US air guitarist wins world championship with fierce headbanging

OULU, FINLAND - American Eric "Mean" Melin was crowned air guitar world champion on Friday after his fierce rendition of alternative rock band Weezer's "Hash Pipe" impressed judges at an annual competition in the northern Finnish city of Oulu.

Melin narrowly beat compatriot Doug "The Thunder" Stroock after a play-off by showing off a combination of energetic headbanging and charismatic stage presence.

"This is insane. It's so amazing," Melin said after his performance which, unlike that of many air guitarists who play in the privacy of their bedrooms, won thunderous applause from a real-life audience and a top score from judges. "This is the best night in my life."

The Finns started the competition in the 1990s and it is one of many offbeat events such as wife-carrying and mobile phone-throwing held in the summer, when normally reserved Fins like to celebrate the warmer weather with goofy games.

Melin wore a sleeveless T-shirt and dark jeans, while some rivals opted for more dramatic costumes including the leather, viking-style bodysuit of 2012 champion Justin "Nordic Thunder" Howard. Melin described his pursuit as both silly and serious.

"All the people from around the world who do this crazy thing that we do, that is so ridiculous and so nuts and so silly... we want to elevate the art of air guitar to performance art," he said.

We're not pretending to play the guitar, we're not playing invisible guitars. We're playing the air guitar."