23.-26.8.2023 Oulu, Finland
For 26 years, the Air Guitar World Championship has been part of Oulu’s event calendar, which made this Northern Finnish city quite famous before the prospect of becoming European Capital of Culture in 2026. The contestants have been flocking in from all the corners of the world and they are connected via a network of local and national airguitar organizations, which are cooperating, supporting each other – and meet up every year in Oulu. It’s a big family that puts having fun over rankings in a competition, which is also the major appeal for the audience. Plus, there’s the imporant slogan „Make Air, Not War“, contributing to the strive for world peace.
Traditionally, the airguitaring event week begins with a big family meeting, the Airientation on 23.8., in order to get to know each other and Oulu a bit better. I arrived just in time for another traditional event, the Dark Horse Qualifying Round performance at Club 45Special. This competition decides which 8 air guitareros will join the national champions and the 2022 title defender, Kirill “Guitarantula” Blumenkrats, in the finals next day. This time not only a jury decided, there was an extra factor with Media’s Choice for a finalist out of the 23 *.
The final event at Rotuaari Square in the center of Oulu on August 15, 2023 featured a VIP Jury: Juha Torvinen (famous finnish guitarist from band called Eppu Normaali), Hanna Ikonen (the event’s producer from 2017 to 2022), Sami Ylisaari (Oulu’s Director of Culture), Anne-Maria Mäkelä (project manager at the Oulu Cultural Foundation) and Viera Karem (Startup Program Manager at BusinessOulu and Vice Chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Northern Ostrobothnia). And a certain relationship with ice skating competitions became more obvious: The maximum was 6.0 points for a freestyle 1-minute program and for another 1-minute compulsive round to be performed to a piece of music the contestants haven’t heard before the second part (which was „Surprise You’re Dead“ Faith No More this year).
Barbie and Käärijä had made an impression on the competition as well … see for example Slam Cabbage in his basically edible costume, or the Master of Airemonies Dan “Björn Türoque” Crane and Jani Kortti, plus „Nordic Thunder“ Justin Howard, chosen as the best air guitarist of all time. They had some fun interaction, especially after Björn confused the French and the Belgian contestants – which turned into a running gag, topped by Dirty Beaujolais’ costume adaptation later (“I am Belgian”) 🙂
A truly breathtaking intermission starring the artists Kat & Jared opened the second round, which turned out much more dramatic than expected. Several finalists ended up with equal points, thus a threesome had to perform a knockout round (with another song which I forgot to make a note of), namely Slam Cabbage, Shorty and Lord Scrat – and only the latter made it into the final round. This meant a tough evening for the French contestant, even 3 performances within a short time – and he became more and more intense, see start photo.
Therefore I tried to create a photo gallery in a documentary manner, so that you could somehow participate in this wonderful insanity of air guitar competition.
Although I’d had had difficulties as jury member to rate the performances, there was one exception: Seven Seas’ freestyle was sooo good and had this kind of „Airness“, so that for me it was pretty clear after round 1 who will win the FlyingFinn guitar, handmade by Matti Nevalainen… This is the third time she has won the title and she is now the most successful competitor in Air Guitar World Championships’ history!
The final result:
1. Nanami “Seven Seas” Nagura (Japan) 35,8 points
2. Aapo “the Angus” Rautio (Finland) 35,2 points
3. Kirill “Guitarantula” Blumenkrats (France) 35,1 points
4. Matt “AIRstotle” Burns (USA) 34,8 points
5. Corentin “Airgus” Fermont (Belgium) 34,6 points
6. Frederic “French Kiss” Reau (France) 34,4 points
7. Bryan “Dirty Beaujolais” Antoine (Belgium) 34 points
8. Vincent “Lord Scrat“ Roussel (France) 33,5 points
Audience FavAIRite of the World Final:
This year the audience got to vote their favourite for the first time: Frederic “French Kiss” Reau from France.
Video credit: Air Guitar World Championships
* The Dark Horse competitors:
1. Patrick “Ehrwolf” Culek
2. Aska “Sunflower” Tabata
3. Sven “Spandex” Smith
4. Rina “Slice” Donovan
5. Miska “Pink Lightning” Haakana
6. Alex “Jinja Assassin” Roberts
7. Alexis “Princess Balboa” Essadki
8. Eric “Mean Melin” Melin
9. Oskar “Loggy Kilmister” Stockfelt
10. Heidi “Pink Passion” Toivio
11. Luke “Slam Cabbage” Sevcik
12. Vincent “Lord Scrat” Roussel
13. Apolline “Lady Attila” Andreys
14. John “BerserkAir” Davis
15. Brian “Fan AirNation” Dunn
16. Kurt “Shred Lasso” Brown
17. Justin “Hypes” Hypes
18. Aapo “The Angus” Rautio
19. Hennessy “Airmazon Prime” Williams
20. Toshio “Shariten KD” Kado
21. Fermont “Airgus” Corentin
22. Nora “SistAir of Mercy” Anderson
23. Nicole “Little Old Me” Sevcik