Friday, June 27, 2008 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- What: U.S. Air Guitar Championships
- When: 9 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Carnaval Court at Harrah’s Las Vegas
- Admission: $10 (21 and over); 369-5000, www.harrahs.com
Beyond the Sun
She who is about to rock, we salute her.
More than 20 imaginary rock stars and their retinues are packing their invisible instruments and converging on Las Vegas this Sunday for the Air Guitar Championships at Harrah’s Carnaval Court. And Henderson has fielded a local competitor for the no-strings battle of the one-man bands.
Her parents named her Angela Corvello, but you can call her by her air name, Shama Lama Airly Legal Ding Dong.
Since its inception in 2003, the U.S. Air Guitar Championships has grown from a two-city competition to a very silly but passionate international phenomenon that inspired a hilarious and somehow inspiring 2006 documentary, “Air Guitar Nation.”
Sunday’s competition is one of 24 regional heats across the country that will culminate in the national finals Aug. 8 in San Francisco. At Harrah’s, entrants will mime along to 60-second excerpts from songs of their choice. Virtual virtuosos are judged on technical merit, stage presence and “airness,” defined in the official rules as “the extent to which a performance transcends the imitation of a real guitar and becomes an art in and of itself.” If contestants make it to the second round, the next song is selected by the judges. Regional winners get $400 for travel expenses to the final.
The Hope of Henderson, Corvello is a virgin air guitarist as far as competition goes. She started practicing in earnest Saturday after impulsively signing up for the event. Recruiting friends and colleagues, she is already followed by a rock star entourage: a bodyguard, roadies, a (one-man) documentary crew, groupies and a limo for the big night.
But at 40, she’s no rock ’n’ roll innocent.
“I came out of the womb playing air guitar,” says Corvello, who is director of sales and marketing at the Clarion Hotel on Flamingo Road. Her ‘behind the music” rock history: She’s the youngest of five girls, and her father owned a radio station in Latrobe, Pa., near Pittsburgh. “So at a pretty young age I was in the radio studio with the DJs, playing along with all the music that is now classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Aerosmith.”
Corvello, who is competent on the three-dimensional guitar, drums and piano, says she has discovered preternatural abilities on her air guitar.
“I can play behind my head on my air guitar. I can play with my teeth and I hit every note right on.” She’s counting on her ability to move her fingers (“both hands at the same time — on key”), to give her a competitive edge.
Corvello says she can also play air drums, air harmonica, air keyboards, name it — she could be an air Prince or Todd Rundgren and record double air albums all by herself.
“That’s the thing about air guitar, you don’t have to know how to play the instrument, you just have to know how to hold it right.”
Corvello sent out a plea to her rock-savvy family and friends to nominate contest-worthy tunes. “I’m trying to find songs that are familiar but not overdone by my fellow air guitar players,” she says, and though she wants to keep her repertoire a secret till showtime, songs in the running include “Funk #49” by the James Gang, “Hard Times” by Jamiroquai and “anything by the White Stripes.”
Corvello’s bid for air guitar glory has suddenly become a national effort — pieces of her costumes are being FedEx-ed from all over the country in time for Sunday night. Her mom is sending her black top hat with gold smiley faces on it; a friend is sending tattoo sleeves from Chicago.
“For 60 seconds, I’m gonna be a rock star — and I’m from Las Vegas,” Corvello says. “So I’m gonna go ahead and do it right.”
Come Sunday she will be going shred-to-shred with overdriven competitors like Dan Adams.
A computer tech for a public school near Toledo, Ohio, Adams, 32, has taken a two-month unpaid leave and moved out of his apartment to afford a seven-city trek for air guitar glory. Driving around the country (luckily, his air guitars fit in the trunk of his Prius), Adams has so far rocked Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, airing a different song at each stop.
“I didn’t do too well with the judges last night,” he says about his Wednesday night showing at San Francisco’s Independent club. “Usually the opening performers get the roughest treatment from the judges. They said my technical skills weren’t as on (par) with my fingering techniques.” (That night’s top spots went to Alex Koll as Shred Begley Jr. and Kurt Brown as Shred Nugent.)
His final stop is Las Vegas, “lucky No. 7,” and Adams is preparing a “hard-core bluesy rock song” that he hopes will “totally destroy the audience.”
“This will be my second year playing professionally,” says Adams (he placed 12th out of 19 in last year’s Chicago regionals), “but I’ve been doing it nonprofessionally all my life.
“I was a fetus in the ’70s, and my mother told me that when Van Halen tunes came on the radio, she would feel a kick and a power chord in the womb.”