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US Air Guitar Thu Jun 28 2012
Get ready to shred some serious air! Air guitar is back in Chicago this Friday at the Metro. The Air Guitar Regional Competition will feature competitors from all over the Midwest, all vying for a spot at the US championship competition which will be held this year in Denver.
Tickets are available for the 9pm show at the Metro here. Doors open at 8pm.
Still not convinced you should go? Check out the interview with reigning US champion, Justin Howard -- or as he is known in the air guitar world, Nordic Thunder -- for some convincing reasons to head to the show.
Notes from the Master
What does air guitar mean to you?
Air guitar has given me a purpose in life and one in which I can talk about unapologetically. It's not just the physical act of playing the air guitar, dressing up like a hairy Viking, or shedding blood on stage that I see as my life's purpose. Instead, it is everything that surrounds the actual performance itself. Air guitar has allowed me to literally travel the world, learn words in foreign languages (although mostly dirty), make friends, tell stories, hear stories, make strangers laugh and really learn to wring as much joy out of life as I possibly can.
When I first started competing in air guitar I heard US Air Guitar co-commissioner Kriston Rucker say, "Air guitar is like a vessel. It's up to you to decide what goes in it." I thought that statement was a little heavy at the time, but as I prepare to enter my 7th year as a member of the air guitar community, I have taken away from it something very personal. I honestly believe everyone deserves to be happy in life. No matter what it might be, everyone deserves to find his or her "vessel" and it is their responsibility to then fill it with what makes him or her happy. I'm very lucky in that I have found mine and that it just so happens to be air guitar.
What have you learned this past year as US Air Guitar Champion?
This past year I have learned that being the greatest air guitarist in all of the United States is pretty awesome. I was on "Lopez Tonight," traveled to Germany to perform for college professors and scientists, toured Finland for two weeks, even got to open for Hall and Oates and The Roots at a music festival in New York. I even got my own trading card! I've also learned that there is a power that comes with being the champ, and I've tried to take that power and do some good with it. Air guitar is about promoting world peace, and I have done my absolute best to do my part. I may not be moving mountains, but I promise I am trying my best. I do this by giving it my all to bring joy to others, and to try to share the love that I have for air guitar with strangers. There is something really incredible about sharing happiness with someone, and being able to see it on their face. Especially when that happiness is being delivered by an invisible guitar. I've gotten to play air guitar with large groups of children on a few occasions, and I was even a guest to a musical therapy class in Finland. This man and his wife use musical therapy to work with children who are mentally disabled. To be a guest in one of his sessions was absolutely amazing. It has been one of the absolute most amazing experiences I have ever had. I guess in short, it has been life changing being the US air guitar champ. It has honestly given me a new outlook on life.
What is the most common response you get when people find out you are the US Air Guitar Champ?
The most common response I get when someone finds out that I am the national air guitar champion is usually laughter. Then they say "are you serious?" It's great though, because it has allowed me to really geek out and talk about air guitar and how powerful it is. It's also great to talk about air guitar to people in the elevator at my job. Where I work is very professional, so when people ask me about my air guitar adventures and I see their faces light up I get really excited. It's really awesome.
Go back seven years: What was your very first time on stage like?
Well, I am not the same person I was seven years ago. So that person who was on stage for the first time then is a totally different person now. The way I approach air guitar now is a lot different. I've learned a lot from competing, meeting and hanging with other air guitarists. However, that rush I got being on the stage the first time is the same rush I get now. I also get the same nerves and feel like I am going to puke before I begin a routine. Those feelings of anxiety/adrenaline/nerves have not changed one bit. That's part of the fun though, because it is only in those moments I get those feelings. As weird as it sounds, it's like a drug. You crave those intense emotions. I must say though, I never ever imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be where I am now in my air guitar "career." It's pretty surreal to think about the opportunities that I've been given because of acting like a total idiot.
Can you describe to a first-time air guitar competition goer what they will see/feel at the Metro on Friday night?
A first time air guitar goer is in for a real treat. You're going to see a comedy show, a rock concert, a weird interpretive dance routine and a fierce competition. You are going to see people who are not ashamed of who they are, and people who celebrate being "weird." It's an amazing thing to witness. You're going to have your face hurt from laughing so much, and your throat sore from screaming. You just might even convince yourself to sign up when it comes back to town next year. I promise you will be entertained, and you will have one of the most fun nights of your life.
Any surprises up your sleeve for the show on Friday?
I don't have any real surprises up my sleeves for Friday, but for the first time at the Metro I will be doing something I've never done. When competing I get 60 seconds to go balls to the wall. On Friday I've got 5 minutes. I'm performing one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time edited down track for track, in order, to a 5 minute neck breaking routine. If you want to know what album I'm doing, you'll have to come to the show!
Do you have your eyes set on the World Championship this year?
My eyes are absolutely set on the World Championships this year! I've got a long road ahead of me though. There has never been a US Air Guitar champion to win back to back titles at the finals. So the deck is not stacked in my favor. However, I plan on going harder this year than I have ever gone before. I've got a new move I will be unleashing during my first round performance that has the potential to really screw up my back. I've tested it out in front of an audience in Finland back in April, and the response was good. My body will hate me for it, but the crowd will hopefully dig it. I really need to step up my game this year if I want to retain the title. Regardless of whether or not I win the US championship title again this year, I plan to fly to Finland in August for the world championships. They have a dark horse competition the night before the world finals. If I win that, I will be able to compete in the world finals with over 20 countries from around the world.
Why should every Chicagoan go to the show on Friday?
Every Chicagoan should come to the Metro on Friday to experience a really great time! I can go on and on about how awesome air guitar is and why you should see it... but in all honesty, you need to see it to believe it. You really do. So if someone is even the slightest bit curious about what the show might be like, they should come.
Any other words/thoughts for readers?
I've been the Chicago regional air guitar champion four times now. I must say, it's been an incredibly fun run and I couldn't be more honored to represent our fine city on the air guitar stage. I've met so many awesome Chicagoans playing air guitar and I've discovered that OUR city has the finest air guitar fans in the entire country. Without the people of Chicago who support air guitar and my long haired bearded dorky self, there wouldn't be air guitar to watch in Chicago. So I would very much like to say thank you to every single person who's come to an air guitar show, or who has cheered me on while I play my invisible instrument on stage. Friday night there will be a new champion in this city, and I hope you all are as good to him or her as you have been to me.