Epic is a much overused word these days, often employed to describe banalities such as the quality of one’s lunch, or a pair of shoes.
It should really be reserved for special occasions, to describe things of a scale and badassness you don’t see every day. By that measure, Old Bar Superstar: Takedown was epic.
Kicking off the first night of London Cocktail Week, Old Bar Superstar: Takedown (OBS) was formed of a simple concept: hand a bar over to two teams (one ‘old school’, one ‘young bloods’), let them do their thing, and, at the end, allow the audience to vote for their favourite.
This is the second time Pernod Ricard’s BEAT team have opened London Cocktail Week with OBS.
Last year’s event, which was epic in its own right, took place at Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch, and resulted in both an Old Bar team victory, and one of the biggest parties of the year. At the time, it was difficult to see how they could top it.
However, as is often the case, find the right concept and then everything else falls into place. The BEAT team decided that there was no better place to hold a team Vs team competition than a boxing ring, which led to a search for suitable venue, which in turn led them to York Hall, an enormous and historic boxing arena in Bethnal Green.
York Hall is a cavernous space, something myself and the other members of White Dog, who were providing the musical entertainment after the comp, regarded with some trepidation as we stood on its huge stage, watching the build team at work. “Fuck, this place is massive” was the thought of the day, as we sound checked.
The build team did an amazing job, and soon there was a functioning bar running along three sides of the boxing ring, as well as little ‘experiential’ booths lining the walls, providing guests with opportunities to have their shoes shined, portrait painted and, as you would imagine, drink some booze.
As the doors opened and guests began to arrive, many straight from other London Cocktail Week events, nervous energy levels began to rise, both in the two competing teams and the waiting musicians (we use the latter term very loosely).
Soon it was time for the young bloods to take to the stage. BEAT team boss Matt Pomeroy introduced a legit boxing person, who MC’d them into the ring.
Team ‘young’ consisted of: Ali Reynolds; Josh Reynolds; Bobby Hiddleston; Maya Tarrant; Remy Savage; and Russell Burgess.
Team Youth (yeah, we don’t know why Russell was in there, either), in a fairly blatant attempt at popularism, decided to dress up as Star Wars characters.
While they looked pretty cool, Star Wars doesn’t provide the best walk-on music (more on this later). Once the intros and prancing were done, Vader and crew jumped behind the bar and let fly the drinks.
Once their time was up, Mr Boxing MC introduced Team Old (Ben Reed; Jake Burger; Chris Edwardes; Charles Vexenat; John Gakuru; Dre Masso), who appeared wearing Ghostbusters uniforms. Now, Ghostbusters holds a special place in most people’s hearts, and more than that, it has an excellent theme tune, courtesy of Ray Parker Jnr, which the crowd responded energetically to. First blood to Team Old.
Before taking their stations behind the bar, Jake Burger took the mic and apologised to the crowd for the ‘pathetic performance of the preceding team’. Their time then started, and what can only be described as an orgy of responsible drinking began.
BarLifeUK’s ability to report on proceedings from this point is compromised (not for the normal reason) because I was required back stage for White Dog duties. But anecdotal reports that Green Beasts were fired from Proton Pack guns did reach us after the event.
Once Team Old had finished, it was time for the guests to visit the voting booths, and White Dog to take to the stage. Again, my ability to report on this bit is compromised, because I was involved in it (for the uninitiated, White Dog is a industry band comprised of Matt Pomeroy, Tim Stones, Elliot Davies, Luke McFayden, Paul de Newton and myself).
I can say, however, that there were a scary number of people at the foot of the stage, they seemed to be dancing, and the band enjoyed every second of the gig.
As The Dog finished their sweaty set, the votes were being counted. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have voted for the Old Bar Stars. And, to great fanfare, and no small amount of gloating, the crowd prediction was proved accurate – Team Old had done it again.
This result poses several questions:
Beaten twice on the bounce, can the youngsters find team to defeat the old boys?
Will the old boys’ hips still be working next year?
What on earth will Pernod Ricard’s BEAT team come up with for Old Bar Superstar 2016?
Who knows, but it will probably be epic.
All images in this article by Kris Piotrowski