Skip to content
  • Bjorn Turoque

    Bjorn Turoque

  • SHRED!




If you go

What: 2011 US Air Guitar Championships

Where: Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver

When: Friday, 9 p.m.; Doors at 8 p.m.

More info: $20; $16 adv.;

A burst of apoplectic energy blasts through the meticulous fingers and electrified legs of the performer on stage, hair swirling in a violent whirlwind that would lead to whiplash by any other mere mortal. The sweaty, cramped crowd erupts into a cacophonous crescendo 60 lightning seconds later.

All of the elements of the rockingest show you’ve ever seen are omnipresent… except, of course, for any visible musical instruments. Those are strictly prohibited.

“It’s a sport and it has to have rules” says Denver native Björn Türoque in reference to the US Air Guitar Championships that will be taking place at the Larimer Lounge Friday.

Türoque, real name Dan Crane, is an Air Guitar Hall of Famer, starred in 2006’s award-winning documentary “Air Guitar Nation” and is the author of “To Air is Human: One Man’s Quest to Become the World’s Greatest Air Guitarist.”

Türoque, 40, definitely takes his shit seriously. Particularly as he’s returning to this year’s championships as host or, as he says, “the Ryan Seacrest of air guitar.”

Although the US Air Guitar Championships began in 2003, the world championship was launched in 1996 in Finland originally as “a joke, basically,” said Türoque.

In the first round, contestants play 60 seconds of a song that they’ve previously rehearsed. If they advance to the second round, the air guitarist must then perform the same song as his fellow competitors — without knowing which song it is in advance.

Regional winners and runner-ups are flown to Manhattan for the nationals, whose winners are sent to Finland’s world championships in Oulu and into a realm of fame and glory that will haunt the performer and his or her family members for the rest of their natural lives.

Aside from a “strict doping policy” — “We do test participants to make sure they’re on some kind of stimulant and are well intoxicated” — Türoque explained that the “most important rule” is the invisibility of one’s guitar, electronic or acoustic.

“We don’t allow other air instruments,” said Türoque, classically trained in Denver’s own Suzuki method of air guitaring. “It’s not an air drum competition.”

Air groupies, a.k.a. “air mattresses,” are permitted on stage but, Türoque made sure to warn with some semblance of prior experience, “We suggest that performers be cautious. Nothing itches worse than invisible syphilis.”

In such a volatile sport, other injuries are to be expected and have been observed by retired former world champion Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier who will be judging this year’s competition. Hulahan, 37, reports that this litany includes a performer who broke his shins without anyone realizing it and a woman who lost her toe.

“Because this is fantasy-based,” said Hulahan, “a lot of people are living a dream on stage that they can’t live in their real lives. Your adrenaline kicks in and you do stuff your body wouldn’t normally do.”

“The craziest thing I’ve seen,” said Türoque, “was a performer who shit in a pizza box, then walked off stage.”

“Comedy helps with stage presence,” says 23-year-old Matt “Thundergland” Barats, a CU alum, co-founder of improv troupe Left Right TIM and 2010’s regional champion. “But you can’t just go out there on stage and screw around. That doesn’t rock.”

Barats says that despite there being no cash prize, getting flown out to New York for the nationals made him want to compete again. “And at the end of the day, I got one hell of a story to tell.”

Asked if he had anything else to add, Türoque concluded, “I’d just like to say that we need more ladies.”

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.