Yes, this is a thing. And it’s phenomenal.
In Oulu, Finland, air guitar isn’t just a way to jam to your favorite AC/DC song, it’s a precious skill all on its own. Phantom instruments come to life with the Air Guitar World Championships this August.
“[Air guitarists] give countless hours to creating characters, editing music and choreographing routines,” 2012 World Champion Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard tells the RFT.
Air guitaring is a passion, an activity no longer associated with the enthusiastic metal fan anymore. It’s got a massive fan base and a festival that kicks ass. Every year, several thousand people gather to watch these rock n roll loving folks shred air guitars on stage – lip-syncing, exaggerated hand movement, head-banging and all. They spend hours of their time practicing the perfect routine that ultimately lasts only a few minutes.
“Wars would end and all the bad things would go away if everyone just played air guitar.” – the ideology behind the festival
Initiated n 1996, AGWC started as part of the annual Oulu Music Video Festival, as a sideshow parody event for the attendees of the festival. But the attention and popularity it received soon helped it progress into a recognized world contest, which is now an integral part of the festival, drawing music fans from all over the world. In 2013, the contest was being held in 20 countries across the globe, spreading the hilariously appropriate mantra of the festival, “Make Air, Not War.”
“Be prepared to look silly on stage.”
– Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard, ’12 Champion, RFT
Probably the only music-related contest that prohibits all musical instruments, sans a capella, AGWC takes the competition aspect of the festival seriously. Every year, one talented air-guitar aficionado is awarded the custom-made ‘Flying Finn’ guitar, iconic to the festival and handmade by Matti Nevalainen.
Shortlisted contestants from around the globe display their air shredding in the World Finals, which decides the fate of them all, based on a judging panel. The first ever Air Guitar World Championship was judged by Finnish guitarist Juha Torvinen, and prizes included the Flying Finn and a VOX BM Special amplifier donated by Queen guitarist Brian May.
“If you enjoy drama and getting your face melted, this is your evening.” – the AGWC website
This year’s edition of AGWC will begin with an opening act We Will Dub You by the “air band” Airnadette, comprising of six French powerhouse air guitarists. “We Will Dub You mixes up the most memorable moments of pop culture, flavoured with your favorite cult classics.” says the AGWC website.
Amazingly, this festival encompasses much more than the ability to play an invisible guitar, there’s a whole mutual respect in the community that’s vaguely comforting. Everybody adores and respects the air guitar.
Another badge to add to the beautifully unusual festivals hosted by Finland, the Air Guitar World Championship is a world peace promoting, rock n roll loving, air respecting affair that’s been going strong for two decades now, and will probably go on for a while.
Air Guitar World Championships 2015 will commence on August 26-28 in Oulu, Northern Finland with new contestants and fresh routines. If you think air guitar is your calling, or have envisioned yourself as part of Metallica or maybe the lone Ziggy Stardust up their on stage with groupies screaming in the front row at some point in your life, you can submit a one minute entry of yourself jamming to a song on the AGWC website. Happy Air Guitaring!