Casey Partytime, local air guitar champ

July 30, 2014

Partytime air champ

Meet Casey Partytime, our own local air guitar champion.

Yes, air guitar champion.

Last month, Casey won second place in the U.S. Air Guitar Championship’s regional qualifier in Santa Cruz, held at the Catalyst. He and two others –The Silver Hammer (Maxwell Priest-Radowski) and Jon Face (Jon Crisara) — got to go on to the semifinals in San Francisco, held on July 12. Unfortunately, none of our folks will be going on to the finals, scheduled for Aug. 9 in Kansas City. The full bracket is here.

Air Guitar has become somewhat of a thing in recent years and it’s far more complicated than “Bill and Ted” or Wayne and Garth might have you believe. Today’s air guitar champs take their “art” pretty seriously, as weird as that might sound. Sure, there are silly pseudonyms (like “The Jolly Green Shredding Machine,” “Airistotle,” and “C-Diddy,”)  and sometimes costumes and, you know, imaginary instruments but still, it’s become a major thing with championships held internationally, sponsorships and even a 2006 feature-length documentary, Air Guitar Nation.

Here’s what our local champ had to say:

What made you decide to enter the air guitar competition? What’s the next step — you won the regionals, so where does it go from here?
I first heard about air guitar a few years back, I thought it was a joke but it still sounded fun so I entered in 2010 and performed at The Fillmore. I used the name “Thrash Gordon” I didn’t even make it to the next round. But after the competition was over, I heard someone yell “Hey Thrash!” When I turned around, it was Robert Trujillo, the bassist for Metallica, and he said “screw those guys, you smoked ‘em all!”. Even though I didnt win, I felt like that was better than winning and I knew I was doing SOMETHING right. This time I heard through my friends Kyrsten and Danny B.  I wasn’t going to enter but Danny suggested I do it.  So I did and ended up winning! (Eds. note: Casey was one of three winners from Santa Cruz who went on to the semifinals in San Francisco on July 12.)

How does one prepare or practice for air guitar? Do you have any signature moves or techniques?

I’ve accidentally been preparing for this my whole life. My dad was a rocker growing up so he would rock out to bands like Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Rush and Led Zeppelin so I was raised on rocking out playing air instruments. My personal approach to air guitar is just having fun; I’m not really taking it too seriously. There are dudes that take it very seriously though – some guys practice all year and compete in all the regional events. There was definitely a super competitive vibe at the event. Some of my “signature moves” so far in my “air career” have been a cartwheel and the Kid n’ Play move – where you jump through your leg while holding the other leg-  and they get a good response from the crowd. I think it’s original and kind of funny.

Did you get to pick your own music or did you have to improvise to whatever was played for you? What did you perform to? 

In the first round, you do the song you picked and practiced to; in the final round they pick a song that you get to hear once,  then the first of the five finalists performs and so on. I chose to be unique and do my own custom song: a sample of David Cross from Mr. Show saying “Its Partytime”, then a piece of the Wayne’s World theme,  a brief intro from The Ultimate Warrior’s theme song, then into the “Revelation Mother earth” guitar solo by Ozzy and Randy Rhoads. In the finals they had us perform to “Damage Inc” by Metallica and I got lucky because I grew up playing that song on real guitar so I already knew how it went.

A lot of people think Bill and Ted, Wayne and Garth when it comes to air guitar — what sets your everyday amateur air guitar player apart from the big leaguers?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally, all the stuff I “air” to I can really play on real guitar. I love all different kinds of music, play many instruments and have been playing guitar for about 20 years,  so air guitar just comes natural. Growing up, my favorites were the shredders of metal and crazy technical guitarists like Slayer, Testament, Exodus, Judas Priest and Yngwie Malmsteen so from an early age I wanted to be as shredding as those guys. I think the best air guitarists are probably musicians in some way, shape or form.

How has your experience as a real musician (as opposed to playing air instruments) affected or enhanced your air guitar skills?

I think being a multi-instrumentalist and an entertainer are the only reasons I’ve been fortunate enough to make it this far in the “air” world. If I didn’t play an instrument, I definitely wouldn’t know what was going on in these songs and it would show in my performance. Plus there are judges who judge on technical ability, so if you don’t know what your doing they will call you out on that. I believe that really playing an instrument will enhance your air skills to the fullest.

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