The Saskatchewan Air Guitar Championships, an event described by its own organizer as “an absolute celebration of the bizarre,” will crown a provincial winner in Saskatoon Saturday night.
Contestants choose a one-minute clip from a song and mime playing the guitar along with it. Judges are looking for originality, stage presence, character and “overall air-ness,” which organizer Mike Erman explains as “everything all wrapped up into one ridiculous stage show.”
Contestants may not actually be playing music, but “you have to be a real performer,” he said.
This will be the second annual provincial championship, and it all came about because Erman was rummaging through a bargain bin one day and found a DVD called Air Guitar Nation.
“It’s a documentary about the world air guitar championships in Finland, which are going into their 23rd year,” he said.
“It’s a real thing. I saw this documentary and it was just amazing, all the characters and the people and the camaraderie, and it blew me away. I needed to be involved.”
The best acts, said Erman, use songs that are high-energy crowd favourites, but unique enough that they stand out from the rest. Metal and punk rock work well. Stuff on the lighter side? Not so much.
“We had somebody do Hello Kitty by Avril Lavigne last year. It did not go over well with the judges,” he said with a laugh.
Last year Natalie “Sweet Dee” Scott won with a routine set to Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher. A panel of five judges scores contestants on a scale from one to six — “figure-skating style,” Erman said — and as in figure skating, there are occasional controversies.
Erman saw that happen last year at the nationals in Toronto when Saskatchewan provincial runner-up Major Party performed.
“Major Party got burned by the judges but the crowd loved him, and it was like being at a Rider game and seeing a ref make a bad call,” he said.
“The crowd does tend to get into it.”
The event is free, with donations welcome to the charity Creative Kids, which helps connect kids with artistic and cultural experiences.
The event starts Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. The winner will go on to compete in Toronto on July 15, all expenses paid, at the Canadian championship — and from there, possibly on to the world championship.
That’s why the entry form has a box to check off that states: “I acknowledge that I might actually win this thing and will then need to represent Canada at the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland, Aug. 23-25.”