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In search for the true air guitar hero

posted 22 Jun 2012, 05:00 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Jun 2012, 05:01 ]

Rocking the air guitar is serious business in New York where the search for America's best air guitarist continues to represent the country at the International Air Guitar Championships in Finland.

Aspiring air guitar champions gathered in New York on Thursday (June 21) for the New York leg of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships.
The competition is in its 10th year, and has two stages - a regional and national competition.

On the regional level the best air guitarist from 12 cities across the United States duke it out to represent their city at the national finals.

In New York 22 contestants rocked their hearts out to be crowned New York's best.

Among them was Andrew Jackson Litz, a corporate event planner who performs under the alias "Seth Liebowitz."

"For a competition like this I will normally start six months in advance. And I will pick out a song that I feel is comfortable with me and my character and I am just on all levels truly jiving with. And then I will practice for probably three to four hours a day leading up to the competition," Litz said.

Litz has won the U.S. air guitar championships twice in 2007 and 2009 as "William Ocean," his previous stage persona.

He explained what it takes to be a successful air guitarist.

"If you can get to the moment in the song where you truly believe that you are playing an air guitar, because if you can do that I feel like that will resonate with the crowd and they in that very moment of the song will in their mind say, "o my god, this guy is truly playing the air guitar," maybe the relay guitar."

Litz had tough competition from Matt Burns, alias "Aristotle," who won the New York leg of the competition last year.

Burns even started playing the real guitar to become better at air guitar.

"I started learning the guitar to get better at the air guitar. I wanted to learn where to put my fingers for certain chords and things like that. And it certainly helped," Burns told Reuters.

But what makes a performance truly special is a quality called "airness," judge Ben Wizner explained.

"We look at skill, we look at preparation, we look at accuracy, but what we're really looking for is the quality we call "airness." The French have a term for that, it's "je ne sais quoi." You know it when you see it."

For most contestants the championships are serious business. Marquina Iliev is competing at eight months pregnant.

"I just knew I couldn't miss out this year. I figured at eight months I am still feeling good, and I am, I am just going to try. So it's on the fence until the end of it. I am good today."

The winner of the night was Aristotle, who will compete against 11 other regional champions in Denver, Colorado on July 21.

The winner of the national championship will represent the United States at the World Championships in Finland on August 24 where the air guitar heroes from 24 different countries will converge.