Faux Rockers Riff at NYC's Regional Air Guitar Tournament

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Air guitar champs unite! / Photo by William Goodman
WRITTEN BY
William Goodman

"You can have an acoustic or electric, just as long as it's invisible," explained beer-guzzling emcee Bjorn Turoque (pronounced "born-to-rock") last night (June 3) at New York City's regional installment of the 2008 Cuervo Black U.S. Air Guitar Championships, presented by TouchTunes, in which brazen imaginatives took the Bowery Ballroom's stage to flaunt their skills -- finger taps, whammy bar pangs, and face-contorting solos flourished.

"And groupies are encouraged," Turoque, the subject of documentary film Air Guitar Nation, later added. And with spirited chants aplenty, there certainly wasn't a shortage.

Overtly engaging and silly in all aspects, the tournament brought out a secret side of many seemingly typical New Yorkers; the engineer with a penchant for death and destruction speed metal, the 43-year-old who dons spandex and spends his free time air guitaring to Van Halen. And the names only added to the "you must be kidding me" factor: LepROCKaun, Six-String General, Hot Lixx Hulahan, Shreddy Mercury, and Blastings Thrillidge were just a few.

On an array of self-picked tunes, ranging from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the Power Rangers theme song, contestants ran the stage in 60 second intervals as an "esteemed" panel of judges, including magazine editors and record company execs, made their pics based on "stage presence" and "technical merit."

Some contestants leapt into the crowd, others riffed behind the back, but no matter the move, the performances were simultaneously wince- and smile-inducing. And in the end, despite many newcomers' valid efforts, returning, um, rocker Air to the Throne, a.k.a. Steven Ryan, was bestowed the winning nod and will head to San Francisco in August for the U.S. championships, and then -- if successful -- to Norway to compete for the world title.

But (sorry performers) the show's most entertaining aspect was without a doubt the judge's comments. "You're like a wasted, homeless Bruce Springsteen...but shittier," offered one judge, as a crowd of homemade-billboard-toting fans chanted in unison. Another, well, he may have summed up the entire pool of contestants: "You look like a comic book collector." True: But in their own little way, these are the superheroes of rock'n'roll.

We asked: What is the best song for shredding air guitar?

Read the fans' answers >>
More photos from this show >>

We Asked: What is the best song to shred air guitar to??

Back to the story >>
More photos from this show >>


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman


Air Guitar / William Goodman


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman


Air Guitar / Photo by William Goodman

Back to the story >>
Read the fans' answers >>

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