What's the best summer job that you've ever had?
I guarantee mine is better.
As the host and "Master of Airemonies" of the annual U.S. Air Guitar Championships, each summer since 2006 I've traversed the nation in search of its most skilled invisible axe-men and axe-women. These competitions are a potent, beer-soaked amalgamation of cutthroat sporting event, bombastic stadium rock concert, and hilarious performance art. The winner travels to Oulu, Finland, to represent the United States in the Air Guitar World Championships, now in its 18th year.
Kicking off the United States' 11th season in New York City this week at the Bowery Ballroom, U.S. Air Guitar seeks once again to find a champion worthy to hold the national title. With qualifying events all over the country, and regional semifinals in New York, D.C., San Francisco, and Chicago, 2013 is shaping up to one of U.S. Air Guitar's strongest seasons to date.
In honor of this 11th season of air guitar, here are, in my humble opinion, 11 of the greatest U.S. Air Guitar Championship performances to date, featuring shredding, stage flips, backwards trust falls, "Call Me Maybe," extreme weather events, and broken femurs.
Don't try this at home, people.
11) Peter "Stiff" Dickens
8) The Shred
7) Seth Leibowitz
6) Prosthetic Illusion
4) Hot Lixx Hulahan
3) Bride of Rock
2) Nordic Thunder
Since our inaugural entry in 2003 — chronicled in the award-winning cult documentary Air Guitar Nation (in which I co-star), and in my book To Air is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist — the U.S. has garnered the gold four times, including last year's commanding performance by Chicago's Nordic Thunder, known on the circuit as "The Thinking Man's Neanderthal."
Who will make it to the U.S. Finals on August 17 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles? Will reigning champion Airistotle be unseated? Will the newly crowned 2013 U.S. champ defeat Nordic Thunder, who'll return to Finland to defend his title? No one knows. As U.S. Air Guitar co-commissioner Kriston Rucker notes, however, "If there's one thing the United States deserves to dominate, it's air guitar."