Islington Gazette reporter enters air guitar competition

Some of the finest names in air guitaring took to the stage for the UK championships celebrating the art at the Relentless Garage in Holloway Road, Highbury, on Saturday night. They were joined by Gazette reporter Jon Dean, who decided to find out what it would take to take to compete among the best in the business. Here he recounts his experience.

I stood backstage wearing nothing but a cape, a Mexican wrestler’s mask and a skin tight ladies leotard, with a can of dutch courage in hand and the roar of the crowd in my ears. Looking around me, my fellow contestants, dressed in a variety of equally improbable outfits, paced nervously and made small talk. But it was alright for them – I had to go on first.

Then the music stopped. I heard my name called and the stage manager came to lead me into the spotlight, like a man being taken to the firing squad. My legs turned to jelly and my belly was doing backflips – all I wanted was to run away and never pick up an air guitar again. How had it come to this?

Rewind two weeks to when I first heard about the UK Air Guitar Championships. An interesting event, I thought, and worthy of a write-up. To this end, I got in touch with the organiser, two time world champ Zac “The Magnet” Monro, and after interviewing him, decided it would be a terrific wheeze to enter.

Thinking no more about it until three days before, I suddenly realised with gut-wrenching clarity that I had agreed to prance around on stage in front of 500 people, having never played an air guitar in my life. I needed some help.

Luckily, Zac obligingly agreed to give me a few pointers. After picking my song (Beat It, by Michael Jackson) and the stage name El Burrito, I set out to learn the tricks of the trade.

It became apparent within about five seconds that I was not a natural. My stance was weak, my left hand was all over the place and my whole aura lacked aggression. There was more to this air guitar lark than I thought and I reassessed my ambitions from wowing the crowd to avoiding a slow and painful death on stage.

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I felt hugely unprepared, and when I found myself being interviewed for London Tonight about my chances in the competition, it seemed things were spiralling out of control.

A tense 48 hours ensued, with my girlfriend being treated to a myriad private performances. Then, suddenly, there I was on Saturday night, about to prostrate myself before the rock gods and good people of Islington.

To be fair, though my time on stage was a bit of a blur, I was left feeling quietly proud of myself. I failed to make the cut for the second round and one judge accused me of playing air bass, rather than guitar, but on the whole I think things could have gone a lot worse.

My mentor Zac assessed my performance and said: “I really liked it – it was much improved from what you showed me. It was more hectic, you showed a lot more angst and you nearly made it through to the second round. Your left hand was still very dodgy, but with a bit of training, you could definitely qualify next year.”

And despite the terror I felt prior to performing, air guitar is surprisingly addictive. Bandit, the eventual champion, had best watch out, because in 2012, El Burrito will be sure to ride again.

- All proceeds from the UK Air guitar Championships go to the Teenage Cancer Trust. For more information, visit