Any idiot can play the air guitar. It doesn't take nimble fingers or a good ear -- heck, it doesn't even take a guitar. But with a little showmanship and a complete lack of shame, you can still become the World Air Guitar Champion.
This morning in Oulu, Finland, twelve metal enthusiasts took their imaginary picks in hand for the fourth annual Air Guitar World Championships, broadcast live on the web. In its American form, air guitar is an intimate act best performed alone. But nordic types are more comfortable exposing themselves in public, and this roomful of longhaired rock enthusiasts was ecstatic.
Fists in the air, they took pride in their complete lack of musical ability and elevated waving their hands in space to an art form. "Performing" one-minute clips from some of the '80s and '90s speediest guitarists, these virtual Satrianis weren't being ironic. In fact, they weren't even post-ironic. They were just plain weird.
As the feedback whined and the power chords thundered from the amplifiers, the embryonic Malmsteens blossomed before my eyes. Faces contorted into pained grimaces, they bent their hands and bodies into arthritic positions that would terrify their grandmothers. Never mind that these guys can't make a barre chord in real life; they became the music.
The competition wound down with an all-contestant jam of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." The audience, and all the participants in the webcast, were encouraged to join along in the arm-jerking frenzy for world peace. As the Championship's website states: "If everyone played the air guitar, there would be no wars because the soldiers would have to lay down their weapons."
All the way over in California, it was impossible to determine who won the competition without an interpreter, but does it really matter? At the Air Guitar World Championships, everybody walks away an imaginary winner, with imaginary groupies on each arm.
When Andrew Baio isn't going off the rails of the crazy train, he pretends to be the Senior Art Director at GettingIt.