The first Air Guitar World Championships were held in 1996 as part of the larger Oulu Music Video Festival, and has been held there every summer since then. That first year was dominated by Finns, who took gold, silver and bronze, but since then the sheer number of representatives from around the world has brought an end to Finnish domination – in fact no Finn has won a medal since Markus Vainionpää won the silver back in 2001.
Today the Air Guitar World Championships is one of the best attended events in Oulu’s rich calendar of annual events, with no less than 22 countries represented in 2011. Each of those 22 countries have national finals, with the winners from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, Ukraine and the USA all making their way to Oulu for a weekend of strutting and strumming. The theme of the original event was that “wars will end and all the bad things go away, if everyone would play air guitar”, and this optimistic outlook continues even now.
Since 2001, the lucky winners who have claimed the title “Master of the Invisible Instrument” have come from the UK (twice), the USA (twice), Japan (twice), New Zealand, Nederlands, France (twice), and Germany. This year’s competition broke new ground when it was the ladies who blew the audience and judges away, with Aline “The Devil’s Niece” Westphal of Germany taking gold, and Veronica “Like Ever Gin” Mullerova of the Czech Republic taking the bronze. There were a record breaking number of female entrants in 2011, so it was fitting some of the fairer sex should win medals.
The competition consists of two rounds, the first where the entrants choose their own song, and the second where there is a compulsory song. In the past compulsory songs have included the Hendrix version of ‘Wild Thing’, Sweatmaster’s ‘Animal’, Billy Talent’s ‘Red Flag’, Ozzy’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Stop’, Lordi’s ‘Who’s Your Daddy’, Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, The Hives ‘Walk, Idiot, Walk’, ‘Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman’ by The Darkness, ‘Last Nite’ by The Strokes, Weezer’s ‘Hash Pipe’, Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Locomotive’ by Guns’n Roses, ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ by Lennie Kravitz, Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’.