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Air Guitar Boston Qualifier competition comes to Somerville today

Posted by Christina Jedra  June 7, 2013 10:25 AM

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Matt "Captain Airhab" LeBel, the host for this year's Boston qualifier, shredded some air at a previous U.S. Air Guitar competition.

Get ready to rock, roll and shred some air as the 2013 U.S. Air Guitar Boston Qualifier competition takes the stage at the RADIO in Somerville on June 7. 

The competition, which allows air guitarists to perform 60-second clips for a live, rock-and-roll audience, will sort the bedroom performers from the air-gods. Men and women will compete for the opportunity to climb their way to regional, national, and eventually world air guitar domination.

Matt LeBel—an air guitarist who goes by the stage name Captain Airhab—will be the host of the Boston qualifier. He has been competing in air guitar competitions for five years and said he is excited to bring the intensity of air guitar to Somerville. 

“It’s kind of like a concert, but it’s also not because no one is playing music. It’s one of the most fun shows you will ever go to,” LeBel said. “RADIO in Somerville stepped up as the venue, and they’ve been really excited about it.” LeBel said the competition will also be sponsored by Mr. Music and Harmonix, the maker of Rock Band.

LeBel explained that competitors first perform a 60-second clip of their choosing, which allows them to have a well-choreographed routine with maxed out air guitar trick usage. Then, if competitors advance to the second round, they must perform a 60-second clip of a random song chosen by the judges to put their air guitar expertise to the test. 

Jaime Farnan, the reigning Boston air guitar champion who goes by the stage name Danny Tanner Tantrum, will be one of three judges at this year’s Boston qualifier. He explained the three criteria on which the judging is based: Technical merit, the extent to which the invisible fretwork matches the music; Stage presence, the ability of the performer to rock the crowd without an actual instrument; and Airness, the ever-elusive quality in which air guitar becomes an art form in and of itself. 

“Airness is the most important yet ambiguous characteristic I’m judging,” Farnan said. “Airness is the performance as a whole.” In many ways, Farnan explained, airness is the ability of the performer to connect with the crowd and rock out with thin air. He said that tricks, costumes, stage personas, and general creativity play a key role in any performer’s airness level. 

Farnan said that while many competitors participate in air guitar competitions for the love of jamming, many air guitarists are drawn to the community and culture of freedom that air guitar has created. He said a lot of people go to air guitar competitions with little expectations and leave addicted to the energy and the childlike passion for playing an imaginary instrument.

“I think that once you take life too seriously, it takes the fun out of things,” Farnan said. “Everyone at some point has played air guitar, and it’s one of those goofy, fun little things. But it brings a lot of people together, different people from countries all over the world that come together to enjoy their time together.”

LeBel explained that the Boston qualifier will be only the first stop for a few air guitar heroes. The first and second placers of the Boston qualifiers will advance to the semi-finals in New York City. The winner of the New York semi-finals will then receive free travel to the national U.S. Air Guitar Competition, which will take place in Los Angeles on August 17. 

But the road to air glory doesn’t stop there. The national champ will then receive free travel to the Air Guitar World Championships, which will take place on August 23 in Oulu, Finland. However, win or lose, Farnan said it’s all about the love of air guitar.

“The point is to have fun and let go,” Farnan said. “Everyone’s there to support each other and have fun.”

LeBel said air guitar is definitely unique, but that it is a must see phenomenon. He encourages first-time competitors to try their luck at achieving airdom and hopes the community gathers to support this fun, air-embracing culture.

“It’s definitely a weird competition. People go into it thinking it’s going to be stupid . . . but they come out of it realizing how fun it was and it being the best show they’ve gone to,” LeBel said. “The hardest part is convincing people to go, but once they go they want to keep going.”

The U.S. Air Guitar Boston Qualifier Competition will be taking place on Friday, June 7 at 8 p.m. at the RADIO in Somerville. Tickets are $10. To register to compete, visit the registration page. Walk-ins are also welcome. 

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