Yearning for rock stardom? Even without musical talent, you can experience the rush and the glory of being on stage in front of a wild, cheering audience. Just pick up the one instrument that anyone can play anytime, anywhere — the air guitar.
No longer confined to the bedroom, where rock fans might have put on their favorite Cream record and pretended to be Eric Clapton, air guitar has become both a stage art and worldwide phenomenon.
Air guitarists have been congregating annually in Finland since 1996 for a world championship that boasts participation from countries like Australia, Japan, Kenya, Russia, the US, and now Taiwan.
The first annual Taiwan Air Guitar Championships, which had its first round two weeks ago in Kaohsiung, concludes tonight at Carnegie’s in Taipei.
The winner receives a round-trip plane ticket to Oulu, Finland, to represent Taiwan in the world championship.
The Taiwan competition was born out of a late-night, drunken conversation between two expat friends, Bill Allen of the US and Todd MacMillan of Canada. MacMillan had just seen Air Guitar Nation, the 2006 film that followed two American contestants to the world championship.
“One of our first thoughts was: can we enter Taiwan in a world organization as Taiwan?” said MacMillan.
“Not that [Chinese] Taipei bullshit,” said Allen.
It turned out to be easy, the two said, after contacting the championship organizers in Finland.
All they had to do was hold a national competition according to prescribed rules: contestants must play an “invisible” instrument on stage, and compete in two rounds, each lasting 60 seconds.
In one round, contestants play along to a song of their own choosing; in the other round, a “compulsory song” is chosen for the contestants, who hear it only just before the competition.
WHAT: Air Guitar Championships Taiwan
WHEN: Today at 6pm
WHERE: Carnegie’s, 100, Anhe Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市安和路二段100號) Telephone: (02) 2325-4433
ENTRANCE: NT$300 at the door
ON THE NET: www.airguitar.com.tw, www.airguitarworldchampionships.com
The more Allen and MacMillan learned about “Air Guitar ideology,” the more they knew they wanted to hold the contest.
“Their manifesto says the idea is, if everybody’s holding an air guitar, you can’t hold a rifle. So it’s all for world peace,” said Allen.
Everything else will be hunky-dory, too, according to the manifesto: “… all bad things disappear from the world and the climate change stops if everybody plays the Air Guitar.”
The pair managed to get Nokia Taiwan to sponsor the winner’s plane ticket to the championship, thanks to help from Finland’s trade office in Taipei, Finpro Taiwan, which Allen said was “pumped” about the idea.
At its worst, an air guitar performance is cheesy and embarrassing. At best, it’s still cheesy and embarrassing, but fun to watch as the participants go to great lengths to inspire a crowd as if they were really at a rock show.
A search on YouTube easily leads to renowned air guitarists like Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier of the US — the current reigning world champion — and Ochi “Dainoji” Yosuke of Japan.
Yosuke, who was the world champion in 2006 and 2007, is a good example of how an air guitarist can play out the rock ’n’ roll fantasy to the extreme.
At the 2007 world championships, he got into character by mimicking a rock guitarist warming up before a show. He adjusted the knobs on his amp (which surely went up to 11) and gave instructions to imaginary roadies standing on the side of the stage, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
As soon as the song started (The Offspring’s Come Out and Play (Gotta Keep ’Em Separated)), the portly and nerdy-looking Yosuke transformed into a rock god with one leap into the air; he swung his arms and kicked his legs in perfect timing with the guitar riffs. The crowd clapped along and roared with approval.