The air guitar world championship is the pinnacle of both competitive and recreational air guitar performances.
The task is simple: pretenders to the throne perform one minute each of a compulsory and a self-chosen song, on stage in a rocking, gig-like atmosphere, alone and armed with nothing but - well, actually, armed with nothing. Points are awarded on a scale of 4.0 to 6.0, with artistic merit, vigour and emotional over-involvement being valued most highly.
A typical performance might include some of the following: (in)appropriate costume; scissor kicks; windmilling arms; or for more advanced performers, signalling to an imaginary sound engineer or removing plectrum from microphone stand prior to commencement of song. Accidental dropping of air guitars is occasionally observed.
The event began as part of a larger music video festival in Finland in 1996 and has since been held there every summer. The competition has grown so much since then that of the 20,000 or so people who attend the festival, up to 8000 watch the air guitarists going through their paces (or leaps). Staggeringly, in an end of year review of 2001, Time Magazine listed the championships as one of the most important news items of the year1.
Initially dominated by Finnish competitors, the championships2 are now beginning to deserve their 'World Event' status with the recent addition of official national qualifying titles in Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Norway. Other countries hold national and regional competitions which have no connection to the World Championships; for example the UK National Air Guitar Competition has been held since 1995. If you miss the official world heats, you can have a crack at the qualifying event in Finland the night before the final. You can even enrol in an air guitar training camp to prepare for the main event.
Each year the winners receive a solid, bona fide guitar as a prize3, and they are invited back to defend their title next year.
The event also has a social agenda, albeit a slightly tongue-in-cheek one. They propose that if more people would only play air guitar just that little bit more, all wars would cease and 'all bad things would disappear'. True believers in leading by example, they close proceedings by inviting the whole world to play along with the event's anthem via an Internet broadcast.
And the closing track? 'Rockin' In The Free World' by Neil Young.