Bedroom fantasies on stage: air guitar competitions hit Taiwan
Written and translated by Diva Yang
Want to be a rock star? Don't know how to play an instrument? It doesn't matter! During the first annual Air Guitar Taiwan event, no guitars are allowed. In fact, no instruments at all are allowed on stage. Instead, it's just you, the stage, the lights, the music, your air guitar and a chance to be famous. Show off your best air guitar for 60 seconds with any song you choose, before going on stage once more for another 60 seconds.
Yes, this is the air guitar that you play in your bedroom when no one is around. However, in Oulu, Finland, where the International Air Guitar Championships have been held each year since 1996, it all comes out in front of an audience of thousands. "The once so absurd an idea has bloomed into an international media event that attracts a wide international league of contestants, audience and media representatives to Oulu, Finland," notes the AGWC website at www.airguitarworldchampionships.com. According to the its manifesto, "The purpose of the Air Guitar World Championships is to promote world peace. According to the ideology of the air guitar, wars end, global warming stops, and all the other bad things disappear if everybody in the world plays air guitar. To honour this purpose, at the end of every Air Guitar World Championships competition, all the people of the world are called upon to simultaneously play the air guitar for saving the world." Indeed.
In 2006 and 2007, Ochi "Dainoji" Yosuke from Japan won the title of Best Air Guitarist In The World, giving Asia the victory for the first time in the competition's history. To see how you compare, search for his videos on Youtube. However, in 2008 the crown went to Craig "Hot Lixx Hulahan" Billmeier from America.
Bill Allen and Todd MacMillan, founders of Air Guitar Taiwan (AGT), are hoping to not only bring the championship title back to Asia, but this time to Taiwan. The whole idea came from a DVD documentary that Todd watched. After passing it on to Bill, Todd noted repeatedly that they should host the Taiwan air guitar championships. "The first time Todd said we should do it here in Taiwan, I wasn't sure if he was serious or I should just laugh," said Bill.
The two applied and were granted the rights to hold the Taiwan competition of the Air Guitar World Championships to designate Taiwan's representative to this year's AGWC championship finals in Finland on August 21, 2009. So the winner this year will be the very first to represent Taiwan in history--and the last if the organisation decides to only allow 'Chinese Taipei' in future.
"After we got the rights, we weren't sure what to do next," admits Todd. We had tried contacting a few venues for sponsorships and got the run-around. But as soon as we approached Carnegies, they jumped right in," says Bill. Soon after, this was followed up with support from The Pig & Whistle in Kaohsiung, and the competition began to take shape.
On Friday, June 26 at 9 p.m., at The Pig & Whistle in Kaohsiung the competition kicks off to designate the southern champion. Then, on Saturday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at Carnegies the competition for the northern champion kicks off. Finally, later in the evening the southern and northern champions square off to be declared the guitar god of Taiwan--who will win a free round-trip ticket to Finland to compete in the this year's world championship. That evening's entertainment will also include performances (with instruments) by The Money Shot Horns and the Rock In Hose Burlesque ("we will titillate, amuse, entertain, shock, and charm you"). Rick Monday from ICRT will be the English host for the show, although a Chinese host is still being sought. There will also be lucky draw giveaways.
For up-and-coming air guitar performers, Todd offers a bit of guidance: To excel in this competition, one should be able to reach a mental and physical state beyond the realm of the casual air performer. The true air guitar champion will become, in all ways, a Rock God.
As all practitioners of the air arts are well aware, the Rock God is not born but created. One starts as a lonely bedroom-jamming, hairbrush sing-along specimen of mortal talents. To attain the higher plain of music deity, the uncomplicated oxygen strummer will morph into something quite removed from their original state of being. Inside every air guitarist is a rock persona, alter ego or evil twin waiting to explode out of its host. Call this entertainment mechanism what you will, but it is there, dormant, waiting for a large screaming crowd and an ear-damaging sound system. At the time of execution, the Air God will abandon his human existence to join the real musicians of rock legend for 60 seconds of divine cooperation. The Rock God is not a wannabe but a superior entity.
Suggestions to the Rock God: As the limits of your actual personality may become a handicap, we suggest you create your own air guitar character. There are certain considerations that should be taken into account. First, consider a musical style that you think best brings forth your inner demonstration reflex. This could include a particular artist, rock style or musical era. Are you a modern age alternative rocker or do you start strumming below the hip to old school punk? Do you instinctively bang your head while you play or are you prone to long drawn out windmills? Is Hendrix inside of your soul?
Your appearance, personality and playing style should all be in sync during every note of the song. If you can turn it on and off, feel free to do so when you enter and exit the stage. This could be too uneven for some Rock Gods, who cannot become earthly beings at the drop of a hat. These individuals are welcome to show up in character and stay that way until the title is theirs.
A stage name will prepare the crowd for your unique contribution to the night. Choose an original title or a play on words relating to the name of your hero. Call yourself Angus Chang and wear an ACDC T-shirt or a Taiwanese school uniform. The crowd will love it. But beware. A carbon copy of the original Guitar God is not advised. Be serious or humorous. Just come to rock.
Choose two songs that will turn you into a Rock God. One almighty track is for the first competition. You will perform 60 seconds of the song at full volume. Then all gods will be called upon to play a mandatory song chosen by the concert organizers. If you win the first competition, you will need a second celestial anthem to prove you are the national champion. Good luck to all!
Taiwan competitors are still being sought. If you'd like to get on stage, just go to www.airguitar.com.tw or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rock on! Peace!