If you're under 60, you've played air guitar at some point in your life - and not just as a child. Even Mr. Bigtime Lawyer or Dr. Smartypants still knocks out a few major riffs when no one is looking - don't try to deny it (unless you've sold your soul to Guitar Hero). What you probably don't realize is that air guitar is no longer just the stuff of private bedroom concerts and junior high talent shows - there's a freakin' world championship of Air Guitar held every year in that bastion of rock `n' roll nirvana. I'm talking, of course, about Oulu, Finland. Yes, the city that gave the world composer Leevi Madetoja and black metal band Impaled Nazarene - and rebuilt itself out of the ashes of a devastating fire in 1822 - has played host to the annual Air Guitar World Championships every August (when the temperature can rise as high as 64 degrees Fahrenheit) ever since its creation in 1996. When a couple of plucky Americans (Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt) read about the event in the august Wall Street Journal, they decided to experience the magic for themselves - only to discover, to their horror, that America was not and had never been represented in the sport. They resolved to do something about it, establishing an American championship and sending the winner to compete on the world stage. The rest, as they say, is history.
The 2003 East Coast regional takes place above a strip club in New York City's Pussycat Lounge. Thanks to some last-minute promotion by Howard Stern, hundreds have to be turned away after the place fills up. Those lucky enough to make it in should all have T-shirts saying "I was there when C-Diddy first took the stage." Oh, there are some gifted performers there that night, including Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane, but David "C-Diddy," in his red Oriental robe and "Hello Kitty" breastplate, blows out the competition. Unbowed, Bjorn Turoque heads out west for the West Coast regional, looking for a rematch with C-Diddy - if he can get by the likes of cubicle-dwelling government worker Gordon "Krye Tuff" Hintz. The ultimate winner is Finland-bound, where, for the first time, an American will unleash his air guitar chops on the world stage.
The documentary focuses primarily on C-Diddy and Bjorn Turoque, letting us get to know them personally to see how their Air Guitar personas differ from their normal selves. Stylistically, they could not be more different. While C-Diddy is, in a word, unique, Bjorn's old school style puts one very much in mind of Keith Richards or The Kinks. C-Diddy manages to be supremely confident without ever becoming overbearing or a product of his own ego, while Bjorn's relentless pursuit of a championship can make him seem a little overbearing at times - but he acquits himself well in the end. There are no bitter rivalries here, and it's nice to see all of the air guitar champions from various nations all across the globe competing in such a friendly manner.
Naturally, there is a fair amount of humor in Air Guitar Nation, even aside from the actual performances themselves. The Air Guitar boot camp is really something to see. I'm still not sure why the champions of their various nations need Air Guitar training just prior to the World Championships, but it's great fun to hear the instructors talk about the spiritual elements of Air Guitar, techniques for maintaining your instrument (seriously) and how to deal with groupies. Finally, the actual Air Guitar World Championships are truly something to behold. I have to admit I was on the edge of my seat, cheering C-Diddy on for all I was worth. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see more of the actual performances of all the contestants - but maybe that's included in the special features (I don't know because I watched Air Guitar Nation on NetFlix).
So, yeah, the whole Air Guitar thing is kind of silly, but it's just the kind of thing that makes our lives of quiet desperation so worth living. If you can't watch and enjoy the heck out of this documentary, you're a total square, man. I know I'll never play Air Guitar the same way again.