Hangovers and Bangovers

A few weeks ago I had my first public performance doing air guitar since I started training. I honestly focused a totally disproportionate amount of attention on the costuming rather than the air guitar part. I’m super pressure motivated and I really needed a reason to get the costume started so in that sense- it served it’s purpose. For weeks leading up to the show- I spent hours and hours gluing rhinestones, sewing on patches, and hand studding my denim vest. But practice? Nope.

I learned a few things after doing that show-

  1. Not to drink four ciders in a short period of time on an empty stomach. Ya might get drunk.
  2. Don’t get drunk and try to perform an unrehearsed, fast paced song for two and a half minutes in platforms and expect it to look really good.
  3. That headbanging for the entire length of said song while drunk in platforms is not a good idea. I had to google “how to cure a bangover” the next day I hurt so bad.
  4. Fuckin practice.

I walked away after that night feeling pretty disappointed in myself. It was definitely not a performance that I was super proud of. Was it funny? Yes. Was it awesome? No. So I started to beat myself up about it. But the feeling was familiar. It reminded me of back when I was new to burlesque. I was producing one of my first heavy metal burlesque shows and trying to get a Gwar act together for myself to perform that night. I was feeling really pressed for time so I used what little time I had on the costume and never even bothered to choreograph much of a routine. So when the time came to do the performance, which included multiple other people on stage with me, it was hilarious chaos involving me fake ejaculating silly string from my cuttlefish, killing a grandma, and moshing around with another performed dressed up as fellow Gwar performer Slymenstra Hymen. It was entertaining and funny and ridiculous but in the end- it was not at all what I wanted it to be. It didn’t feel like a representation of what I was capable of. Even though the crowd loved it, I was bummed.

Now granted, I’m very into being in the moment on stage and improv-ing much of what I do. It’s become sort of my thing. I think it can work to achieve a more honest performance where you’re connected with the audience if you have space to respond to what they’re responding to. Over the last seven years I’ve found a balance that works for me of developing a loose structure and certain marks I want to hit then filling in the rest with whatever happens. But to walk blindly into a performance with no real preparation and expect it to just turn out okay is naive.

So when I found myself feeling kinda low after this last air guitar performance I was quick to remember where I am now as a burlesque performer and how I got there. It made me feel a lot better to see a path that had already been traveled and to know that we all have to learn from our mistakes and not be discouraged by them.

It’s only up from here.

7 Weeks and a Few Inches Closer

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It’s so annoying to make a list of moves I want to do, look at it and go, “Okay, how do I make that happen?” and realize the answer every time is work out to build strength. Oh you want to do an epic air guitar toe touch? You have to have abs. You think doing a super cool back bend while you pretend to shred sounds nice? Gotta work on your abs, back, and legs! Having stage presence is one thing, picking out the right song is another but I’ll be damned if I really do have to get in shape to take this where I want to go. I kind of don’t have a choice.

I have a problem with having unrealistic goals. I feel like I’ve said that before. When I first thought about doing air guitar, I had all of these insane ideas about moves I wanted to master. Including something that looks straight out of a college varsity cheerleading competition. I’m a 35 year old woman. See “unrealistic”. But maybe not? In seven weeks I’m this much closer to doing a split! That’s something, right? I’ve got over 8 months until the regional air guitar competitions. This picture is making me feel hope. I look at it and I’m feeling empowered. Last week was the first time I didn’t have to support myself with the blocks and the first time my front calf was fully touching the ground. And truth be told, I haven’t really been working as hard as I can on the stretching. I could do so much more between classes.

Now that I’ve educated myself a bit about stretching, have goals around it that I’m working on, I’m going to move forward and start focusing on my core strength too. I really do want to get some air while jumping from standing so that’s the next goal. I’m meeting my friend and trainer Megan tomorrow to start our ab blasting mayhem. Ridiculous ‘before’ videos of me attempting a toe touch to come.

Solar Eclipses and Surprise Cream Filling

I’ve got to admit my laser tight focus on air guitar has been feeling a little hazy lately. I’ll blame it on the eclipse. As a matter of fact, for the next 9 months I’m just gonna go ahead and blame everything on the eclipse. Cause it seems like the perfect cosmic scapegoat. What’s the eclipse gonna do about it? Nuthin. Take that Eclipse. It’s your fault my laundry pile just keeps growing and I just keep on staring at it. Eclipse, why did you have to spend so much money this month on shit you don’t need? Fool. Silly, Eclipse. I’m on to you.

Truthfully, I just think my brain has just been so consumed with AG that I needed a bit of a break to regroup. Going to the Nationals in DC really made me have to rethink a lot of my ideas on my approach. And I was so legitimately bummed at the bullshit garbage that came out of some of the female judges’ mouths that it really did take some wind out of my sails. Also, fuck your lateral oppressive bullshit, ladies. Ugh. Still makes me spicy.

I just had my 6th contortion class where I’ve been working on stretching my body out to get some of my dream moves. And yesterday while I was laying on the floor, yanking on a strap to try and get my leg up to my ear- I felt like a badass. I was impressed with myself. I was getting better and stronger. I’m not very good at working on things I’m not good at. I have a track record of just giving up. It was in this satisfied moment that I really felt a renewed sense of, “I could do this!” Maybe I won’t be able to get my ankle to touch my ear but I’m at least working at it and air guitar isn’t about gymnastics, it’s about rocking out and I can do that! The splits are just the surprise cream filling.

Muh Muh Muh Metal Monday!

This is what I’m having fun air guitaring to today. It’s not quite metal but I love Fu Manchu. The guitar parts are so fun on this track. Lots of slides, stops, and *wowha wowha* (makes high pitch noise with mouth) It’s interesting to start listening to songs with a different sort of ear now. I’m definitely listening for the guitar solos and visualizing how it would work for performing. It’s sort of like when you play an instrument you can easily pick it out of a song- your ear just automatically isolates it. I guess it’s the air guitar equivalent of that. I’d insert a crying/laughing emoticon here if I could.

I know it sounds silly. But it’s just how my brain has started working. I’m thinking about air guitar all the time. I went to bed last night debating the color of my air guitar costume as I fell asleep and opened my eyes and immediately was like, “how am I going to get in an hour of stretching today so I can do that god damn split?” When I get into something- I get INTO it. My brain has a hard time balancing all the other shit I already have going on. I’ve got two weddings to officiate this month, I’m the lead decorator for a burlesque convention coming up, I’m in a play at the end of the month, I’ve got shows I’m MCing soon, I’m on the board of directors for our community playspace, I have a job, a marriage and a three year old kid. My brain is a busy place. So everything has had to shift around to make room for air guitar and it’s a constant battle to not let it dominate all of my mental energy.

That said- I can’t think of a more perfect addition to the mix.

 

Just Got Back from DC’s US Air Guitar Nationals!

I did it. I flew myself to Columbus, OH, met up with my sister and drove over to Washington DC this past weekend so we could go and witness The US Air Guitar National competition. Part for research and development and part for an excuse to hang out with my sister- I’m so glad I went for a long list of reasons. Mostly, I learned a hell of a lot. Way more than if I had just stayed home and watched the competition online. It wasn’t all good.

Here’s what I learned

It’s about balance.
You have to have an equally good costume, stage presence, song, and technical ability. You can have the raddest costume and character but if your song is lacking in the guitar department- you’re toast. You really can’t lean on the costume and special effects if you’re song doesn’t have enough guitar in it. Doesn’t work. There was a particular performer who had everything there- costume, character, stage presence but the song came on and I was like, “Really? Where’s the rad solo?” and it never came. Did the song go with the theme? Yes but it’s not about the theme. It’s about the guitar.

Know your venue.
I’ve got all these amazing moves in my head that I want to master- death drops, splits, floor slide and guess what- none of it would have mattered. The stage was so low the judges would never have seen it. They could really only catch what was from the waist up. Maybe even chest up. SO much was lost on them with the fancy floor work of the performers at Nationals. One performer had the forethought to ask the audience to make a space so the judges could see but by him doing that right before his set- it made it awkward. So if you’re going to ask folks to move- make your friends do it so you don’t have to step out of character while on stage.

That said- I watched the darkhorse competition a few nights before and they had a quite different problem- the stage was the tiniest stage (maybe 4 feet wide) in the corner of a tight bar. That’s a totally different routine. You’ve got to be prepared for that.

Know your judges.
I’m not sure if there’s a way to find out who’s judging ahead of time or not. But this was the biggest eye opener for me. There were three female judges on the panel- two of which were really obviously judging the female competitors differently than the males and it was total bullshit. Bull.shit. I was appalled. I’ve been told that those particular judges won’t be asked back next year but it still speaks to a larger issue that the female competitors ARE seen and judged differently than the males. This totally effects how I approach my character, costume design, song choice… everything. Ugh. More about that another day.

Energy must be immediate.
You really have to walk out onstage like you’re high as fuck on cocaine and ready to party. The saunter in just doesn’t jive well. The crowd wants to see 60 seconds of the most bananas possible controlled chaos punching them in the face as soon as you walk out there. The audience is drunk and they want to rock.

Your character has to be relate-able.
The judges at this competition didn’t seem to like things that they saw as too schticky.  They had no love for The Lumberjack or The Grandma or The Retro High School Basketball dude all citing that they didn’t like the schtick. BUT they did crown the Middle American Mom the winner. Why? She was a pretty damn good air guitarist. But was she the best one there? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s because the contrast of a high waisted, bad hair cut, mom with a brown bag lunch playing air guitar is so rad that it just works on a level no one can describe. But it seems like a tricky tricky gamble.

Try to be original.
SO many performers spit something out into the air during their performance hoping for a wow effect. I was over it. When I saw the footage of Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard performing at the World Championships in 2011 where he drinks from a horn then spits out the water perfectly synchronized into the air with the guitar- I was like, “Oh shiiiiit. Damn, that’s good.” but it ended there. Because as a performer, I know that everyone else who saw that thought the same thing and would try it too. Maybe he wasn’t the first to do that- probably not. But still. OLD. And if you’re performing and you see everyone else is doing the same thing- think of something else quick.

It’s all in the face.
Well maybe not ALL in the face but a lot of it. You’re in a venue- people in the back can barely see your facial features so make whatever expression you’re making HUGE. Connect with your people AND the judges.

There’s so much more to say. So many thoughts going on- game plans, changes in direction, etc that is swirling around in my brain that I need to sort out. In the mean time- here’s a picture of me and the 2016 World Champ and totally sweet person- Airistotle!

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Let’s Get This Workout Party Started!

 

​This Saturday was my first workout with my new personal trainer and total badass, Meghan Mayhem! Naturally I had to get dressed up. Cause how else am I going to get motivated to do a bazillion squats, kicks, and lunges?

Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Other than the fact that I forgot how high cut the leotard was which made modesty impossible while stretching and that I was so uncoordinated when she tried throwing all of these fast paced combos at me… it went well! We’re gonna slow it down a little next week and work more on my form rather than speed. But despite my fumbling and awkward attempts to manage a up, down, left, touch this, then that- I was still sweating like crazy and am definitely feeling the burn today.