Before he wandered lost-looking into Java Jungle to meet me, all I knew about Clark Demeritt was that he attended Reno High School, that he liked to conduct phone conversations in noisy areas, and that he took air guitar seriously. Oh dear. Would he have tattoos on his head or a diet of only breaded figs and spiced muskrat?
And that’s the problem with air guitar. Demeritt doesn’t look at all scary. He’s a little shorter than average with brown hair and a T-shirt with happy critters on the front, but my breaded fig and spiced muskrat suspicions linger. Just look at his cryptic practicing rituals for this embarrassing activity, normally confined to bathrooms, late-night commutes and other places where nobody can see you.
“I usually do [air guitar] sitting in my room procrastinating—acting as outrageous as I can,” says Demeritt.
Demeritt advised me to look up air guitar on YouTube. Afraid to anger the representative of what must be a powerful cult, I obeyed immediately. Who greets me but the legendary Ochi Yosuke, a fat Japanese man with enormous sideburns and a taste for sweaters embroidered with fearsome tigers?
Ochi’s performance could do little but horrify me further. The 2006 champion at the Air Guitar World Championships gyrated his hips and flaunted his imaginary guitar in a manner most unpleasant to those of good breeding and superior character who still condemn the vulgar movements of Elvis Presley.
This sort of insalubrious behavior, Demeritt tells me, is part of the scoring in air guitar competitions. Continual dance, originality, costume and moving hands in accordance to the notes coming from the imaginary guitar all win admiration in this Illuminati-like society.
Demeritt, who I’m sure at one time loved America, was drawn into the seedy underworld of air guitar by the evils of the mass media.
“I started watching documentaries on it,” Demeritt said.
When I asked him why he should chose a fake guitar rather than a harpsichord or lute, the depths of his perfidy became eminently clear.
“It takes less practice than a real guitar,” Demeritt said. “It [the air guitar] just feels natural in my hands.”
Clearly witchcraft plays a role in all this, for I can fathom no other explanation for what he told me next. Every Friday between now and Sept. 12, Demeritt and his friend Steve Owens will attempt to snag corruptible souls with air guitar competition signups at the West Street Market. These victims of the air guitar conspiracies, he told me, come from all corners of society—little old ladies and fat men with terrible sweaters.
But more … if Demeritt is triumphant in his quest to tantalize the audience and does sufficiently please the nefarious air guitar judges, he hopes to one day compete in San Francisco’s regional competitions.
Demeritt’s big performance will come Sept. 12. He’s considered the man to beat at the air guitar competition that will be the final hurrah of The Holland Project’s West Street Art Market series. Also performing will be a few band that play old-fashioned “real” guitars.
Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier, the reigning Air Guitar World Champion will appear at the Sept 5 West Street Art Market.
If you want to witness something strange and can stand the mounds of spiced muskrats, the air guitar competition of Sept. 12 should certainly satisfy your prurient interests.