‘Make Air, Not War:’ Grab the air gui­tar and wail

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - INSIDE - Con­tact Shawn Ryan at mshawn­ryan@gmail.com.

We’ve all done it. Let me re­phrase: Most guys have done it.

Let me re­phrase again: Most guys who love hard rock or heavy metal mu­sic have done it.

Air gui­tar. The abil­ity to stand in front of a mir­ror, fake gui­tar slung around your shoul­ders, let­ting your fin­gers fly across nonex­is­tent strings, im­press­ing every­one (es­pe­cially the girls).

Last week­end in Fin­land — where win­ter lasts 10 months a year, so you can be in­side a lot prac­tic­ing — the 22nd Air Gui­tar World Cham­pi­onships were held. An Amer­i­can, Matt “Airis­to­tle” Burns ( be­cause play­ing air gui­tar is as much a phi­los­o­phy as a skill), de­fended his ti­tle.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Burns, well, looks like ex­actly the kind of guy who’d spend hours per­fect­ing his air gui­tar. But hey, con­grats to the Staten Is­land res­i­dent. He beat out 15 other fi­nal­ists who came from coun­tries such as Pak­istan, Canada, Swe­den and South Korea.

You might think to be a cham­pion you would ac­tu­ally have to pre­tend to play the gui­tar; you know, place your fin­gers in the cor­rect po­si­tions on the gui­tar neck for each chord or flurry of notes. Pick in hand, bang the strings for each chord or lick. Well, you’d be wrong. Burns — just plain “Airis­to­tle” when an­nounced on­stage — doesn’t do that at all. In the video for his 2016 cham­pion- ship per­for­mance, he ba­si­cally dances. His arms, legs and head flop around to a mus­cu­lar ver­sion of the Ro­man­tics’ “That’s What I Like About You.” Some­times he acts like he has a gui­tar in his hands; some-Shawn Ryan times not. But ap­par­ently that’s what you do as a pro­fes­sional air gui­tarist.

Still, for any guy who, as a teenager, was deep into mu­sic from such bands as AC/DC, Black Sab­bath, Me­tal­lica or Nick­el­back (oops, sorry, no one ad­mits they like Nick­el­back), air gui­tar some­times comes nat­u­rally. In your bed­room or down in the base­ment, you play it by your­self; or, you and your friends act like a real band, each guy on a sep­a­rate in­stru­ment. Not that I ever did any­thing like that, nope, never. (We burned all the video­tapes, right guys? Right?)

Even to­day, I find my right hand un­con­sciously hitting a chord on such im­pos­si­ble-notto-air-gui­tar songs as Queen’s “It’s Late” or AC/DC’s “Given the Dog a Bone” or UFO’s “Rock Bot­tom.” Yes, I still lis­ten to hard rock, but also to R&B, blues, coun­try and pop. Don’t judge.

So next time you want to make fun of these peo­ple who com­pete, just re­mem­ber that the theme of the 2017 Air Gui­tar World Cham­pi­onships was fight­ing cli­mate change. Its slo­gans were “Make Air, Not War” and “Air­ness Is Next to God­li­ness.”

Who can ar­gue with that?

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