Dallas Barber of Mount Lookout knows how to play every note of the 1983 Metallica song “The Four Horsemen,” and he’s hardly even practiced. Not even on a real guitar.
But then, instruments aren’t necessary – or even allowed – in the fifth annual U.S. Air Guitar Championships, in which Barber is competing Thursday night in Columbus.
As “Diesel Blastington,” the name the 36-year-old Environmental Protection Agency contractor has adopted for his air guitar-playing alter ego, Barber hopes to shred his way to a win at Thursday’s regional competition.
The best guitarists from Columbus and 13 other cities, plus three winners from an online competition, will compete in the finals Aug. 16 in New York City. The national winner will fly to the world championships in Oulu, Finland in September to compete for a $1,000 prize and international bragging rights.
It might sound like a joke, but the competition – the subject of the 2006 documentary “Air Guitar Nation” – is as real as the rock-paper-scissors world championships that have been held in Canada for the past five years.
In the air guitar competition, contestants must play one minute of a song of their choice plus one minute of a surprise compulsory song. Judges rate contestants on technical merit, stage presence and “airness,” described in the official rules as “the extent to which a performance transcends the imitation of a real guitar and becomes an art form in and of itself.”
“I can’t play a lick of real guitar, but I’ve played air guitar since I was little kid,” Barber says. “I play a mean air guitar.”
Barber’s rendition of AC/DC’s “Walk All Over You” won him fourth place in Columbus last year. This year, he’s hoping family members and friends who are making the trip to cheer him on will improve his odds.
Plus, he’s putting a little more thought into his costume. Modeling himself after Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, he’ll wear a black T-shirt, jeans and, over his shaved head, a black wig from Cappel’s that was described as “90s rocker.”
“In my mind, I’m already the champion,” he says.
Courtesy Cincinnati Enquirer