Maybe New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell is a breast man. That’s at least what Jason Jones of The Daily Show implied, as Jones introduced his score for McNallica at the US Air Guitar National Championship, held Thursday at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York City.
But we get ahead of ourselves.
McNallica, the Portland and New England air-guitar champ (who works by day at a Portland mortgage company under the name Erin McNally), had traveled with about a dozen friends and supporters to NYC, after months of practice and performance (see the other stuff we’ve written about her). “I just really want to make it to the second round,” she said, knowing that would make her one of the top five air-guitarists in the country.
She was up against 13 other competitors (12 men and one woman) from around the nation for the US title, which comes with tickets to Finland for the world air-guitar championship in early September. She had prepped in a few special ways for this performance, MySpacing the last US winner in Finland (Sonykrok, from 2004) to “get her blessing,” and getting Jen Moore from Sanctuary Tattoo to bless her fingerless gloves. She was as ready as she would get.
The opening set from New Jersey-based hair band Satanicide warmed up the crowd with such timeless classics of guitar rock as “Pussy and Ice Cream,” a Satanicide original angst anthem about, well, it’s fairly obvious, and “Twenty-Sided Die,” an ode to Dungeons and Dragons.
After a few butterfly-calming PBRs and Buds with her fans, McNallica got serious to prepare for her performance, getting quiet, still, and moving her fingers up and down in the air as if, well, she were playing a guitar. Rhinestones flashed from her arms, and diamond “M”s dangled from her earlobes. “The theme of Finland this year is bling,” she explained.
McNallica went seventh in the first round, introduced by MC Bjorn Turoque, who never won a US championship, but has become the celebrity spokesman for US air guitar. In Boston, at the New England regional championship, he had been a judge and gave her perfect 6.0 scores in each of the two rounds and called her “the future of air guitar.”
This time Turoque reminded the audience that “this woman blew my mind in Boston,” and let her go. She leapt, kicked, fingered, and tongued her way around the stage to Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart,” from the 1989 album Dr. Feelgood.
And then, amid the crowd’s cheers, she awaited the scores. Up to that point, the scores – and the performances – had been dismal, slow, pedestrian, even anemic. But McNallica opened the field, and the judges’ hearts.
Jones and Gladwell (who also wrote The Tipping Point, about the effects of social behavior) were two of the four celebrity judges (the others were Rachel Dratch from Saturday Night Live and Ben Wizner from the American Civil Liberties Union).
Gladwell had given Portland and New England air-guitar champ McNallica the first 6.0 maximum-point score of the night (there would only be one more, from Gladwell to McNallica in the second and final round of competition).
She took the 6.0, and Jones’s dismal 5.2 (which got him boos and the finger from the crowd), a 5.7 from Wizner and 5.9 from Dratch, and squeaked into the five-person second round in a tie for fourth place.