Thanks in part to the 2006 documentary Air Guitar Nation – which follows the trail of world air guitar maestro C-Diddy (David Jung) as he twiddles and hair-flings his way to celebrity status – now every IPA-drinking, oversized-jeans-wearing plain dude wants of piece of that action too.
Thursday night, a handful of them (and some gals too) got a piece on the strip in Hollywood, with one lucky, finger-wiggling plain dude in particular now going to the US Air Guitar finals in Chicago next week – and possibly onto Oulu, Finland in August for the world championship.
Most everybody's got that one song that gets the elbows flapping and the fingers and wrists curling into a faux-rocking charade: There's the classic guilty pleasure of Boston's balls-out, power chord anthem “More Than a Feeling,” or the easy chug-a-chug (for the rhythm-less among us) of Motley Crue's “Dr. Feelgood” or, for the noodling connoisseur, perhaps its the three-solo slaughter and the all-the-way-up-the-neck-of-the-guitar action you get with Skynyrd's “Free Bird.”
Contestants chose as wisely and un-originally as that on Thursday, with selections ranging from the overly ambitious Van Halen classic “Panama,” to the crowd-pleasing generica of Henrix's “Star Spangled Banner,” to the truly sad and awkward, yet technically challenging keys-and-guitar combo of Journey's “Separate Ways.” Journey's biggest hit was done up expertly by veteran air-axman “Caplickster” a curly-mustached super-hero in tiger print tights whose cod piece was full of smoking dry ice. Weird curly mustache dude, what were you thinking?
The biggest draw of air guitar is that it is truly a people's sport; for the endeavor of air guitar requires no actual skill. It is almost as a egalitarian as an eating contest or speed dating. But don't be fooled, champ, every winner needs a few important tools: a gimmick (ninja, hula dancer, Christ, etc.), a handful of devoted and shameless friends in the crowd to root for you (if these friends are drunk and loud it helps too), and the mugging: facial contortions are a must and the more the better.
One fan favorite, the 60-something “Smart Old Broad” had the best gimmick of all: her age. With her stiff posture and her “Bob Dole” hand, Smart Old Broad swayed along to Jimi Hendrix's version of the national anthem and drove the crowd into a fervor – with the drunken audience chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
Not sure if it was a send up for Bastille day, but the mime-ing was heavy too Thursday night: Throwing the air guitar up and then catching it, playing with the teeth, playing behind the back, pretending to be trapped in a box (just kidding). Anything theatrical scored big with the judges, consisting of 2008 world air guitar champion “Hot Licks” Houlihan and comedian Blaine Capatch (of MADtv and Beat the Geeks), who gave “Smart Old Broad” a perfect 6.0 score because she “reminded him of a teacher he wanted to fuck in school.”
Marcy Starr revved up the crowd with her busty, bluesy swagger – her act was more of a Jumbo's Clown room pole dance than an attempt at fake guitar playing. After rolling on the ground and almost losing her top, Starr poured an entire bottle of Bud Light on her heaving chest. Needless to say, she made it to the second round.
Honorable mention went to the “small Elvis,” a plain Asian dude in an oversized suit who did a slow song, the old guy who played along to Iron Maiden with a malfunctioning, homemade blinking t-shirt, and the Japanese bride.
But it was Mr. Shred-boy-R-Dee who garnered the spot in the championship round and a chance to make it to the Finland finals. He entered the stage stiffly in a “Michael” (from Halloween) mask and jumpsuit, only to strip down and reveal his hairy chest and – surprise – a bucket of Halloween candy. So listen up, plain dudes, if you want to get to Finland next year it'll require a flagrant dismissal of all sophistication and grace whatsoever, coupled with the inability to feel humiliation or embarrassment. Candy doesn't hurt either.
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