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Way Back Machine Activate: Shape of an air guitar and the US Air Guitar Championships 2019!

Updated: Feb 18, 2020


Pictures from US Air Guitar Portland Championships 2019 Courtesy of Lenny Gotter and J. Levinson

I probably need to explain to those who do not know about air guitar. Yes, it is a thing. The World Air Guitar Championships were created and are still hosted today in Oulu, Finland.


The premise is world peace. If you can put down your gun and pick up an air guitar, you can't shoot anyone. I interpret this to mean that if we all could concentrate on being creative in positive ways, we wouldn’t have time to kill, hate and ruin our environment. Air guitar is community, love, respect, and a whole lot of ridiculous, silly fun.


I would go so far as to say that air guitar is my religion. Last summer, though--summer is air guitar season--I had a hard time getting to "church." For example, on the day of the regional contest here in Portland, Oregon, I woke up seriously feeling the chemotherapy from which I'd been unplugged the day before. Leading up to this competition, I hadn't even been able to practice except for running over my routine in my head. Even so, I went onstage twice and lost by a tenth of a point for the second year running. Not bad with someone with stage 4 colorectal cancer which I'd learned about less than a month earlier.



At the end of the show everyone is invited onto the stage to play their air guitars to Freebird

The Invitation (The Air Guitar Saga Continues):


Normally, if you lose your local contest, the only way to compete in the US Air Guitar National Championships is to travel to the host city and place high enough in the so-called Dark Horse ("best of the rest") competition to advance to the championship held two days later. Because of my close placing in Portland, I was invited to compete in the Dark Horse, but I knew I wouldn't have the energy to get through the Dark Horse and the championship, assuming I placed high enough to advance. I couldn't be away from home and off my couch for that long.


So the organizers offered me a spot IN the championship in Nashville, Tennessee. They even offered to help me with the cost of travel...this was unprecedented. Humbly, and a little guiltily, I accepted both offers.


Once again, I did not physically practice for the competition, but kept running my Portland performance through my head. I was determined to put on a good show regardless of my placing against the top air guitarists in the U.S.


Throughout this trip, I knew I would have to manage my bowel urgency very closely and know where a bathroom was at all times. I would also have to be super selective about how I expended my energy. The only two items on my itinerary for the weekend was 1) karaoke night to commune with my people and 2) to compete at the national championship.


Before the show, air guitarists draw numbers to determine the order of competition. In the green room, sitting on a couch before a VICE camera crew covering the event, I drew the worst spot--number one, which had a rotten sort of elegance to it, considering I had drawn the same spot at the only other national championship I had ever competed in--Denver, Colorado, 2012, an experience that left sour memories and a desire to do better next time.


Oh, well. I accepted my lot, and knew I would do my best to be as entertaining as possible.


Then...at the end of the number drawing, my air guitar BFF, Lieutenant Facemelter, asked me if I wanted to trade numbers with him. He had drawn fourteen--a really good spot! I told him I was okay with going first, but he insisted on switching, and to tell you the truth, I was excited to have a better chance to make it to the second round--a dream of mine--which, spoiler alert, I DID.


I'll spare you the play by play of love and community that almost overwhelmed me that August weekend. I will tell you though, that when I boarded the plane in Nashville, I went on as the FOURTH best air guitarist (tied with Brock McRock) in the U.S.A., and I was on top of the fucking world!



Second round at the US Air Guitar Championships in Nashville 2019.

I only got to listen to this song once!

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