Guitar Face is a condition that afflicts thousands of string benders and riff munchers across the globe. For those who suffer the condition, the consequences can be serious but in almost all cases non-fatal. Symptoms include extreme contortions of the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and chin, and an insatiable appetite for rocking.
Like a drug addict, a person going through AIGFS (Acquired Involuntary Guitar Face Syndrome) rarely pauses to consider his or her condition but instead just keeps looking for that next big fix/killer riff/ear-destroying solo blast. Myself a long-time sufferer, I decided to catalogue a few of the “GFs” I’ve made or witnessed in my many devious days in rawk.
I hope this proves helpful in diagnosing yourself or someone you love, that it makes you cue up that old Iron Maiden Number of the Beast LP, or that it merely gives you a chuckle.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT
To begin the exploration and for comparative purposes, I have included this “control” photo. Face completely at rest. No guitar in hand nor nearby, no music on the stereo, and not at a rock show or musical event of any kind. In other words, complete absence of guitar face, and the amount of rocking: zero.
The “Balls Out”
It may seem more appropriate to call this the tongue out, but that would just be stating the obvious. This facial expression typically comes on during a particularly “balls out” solo and would almost exclusively be the result of a ridiculously screaming heavy metal passage. In a slight variation on the theme, the tip of the tongue may be rapidly and repeatedly flicked up and down in a manner simulating poorly performed cunnilingus.
The “Cool as Shit”
This somewhat self-congratulatory pursed lips classic conveys a sense of what guitarists would refer to as “tastiness”—as in “man, this riff is fuckin’ tasty.” This may be favored by your low-slung guitar, hair-over-the-eyes types, who clearly are much too cool to stick their tongues out (unless doing so ironically). Rarely lasts through a solo section.
This is a rare, confusing and terrifying spot for the guitarist and his or her mouth to be in. To reach this unusual state one must obviously be well into a virtual face melter. It’s almost as if the guitarist’s hands have turned into independent creatures, ones clearly intent on bringin’ the noize. The unholy phalanges, intent to rock and possibly driven by Satan himself, have now taken complete control. Should the player fall to the floor, fingers ablaze, it may be best to rush the stage and control the tongue lest it be bitten off in a rock-induced frenzy.
The “Holy Shit That’s Tough”
Made most popular by AC/DC axe slinger Angus Young, this face is unavoidable while playing a Gibson SG through a Marshall stack while wearing a schoolboy uniform. Also known as the “Fuckin’ A” due to the tough-ass riffage or badass solo runs that usually accompany or inspire it.
While most guitar faces are involuntary responses to what the hands are creating and the ears hearing, this is most definitely a “just for show” face. One could expect bands like G.W.A.R., Slipknot, or, well, G.W.A.R. to employ this regularly.
Although sometimes used to show how wild your thrash or metalcore band is and not the result of autonomic reflex, this GF may conceivably and occasionally occur during maximal riffage. If you see this rare guitar face, try to document it immediately, as it represents one of the rarest guitar faces in rawk.
Because of its graphic and borderline obscene appearance, this is only used by guitarists who perform searing solos in bad taste.
The “Oh Hell Yeah”
Often one of the earliest stages of guitar face, the Oh Hell Yeah is also common among head-banging adolescents and middle-age “You shoulda seen it back in the day” hard rockers who are merely enjoying blazing shreds and tasty licks at physically harmful volume.
“The OH FUCK YEAH”
Often accompanied by a wide-eyed, eyebrows-raised face of surprise, this typically follows a particularly tasty lick or passage, and may be combined with head nodding. Rocktastic.
Named due to its obvious resemblance to a man in the ecstatic throes of an orgasm, this face may be followed by a slight twinge of guilt and definite sleepiness. After a power ballad or two, however, it may reemerge during the second or even third set. May be accompanied by hard & rhythmic plucking, intricate fretboard fingering, or extreme string yanking.
The “Working Man”
Similar to the odd maxillofacial contortions that may occur while changing a radiator hose, trying to reach something that’s way far in back of something else, or other hard to phnagle tasks, this face conveys a sense that whatever you’re doing, it’s tough. Not tough as in “damn this riff is fuckin’ tough,” though it may too be that–but primarily just requiring great attention and focus.
This face has never before been seen in the history of rock. It is just inserted as a placeholder for when/if it ever emerges.
Popularized by the New York Dolls and every pre-80s guitar player David Bowie ever worked with, the Kiss adds a bit of androgynistic fancy pants flair to the affair. Make no mistake, however, this does not occur during slow or dull passages but in times of extreme and maximum riffage.
The “Happily Sickened”
Somewhat reminiscent of Billy Idol’s trademark snarl, this guitar face is generally only produced by super heavy, “play from the gut” types as it is inspired by the point of a solo where the guitar is either slightly out of tune, the playing is particularly chaotic and raunchy, or the pre-show cheese plate isn’t agreeing.
The “Help Me, My Shit is Exploding”
Somewhat akin to the “Confused & Terrified,” this GF only emerges under conditions of full force eardrum-piercing guitar wails. The player is once again a bit fearful that the blistering tones are spiraling out of his control, but in this case der spieler is more than happy to lose his shit and melt his and everyone else in the crowd’s face clean off in the service of Almighty Rock.
Only for the sickest axe masters, the Grinder involves the physical mashing of the teeth together in unaware but dentally self-destructive movements. Long-term heavy duty players can expect erosion of tooth enamel from the searing rocking, but may also suffer tooth decay, gingivitis, receding of the gums, herpes, and a host of other oral maladies from years of hard living on the road, on stage, on vacation, in the studio, and at home.
So these are but a few of the permutations caused by scorching guitar playing. Undoubtedly, there are many more in existence or just waiting to rise from the molten belly of the beast. If you encounter other forms of GF in the wild, in film, or even on the internets, please do be in contact so that they can be duly categorized.