Air guitar: A new kind of rock star

You know you’ve done it. Maybe it was in the car while stuck in traffic or at work when no one was looking. Chances are, it was probably done in the bedroom, too. It is, after all, the one place you can really go to town and let those fingers work their magic.

We’re talking about air guitar, of course.

Tonight at the Independent in San Francisco, wannabe rock stars will take the fruits of those countless hours spent in the bedroom airing Metallica’s “Fade to Black” to the stage in hopes of scoring a trip to New York for the final round of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships in August.

The fifth annual stateside air guitar battle royale is the brainchild of Cedric Devitt and Kriston Rucker, who founded the competition in 2003 after discovering a lack of American representation at the annual world championships in Finland. Winners of the U.S. competition receive $1,000 and a trip to Finland.

“It didn’t make much sense that Americans weren’t involved in an air guitar competition; they pretty much invented it,” Devitt says.

Devitt’s assertion, says air guitar aficionado Dan LaFever, is true enough. LaFever, 45, a San Franciscan who goes by the alias Tiger Claw, has been rocking sans guitar for 30 years. He says the birth of the “sport” arrived not from the likes of Bill and Ted, but rather when Joe Cocker aired the song “With a Little Help from My Friends” at Woodstock.

Tonight’s competition will actually be a chance for redemption for LaFever, who participated last year but dropped out after advancing to the second round because of a little thing he calls “air guitar integrity.”

Broken into two rounds, the competition allows contestants to air a minute’s worth of a tune of their choosing. Those who advance to the second round must perform a jam assigned to them, which LaFever felt would be impossible after being given a Dead Kennedys song.

“There was no solo to play,” he says. “If a song doesn’t have a guitar lead, you can’t air guitar to it. I can’t just jump around onstage, that’s not what air guitar is all about.”

He’s confident this year’s performance will wow both the judges and audience and quite possibly earn him a place in the New York finals.

“If I could play a real guitar as good as I air guitar, I certainly wouldn’t have a day job,” he jokes. “But if this is as close as I get to my 15 minutes of fame, that’s fine by me.”

U.S. Air Guitar Championships

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St. San Francisco

Tickets: $15; show is sold out

Contact: (415) 771-1421 or www.usairguitar.com


What air guitar tune have you perfected?

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