Fanatic air guitarists mock true musicians

Air Guitar Nation opens up a new world of rock celeb-dom

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Two guys playing air guitar

“Musicians” from around the world flock to Finland every year for a chance to play onstage before a crowd of 1,000-plus screaming rock fans. Rigorous practice and precise choreography is needed to stand out against competition and be the best. Each guitarist performs with full conviction that what they’re playing is the real deal.

I’m talking about the Air Guitar World Championships. While they’ve been held every year since 1996, it wasn’t until last month when I watched the documentary Air Guitar Nation I decided to place an Air Guitar Championship into the same category as imaginary unicorns or leprechauns.

These performers go all out to achieve impeccable “airness” " to the extent that the performances transcend the medium and become a higher form of artistic expression.

Even a High Altitude Training Camp helps performers prepare for competition. Participants learn air guitar history and theory, instrument maintenance, choreography, and endurance training.

The competition’s rules and expectations are simple: each competitor must perform a one-minute song of their choice and one chosen on the spot by the organizers. Judges score the performances on a scale of 4.0 to 6.0, similar to a figure skating competition.

One question still remains: are these people insane?

Watching them contort their sweaty faces onstage and skillfully strum nothingness to a Motörhead song was disturbing. My eyes awkwardly shifted to the person beside me as I thought, “Are they for real?”

These pretend guitarists get to fulfill their childhood dreams of becoming a rock star through their masturbatory display of some absurd form of performance art.

While I understand their hippie belief that it’s all about the performance freedom and the cathartic experience of transforming into rock icons, the whole idea of arrogantly strutting around onstage with a headband, purple spandex and a pretend guitar is a sad way to make a statement.

They’re skipping the agonizing months spent cramped on a tour bus away from families. The hundreds of hours bands rehearse to perfect a song are reduced to a few hours rehearsing in front of the mirror to compete for empty fame and prestige.

The amount of effort and sleepless nights spent writing and composing one epic song are scrapped for a selfish dream of showing off before a crowd.

It becomes a competition of who can mock bands the best as well as who is psychotic enough to make the crowd believe they’re actually playing a real guitar.

It’s impressive to see how much work goes into these performers’ aerobic guitar fingering and choreographed air splits and knee slides. But in the end, their integrity is swapped for a false rock star dream as they compete to become the World’s Best Spazz-tastic Schizo.

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