Instead of a karaoke-oriented flashback, it was the Club Silencio scene from Mulholland Drive that cued up in my brain Thursday evening at the Middle East downstairs during the Boston leg of the 6th Annual US Air Guitar Championships. I heard guitar, and I saw rocking out, but there was never a guitar. Only a recording.
Pre-show, 2007 Boston champ Erin “McNallica” McNally was squeezing a mock-pineapple stress ball to keep her fingers nimble, and not as confident as she might’ve been. “I didn’t come to repeat,” said the Portland (Maine) resident, exhibiting a print-out of an e-mail blessing from C-Diddy, the first American to win the Air Guitar World Championship in Oulu, Finland. “I’m going to take it to a whole new level.”
She lied about that first part. Later, hair billowing in fan-generated wind for supplementary grandiosity, McNallica shredded upon nothingness like an unholy hybrid of Mick Mars and a feral burlesque dancer. The three judges awarded her a near-perfect score in round one, and an actually perfect score — 6.0, 6.0, 6.0 — in round two, and she clinched her spot at the national final in San Francisco on August 8, much to the glee of her entourage.
Not to pshaw McNallica’s triumph here, but the competition wasn’t stiff. Of the pretend ax wielders graded on stage presence, technical accuracy (as in, fingers corresponding to invisible frets), and the abstract quality of “airness,” legit contenders were scant. One standout was Jeff “Lightning” Lyons, age 50, and decked out like Jim Carrey in The Mask: his glow-in the-dark suit appeared to radiate more brightly the harder he rocked. The “Rock n’ Roll Professional” placed second overall, but I suspect his scores were elevated by his courageous, if regrettable, attire: briefs with a unicorn on the ass side and nothing else.
Other notable occurrences? While I waited in line outside, some douche standing next to me tried to light a fart on fire. At the bar, I interviewed one of the judges without realizing he was WBCN’s Mark Hamilton. Lastly, I can never unsee the fat guy dancing on stage in a Borat thong post-tourney — why couldn’t that have been invisible?