Reimagined Airband takes the stage at the CFAC


Photo by Kendra Kamp

Saturday’s show proved that reports of Airband’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Airband contender PG-18 won the main competition and emcee Michael Ribbens’ comedic interludes were just as  — if not more — entertaining than the main performances.

This year, Airband moved from the Hoogenboom (with 2,200 seats) to the CFAC (with 1,200 seats) because of attendance concerns. Unfortunately, miscommunication about this move fed rumors that the show would be cancelled.

Back in January — with only four full-length acts signed up rather than the usual eight or 10 — Airband’s leadership had a conversation about whether or not to cancel the show. The leadership team ultimately decided to go on with the show, encouraged by the dedication of the remaining acts.

Due to only having four full-length acts, Airband’s leadership came up with several new elements to fill the show.

The show featured four full-length, 10-minute acts, two three-minute “flash acts,” a short form lip-syncing competition (think Jimmy Fallon) and comedy routines by Michael Ribbens and Christian Becker.

No Direction kicked off the show with a well-produced intro video and elaborate costumes. Napoleon Dynamite performed his famous dance scene and President Le Roy (deemed “The Greyhound Beauty” by Ribbens) made a cameo with Katy Perry’s Super Bowl sharks.

Ribbens launched into a brief “history of Valentine’s Day,” offering a factually questionable account of its origins on a Mennonite ship in 1938. His spot-on comedy throughout the night assuaged any fears that this year’s show would come up short.

After a “Bachelor”-themed flash act and an Airband recruitment video by Ribbens, PG-18 put on the night’s winning full-length performance.

Highlights of PG-18’s performance included Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” a tightly choreographed performance of Anna Kendrick’s “Cups,” and an over-the-stop, show-stealing Frozen finale.

After another Ribbens interlude (featuring “Snack or Slap,” a surprisingly entertaining game where Ribbens was fed or slapped based on the quality of his puns), Awko-Taco performed the night’s third full-length act.

True to their name, Awko-Taco featured a slew of awkward moments. There was a guy in a coconut bra, a performance of the uncomfortably catchy “Stacey’s Mom” and a face-off between classic, innocent Hannah Montana and new, frightening Miley Cyrus. They also threw three-dozen tacos into the crowd (carefully wrapped, thankfully).

Ribbens followed up their performance with his brief “history of Airband,” which — strangely enough — was also founded on a Mennonite ship in 1938. Per Ribbens’ account, the ship struck a rock and, “As they watched their ship sinking, they invented lip syncing.”

Where My Baes At, the night’s winning flash-act, brought their strange (but entertaining) brand of swag to the stage, followed by the night’s final full-length act, Kingdom Come, a slower-paced mix of Christian Contemporary Music.

The night’s competitions concluded with a Jimmy Fallon-style lip sync battle. Billy Meyering won this competition with smooth renditions of “Ice Ice Baby” and Aaron Carter’s musical masterwork, “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It).”

After the show, Jenkins, the Airband committee chair, said, “The energy was unreal, unexpected and unprecedented. It came together in a way that we couldn’t have expected.”

Despite increased competition from Calvin’s Got Talent, Airband’s reimagined format allows it to be both flexible and distinctive enough to draw student participation.

Phil Stepnowski, who played Elsa in PG-18’s Frozen finale, summed up the spirit of Airband when he said, “It’s not as much about winning as it is about getting to do it with the community.”

If the quality of Saturday’s show is any indication, the Airband community is dedicated and ready to ensure that this distinctive Calvin tradition continues for years to come.