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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Air play ambitions in rock riff riot
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Photo by Tommi Kohonen
Air guitar has gone from the bedroom to the world stage
The ninth annual Air Guitar World Championships - where would-be rock gods attempt to impress with an imaginary instrument - are being staged in Oulu, Finland.

Belgium may not be internationally renowned for its rock stars, but Ron "Bucketbutt" Van den Branden is aiming to improve its standing in the music world.

Ron is Belgium's entry in the Air Guitar World Championships after impressing judges in his home nation.

Wrapped in cellophane with a rubber glove adorning his head, Ron sent the crowd wild with his "sci-fi influenced" fingerwork.

Photo by Tommi Kohonen
The instrument must be invisible - ie, air
An air guitarist may play an electric guitar or an acoustic one - or both
Personal air roadies are allowed, but backing groups (real or air) are not
The winner must carry the joyful tidings of the air guitar forward - thus promoting world peace.
He will now line up alongside 14 more imaginary guitar heroes from around the globe in Finland on Thursday and Friday.

They include New Zealander Tarquin "The Tarkness" Keys, Holland's Michael "Destroyer" Heffels, Finland's own "Doctor" David Nystrom and US competitor Miri "Sonyk Rok" Park - the first woman to win a national contest.

For the uninitiated, air guitar is the art of pretending to play along to a rock solo or a chord sequence with nothing but an imaginary guitar and the appropriate facial expressions.

"What air guitar is all about is to surrender to the music without having an actual instrument," says championship organiser Martika Lamberg.

"Anyone can taste rock stardom by playing the air guitar. No equipment is needed, and there is no requirement for any specific place or special skills.

"In air guitar playing, all people are equal regardless of race, gender, age, social status or sexual orientation."

Photo by Tommi Kohonen
Competitors try to seek out the Angus Young within
What began as a guilty secret practised before suburban bedroom mirrors by the odd heavy metal fan has turned into a cheerful yet competitive global showcase enjoyed by thousands.

The highlight of a music video festival held every year in Oulu, Finland, it attracts spandex-wearers in their droves.

Finalists must perform a compulsory one-minute song - which they do not hear until just before the final - as well as a song of their own choice.

There is no dress code and extra props, such as a guitar pick, may be used. Contestants can strum or finger pick.

All wars would end and every bad thing would disappear if all the people in the world played air guitar
A person playing air guitar cannot simultaneously be up to any mischief
After playing air guitar, mischief just does not seem like such a good idea anymore
Judges are looking for originality, the ability to be taken over by the music, stage charisma, technique, artistic impression and - it goes without saying - "airness".

Winners get a (real) handmade Flying Finn electric guitar worth 2,500 euros (1,650) and the contest is streamed live on the internet.

This year's UK hopeful is 24-year-old Jeremy Chick, a music promoter and Led Zeppelin fan from Wimbledon, south-west London.

A video of Jeremy performing Walk by Pantera while jumping around in a frilly retro shirt and Afro wig was enough to convince organisers of his air potential.

He will reveal his inner Jimmy Page to edited highlights of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love and Stairway To Heaven.

Jimi Hendrix
Angus Young
Eddie Van Halen
Gary Moore
Brian May
The climax to Jeremy's routine is an approximation of The Who axeman Pete Townsend smashing his instrument during My Generation.

"The guitar solo hasn't been held in such high esteem since punk and garage rock, but I don't think it should be frowned upon," he says.

"I'm doing this for the fun and the experience, but you can't come here and expect to make an absolute mess of it.

"There's a level of skill and passion, and you have got to respect the performers."

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