Guitar showdown: Steve Langemo flies to San Francisco for national contest

Steve Langemo never thought of music as a competitive sport, but the local musician’s attitude softened in June when he stumbled upon an Internet link for a competition sponsored by Guitar Player magazine.

He decided to enter his first guitar contest, and the impulse paid off.

“I’ve always thought that stuff was slightly goofy,” said Langemo, who was one of 10 guitarists from across the country selected in August to travel to San Francisco to compete on Sept. 11.

“This is different from what they used to do when I was a kid in the ’80s and early ’90s — when the rock guitar god thing was big,” he continued. “In those contests, guys would just come out and play fast guitar by themselves for three minutes.”

For this competition, the finalists will each perform one original guitar-based composition backed by a house band.

“It’s cool because there’s a backing band and you play your own stuff,” Langemo said.

“It’s a guitar competition, but I think they’re looking for somebody who can write, play well and also present the whole thing well.”

Langemo, who teaches more than 50 guitar students each week, performs locally with a jazz fusion trio and several rock bands. He can be seen on Friday, Sept. 4, performing at Canal Street Tavern with Aja, the Steely Dan tribute band he joined in 2004.

“I’ve lived in Dayton probably about six years now,” said Langemo, a native of Fargo, N.D. “I fell into that band immediately when I got to town.

“The core group of guys in Aja have become good friends, and we really enjoy playing together. We started doing some other projects just to play some more good music.”

Those other projects include Savoy Truffle, a Beatles tribute band, and work-for-hire by local theater companies.

“The last few years I’ve been doing a lot of pit orchestra stuff,” Langemo said. “I’ve probably done eight or nine different runs of shows already this year.

“In October, I’m doing ‘Man of La Mancha’ for the Human Race Theatre in Dayton, and I got hired by the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music theater department to do ‘Hair’ in November.”

The diversity suits Langemo.

“When I was a kid, I was more interested in being the type of musician that could read music and play a bunch of different stuff instead of just writing a few songs and having my band or whatever,” he said. “Where I ended up is kind of where I wanted to end up.”

Contact contributing arts and music writer Don Thrasher at donaldthrasher8@aol.com.

Don Thrasher