Thursday, June 14, 2007


National Air Guitar Competition searches for Chicago's best axe-free rocker

words: Marcy Miranda

For some Americans, the best way to show their love for the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is by joining the military or hanging a flag on their front porch. For others, it's organizing an event to showcase an institution more American than apple pie: rock 'n' roll.

"We felt it was our patriotic duty," says Kriston Lucker, who with friend Cedric Devitt co-founded the U.S. National Air Guitar Competition in 2003 after hearing about the Air Guitar World Championships and learning that there was no national equivalent. "We felt like it was the one thing the U.S. is well known for."

During the Air Guitar Competition, participants in 14 cities across the country get the chance to show off their faux guitar-playing skills. The contest allows guitarists free creative reign during their 60-second segment, from the song they perform to the props they use. The only restriction: No guitars or guitar-like props. In each city, a local winner is chosen who gets the chance to compete for the national title. The national winner will fly to Finland in early September to have a shot at the Air Guitar World Champion title.

Chicagoans will get the chance to shred an imaginary instrument for the second year, says Shawn Rios, the Chicago Air Guitar coordinator. Rios explains planning the event is no different than booking a concert, with the exception of attracting an audience to the event. "You're convincing people to go check out dudes and gals who have no shame playing an instrument that doesn't exist for a couple hours -- and they're onstage doing it without a band," he says. "You have to figure out how to make this as tongue-in-cheek as possible so people actually take an interest in such a thing. It's almost Monty Python meets Spinal Tap."

Lucker says originality is a plus for contestants. The current national champion won performing a medley of Carlos Montoya, a classical Flamenco guitarist, and Metallica. Although Rios is unsure of what Chicagoans will do this year, he says anything is possible in a city with as vibrant a music scene as Chicago. "I think most of them are gonna take a stab at the Van Halen (songs), the AC/DCs, the Whitesnakes," he says. "But hey, it's Chicago. There could be a total indie-pop twist to things. Kids could be playing White Stripes tunes. How cool would that be?"

The U.S. Air Guitar Competition will make its Chicago stop at the Metro (3730 N. Clark, 773/935-5248) June 15