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Former Manhattanite wins world air guitar title

By Maura Wery

After losing by one-tenth of a point in the US Air Guitar Championship, former Manhattan resident Eric Melin was ready to hang up his invisible guitar.

Melin had won the Kansas City division of the championship since he began his air guitaring career in 2009, but was never really close enough to make the World Championship in Oulu, Norway. Melin’s defeat meant it was time for him to close the book on an amazingly successful air guitaring career, until his conqueror “Lt. Facemelter” and another competitor “Nordic Thunder” convinced him otherwise.

“I took their advice and my girlfriend’s advice because I was so damn close,” Melin said.  “So I put some T-shirts up to buy the $2,300 plane ticket and I bought the ticket and signed up to enter the World Championship.”

That was last Monday. By that Sunday, Melin wanted to do anything but pull the plug on his air guitar career.

Melin hopped on a plane that landed in Oulu, where he and 16 other competitors and “dark horses,” or a type of wildcard competitor, went in for the title. Melin said that for each round, each air guitar player had to pick a number to decide which order they went in.

“I drew very poorly and was number two,” Melin said. He said that in air guitar, being first doesn’t always work to your advantage.

“The audience and judges aren’t ready yet,” Melin said “As the evening goes on, the scores go higher.”

Melin said his goal wasn’t to win, but more to have fun and experience the art of air guitar on the world stage, but much to his surprise, Melin got really good scores for the first round.

” I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll make it to the second round.’,” Melin said. “Nordic Thunder went and didn’t get the great scores and I went ‘I might have a chance’.”

He was in first place after the first round of dark horse. In the second round, competitors are given a song at random and have to perform. They are judged on three different categories: Stage presence, technical ability and airness (something Melin is convinced you can’t really describe but is when the audience forgets that it is air guitar and believes it is a real performance. After the second round, Melin’s scored tied him for first place with Doug “Thunder Stroock” Stroock, his roommate in Norway, and forced them to have an air-off.

” An air-off is when they take the top two guys with the same song,” Melin said.

The song: Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” a song Melin was familiar with but his competitor was not, Melin also went second which gave him an advantage. After his performance, the impossible seemed to happen. The man from Kansas who originally lost the US Air Guitar Championship by one-tenth of a point; bought a plane ticket to Norway with his own money; and fighting for a slot in a world championship, won. Melin, with his new title decide it wasn’t time for him to hang up his invisible guitar just yet.

“I’m not only not retired and I get to go back,” Melin said as he will have to defend his world title at the 2014 World Championship. Melin also won a paid trip back to Oulu and a handmade guitar from fellow air guitar competitor Flying Finn. But for Melin, it was more than just the title that he got out of his travels to Norway.

“I met all these insanely kind, wonderful people from all over the world,” Melin said “I have friends in China, Bulgaria and Australia and we have all these activities together and it’s so insane and so fun.”

Melin said that those who are adamant about performing air guitar says that it promotes world peace and he looks forward to bringing the peace — and the rock — once more to the world.

“I am just honored to do this. I thought U.S. Air Guitar is awesome and it’s cool to compete with these weirdos around the country. Everyone just embraced me and it was an amazing weekend and I’m excited to do it again next year.”

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