Wednesday, April 28, 2010


♫ I'm sailing away
Set an open course for the Baltic Sea
'Cause I've got to be free
Free to play guitar invisibly ♪

And with those inspiring words still echoing over the Troubador's audience, Björn Turoque strode on to the stage, microphone in hand and beer in the other, to MC the 2010 LA Regional Air Guitar Championships.

My God do I lead an awesome life! Yeah, yeah, I'm 28 and I don't know what I'm doing with my life and all of my friends are racing off and getting married and blah blah blah. But goddamn it, I spend my Saturday nights watching people in ridiculous costumes play hair-metal anthems from the 80s with imaginary instruments and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. If you don't get that, I'm really not sure how we're friends.

Quickly, the setup: the competitors run onstage, ridiculously garbed (viz The Caplickster, in full, glorious regalia at right), and have one minute to flail away on their air axe to a song of their choice, impress the (increasingly inebriated) judges with their technical virtuosity, stage presence, and "airness",1 and flee the stage with what little shreds of their dignity they can salvage.

How glorious. How absurd. How American.

(Also, how LA: Dee and Mac from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia were celebrity judges.)

It started off slow. The first two acts were... less than good. (The first was named Fretophile and you can imagine exactly what that was like).

Zero Prospects
And then BLAM HOLY SHIT Zero Prospects ran out on stage in crazy glam-rock regalia (her crotch clearly stuffed beneath her mini-skirt) and ROCKED THE SHIT out of my face. Notice her playing the guitar between her legs there? Yessir, that is pure, raw, unadulterated talent.

Good God, sir!

There was a shirtless guy rocking out to System Of A Down and a number of Demon Hell Things as well, if that's your kind of thing. Also a shirtless guy in boxer shorts and a lab coat.

It's glorious -- truly, utterly glorious -- living in a city so full of out-of-work actors that people will spend weeks working up a routine so that they can run out on stage waving a huge American flag with confetti falling all around them and a working, beer-dispensing tap on their crotch and stand on stage for a scant 60 seconds to spastically fling their arms around to Poison. And for what? For the momentary amusement of a couple hipster nerds on a Saturday night? Fuck. Yes.

For Christ's sake, Thai Elvis performed.

And the woman who won? The Bride Of Rock? Oh, fuck yes she deserved to win. This is a video of her (unrehearsed) winning performance. Watch this video. I demand you watch this video. The whole thing. NOW. (Preferably in fullscreen.)

That is commitment, my friends. That is awesome. That is rock and roll.

And in a final moment of glory, for a rousing encore, the entire audience was invited onstage to join in a mass Freebird ensemble. Yours truly joined in and muddled through the solo on a very rubbery air rhythm guitar. Sublime.

[Pictures gratefully stolen from the LA Weekly. Check out the whole set.]

1 Oxford commas for everyone!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Are you familiar with the trombottle? If not, you should be! It's the most unique1 and innovative new instrument of our time. This cleverly-constructed device, recycling two humble beer bottles and repurposing them for greater things, was developed a few scant years ago by ingenious undergraduates at the University of Oregon seeking an environmentally-friendly way to discard of their spent beverage containers. Minutes of discussion and brainstorming resulted in an initial prototype, which was painstakingly refined over several iterations. After years of research and development, the trombottle was finally released to the public in the summer of 2009.

Deceptively simple, the trombottle is constructed of two beer bottles, one slightly larger than the other. Both have their base removed (a simple task for an experienced glass cutter). The larger of the bottles is turned on its end, its neck plugged, and filled with water. The smaller of the bottles, upright, nestles cozily in its larger brother. The instrument is played by gracefully blowing across the top of the smaller bottle—as with a flute—while moving the smaller bottle up and down in the larger, effectively changing its water level and thereby the pitch. Such an elegant concept, so simple in its execution!

Finally, after years of labor, its creators have consented to provide the world with a short performance. Featured below is a performance of the Bottle Waltz, a commissioned piece written by renowned composer Keith Kirchoff. Joseph Barker, the world's foremost trombottle virtuoso, solos accompanied by accomplished bottle performers Joe and L.

Sheet music, as well as opportunities for engaging the performers, available upon request.

1 Yeah, most unique. You heard me.