Thai Air Guitar Competitors Go All Out

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Bangkok (AFP) – What happens when Donald Trump, a Bangkok motorbike taxi driver, and a Squid Games contestant take the stage in a Bangkok bar late on a Saturday night? It can only mean one thing: an air guitar battle for peace.

The cosplayers were reunited at the second annual Thai Air Guitar Championship for the chance to represent Thailand at the beloved World Championships in Finland later this year.

The hallowed international event, founded in Finland in 1996 to promote world peace – “Hold the air guitars, not the guns” is the ironic motto – has spawned good-natured and over-the-top competitions around the world .

“It’s gonna be the biggest thing you’ve ever seen,” co-host and organizer Jacob “Airlectic Eel” Conga roared, bouncing onto the Brownstone stage after his exuberant performance to warm up the crowd.

For the first round, each of the nine competitors gave a 60-second performance scored by three judges, with the top five advancing to the second and final round.

Competitors were scored on technical ability, stage presence and “airness” LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA AFP

Competitors were struck by their technical abilities, stage presence and “airness” – “the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of air guitar, when it transcends a performance and becomes a true work of art”, said Conga said.

The eccentric and electric sets, performed across a mix of genres and tastes ranging from Rihanna’s “Shut Up And Drive” to self-composed Thai rock-pop, ultimately saw the “Trump” strutting and sulking winning the night, despite fierce competition.

“He made Thailand great again, that’s for sure,” said judge and comedian Charles le Français.

Competitors fight for the chance to represent Thailand at the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland
Competitors fight for the chance to represent Thailand at the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA AFP

Rob “Donald Trump” Palmer, who, when not playing air guitar solos, has lived and worked in Thailand for eight years, said the evening was “fantastic”.

“That’s a great idea, completely stupid but also totally awesome,” the 61-year-old said after his Trump-infused performance of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

Explaining his costume, most of which was chaotically tossed to the crowd in the final round, he said: “If you have to do this, you have to do something crazy, so let’s do the craziest man on the planet, to make Trump.”

After winning the 5,000 baht ($141) prize and a trip to Finland to represent Thailand, Palmer smiled and said, “For most of us, this is probably the only chance you have to become a national champion or even a world champion — then you have to do it.”

The international event, founded in Finland in 1996 to promote world peace, has given rise to good-natured and over-the-top competitions around the world.
The international event, founded in Finland in 1996 to promote world peace, has given rise to good-natured and over-the-top competitions around the world. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA AFP

France, a 22-year-old spectator who only gave his nickname, had come to support his friend but was completely unprepared for the “crazy” spectacle.

“I’ve played guitar before and I do air guitar, but I’ve never seen air guitar like this.”

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