Okay so I'm back on the flair train, and you should be too. In truth I'm not back on the flair train, this would suggest that it were possible to get off the train in the first place and we all know that's not possible.
I've never owned a phone in my life which has not been unceremoniously smashed to pieces. If I wasn't inadvertently hitting my phone, with a flaying bottle or tin, as it nestled snugly in my pocket while practicing. Then I was uncontrollably rolling it around my hands, largely unaware I was habitually prone to flairing everything I touched. Flair became the arch nemesis of every phone I’ve ever had, to this day I have never owned a phone which didn’t show the effects of being flung to the ground from a three ft drop with nothing but the ground to break its fall.
I still do this, and I probably always will, and for this reason my ability to have open Skype sessions on my pone has been put at great risk because as always cracked lines seem to find the cross paths of the front facing camera on a phone with 'lazer-like' detection.
What didn’t bode well for the smartphone, bodes excellently well for the jigger. It seems as though all those years of practicing thumbrolls with an oddly shaped object such as a phone, was only priming us to be able to manipulate oddly shaped measuring tools such as jiggers and barspoons with ease in the future.
Nothing is safe, not the shampoo bottle, not the tomato sauce, not even my kids glue sticks for arts and crafts are safe from being spinned, rolled or thrown, and most of the time obliviously so.
The one thing I loved the most about flair was coming up with new moves no one had ever seen before. It was like being the owner of a new car that no one else was able to drive yet. It was a concept car, that only you could demo and you knew that once you eventually revealed it to the world in competition, then it would only be a matter of time before it was replicated countless times over and the hunt for the new ‘next big move’ would begin. It was a period of constant discovery, and that’s exactly how the shows themselves became more and more spectacular in orientation.
At some point though, the need for the spectacular became more important than the need to make a potable drink, and our efforts to discover new moves outweighed our efforts to discover new flavour combinations.
The art of flair was branching off on its own path. It was impossible to remain puristic about mixing a drink while chasing the desire for performing more spectacular moves. By nature of the elements involved it became clear that these spectacular moves performed in a competition would hardly ever be realised in a scenario behind a real working bar.
On the other hand no one is going to win a flair competition while pouring a simple Gin & Tonic either so it seemed natural for the two worlds to split.
If you think about it, this sort of thing is not uncommon in other walks of life. In Tae Kwon Do, for instance, you also get two governing bodies. One of them is beset on keeping the martial art sacred and pure, while the other one is beset on pushing the art as a sport which has now been included in the Olympic Games.
Each faction has their own place in Tae Kwon Do, and the best part about it, is that everybody knows their role to play in spreading their love for their art form. What they don’t do, is ridicule someone who favours one faction over the other and they realise that they are all contributing to the advancement of their art form in different ways and have respect for each other in the roles that each of them play.
Recently I came across a young man on social media making a drink while demonstrating his love for flair. What transpired in the comments below was a mixed bag of love and support, interval dispersed with hate messages from bartenders who dislike flair.
What I can suggest to those bartenders who have such strong opinions about it, is that perhaps we should support each other in all walks of our industry, and recognise that we all have a part in sharing our art form with the world. Don’t be a doos, and shun the one propounding the form that you don’t practice. Rather be lekker, and give words of encouragement to each other as arbiters of different elements within a common love for a certain discipline. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar! At the very least, let the bartender who has mastered both and all the disciplines be the first one to throw a stone, until then I suggest you don't wash the windows of your glass house and let the dirt block you out, because no one wants to see that level of negativity.
With that all said, there is no secret to how much I love flair. In my 20 plus years of competing I have had the pleasure of watching the most entertaining shows of bartending all being performed with amazing synchronized music. Those shows have etched such strong memories in my mind that I can remember the exact feelings which I felt while I was watching them, and then whenever I heard those songs again I would always think about that bartender and that show, triggered by that song. It’s like the soundtrack to life as told by flair bartenders.
When I was younger every year there was a popular music label which would release a compilation of songs on a CD called “NOW, that’s what I call music”! Each year, or with whatever frequency they felt like, the new compilation of popular music would get a sequential number as the franchise followed a numerical series. In today’s world if it continued, we would chronologically now be on NOW 500 or above.
So in honour of the flair bartenders who dedicated their time, not only in hours of practice, but also in hours editing cool music to perform to. I have compiled a list of songs inspired by them as I recall their shows so vividly etched in my memory in a compilation of songs I call, NOW that’s what I call flair”!
If anyone wan’t to pick up some bottles and tins and have a practice in Lock Down, these are the songs to get you going.
Click on the link below to a playlist I have compiled on Spotify for you to easily download.
NOW, that's what I call Flair - 1!
1. Douglas Hardres Williams – Right Here, Right Now (Fatboy Slim)
2. Michael Stephenson – Bleed It Out (Linkin Park)
3. Alex Farnell – Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
4. Douglas Hardres Williams – I like Love (Solitaire)
5. Victor Pires – The Gambler (Wyclef Feat. Kenny Rogers)
6. Gary Knoetze – Let Me Clear My Throat (DJ Kool)
7. Kurt Schlechter – Jumap Around (House Of Pain)
8. Travis Kuhn – Superstylin’ (Groove Armada)
9. Gary Knoetze – Last Resort (Papa Roach)
10. Clinton Weir – Without Me (Eminem)
11. Anil Sabharwal – Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
12. Travis Kuhn – Chase the Sun (Planet Funk)
13. Pieter Oosthuizen – Hosh Tokolosh (Jack Parow)
14. Kyle O’Reilly – Bangarang (Skrillex)
15. Gareth Pahliney – Mortal Kombat (The Immortals)
16. Mark Gedrych – Encore (JayZ Feat. Linkin Park)
Kurt Schlechter, flairing behind a bar in Stellenbosch '98/'99.