1.Air Guitarists Invade Finland

1/12

Every year, competitors from 20 countries travel from around the world to Oulu, a city of 140,000 inhabitants in Northern Finland, to compete in the Air Guitar World Championships, wielding imaginary six-strings, donning outlandish costumes, and rocking out in front of 8,000 spectators with the hopes of winning the grand prize (ironically, a real guitar) and international bragging rights.

Dan Crane knows this universe better than anyone. Under his moniker Björn Türoque, he's competed at the world championship level (but never took home the top prize), written the book on air guitar (2006's To Air Is Human), and starred in Air Guitar Nation, a widely-released documentary.

What follows is Dan's personal account of the just-completed 2010 championships, featuring air shredding galore, saunas, sausages, beer mugs smashed on heads, and cameos by OK Go and Jose Gonzalez.

Click here to start the shredtastic journey >>

2.Air Guitarists Invade Finland

2/12

Every year, competitors from 20 countries travel from around the world to Oulu, a city of 140,000 inhabitants in Northern Finland, to compete in the Air Guitar World Championships, wielding imaginary six-strings, donning outlandish costumes, and rocking out in front of 8,000 spectators with the hopes of winning the grand prize (ironically, a real guitar) and international bragging rights.

Dan Crane knows this universe better than anyone. Under his moniker Björn Türoque, he's competed at the world championship level (but never took home the top prize), written the book on air guitar (2006's To Air Is Human), and starred in Air Guitar Nation, a widely-released documentary.

What follows is Dan's personal account of the just-completed 2010 championships, featuring air shredding galore, saunas, sausages, beer mugs smashed on heads, and cameos by OK Go and Jose Gonzalez.

Click here to start the shredtastic journey >>

3.Meet Björn Türoque, Our Narrator

3/12

Last weekend, for the sixth time in eight years I made the pilgrimage to Oulu, Finland for the Air Guitar World Championships. Retired from competition since 2005—after coming close but never clenching the title—I've now become the official Master of Airemonies at these battles for air guitar glory.

It's hard to explain why anyone would travel thousands of miles from across the globe to a small city in Northern Finland in order to play an invisible guitar for 60 seconds (120 if you make it to the second round). Yet, this year at the event's 15th anniversary, representatives from 20 countries as far as Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Slovakia, Ukraine, and of course the U.S., descended upon Oulu seeking air guitar glory.

4.Air-ientation

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This year's event included a 15th Anniversary Seminar held in an upscale hotel where contestants learned about the vaunted history of the air guitar art form. Part of the program: "Airientation," a demonstration by 2006 & 2008 U.S. champ, and 2008 world champ, Hot Lixx Hulahan (pictured).

We were also treated to the traditional Finnish sauna with accompanying sausages (to be eaten either before, during or after the sauna).

5.OK Go Join the Party

5/12

To culminate the evening, OK Go played in the festival tent and surprised everyone when singer Damian Kulash invited all past world champions up on stage. It was the only time I wished I had actually won this competition.

The combination of both "air" and "actual" musicians was stellar and hilarious; and Kulash didn't seem too upset when Canada's "Johnny Utah"— who had never been crowned a world champ, but was so drunk he decided to hop on stage anyway—broke one of Kulash's guitar pedals while jumping around shirtless doing windmills.

6.Little Angus Rocks the House

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The next night was the Dark Horse round, where anyone who dares trek to Oulu can sign up for a last-minute entrance into the world finals. Standout stars included "Little Angus" – a 10-year-old local, who managed to qualify with a heavy dose of Angus Young airisimilitude.

7.Günther Love Flips Out

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Following the Dark Horse round was a performance by Airnadette, an eight-piece air band from Paris. One of its members, Günther Love (pictured here in mid back-flip), was last year's world champion and would wind up winning again the following night.

Rumors swirled around town that Günther's 2009 win was a fix, since the air band was being paid to perform in Oulu. It was one of numerous conspiracy theories that often surround this heated competition.

8.Basement Aireoke Jam

8/12

That evening culminated in a sweaty, rock-fueled Aireoke (a term I invented, and yes, trademarked) in the basement of the bar. Air guitarists and spectators from around the world all joined in for some sexy, shirtless, and latent homoerotic antics. Air singers, drummers, even air bassists were all free to join in.

9.Finals Night!

9/12

Backstage on the night of the finals was a media frenzy. Camera crews from around the world interviewed spandex-clad wannabe rockers, and Little Angus was the hot interview to score.

Oddly enough, Swedish indie icon Jose Gonzalez was also backstage. He was preparing to shoot a music video with his band Junip during halftime.

10.8,000 Fans!

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The massive crowd spanned the entire town square and was estimated at 8,000—even larger than last year. I shot this photo of the audience and the judging panel from the stage.

11.Rocking with Broken Glass

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Despite amazing performances by all the contestants, including France's 2010 national champ, Eva Gina Runner (pictured), who broke a giant beer mug over her head, it was ultimately Günther Love's game to win.

12.And the Winner Is...

12/12

Meet Günther Love, the 2010 Air Guitar World Champion!