Recent University of Colorado graduate Matt “Thundergland” Barats was a virgin to air guitar competitions a few months ago.
But after winning the U.S. Air Guitar Regional Competition at the Fox Theatre in April, Barats snagged one of 16 spots at Thursday’s U.S. Air Guitar National Finals in New York City.
“I’m going to hit it like traffic,” Barats said. “This is me, this is the ‘Gland.’ Either they’re going to like me or not. I’m infesting New York with Thundergland. It’s going to rock.”
In the championship, competitors “play” one minute of a song with an invisible guitar and are judged on technical merit (hitting the right invisible frets for their tune), stage presence and “airness” (making the performance an artform).
The top five performers move on to the compulsory round and perform a surprise song.
The winner advances to the world championship in Finland, set for Aug. 25 through 28.
“My goal is to get into the second round,” Barats said. “I like rocking to a song on the fly.”
Barats said he thinks he’ll have an advantage in the second round. He said that in the first round, many of the contestants “hide their skills” behind over-the-top props and elaborate acts, masking their actual air-guitar skills.
Thundergland’s prized prop — an illuminated thunderbolt codpiece — is a crowd pleaser, he said.
However, he said that since the judging is subjective, it’s difficult to know what will please the judges. But luckily, he isn’t too nervous.
“Well, I’m in New York right now, so at this point, it’s just like ‘Let’s fuckin’ rock,'” Barats said.