"Losing Yourself in The Song Is a Beautiful Thing"

Two months have passed since Mean Melin was crowned the World Champion. Representing the international Air Guitar community has kept him busy lately - took him even to the BBC News to discuss the scientific aspect of the air guitar with a Cambridge professor - and yet he found some time to share his inspiring thoughts with us. Here's the story about a late bloomer who became the world's number one Air Guitarist. And he keeps doing us proud, that's for sure!

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"It’s been two months now since I’ve had the honor of being the Air Guitar World Champion, and I have to tell you - it’s still sinking in. I had such an amazing time meeting people from all over the world who are addicted to this crazy sport/art form as much as I am.

I am a late bloomer. Five years ago was the first time I had even heard that this hilarious subculture of music fans and shame-free freaks even existed, and ever since my first competition, I have been working to spread the word as an air guitar ambassador in the U.S. I’m excited to expand that this year.

The U.S. Air Guitar scene has led me to perform in Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, Boulder, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Kansas City. I’ve hosted air guitar competitions in Topeka, Manhattan, and Lawrence, Kansas, where I live, as well as in Kansas City and St. Louis and - with the generous support of Aireoke founder and AGWC emcee extraordinaire Bjorn Turoque - I’ve hosted many an Aireoke event, all in the name of spreading the gospel of air guitar.

I’ve seen the power of community that air guitar fosters firsthand. After traveling to my first U.S. Air Guitar Nationals in 2009, I was hooked.  There’s something amazing that happens between performers and audiences during an air guitar show - this weird bonding experience. My goal was to make Kansas City a hub for competitive air guitar. The first flash mob I organized got tons of local media coverage and the second one rallied against an anti-gay hate group.

My road to Finland this year was paved with tons of encouragement from the U.S. air guitar community (especially Lt. Facemelter, Nordic Thunder, and Thunder Stroock) and I embarked on a wing and a prayer, hoping to qualify at Dark Horse. The positive vibes in Oulu were instantaneous, and I fell in love with the city. Since coming home with the world title, I’ve been spreading those vibes everywhere.

I want to give a special shoutout to the organizers of the AGWC and all the people who fly in every year to make it such a special event. I’ve watched the live stream on my computer at work for the four years prior, so it was a surreal experience this year to be right in the middle of it. What a thrill! Being there in person to see the dedication of the staff and competitors was truly amazing.

My duty for the next year is to represent the world air guitar community and I hope to do you proud. My recent TV interview with BBC World News was a particular highlight because in addition to the usual on-camera antics where they ask you to air guitar and everyone has a good chuckle, we also had a thoughtful discussion of the actual benefits of air guitar.

According to a new study by Cambridge professor and pianist John Rink, the “much-maligned” air guitar - which air guitarists already know is a freeing, creative endeavor - can actually be “a useful technique for classical musicians,” something that can “help musicians find moments of inspiration.”

So guess what? The secret’s out. We “airheads” already know what air guitar does for us - and the people who attend our shows get it. It’s the performance aspect that excites people - the combination of the music and the interpretation of it! I’ve had people come up to me after a competition and admit they haven’t had that much fun at a rock show in a long time.

As Rink noted, “Performance isn’t just about playing notes. It’s about projection, and one of the key aspects of projection is gesture - physical communication - and so forth.” He added that musicians are always trying to “get beyond the limitations of an instrument. You want to capture the full potential of an instrument but move beyond it, and that’s part and parcel of being a creative musician.”

Speaking as a drummer myself, I can back this up. My love for rock n’ roll goes far beyond the instrument I play. (Yes, air guitar haters - you’d be surprised how many of us actually play instruments ourselves.) You know that guy you always see in the front row of every rock show playing air guitar and banging his head? That’s me. When I’m enjoying music, it’s a different part of my brain that’s engaged compared to when I’m playing music. That moment where you lose yourself in the song is a beautiful thing. I can do it a little bit when I’m playing drums, but I do it ALL THE TIME when I’m playing the air guitar.

After seeing 8,000 people in the town square of Oulu, Finland with huge smiles plastered on their faces during the Air Guitar World Championship and after rocking out with my new friends from Germany, Bulgaria, Belgium, Russia, Australia, Japan, China, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan, and the U.K., I am convinced that the air guitar movement induces pure happiness on a regular basis.

And … I am proud and excited this year to represent the air guitar community for - as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls once said - “the world and elsewhere”!

- Eric 'Mean' Melin, the Air Guitar World Champion 2013

Tue 22 Oct 2013

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