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Since then, organizers have added more cities and more competitions, and they've inducted a roster of hall-of-famers. Boone's Farm sponsored the latest tour, which included the first Kansas City regional competition in June.
That night at the Record Bar, Mean Melin's raw greatness was obvious from the moment his air roadies — Peter "Stiff" Dickens and Longbottom Leaf — cleared a path, leading him onstage for the first round. The roadies strapped on his air guitar, fired up an air joint, shot him up with air smack, and cut up lines of air coke. Melin threw an arm to the sky, and for the first time that night, there was a feeling that something big was about to happen. He thrashed through 60 seconds of a wailing solo in Megadeth's "Wake Up Dead," and ended by throwing his guitar in the air and letting it impale him. Türoque compared his performance with a coke high: It was over too soon.
Mean Melin had tapped into an invisible force: airness.
"It's where the art of mimicking the guitar transcends just faking the guitar and becomes an art form unto itself," Hot Lixx Hulahan explains.
"He has airness; there's no doubt about that," Hulahan says of Melin. "But he doesn't even know what he tapped into. ... With great power comes great responsibility. We'll see how he uses it."
Türoque adds: "It's probably best if one doesn't fully understand one's airness. It's like someone who knows they're hot. That's kind of annoying. I'm not going to mention any names of some champions we've found this season so far, except for [coughs] in Chicago, but he [Chicago winner Romeo Dance Cheetah] knows he's good and he has a little too much swagger. This guy [Melin], he's a dork. He wears fucking pants that he shouldn't be wearing. He had, like, a breached birth going on in his crotch in the second round, and it was great. ... I swear to God, I saw a crowning vagina at the end of his performance. And that's rare."
Türoque says Melin will be a contender at nationals.
"We're always looking for new talent. That's why we're driving around the country." He says he sees the same thing from the same people year after year. "But this guy. I felt like he brought something new. I thought he was great. He's got the technical ability. He's got stage presence coming out of his ass. It's like he sweats stage presence. Comes out like blackheads on his face. And airness. He's definitely on his way to some severe airness. I think he's good. He just needs to do a little practicing."
Eric Melin has lived the rock-and-roll dream.
Playing real drums instead of pretend guitars, he has chased rock stardom. He has played in bands; been signed to a major label; toured nonstop; headlined in Chicago, New York, Austin, Los Angeles and Little Rock; and been dropped by a major label. He still plays. His latest band, the Dead Girls, has an album coming out in September.
He started out playing trombone in the fifth grade, but that ended in a botched recital. Then he tried guitar. That didn't work, either.