Manami "TAM" Morita from Japan delivers a gymnastic performance while playing the air guitar that would let an ordinary nightclub dancer go green with envy at the Air Guitar World Championships at the Rotuaari Square in Oulu, Finland on August 26 2016. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Manami “TAM” Morita from Japan delivers a gymnastic performance while playing the air guitar that would let an ordinary nightclub dancer go green with envy at the Air Guitar World Championships at the Rotuaari Square in Oulu, Finland on August 26 2016. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

After trying real hard for the past two years, he finally did it – Matt “Airistotle” Burns from the US fidgeted himself to gold in the Air Guitar World Championships on Friday and kicked defending champion Kereel “Your Daddy” Blumenkrants from Russia in second place. You have no idea what I am talking about? Then let me introduce you to a world of its own, a world full of glitter, glam and peculiarities – the world of Air Guitar.

ft-oulu-mapOne of the first things I knew about Oulu before moving here from my far-away country was that it is the proud host of the Air Guitar World Championships. Since 1996 already, actually! Year after year, air guitar players – one could rather call them artists – travel from all around the world to our capital of Northern Scandinavia to compete against each other in a special sport of its own. While one could certainly wonder whether they check in special luggage for their airy instruments (I wouldn’t be surprised if they did), they actually don’t need anything else but their own complex performance and maybe a prop or two to round up the character they incarnate.

The finals took place this Friday, August 26, as usual on the Rotuaari Square in the middle of the city center. Competitors qualified before either through their country finals (around 20 countries are part of this movement) or in the Dark Horse round on Thursday evening in 45 Special, a local bar. There can’t have been as many spectators as there are on the final evening, though: it is almost unmanageable to get any further than 2 meters across the packed square; according to host and old stager Dan “Björn Türoque” Crane, there are around 8,000 people watching the show live (and for free!).

Thousands of spectators gather at the Rotuaari Square to witness the air guitar finals. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Thousands of spectators gather at the Rotuaari Square to witness the air guitar finals. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

The crowd is cheering, the mood is a happy one – no wonder, with the slogan of the championships being “Wars would end and all the bad things would go away if everyone just played air guitar” – and as soon as you peek backstage, you seem to be in a different world that reminds a little bit of a Las Vegas show club for odd characters. There is no special music genre or era, as long as a song contains riffs and solos for a guitar, the performer can do his or her best to imitate playing one. And that’s exactly what they do. They jump, they fidget, they bend and voicelessly sing along while they play, caress and fiddle a guitar only they can see. A jury consisting of comedians, choreographers, and previous champions gives scores in the style of an ice-skating competition. “Airness” is one of the criteria that are judged, and it is probably the most biased and subjective one.

Luke "Van Dammage" impresses with his finesse and love wig on the chest. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Luke “Van Dammage” impresses with his finesse and love wig on the chest. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

“The full package is what counts, whether or not you’re a believable character,” explains Daniel “Moredrive” Oldemeier, a German contestant who qualified through the Dark Horse round this year. He is participating here in Oulu ever since he read Dan “Björn Türoque” Crane’s book and got hooked by the spirit of this eccentric community. He practices frequently and actually wrote the song he is performing in the first round of the finals himself – knowing the actual grips of a real guitar can only be of advantage when playing the breezy one, right? Unfortunately, he doesn’t make it to the second round, but that doesn’t keep him from cheering for his competitors. “All you need is love” – a motto the Air Guitar followers seem to have imprinted on their characters and attitude. There is no envy or hard feelings when someone is beaten, then she or he simply comes in front of the stage and rocks along off-stage.

Matt "Airistotle" Burns lifts his leg with grace. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Matt “Airistotle” Burns lifts his leg with grace. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

In the second round, everyone has to perform to the same song, and they all hear it for the first time right there on stage. Things get spicy – Luke “Van Dammage” Sevcik accidentally slides a bit too far during his performance and lands off stage on one of the reporters. No one gets hurt, luckily. Manami “TAM” Morita from Japan impresses with additional skills and delivers a gymnastic performance while playing the air guitar that would let an ordinary nightclub dancer go green with envy.

Aristotle's moves appear spontaneous and light-footed. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Airistotle’s moves appear spontaneous and light-footed. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

But the quickest, fastest and youngest-looking artist outshines them all. Matt “Airistotle” Burns has a talent that lets his movements look light-footed and spontaneous, which convinces even the roughest jury-members. With almost 1.0 scores ahead of the second place he snitches gold, and finally succeeds to become the World Champion in Air Guitar in his fourth try. We are already looking forward to his performance next year, and curious if he will age until then. Probably not.

15 air guitarists from around the world competed in this year’s Air Guitar World Championships. Here are the results:

1. Matt “Airistotle” Burns (USA) 35,7 (17,7)

2. Kereel “Your Daddy” Blumenkrants (RUS) 34,8 (17,3)

3. Nicole “Mom Jeans Jeanie” Sevcik (USA) 34,3 (17,1)

4. Rob “The Marquis” Messel (USA) 34,1 (17,0)

5. Dave “G. Tso Money” Chen (TW) 33,7 (17,0)

5. Luke “Van Dammage” Sevcik 33,7 (17,0)

7. Manami “TAM” Morita (JPN) 33,6 (16,9)

8. Dave “Onkel Udo” Wonz (GER) 33,3 (17,0)

9. Blake “The Canadian Tuxedo” Johnston (CAN) 16,8

10. Daniel “Moredrive” Oldemeier (GER) 16,7

10. Vincent “Lord Scrat” Roussel (FRA) 16,7

12. Jeffrey “The Airtiste” Stiles (USA) 16,5

13. Thom ” w!ldth!ng” Wilding (UK) 16,3

14. Giesela “Gizzy Guitar” Visser (NZL) 16,2

15. Carlos “Hanzel the Manzel” Mengual (CAN) 15,8

And here we have more pics:

The American air guitar player Rob "The Marquis" Messel. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

The American air guitar player Rob “The Marquis” Messel. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

 

Russian air guitar artist Kereel "Your Daddy" Blumenkrants, who won the championships last year, came second. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Russian air guitar artist Kereel “Your Daddy” Blumenkrants, who won the championships last year, came second. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

 

Nicole "Mom Jeans Jeanie" Sevcik, Luke "Van Dammage" Sevcik's wife, took the third place. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Nicole “Mom Jeans Jeanie” Sevcik, Luke “Van Dammage” Sevcik’s wife, took the third place. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

 

Vincent "Lord Scrat" Roussel from France kills a real guitar. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

Vincent “Lord Scrat” Roussel from France kills a real guitar. Picture: Ivika Jäger for Finland Today

 

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