Air band a rockin' idea

April 10, 2008|By Brad Schleicher | Brad Schleicher,Sun reporter

Andrew Litz wants you in his "band."

Because his members need not own an instrument or even know how to properly play one, there is hope for all who wish to bask in the rays of rock stardom.

All that is required of his hopefuls is that they look the part and act like they are playing an instrument.

After all, it is an "air band" that he is looking to build.

Using the stage name William Ocean and sporting a blond mop-top hairdo complete with a bandana and skin-tight gold jumpsuit, Litz, 29, has taken the world of air guitar by storm. After delivering a series of stage acrobatics combined with imaginary fret-burning air guitar solos from Prince's 1984 song "Let's Go Crazy," Litz became the 2007 U.S. Air Guitar Champion.

"That song was an incredible find for an air guitar competition," says Litz. "It's got some fizzling riffs and a lot of levels to it. It's the type of song that if you don't melt someone's face, you've done something wrong."

Putting his new title to good use, Litz is hitting the road, searching clubs and bars in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore for the best lead singer/ lip-syncer and air bassist, drummer, keyboardist and horn player that the East Coast has to offer.

For Litz, legitimate live musical performances are truly something to behold. But in the spirit of his contests, he would rather contestants substitute a real instrument with theatrics, image and charisma.

"I want someone who brings the rock-star attitude of Slash and the stage theatrics of Meatloaf," says Litz, who will hold auditions at the Ottobar on Tuesday. "I'm looking for the air-instrumentalists and performers who have that rock star aura and a routine that's all their own."

According to Litz, those who think that air musicianship has no rules or elements of finesse are sorely mistaken. Two contestants seriously bombed their recent auditions in New York when they blurred the lines between imitating an instrument and trying to accomplish the impossible.

"A keyboard player was doing a solo from an Emerson Lake and Palmer song when he pretended to pick the keyboard off of the stand, break the keyboard over his knee, then bash it on the ground before putting it back on the stand and continue playing," says Litz. "Another contestant was imitating drums when he stood up from his stool and walked to the front of the stage, still playing and acting like the air drums were somehow attached to him."

To prevent such lofty and unreal displays of air musicianship, contestants will be judged in three areas: "precision," "presence" and "plus." For "precision," contestants will be judged on their ability to "sell" the idea that they are actually playing an instrument and hitting most of the notes. "Presence" will be judged on a contestant's attitude and stage presence. "It's the ability to show comfort on the stage," says Litz, "and an ability to demonstrate overall rockness."

Lastly, the "plus" category (judged by Litz himself) will be scored based on a contestant's ability to "get on stage and bring a little something extra with a costume or stage theatrics that really sets them apart from the competition."

Although Litz can't exactly identify what that extra something is, he knows it when he sees it.

"It's graded by my gut reaction," says Litz.

After making all of the scheduled stops, Litz plans on narrowing down his top performers and inviting one contestant from each instrument category to practice together before the final May 22 performance at the Knitting Factory in New York City.

"I want to get in three or four solid two-hour practices," says Litz. "The performance will only last about 15 minutes. That's more than enough air for the crowd."

brad.schleicher@baltsun.com

Auditions for William Ocean's Air Band will take place Tuesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. with a demonstration and auditions at 9 p.m. at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Admission is $7. Contestants can sign up the night of the show or at airbandtour.com. Information: Go to airbandtour.com or call 410-662-0069.

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