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CU senior Matt Barats practices his air guitar prior to Monday night s regional championships at the Fox Theatre.
CU senior Matt Barats practices his air guitar prior to Monday night s regional championships at the Fox Theatre.

Maybe it was his illuminated thunderbolt crotch piece.

Or perhaps it was the button-up Spandex shirt, or his “nerdy” parted hair, maybe even that Speedo/jock strap combo.

If you go

What: Left Right TIM comedy show, featuring Matt “Thundergland” Barats

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: CU Fringe Festival, University Theatre Building, Boulder campus

Cost: Free

Whatever the case, University of Colorado senior Matt “Thundergland” Barats — armed with nothing but air — tore up the Fox Theatre’s stage Monday night to bag first place at the Boulder stop of the U.S. Air Guitar Regional Championships.

“I’m a very lanky person and I used that hard core to my advantage. I can move in very abnormal ways,” said Barats, who advances to nationals in New York City on July 22. “I was also showing a lot of leg.”

The competition consisted of three rounds. In the first, Barats performed his own remixed version of Electric Six’s “Gay Bar.” The second round featured each of the night’s top five contestants air-guitaring to Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown.”

And the third round featured a sudden death “air-off” to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” between Barats and the enigmatic “Dreamcatcher” — real name unknown — who tied Barats for first place.

Brian “Duke Thrashington” Shapiro, of Denver, came in third, and said Barats “killed it.”

“Thundergland. I’ve never even heard of that dude,” Shapiro said. “I saw him in the green room and he was just real low-key and quiet. Then, he got up on stage and he was so good. He knew every chord. He destroyed that song.”

Barats said performing improv every Friday night with the CU comedy troupe Left Right TIM helps to put his stage nerves at ease. He’ll even reprise his winning air-guitar routine this Saturday during Left Right TIM’s performance at the CU Fringe Festival.

“The crowd really responded to me,” Barats said of his Monday night performance. “If I can get the audience on my side in New York right off the bat, then I think I have a chance.”

Barats said what shocked him is the extreme degree to which some contestants take the competition.

“I wasn’t surprised with costumes nor the extent people took their character,” Barats said. “But what I was surprised about was that half of the people were from out of state and out of town. They follow this air guitar tour around like Deadheads.”

Barats said he is going to stick with his original routine for nationals, but may pull a few new tricks out of his back pocket. The winner of the U.S. national competition in New York will represent the entire national Aug. 25 through 28 at the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland.

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