Wednesday, 7 April 2010

L'Air Guitare

I am late. Sorry. This gentleman came and distracted me, but it's all in the interests of better blogging, as we are planning to go to the Ghent psychiatry museum later today, where straitjackets through the ages vie for attention with two headed babies.

Anyway. Where were we? Oh yes, air guitar.

Tragically, I only had my phone to take pictures of the Braine L'Alleud heat of the Belgian Air Guitar Championships and the quality is thus abysmal. However. Here we have the Manneken Pis peeing on a guitar:

The evening kicked off inauspiciously with the sadistic bastards of the STIB (purveyors of public transport to the damned) ensuring I missed my train. Thank you, my yellow-trammed friends!

Faced with the prospect of an hour in the Gare du Midi, something that even the most hardened Belgian would blanch at, I was rescued by Jessica, who I have never met, and her boyfriend (who doesn't know me from a Number 4 tram) taking a hugely kind detour many many miles out of their way to pick me up .

We set off for Braine L'Alleud (population: 37 943 apparently. This is much more than I was expecting). It was very, um. Rural? We made several circuits of the town and its many fields of cows trying to find the venue. Eventually, we spotted a small sign in a cobbled lane. Five youths were lurking outside trying to look menacing. The venue was a youth club. It took us three attempts to find the way in. When we did, it was entirely empty, bar a couple of youths eating sausages in the front, and a deserted bar at the back, selling only beer in plastic cups. The atmosphere of excitement was not palpable.

"Do you think we missed it? "

"We can't have. Can we?"

We asked at the bar. No. We had not. We had an hour to spare in the empty youth club to speculate on what was likely to happen.


A small group of sullen teens congregated near the stage.

"That's the VIP room" (to the left)

"Yeah. The Green Room. The artists are preparing".

Several of the artists' mums were sitting in another corner (right, above).

Jessica, with heroic kindness, finally persuaded the barman to get out his special contraband bottle of wine and pour me a grudgingly tiny glass.

We waited a bit more. Eventually the compère arrived.

"Bonsoir Braine L'Alleud! We'll be starting soon! When it fills up a bit!"

We looked around. There were perhaps 20 of us. It might be a long wait.

Though "there probably isn't much else to do in Braine L'Alleud on a Friday night", reasoned Jessica. Sure enough, a few more people eventually straggled in.

The compère came back on, introduced the judges (including a small man in a flat cap who was the Reigning Champion) and showed us a few moves. He was pretty good. Sadly, in air guitar terms, this was the definite highlight of the night.

The next best thing was "Zorro". Here he is:

He performed "I fought the law" and got straight sixes (the scoring works the same as ice skating. No, don't ask).

The rest of the evening was basically ten grubby boys forgetting the basic geometry of the guitar as they head-banged self-consciously to the greatest hits of Sepultura. I'm unfair. One of them did Dire Straits. That was EVEN WORSE. I took a short video of the one with the most disgusting white boy dreads to terrify brain twin. The first round fizzled out and the compère pleaded for more entries.

Jessica and I looked at each other, as a middle aged gentleman in a nice sensible jumper tried to engage us in conversation about whether we lived in Braine L'Alleud.

"We could totally win this"

"Easily! I mean, none of them have any MOVES. Noone has tried to play the guitar behind their head. Not once".

"Or set their air guitar on fire. That would be good. I could do Purple Haze. Let's get the playlist, I bet they have Purple Haze".

They did.

Sadly, I must disappoint you. We didn't enter. I think, if there had been more to drink, we would genuinely have. A half decent outfit and a couple of moves and we could easily have won, especially since the second round took place long after Zorro's bedtime. Maybe next year.

Worse still, the last train back to Brussels left before we even knew the winner, though we did just have time to see a virtuoso exhibition from le champion de Belgique. I don't remember much about it, except that there was a woman singing into a whisk.

That was the last heat. The final takes place in July at the Dour Festival (I know. You couldn't make it up). Who's in?


Laura and Ben said...

Oooh, the Dour festival actually looks quite passable (I am especially intrigued by the rather specific promise of 118 others bands mentioned on the website). Sadly Ben wishes to usher in a new decade of life in England, away from the daily madness of Belgium. Shame.

Lucy Fishwife said...

What?? No "Why Can't This Be Love" by Van Halen, which at least HAS a slammin' guitar break (unlike "All The Small Things" by Blink 182, which was designed for teenage boys to pogo to until their slacker jeans fall completely off)???
I'm not a rock fan, just a pedant.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Sorry, forgot to add "dude" to that comment.

Siobhan said...

Dour Festival is supposed to be brilliant. I would like to go to it one year. Lots of great bands play.

All this is serious and has inspired me to come out of lurking in the shadows.

That and the WV of rearig.

Mrs Trefusis... said...

I would also like to see you do your 'While my Guitar gently weeps', though it may be short on fireworks. On second thoughts, stick to Purple Haze.
Anyway, reading this nearly killed me - laughter soon gave way to a coughing fit that wouldn't disgrace a languishing victorian consumptive. Thanks.

Alison Cross said...

As a young woman, I used to head bang with my best friend S.

Sadly, we had to hold hands to stop ourselves from falling over. It's not a very rock and roll look.

Also, noot being the possessor of particularly swooshy hair, I always looked mildly electrocuted by the time we'd finished.

The thought of flinging an actual air instrument into the mix fairly boggles the mind.

Would love to have seen wee Zorro's efforts, as he looks ever so cute ;-)

BTW - Layla would be my track of choice for air string-twanging.

Cannot WAIT to read about the two-headed babies!!!!

Ali xxx

That's Not My Age said...

You can count me in. I once went to punk rock karaoke vowing not to get up on stage but a couple of pints later there I was ad-libbing (the karaoke machine had broken) to 'I fought the law' and doing the Pete Townsend arm swing. Loved it - until my friend showed me the video!

Lisa-Marie said...

I am so sad you didn't enter. I kind of want to go to the finals though!

Dour festival has a brilliant reputation!

I air guitar to Gaslight Anthem and Alkaline trio. I think I might be quite like the teenage boys... :s

Sarah said...

Ooh, next time please enter. I once met the winners of the European Air Guitar championships (friends of friends) and they were the mildest-mannered janitors you'd hope to meet until they started strutting their stuff. I think you'd be toptastic at it.

Anonymous said...

OMG, Pantera - my nephew's favourite! He also plays war games, and had very long hair, .... till he qualified as an accountant. I think that says it all.

Em said...

Bless! I found this mildly depressing. But that's air guitar for you.

Happy Frog and I said...

I am quite fond of the new variation I have seen in Reading. I have seen people do air double bass guitar solos to Cure songs. Excellent fun. Dour, really?! Great post.

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