Cream of the air guitar crop

The performance is only two years old, but it is already steeped in industry lore.

Craig Billmeir, an Alameda resident going by the stage name Hot Lixx Hulahan, strode up to the stage at The Independent, outfitted in an oversized sombrero. He greeted the audience with a brief yet adeptly mapped flamenco routine before ripping into a pumping rendition of Metallica’s “The Shortest Straw.”

The gripping act left audience members at the San Francisco club eagerly clamoring for more.

The only thing missing from Hulahan’s virtuoso showing?

Instruments.

Unbound by the constraints of normal rockers, Hulahan pranced and danced to the 2006 U.S. Air Guitar Championship, and tonight at San Francisco’s Grand Ballroom, he will look to regain his crown.

Hulahan, who knew nothing about the air guitar culture before entering the 2006 regional contest at The Independent, will face some stiff competition. Twenty-five competitors, all regional winners from cities across the country, will vie for the title of the nation’s airiest guitar player.

“You have to take a step back and realize its ridiculous,” said Hulahan, who plays in several “real” local rock bands. “All the competitors rely on each other, and they understand that this is a totally absurd, fun and goofy thing to do.”

Founded in 2002 by Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt, the U.S. Air Guitar Championship has shown a steady increase in popularity during the last six years. After moving through different locations, this will be the first time the national event is held in San Francisco.
“This competition allows pretty much anyone to enter and be the rock star of their dreams for one night,” said Devitt.
Each participant in today’s event will receive 60 seconds to show off their skills to a song of their choice. Judges score on three criteria—stage presence, technical ability and the amount of “airiness.”

The top five scorers move onto the final compulsory round, where a random song is picked, to which the air guitarists must adapt quickly and skillfully.

Whoever has the top marks after the two rounds will be declared the winner, and will be on their way to the world championships, held later this month in Finland.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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