Playing air guitar is easier than playing an actual guitar. Tuning is not an issue, lessons are not required and the act itself demands less a mastery of the instrument and more a mastery of enthusiasm. Air sex is even simpler. You don't even have to convince someone to have sex with you. You just make love to the air. What could be easier?
Air guitar and air sex represent a marriage of laziness and instant celebrity. So, it should come as no surprise that both activities have their own competitive tours: the YouTube-generation's version of the traveling circus.
But while both come across as kind of stupid on the surface, they each have a secret ingredient that transforms their flaws into something bordering on performance art—the party atmosphere. Just ask the Six String General, who describes the U.S. Air Guitar Tour as being a celebration of “sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.” He's already competed in four U.S. Air Guitar competitions and is signed up to perform when the tour stops at The Casbah. The General, who's known to his friends as Tim Grunland, told CityBeat that he'll be “flashy and over the top” and will proudly display “a lack of shame” in order to whip his competition.
But local air-enthusiast Lieutenant Face-Melter, aka Jason Farnan, will undoubtedly be out for glory as well. Lieutenant Face-Melter, who maybe should be called “Private Face-Melter,” since this will be his first taste of air-guitar combat, was first inspired by the 2006 documentary Air Guitar Nation.
“A buddy e-mailed me a couple months ago, and he said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that the [Air Guitar Tour] is coming again, and this time it's in San Diego,'” Farnan recounts. “I went online to go buy a ticket just to go see the show, and then I found out for a couple bucks more you could just sign up to compete. I wasn't really aware it was that easy to do. I figured, you get a free entry to the show anyways, so I might as well just sign up and see what happens.”
The advantage may have to go to Grunland here. First of all, he's a general. But, as he pointed out, even though it's just air guitar, one must still display amazing showmanship and be “a bad-ass rock 'n' roller.” “You gotta be able to get up there and shred,” Grunland says.
“In 2002 we were sort of kicking around ideas for reality TV shows,” explains U.S. Air Guitar Tour co-founder Cedric Devitt. “Basically, we were thinking to ourselves, What would be the no-talent search, the anti-American Idol?”Devitt and Co. discovered a world air-guitar championship that had been going on, up to that point, for about eight years in Finland. So they traveled to Finland and asked the organizers if they could launch an American chapter.
“They said yes, and here we are seven years later,” Devitt says. “The first year we did two cities, and now we're doing 25.”
At seven years old, the U.S. Air Guitar Tour is downright elderly when compared with its—ahem— sexy counterpart, the Air Sex World Championships, which is about to venture out on its maiden voyage. Basically a couple of Texans saw footage of a group Japanese guys on YouTube having air sex and decided it would be a good fit for Austin—a city where air-guitar shows were garnering large, enthusiastic crowds. Bimonthly competitions were held last year, which led to a grand finale at the Paramount Theater. The events were so successful that organizers decided to launch a tour.
“It's your craziest, weirdest fantasy—it's just that you happen to be onstage and you're doing it with an invisible partner,” says event host and co-producer Chris Trew. “It's essentially a comedy show. And the winner gets crowned a champion, which will probably lead to actual sex.”
Subtract the comedy, add a pole and some Poison tunes and this pretty much sounds like a trip to the strip club, but Trew was quick to dismiss such a comparison.
“People don't come to air sex to get turned on, they come to air-sex shows to laugh. I don't think anyone's getting turned on at an air-sex show—it's too ridiculous.”
“There was a [person in a] Sarah Palin costume, and she was having sex with a moose, and John McCain was [masturbating] on the moose while the moose was [having sexual intercourse] with Sarah Palin,” remembers Trew about a performance in Austin. “That was pretty awesome.”
And while air sex is still young, it's quickly evolving into a true competition. It took a while for that to happen with air guitar.
“The most noticeable difference between the inception and where we are today is the tone of the contestants,” Devitt explains. “They treat it like a sport. We have the same guys show up every year, they're seeded and there's a reverence that some of the newer contestants have for the older ones.”
But just because a lot of these contestants are competitive, it doesn't mean they'll suck the fun out of the room. It's no coincidence that the sponsor for the U.S. Air Guitar Tour is Boones Farm wine—a slightly more dignified choice than Mad Dog 20/20. When you break it down, these tours are 47-percent performance, 1-percent respectability, 1-percent reality—and the remainder is all party. Trew, referring to air sex, put it best:
“The only rule is that all climaxes have to be simulated.”The U.S. Air Guitar Championships take place on Saturday, June 20, the U.S. Air Sex Championships on Thursday, June 25—both at The Casbah.