I'm now back from my air guitar adventures in Finland. It was incredible. Met so many articulate, interesting air guitarists who have given me much to think about for the PhD. What really struck me was although all the competitors were united in their love of guitar music, they each had their own reasons for taking part, whether that was to promote peace or subverting stereotypes or just for the fun of it.
I arrived in Oulu on the Tuesday and quickly worked my way around this easy going city in the north of Finland, taking some establishing shots with the crew for our documentary. That night I finally got to meet Dan Crane (or Bjorn Turoque as he's known in air circles) and MiRi "Sonyk Rok" Park, last year's winner. Both are brilliant advocates for the art of air guitaring, and I had a wonderful time discussing all things air with them over subsequent days.
Wednesday saw me off to the air guitar training camp. Unsure of what to expect, I was delighted to be whisked off to the countryside to indulge in a day of lectures on the history of the competition and workshops on choreography. The camp was attended mainly by those who were competing, but a special mention must go to the Great Danes who came along just for the heck of it and who threw themselves into the fray. It was impossible not to notice that in the main, the campers were female and that this year's competition had unprecedented numbers of women taking part. The day ended with a sauna, sausages and some very welcome beers.
The 'dark horse' competition took place on Thursday evening, and I was looking forward to seeing some of my new friends compete, as well as observing the jury and their scores to see if they tallied with mine, in preparation for my role as a judge the next night. I have to say that in the main I agreed with their decisions but thought they were quite harsh towards Johnny Angel, a peace-loving purist air-player who I thought should have scored more highly. The night was rounded off with an Aireoke session, organised by Dan and it was great to see all competitors and organisers taking part, without the stresses of being scored. I even had a go myself, despite a whopping headache - I did '50 ft Queenie' by PJ Harvey.
Friday was chaotic - trying to fit in interviews with all those who we hadn't managed to catch so far. Then there were press conferences to go to and at 7.30 I left my film crew to make my way to meet the other jurors. We arrived at the venue - it looked like a massive air craft hanger and could hold about 2,500 people. Seeing that space for the first time was incredible - I had goosebumps and was really excited for all of those taking part. What an opportunity, to rock out on a huge stage in front of a cheering crowd. I wished I could hang out backstage with them to soak it all up, but was ushered to the rear to take my place on the balcony with the other jurors and a selection of VIPs. We were quite a way off from the stage and the atmosphere felt a bit sterile up there but once the contest began I soon started to enjoy myself.
It quickly became apparent that I was one of the more generous judges. Someone told me afterwards that was the mother in me - I'm not so sure about that, but I was the only female judge out of the five of us. Despite our differences though, I definitely think that we came up with the right result, with the top three - The Destroyer, Gizzy Guitar and Pelvis Fenderbender - all being amazing air guitarists in their own unique way.
The aftershow party was riotous and a fitting way to end our trip. Very rock n roll.
This year's winner - The Destroyer