OULU, Finland (CBS News) – Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard from the Chicago won the 17th Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu, Finland on Friday.
The Air Guitar World Championships is a three-day event with international contestants that culminates in a Grand Finale at Rotuaari Square in the centre of Oulu in Northern Finland.
Around 5,000 people gathered in the city centre to watch 18 contestants from around the world battle for the grand prize — a real guitar.
“Everyone is very excited of course since this is a big event and so forth, so everyone is always looking forward to this happening,” a spectator said.
In the Grand Finale, National Air Guitar Champions from Japan, UK, US, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Russia, Czech Republic, France and Estonia battled it out alongside “Dark Horses” — five finalists from a qualifying round held on Thursday (August 23).
The world championships was first organised in Oulu in 1996. Previous world champion Aline “The Devil’s Niece” Westphal from Germany said her performance in this year’s competition was “more crazy”.
“The performance this year is very different from the performance last year, it’s more girlie style, it’s wild, it’s rock n roll style and it’s not so dramatic as last year and yeah, a little bit more crazy, I think,” Westphal, who came in 8th place on Friday, said.
Contestants must impress both the judges and the audience with their air guitar skills.
In the first round, contestants played a song of their choice. The 10 contestants with the highest score went through to the second round, where they performed ‘Loose My Soul’ by the Flaming Sideburns.
“I for myself, I like improvisations. That is the main thing for me, but of course you have to look at the whole performance and I think my heart decides who is the best one. It’s that simple and difficult at the same time,” said judge Juha Torvinen, a well-known Finnish guitarist.
“Nordic Thunder” Howard won the 2011 National Competition in the US and went through the qualifying round to enter this year’s final.
His strategy was to immediately get the attention of the judges.
“Going early in a competition is tough because the judges, they are going to be conservative with their scores until they see someone that really pops, so my plan is to come out and be that one that’s like ‘paah’,” he said.
“I feel amazing, I feel loved, I feel like crying and laughing and hugging,” “Nordic Thunder” said after he was announced the winner.
The Air Guitar World Championships aims to promote world peace. “According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear if all the people in the world played Air Guitar”, the championships official website states.