If the guitar isn't actually there, does the player make a sound? Minnesotans have the opportunity to find out Saturday night when the U.S. Guitar Championships come to the Varsity Theater. No rinky-dink operation, the tour have been to places like Washington DC and New York, and will continue on to Los Angeles and Houston, culminating in the prestigious World Air Guitar Championships in Oulu, Finland. City Pages took a moment to chat with Kriston Rucker, cofounder of the U.S. Championships.
City Pages: So, how does one go about judging and air guitar competition?
Kriston Rucker: We have three criteria. First, technical ability—and that doesn't mean it has to be note for note, but it has to look like you're producing the music. Next, would be stage presence. A lot of people can perform in their bedroom, but not many can do it in front of hundreds of people—you have to be able to engage the crowd. The last is "airness" which is a sort of je ne sais quoi factor—you know it when you see it. It's the extent to which the performance transcends the imitation of an art form, and becomes an art form in and of itself.
CP: Are there any tunes that are really hard to pull off? Any that are reliably crowd-pleasers?
KR: I'd say the most hackneyed or cliché would be "Eruption" by Van Halen. A lot of songs repeat, but it really depends on what you do with the song. My favorite Motörhead's "Ace of Spades." There are also a number of AC/DC songs that are pretty solid. You have to pick songs you really like—if you're not a fan people can tell.
CP: Do you find a lot of competitors play guitar as well?
KR: Many do, but the best ones generally don't. I think it's because with real guitarists it limits what you might think to do—too much mimicry and not enough creativity.
CP: How do you feel about popular video games like Guitar Hero? Do you feel that it could bring in a new level of competitor?
KR: I think they're pretty different. Air guitar is a performance art, and Guitar Hero is just a video game. I do love the game though—I think they both tap into a similar appreciation for guitar rock.
CP: Who do you feel are going to be your big competitors at the World Championships in Finland?
KR: It varies from year to year—I'd probably say Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are big ones to beat.
Come see Minnesotans compete for the ultimate in 'airness' Saturday night at the Varsity. $12. 10:00 p.m. 1308 4th St. S.E., Minneapolis; 612.604.0222.