
All three made it to the second round, where they faced a Beastie Boys medley in honor of the late MCA (Adam Yauch). But for the second year in a row, none of them could surpass the waifish mass of rubbery, skeletal pubescence that is Airistotle (Matt Burns). Fueled as ever by virginity and malnourishment, Airistotle was a Depression-era cartoon character come to life, stretching and bouncing his way into the hearts of all present. Even Jason Jones was helpless under his spell, awarding him perfect scores in both rounds.
Airistotle finished in second place at last year’s national finals. Next month in Denver, we’ll see if he has what it takes to make it to the top.