Did you know that Miika Mehtio and Rane Tiainen as part of flair bartending team VIP Bartenders won Finland’s Got Talent in 2011? We caught up with Miika recently to see how things had moved on since that big win in Finland in 2011, what that whole experience was like and what it did for flair bartending in Finland:
“I started working behind the bar in the summer of 2006 and this is also when I had my first experience of flair bartending. I remember I watched Shaker Flair where people like Adriano Marcelino and Marco Canova were competing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I remember being super excited after seeing flair bartending properly for the first time and knew this was something I had to try.
In Finland sports are quite important and I had been playing football and ice hockey for a while and knew that I had a degree of athleticism, which you certainly need for flair bartending! So, I started training in my home and 6 months later I met one of the top flair bartenders in Finland at the time Vladimir Buryanov, we trained together for a whole week straight while he was staying in my town and after this I felt confident enough to tackle my first flair competition, Diine Flair in Northern Finland.
I then had to take a year out for my national military service, but when I got back in 2008 I was very keen to get going with flair bartending again and it took me about 2 to 3 years of straight competing and training to reach a top level in Finnish flair bartending”.
“Shortly after this I met Rane Tiainen and discovered this was someone very good at flair bartending and someone I could call a friend and practice tandem flair bartending with. Tandem flair is quite different and it takes a lot of work by both of you to get it looking perfect. This is also when I joined VIP Bartenders and started doing tandem flair bartending shows at events and festivals around Finland.
In 2010 we saw Finland’s Got Talent on the television and decided that VIP Bartenders could have a go at competing. I honestly didn’t think we would get very far at this point, I was still quite young but started putting in the work with Rane on our tandem flair. In the qualification round we made the decision to keep the flair quite simple but use a lot of showmanship to entertain the judges, so we only really used craft flair or working flair in this initial round. We picked a great rock and roll song (Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crue) and put together a really cool, but short, performance. They seemed to really like it and we got through to the semi finals!
We stepped up our flair bartending in the next round using a lot more exhibition flair as well as some cool costumes and a very well choreographed show with the music. We threw a lot more things between us and really raised the level. One of the most impressive moves we pulled off was when I threw a bottle in a vertical spin and Rana would land it in a helicopter spin on the top of a shaker – these moves really helped us get through to the finals. You only get 2 minutes on stage so you have to plan your routine very well!
“We couldn’t believe it when we found out we got through to the final! But when we did Rane had a great idea on how we could do something that the Finnish people would love. Ice Hockey is a very big deal in Finland and the most popular sport, so we got ourselves some great ice hockey uniforms, we really wanted to appeal to the Finnish people so we introduced a lot of cultural things from the music to the costumes. We stepped up the flair bartending moves again throwing in a flaming tower, a rainbow pour with dry ice and more! Many of these moves we hadn’t really done before so it was quite a nervous experience but then we couldn’t believe it when we were announced as the winners!”
What do you think led to that big win for you, Rane and VIP Bartenders?
“In the months and days before we went on Finland’s Got Talent we were doing a lot of shows around Finland in local clubs, bars and the like. As a result we were getting our name around Finland and the name of VIP Bartenders. Finland is only a small country with around 5 million people so doing many of our shows around Helsinki is quite easy to meet a lot of people as it is quite densely populated.
The whole VIP Bartenders team did such a great job of promoting the brand and raising awareness around who we were before the show – although we didn’t know if we were even going to get on the show at this point! Looking back I think this is what really helped with people voting for us on the show”.
Was there a lot of work that went into this win? Is it comparable at all to the level of work you put into a WFA Grand Slam competition?
“The performances for the show were very short, especially compared to a normal WFA Grand Slam. In a Grand Slam you need to come up with a 6-8 minute routine depending on which competition you are taking part in. You only get 2 minutes on the stage for Finland’s Got Talent!
So from a flair perspective it is a maybe a bit easier than preparing for a Grand Slam as the routine is shorter you can practice it many more times. However, what was really hard was the tandem part – making sure Rane and I were perfectly synchronised, right down to the expressions on our faces!”
What did flair bartender’s winning Finland’s Got Talent do for flair bartending in Finland?
“Following the win for VIP Bartenders on Finland’s Got Talent it really helped raise the profile of flair bartending in general in Finland. Lots of new places recognised the benefits of hiring flair bartenders or our flair bartending team to provide entertainment. It certainly became more popular, we had many young guys and girls approaching our flair bartending team after the competition wanting to join up and learn, it’s great to see.
We also did a tour of Finland after the show that lasted about 6 months, doing about 3 or 4 shows a week, it was tough but a lot of fun. But this really helped raise the awareness of what flair bartending is and really established it in Finland for the years to come”.
How did Finland’s Got Talent help with your own development as a flair bartender?
“More than anything working with Rane and doing this show really helped my showmanship a lot. People really enjoy personality on stage and find it very entertaining and I learned the true power of this during my time on the show for sure. Of course I still get nervous to this day before big competitions, however when I get out on the stage those nerves quickly leave me as you have to perform in front of so many people on Finland’s Got Talent.
Within 2-3 years of winning the show I noticed I was starting to get into the top 10 of the world flair bartending competitions held by the WFA and this was a big step up for me. It really did bring so many benefits for me and the team and I would highly recommend giving it a go in your own country or elsewhere, I really did learn so much from the whole experience”.