Prior to 2003, when he competed in the first U.S. Air Guitar Championships, Crane, a Denver native, was losing his battle with obscurity as guitarist for a group called Nous Non Plus. But he receives major screen time throughout Nation thanks to Björn Türoque, his ax-free alter ego. Moreover, he wrote and performs the movie's score. "Any song you don't recognize is probably me," he points out.
Not bad for a guy whose plot function in Air Guitar Nation is to lose repeatedly. Again and again, Crane/Türoque takes on David "C Diddy" Jung, who's distinguished by a samurai headband and a Hello Kitty mouse pad he wears over his bare chest and again and again, he falls short. Still, their competition gives at least some shape to the flick, a meandering but good natured look at a collection of shlubs with a sense of humor about the gap between their big dreams and teeny talent.
In retrospect, Crane feels his musicianship was a drawback. "I knew too much," he says. "I was too accurate with my performances." For that reason, he's hung up his air guitar in favor of the real thing: Nous Non Plus is headed to the studio this month. But he continues to serve as an ambassador for the instrument challenged. Crane wrote 2006's To Air Is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist, and he's scheduled to emcee qualifying meets across the country for 2007's stateside air guitar competition. No wonder he calls air guitar "a joke I take very seriously."
The first of today's Guitar showings begins at 2:40 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter, 900 Auraria Parkway; the film runs through May 31. Tickets are $5.75 for Denver Film Society members, $6.75 for seniors and $8.75 for the general public. Visit www.denverfilm.org or phone 303 595 3456 for details. Starz will also sponsor an air guitar challenge tomorrow; to register, go to www.myspace.com/denverfilm.