The Triumph of Air Guitar
Adventures of Power, a new movie about air drumming, causes a rift in the air instrument community. Air Guitarist Dan Crane tells air drummers to get a real job.
For the past seven years, I’ve made a not insubstantial portion of my living trafficking in the invisible arts. No, I am not a mime. My name is Björn Türoque (pronounced too-RAWK), and I am a professional air guitarist. Some say I’m lucky, while others choose to hurl objects and/or homophobic insults at me.
No matter. All’s air in love and war.
Recently, however, I’ve discovered my air is being polluted. First air sex competitions began sprouting up around the world, literally sucking away at my air. Worse—now a skinny, headband and tennis shorts-clad Napoleon Dyna-lite named Ari Gold with the nom d’air, “Power,” is trying to legitimize air drumming.
Air drums, like their real world counterpart—drums—are meant for the back of the stage. They should never be front and center. As Kriston Rucker, co-commissioner of US Air Guitar notes, “Air drumming is to air guitar as fool's gold is to bullion."
As a professional competitive air guitarist (retired), my take on air drumming is live and let live—just do us a favor and stay in your car, shower, or mother’s basement where you belong. Air drums, like their real world counterpart—drums—are meant for the back of the stage. They should never be front and center. As Kriston Rucker, co-commissioner of US Air Guitar notes, “Air drumming is to air guitar as fool's gold is to bullion."
Now along comes Ari Gold (a real person, not the fictional character on Entourage played by Jeremy Piven) who has gone so far as to make a feature film called Adventures of Power. It’s about a small town loser with big dreams of becoming the world’s best air drummer. Does this ruffle my spandex? You bet your ass it does.
To be fair, I’ve known Power since he competed at the US Air Guitar Championships in 2004 at the Key Club in Los Angeles. That night, he did a beat-for-beat accurate air drum rendition of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” (which, as you may guess, is also performed in the film’s climax). But Power was disqualified, and rightly so, since it was after all an air guitar—not an air drumming—competition. (Did Power not read the marquee?!)
Perhaps embittered, Gold/Power decided to spend the past four years writing, directing and starring in Adventures of Power, a movie about an imaginary world of air drumming competitions. It’s an attempt—I suspect—to validate this oft-overlooked air subgenre.
Now some might say I’m being petty—splitting airs, if you will; but the real issue is that a great air guitar performance is not about mere mimicry of the instrument, it’s about airness: the extent to which one’s performance exceeds the imitation of the instrument and becomes an art form in and of itself. Recreating a song note-for-note as it’s played on an actual guitar is a yawn-fest; but this is the best a solid air drummer such as Power may achieve—it’s impressive, sure, but once you know he plays just as well on the actual drums, the performance loses its, you know, power.
“Neil Peart started by playing magazines on his bed; I started playing pillows,” Power retorts when asked why only good drummers make good air drummers. “All drummers start as air drummers first. So if they become air drummers again it is a primal return.”
Adrian Grenier, (yes, from Entourage), who plays actual drums with Gold in a band called The Honey Brothers (notably, with his drum set at the front of the stage), plays Power’s nemesis in the film. Because he was in South America, I asked him a few questions via email.
Björn Türoque: Which is more likely to get you laid, air drums or air guitar?
Adrian Grenier: Air drums and fresh breath.
Bjorn notes: I agree about the fresh breath–all air instrumentalists must strive for freshness of breath.
BT: You’re an actual drummer–but what’s your “go to” air drumming song?
AG: "Captain my Captain" By Slint.
Bjorn notes: Um, I think he means “Good Morning, Captain” by Slint, but mad props for his indie-cred.
BT: In order to be a good air drummer, doesn’t one have to be an actual drummer?
AG: Not at all. I think knowing real drums might even lock you into convention and your air drumming could suffer.
Bjorn notes: Yet both Gold and Grenier are actual drummers!
In fact, at the L.A. premiere party this week, which I crashed, Jennifer Barbosa, an attendee who plays an air drummer in the film, told me: “We were all hired on the basis of our drumming skills, because I don’t know if there are really enough people in the world who call themselves air drummers.”
Most partygoers I spoke to, including Jennifer, told me they thought that air drumming was sexier and cooler than air guitar, but I remain undeterred. Hell, I married my air guitar groupie.
There can’t possibly be air drumming groupies.
“There are air drum groupies,” Power informs me. “But as Power discovers, they are deaf. They hear the music the air drummer is playing with his hands.”
Which is more likely to get you laid? You decide:
Power's First Public Appearance
Dan Crane starred in the award-winning documentary Air Guitar Nation and his memoir, To Air is Human, was lauded by TimeOut New York as doing for the air-guitar world “what George Plimpton’s gonzo-journalism Paper Lion did for football.” He is also a journalist, and a musician and comedic actor.