July 26, 2011


Nordic Thunder Will Perform on Lopez Tonight This Evening at 12/11c on TBS, Before Heading to Finland next month to Represent America in the Air Guitar World Championships

TV Coverage of US Finals Will Premiere In The Coming Weeks on ESPN E:60

US Air Guitar Thanks Metro & The Good People Of Chicago

ABOVE: Nordic Thunder, 2011 US Air Guitar Champion. Photo Credit: Miriam Doan

It has taken nine years for America to recover from the shock of competitive air guitar.  Now, as US Air Guitar enters its second decade, the story of competitive air guitar is no longer that it exists, but rather how each individual contender uniquely excels at his craft and how it advances the sport itself.

On Saturday night twenty-two uniquely excellent competitors from across the country descended upon Chicago for this monumental American event at the historic Metro.  From the hip streets of New York to the dusty pueblos bordering El Paso, TX; from the shores of San Diego to the heights of Denver, they came here to answer one question: who is the finest professional air guitarist in America, and who will represent the stars and stripes against two dozen other countries at the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland?

After our 10-week search across the country, America roaringly answered that question: NORDIC THUNDER (Justin Howard).  Nordic Thunder lives by the motto "Pain is temporary, but air guitar is forever".  He originates from the town of the ghost in the square state known as Wyoming.  Wanting more out of life then dirt roads and cow shit, he moved to the Windy City in order to pursue the dream of professional air guitar.  In 2006, after recovering from an air guitar related knee injury that required surgery, Nordic appeared on the competitive stage for the first time.  Fueled by Thunder, Nordic rose to the top of the fierce competition that summer night in Chicago 5 years ago to win his first regional competition. Nordic would later go on to win 4 more Chicago regional titles, and undergo back surgery due to a ruptured disc he suffered during the 2008 season. At the this year's National Finals, Thunder roared during his Round 1 performance to the song At Vance 'Dragonchaser.' And with his Round 2 performance to Motley Crue 'Kickstart My Heart', Nordic sealed the deal with his signature Power Slide, leaving two long tracks of blood wherever his bare knees took him. No one can deny that this year's Nationals belonged to Nordic Thunder. But that said, it was a close race...

Click Image to View Nordic Thunder's Performance at the 2011 US Air Guitar National Finals
Video Credit: David Ayling

New York City Regional Champion AIRISTOTLE (Matt Burns), the youngest competitor of the season for three straight years, finished just a half point behind Nordic Thunder.  It's funny to look back and remember that at the ripe age of 17 in early 2008, his mother drove him from their latchkey apartment in New York down to Philadelphia because it was the only All-Ages event of the tour.  Everyone present that night knew they were witnessing the future of competitive air guitar. Barely a flyweight, the kid was so thin and pale he was nearly translucent.  But the rookie was still unpolished and would not advance to the National arena for another couple years.  Saturday night, his nerdy-guy work ethic and 125-calorie diet paid off when he finished second place on the National stage.

Washington DC Regional Champion TOMMY FRETLESS (Adam Lee), who broke his foot while training for the Finals, refused his trainer's orders to sit out the Finals and instead played through the pain while performing on one leg.  The mark of a true champion is the ability to play regardless of the circumstances; especially because all National Champs will have to perform to whatever bizarre compulsory track they are dealt by the Finns on the world stage.  Fretless' uber appropriate choice of Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got," and the courage he summoned to play with his dominant foot broken, took him to such a transcendental place that he possibly delivered the finest performance of his 5-year career – although to be fair, America is a little emotional and his 2011 DC performance did impregnate a whole lot of faces.

By awarding these three competitors with some of the highest marks of the evening, most experts agree that celebrity judge and Godless liberal GORDON HINTZ (D-Oshkosh, Wisconsin State Legislature) got most of the evening right, except perhaps for a serious misinterpretation of Kansas City's MEAN MELIN (Eric Melin).  Hintz commented that Melin did "not even look like an air guitarist." Of course, serious followers of competitive Air Guitar recognize Melin as a natural and one of the sport's finest ambassadors.  In fact, Mean Melin bleeds air guitar – but he also bleeds kitten whiskers and glee.  Anything but mean, we're certain he won't hold a grudge against the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin. Hintz and celebrity co-judges BEN BOWMAN (Comedian) and HOT LIXX HULAHAN (Craig Billmeier, 2008 World Air Guitar Champion) also sent another two coastal powerhouses into Round 2, neither of whom managed to finish in the top five overall, but both of whom clearly had more fun than the rest of us combined: San Diego's LT. FACEMELTER (Jason Farnan) and Philadelphia's WINDHAMMER (Rob Weychert).  Facemelter's shore-leave-in-Saigan, "here guys have a brewsky on me" personality contrasted the legendary stone cold countenance that's made Windhammer a terrifying fan favorite.  Even when last night's Master Of Airemonies BJÖRN TÜROQUE (Dan Crane) whispered into his ear "kitten fart" and "unicorn money shot," Windhammer didn't crack the slightest smile.

In a confidential e-mail between judges he didn't know I'd leak, judge Ben Bowman offered this:  "What's great about air guitar is that there's plenty of room for all kinds of acts - the weird, the classic, the flashy and the simple. Who knew a man on crutches could captivate an audience and soar past many competitors blessed with two functional legs?  I loved it when we agreed, but I respect the disagreements, too. Ultimately, everyone gave Chicago a great show and air guitar looks poised for greatness in the years ahead ...I loved every sweaty minute of it.  What a great bunch of weirdos. What a great celebration of rock. What a magical experience."

So much more can and will be written about Saturday night, because you know what? It may have been the best National US Air Guitar Championship ever.  WILLIAM OCEAN (2007 & 2009 US Champ) and HOT LIXX HULAHAN delivered the first ever long-form half time at a National Finals…and an absolutely stunning one at that; Denver Regional Champion DREAMCATCHER (Ryan Layman) air-killed himself; Los Angeles Regional Champion SHRED BOY R.D. was reunited with his brothers through the power of air guitar; The Defending 2010 US Champion ROMEO DANCECHEETAH (Matt Cornelison) changed his style 360° and still crushed it; The WGN Cubs broadcasters spent an entire inning during their broadcast the following day discussing NORDIC THUNDER'S chops.

Go get 'em in Finland, Nordic. You've got the brain and the brawn because you're the thinking man's neanderthal.

Major league high fives to the hometown hero and 2011 US AIR GUITAR CHAMPION NORDIC THUNDER and to all the Regional Winners who made it to this year's Nationals. And our deepest gratitude to Metro, the good people of Chicago, and to every single person who had the courage to perform on the big stage at this year's US Air Guitar Championships and prove, once again, that in America, truly anything is possible.


ROUND 1 + ROUND 2 SCORES (top competitors)

1 Nordic Thunder Chicago 35.3
2 Airistotle New York 34.8
3 RomeoDance Cheetah 2010 US Champion 34.7
4 Tony Tapatio Portland 34.6
4 Windhammer Philadelphia 34.6
5 Tommy Fretless Washington DC 34.3
6 Dry Ice Kalamazoo 34.1
7 Airisol Minneapolis 33.4
8 Lt Facemelter Seattle 33.2
9 Dreamcatcher Denver 30.9

ROUND 1 SCORES (competitors did not advance to round 2)

10 Mr. Serious Dark Horse Winner 16.6
10 Vlad DM Wailer Austin 16.6
10 Thundergland Kalamazoo 16.6
11 McNallica Boston 16.5
11 Cold Steel Renegade San Francisco - Day 2 16.5
12 Mean Melin Kansas City 16.3
13 Shred Nugent San Francisco - Day 1 16.1
14 Six String General San Diego 16.0
15 Chuck Mung Dark Horse Winner 15.9
15 Shreddy Mercury Brooklyn 15.9
16 Brock McRock Dark Horse Winner 15.8
16 Shred Boyardee Los Angeles 15.8


Each US Regional, The National Finals, and the World Air Guitar Championships consists of two rounds. In Round 1, each competitor performs to a song of their own choosing. In Round 2, the top competitors from Round 1 perform to a surprise compulsory song. In each round, the songs that contestants perform to can be no longer than 60 seconds in length, and all guitars must be invisible. The jury is a panel of three independent judges that are hand picked by US Air Guitar. Each judges his/her own score on a scale of 4.0 (lowest) to 6.0 (highest), and the three scores are combined. Each competitor is scored based on a combination of technical merit, stage presence, and "airness." The results of the jury cannot be protested.

One winner from each city was flown to Chicago on July 23rd to compete in the US Air Guitar Finals for the crown of US Air Guitar Champion. The 2010 US Champ will now be sent to Oulu, Finland on August 26 to represent the USA in the World Championships, where he or she will compete against national champions from all around the world.

Founded in 2003, US Air Guitar is the official Air Guitar Association of the United States and is responsible for operating the US Air Guitar Championships, official Regional events, and specialized championships. US Air Guitar is devoted to taking our nation's unofficial pastime out of the bedroom and putting it up on the world stage. US Air Guitar is an official member of the World Air Guitar Association. 2011 marks the 9th year for competitive Air Guitar in the US and its 15th year worldwide. Official national championships currently are held in 22 countries around the globe including the USA, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, The Netherlands, The United States, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, with more countries participating every year. The 2011 Air Guitar World Championships will take place this August 26 in Oulu, Finland.

US Air Guitar Official Website:


World Air Guitar Championships Official Website: