Buy tickets and bring your friends out to watch “the greatest thing you’ve never seen,” and cheer on those bringing our favorite bedroom pastime onto the world stage. Leave your Fender Strat and FGX800C Guitar at home, this is all about the air guitar! The top three finishers at the Semifinals will head to the National Competition in Washington, DC on August 5!
What is the US Air Guitar Championships, you ask? Founded in 2003, the US Air Guitar Championships has grown into a major national event that reaches more cities, fans and competitors every year. As the only official national competition recognized by the Air Guitar World Championships, US Air Guitar sends the country’s national champions to compete for the world title in Oulu, Finland every year. US Air Guitar is also dedicated to advancing the larger purpose set forth by the Air Guitar World Championships: to promote world peace.
Seattle’s Chuck Mung from Airpocalypse, made it to the US Air Guitar Hall of Fame in 2013.
We had the chance to chat with Kara Picante, organizer for the Portland Semifinals and herself, a past competitor!
Tell us a little about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?
I was born right here in Portland Oregon and for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an artist. I am an actual native, like a unicorn we are as elusive as we are sparkly. My parents split up by the time I was a year old and my mom and I eventually ended up at the Oregon Coast where I lived a muddy and imaginative existence until once again moving back to Portland when I was thirteen years old where I have been ever since. I graduated from high school, met who was eventually going to become my husband, worked in International Banking for 9 years and when our bank was bought, begged to be laid off so that I could move on (I didn’t have it in me to quit, plus…Severance pay). I then went to Massage School, graduated and got my license, worked at various spa’s and then started a holistic day spa with someone, sold my half of the business and simplified my career by just being a Massage Therapist as well as fulfilling my lifelong ambition of becoming an Artist… This I am still working on.
How did you get involved and how long have you been involved with US Air Guitar and the Air Guitar World Championships?
There was a little competition at a bar by my house and a friend of ours who had seen the documentary “Air Guitar Nation” wanted to do it. My husband and I went to watch and I was asked if I would enter due to lack of participation amongst the other patrons. I had recently made a deal with myself in regards to saying “yes” to opportunities that I would usually say “no” to, thusly I agreed to compete and won the little contest which got me free entry into the Portland Regional Competition in 2010. I did terribly but had so much fun, and the people that participated were so
great that I became hooked. When US Air Guitar competitions started in the U.S. it was a tour based operation, in 2013 the organization reached out to locals to find volunteers to put on competitions in their own home towns. I told them to give my name to whomever was going to put on the show because I would be happy to help…They responded with, cool, YOU can do it. I convinced a friend who was experienced in coordinating events to put the show on with me and that is how it started that I became an air guitar organizer.
How have you seen the growth over the years?
Growth regarding myself, I have become more creative regarding my artistic endeavors. I think participating in air guitar, putting myself on stage with nothing BUT myself which includes an incredible amount of fear and adrenaline in front of a (often huge) room of strangers has given me confidence and moxy to try other things. Since becoming a competitive air guitarist I have joined a belly dance troupe, which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before, I didn’t know I could do anything other than dream. Growth in air guitar… Does air grow? I think air allows for creative growth which is evident in many air guitarists who try to do something unique in the 60 seconds of a competitive performance format year after year, it can be quite challenging but since the medium is air it can be anything one can imagine, literally.
Have you been to the US or the world championships? If so, what were they like?
I have been to every US National Air Guitar Championship since 2012 and attended the 2014 World Air Guitar Championships. The US version is lovingly referred to by the regulars as “Summer Camp” and is a weekend of fun and light hearted debauchery. There is most likely karaoke and a few different group adventures dependent on where The Nationals are held that year. Last year in Austin Texas, there was a huge group river float adventure on one of those very, very hot days. The sense of community in both the US and The World are amazing, the concentration of weirdos is astounding and they span across all walks of life. Name a career and I bet I can find an air guitarist in that field. Regardless of Nationals or The World there is a feeling of connection, I realized that no matter where you are from or what you do for a living we are all very similar and I mean that in the global sense. Going to Oulu, Finland was like being in a fairy land to me, there are reindeer and a general feeling of misty dreaminess. Saunas are everywhere and there is no jaywalking, seriously. In Oulu you can actually imagine world peace is possible, which is how these sanctioned competitions came about. Put down your gun and pick up an air guitar and nobody gets shot. Air guitar is artistic creativity, through art we can achieve peace and community.
How good are your air guitar skills?
Sooooo good! Ha! Well, I am okay… Stop looking at me! Whatever… They are fine. I guess.
What are you excited for this year?
I am always excited about putting on the Portland show! I do a pre-show with some talented and beautiful ladies whom I call “The Hussies”, we try and do something different to warm up the crowd every year. I always look forward to seeing what air guitarists have dreamed up year after year, we have some unique talent in Portland, also since it is a semi-final we get some out of town rockAIRS as well, some of the best of the west. It is always a good time!
Where do you see air guitar going in the future?
I would like to see air guitar in grade schools. There is at least one teacher who is a competitive air guitarist who has incorporated it into his curriculum and it is wonderful. Doing silly, yet creative activities like this can bring out those children that have a tendency to get lost. What I see in the future of air guitar as a whole? I think it is something that our country needs right now to shake out the funk of an often perceived sense of doom and hopelessness. Like a deep and long belly laugh I think air guitar can cure what ails you at the moment and if done often and by enough people, could in fact make world peace happen but as you know, I am a dreamer.
Friday, June 16, 2017 at 8 p.m.
6 SW Third Ave
Portland, OR 97204
Click here to purchase tickets.