NEW YORK – The term might not be familiar, but the image definitely is — that look guitarists get when trying to nail a high note or power chord.
Now a new contest will determine who has the best "guitar face" — and the winner could be someone who has never held a six-string.
"You can hold up a tennis racket, pretend it's a guitar and still enter," said Jesse Railford, director of programming for the on-demand television service Mag Rack, which is sponsoring the contest. The prize is a Les Paul "Black Beauty" (search) electric guitar and case.
The 20-odd judges range from musicians to producers to rock photographers like Mark Weiss, who has captured everyone from Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne (search) in 25 years of taking pictures.
Weiss is looking for someone who reminds him of Ted Nugent (search). "When he plays his notes, it's emulated in his face. He's all over the place. Look at his mouth and you can tell he's playing the guitar; you don't have to look at his hands."
Gary Lucas understands that well. The Gods and Monsters guitarist said he's been making the guitar face since he was nine years old.
"This is the first term I heard encapsulating (the expression) so well," he said. "It captures the gamut of grimaces that accompany playing of guitar.
"It sort of comes from within. You're expressing your inner guitarist, which is like expressing your internal child."
Everybody can strap on a guitar, but a good guitarist "looks like they should be committed to mental institutional," said Lucas, who started his career in Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band and played with the late Jeff Buckley.
So what will Lucas look for in a winner?
"I'm really looking for someone who can sum it up the most — the most visceral, authentic haunted expression," he said. "I'm looking for someone who seems hot-wired into his guitar strings. To me, a guitar is just another extension of human nervous system."
The contest, which runs through Oct. 31, is promoting Guitar Xpress, a weekly video magazine for guitar aficionados that's available to Cablevision customers.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Aspiring guitar-facers can enter the contest by visiting www.magrack.com or sending a photo no larger than 4 by 6 inches, along with name, address, age and phone number, to Guitar Face Challenge, c/o Cataldi Public Relations, 143 W. 29 St., Suite 904, New York, NY 10001