It's a long way to the top if you wanna pretend to rock & roll. Every year, the U.S. Air Guitar Championships plays host to mock rock stars who lack musical talent, instruments and pride but do have cool stage names such as Windhammer, the Rockupine and Lt. Facemelter. Competitors mime along to two songs, each lasting one minute, and each judged according to technical merit, stage presence and "airness," which is defined as the "extent to which a performance transcends the imitation of a real guitar and becomes an art form in and of itself." Other air instruments, air roadies and air backup musicians are not allowed. Air groupies, air drugs and air meltdowns are allowed backstage. The top three in L.A.'s July 19 semifinals advance to the final round in Kansas City, followed by the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland, the country that gave us so many Satanic, black-metal bands. The current world title holder is Kansas' own Eric "Mean Melin" Melin. So do America proud. Tonight's event also includes performances by past world champions Nordic Thunder and Hot Lixx Hulahan, and Southern California's Air Guitar All-Stars, which you can air watch. Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., July 19, 8 p.m.; $18 in advance, $20 at the door. (310) 276-1158, troubadour.com, usairguitar.com.