Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that yes, I did live to see Christmas Day despite what my lack of blogging over the past few weeks may have suggested (it’s a crazy time of year, and I’m not the best multi-tasker. My bad). I’m back now for the foreseeable future, which is my belated festive gift to you all – one that you may or may not want the receipt for so you can exchange it for (as Softengine would say) something better.
Now, to segue into today’s topic: as we creep closer to the end of 2016, and the most recent Eurovision Song Contest becomes not all that recent, it seems more and more timely that we look back on what was arguably the best edition ever. I’m particularly keen to reminisce since the Stockholm show was my first live one. I’ve also realised that even though I attended as a professional member of the press, and as an obsessive, shrine-possessing, single-minded and slightly rabid fan (it was a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce sort of situation), I never actually shared that much of my experience here on EBJ. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (links are in the sidebar *she says, dropping a hint so hard it breaks the floorboards*) you’d have seen a selection of photos in May; and if you and I are Facebook friends, you would have seen way too many photos pop up in your feed between then and now. But that’s about it.
So, in the interest of leveling up as a Fix-It Lady – and before this year’s contest becomes last year’s contest – I’m going to undo your deprivation-induced sad and give up all of my gossip. Everything Eurovision-related and exciting (they go hand-in-hand) that happened while I was in Sweden has been put down in words and pictures for the first time, for you. It might come off as a bit narcissistic, but it’s meant to be an insight into what can go down when the mythical ‘going to Eurovision’ becomes a reality – an expensive but worth-every-krona reality. I hope you enjoy it!
#1. Picking up the stunning piece of art that is my accreditation badge (it’s hanging on my wall at the moment and I charge people admission to see it, so yes, it’s art).
#2. Touring the Euroclub the day before the doors officially opened with a bunch of other lanyard-wearing press people (#powerofthebadge).
#3. Trying not to laugh as Sweden perpetuated a major stereotype of itself by outfitting the entire Euroclub – in particular, the upstairs delegation lounge – with IKEA furnishings.
#4. Fangirling for the first of many, many occasions when Euroclub hostesses Velvet (!) and Shirley Clamp (!!!) appeared to chat with us.
#5. Walking down Drottningatan marveling at the Eurovision bunting strung up between buildings the entire way.
#6. Standing on the Hovet balcony overlooking the Press Centre for the first time, knowing I’d be in it in a matter of minutes without having to sneak past security to get there.
#7. Witnessing Sergey Lazarev stack it during his first rehearsal, as it happened (which, for someone who usually avoids all rehearsal footage, was a momentous event). I now know the true meaning of a rehearsal.
#8. Attending my first-ever press conference, partly for the novelty and partly because it was Hungary’s and I just wanted to see Freddie in the flesh while pretending to be a serious journalist seeking information. Nailed it.
#9. Laying not only eyes but also fingers on Freddie in what turned out to be a Freddie sandwich with my awesome fellow Aussie Jason from Don’t Boil The Sauce *screams and swoons at the mere memory*.
#10. Nearly having a heart attack when Phillip Kirkirov popped up at Sergey’s press conference, due to the alarming height of his hair and the permanently surprised look of his eyebrows.
#11. Falling in love – just a little bit – with Sergey once my Kirkirov shock had subsided, since I expected him to be an egomaniac and he was anything but.
#12. Grabbing a selfie with the most legendary of puppets, Terry Vision (who is teeming with the germs of such names as Tooji, Kaliopi, and Hovi Star, who gave him a going over at the end of the ESC Insight table as I looked on from about a foot away. Life!).
#13. Admiring Lidia Isac’s hair as she was being interviewed on a purpose-built Press Centre podium.
#14. Discovering that, based on looks, I may be related to Jüri Pootsmann. The DNA results are pending.
#15. Wearing a Frans t-shirt to Frans’ meet-and-greet, which unfortunately/fortunately, he didn’t notice (would he have laughed? Would he have taken out a restraining order? We’ll never know).
#16. Spying Sandhja in street clothes waiting at Globen station with one of her people. Did not stalk, which took a whole lot of willpower.
#17. Having a lot more to do with Ira Losco than I ever imagined I would, years after watching her do her glitter-blowing thing – then finish second – at Eurovision back in 2002.
#18. Specifically, interviewing her at Warner Music Sweden (no slumming it anywhere less), complementing her shoes, advising her not to do cartwheels on a full stomach, and riding back to Globen in a taxi with her (during which time I may have sold out Samra’s cringey rehearsal vocals, possibly in an attempt to give Ira an ego boost but also because the topic came up in conversation and I had to be honest). BEST AFTERNOON EVER.
#19. Finding out that, because Spotify = no need for physical CDs in Sweden, Warner Music has taken to using discs to furnish their headquarters. I kind of want to do the same thing in my house.
#20. Crossing the bridge between Hovet and Globen to check out some contest rehearsals in person – namely, Estonia’s, Azerbaijan’s and Montenegro’s. I had never seen the flurry of between-song setup before, so this was an eye-opening experience. My eyes were also opened to how teeny-tiny (or ‘intimate’ if you want to be more diplomatic) the Globe is IRL despite how large it looks on TV.
#21. Celebrity-spotting in the Press Centre about once every ten minutes. Poli Genova, Petra Mede, Lighthouse X, even Aminata (she’s so small!)…so many Eurostars walked past our desk, it was ridiculous. At one point, I had Minus One behind me, Freddie to my left, and one of the guys from Argo directly opposite. In other words, I was living the dream. Apart from the bit where Freddie didn’t propose to me.
#22. Finding myself being singled out by Joe & Jake during their meet and greet, which basically means I have a photo of them in which they’re looking directly down my lens. Cheers, guys – from ‘the lady in the red shirt’.
#23. Having to tell Nicky Byrne where to look when I was taking a selfie of us. It was a waste of my breath, but I don’t care because HELLO, EX-WESTLIFE MEMBER!
#24. Joining the rest of the journos attending Jamala’s press conference to vote for which of her rehearsal dresses she should wear for the real deal. In case you were wondering, I put my hand up for the blue one.
#25. Speaking directly to some random dude called Måns Zelmerlöw. It’s on video. No biggie. Skip to 8:25 below if you want to see it, but it’s pretty boring. Aside from the fact that it MADE MY LIFE.
#26. Basking in the ambience of the Euroclub red carpet on Opening Party night by a) taking way too many photos, and b) silently judging the artists’ fashion choices (Zoë yes yes yes, ManuElla no no no).
#27. Dancing awkwardly but enthusiastically to Barei’s Say Yay! as the woman herself surveyed the crowd from the club’s balcony.
#28. Watching performances from Frans, Dami, Zoë and Poli the same night, introduced by the one and only Christer Björkman (who is Satan to some but more like a god to me).
#29. Returning to the Euroclub the next day for the Australian Embassy party feat. Dami (though the promise of free food and wine was enough to lure me in)…only to end up standing next to Eneda Tarifa and admiring her amazing handbag. Of course.
#30. Sitting through my first live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in close proximity to the Green Room (close enough to recognise the rear of Stig Rästa and Elina Born’s heads, I might add) and pinching myself pretty much the whole time.
#31. Standing next to Ira Losco’s scorpion dancer at the post-semi qualifiers press conference.
#32. Feasting my eyes on Christer Björkman’s collection of accreditation passes from Melodifestivalens and Eurovisions past and not-so-past, at the ABBA/ESC Museum. The contest costumes corralled there were also impressive (I can now confirm that Yohanna’s dress is even uglier in real life than it was on screen).
#33. Having an obligatory photo taken with the massive Come Together countdown clock.
#34. Sitting through another live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in the Globe Arena, in a rather sleepwalky state because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?
#35. Experiencing the joy of a jury final mock vote – won by Belgium, if I remember correctly – as Måns and Petra ad-libbed their way through the voting sequence.
#36. Seeing Justin Timberlake perform live not once, but twice, at the jury final and the actual final. I understandably did not see that coming when I left Australia to go to Eurovision, but as a professional boy band enthusiast, it became the cherry on top of the best cake I’ve ever eaten.
#37. Lynda Woodruff. Need I say more?
#38. Standing in the mass of fans in front of the 2016 stage for the four incredible/back-breaking hours of the final, watching on and waving my flag in a desperate attempt to get my arm on a global television broadcast. I’m not sure if I did, but Dami did me proud and Jamala made all my dreams come true (and made me burst into tears in front of hundreds of strangers).
#39. Attending Jamala’s post-victory press conference knowing I could watch it back on the DVD later and think to myself ‘I was totally there!’.
#40. Spending the rest of the (freaking FREEZING) grand final night right by having a last hurrah at the Euroclub until the last possible second – as in 5am, when the staff had to herd us all out onto the street because the doors were closing for good.
#41. Witnessing (before we got kicked out of the club) the Gallagher lookalike from the Young Georgian Lolitaz get tackled to the ground by security, informing his oblivious band mate that the tackle had occurred, and bumping into Thomas G:son on the way out (the photographic evidence of which I still need to chase up). Oh, and then having a burger for breakfast. Hashtag end-of-contest goals!
And that’s it…I think. So much stuff happened in a short space of time while I was in Stockholm that details are constantly falling out of then climbing back into my brain. But you’ve just read the majority of them, which I hope you enjoyed whether you’ve traveled to twenty contests or are still waiting for your first (it’ll happen!). If you have paid the ESC a visit, I think you’ll agree that the experience is unbeatable. So much so that even if everything surrounding my Eurovision “vacation” (the least relaxing vacation ever) had been rubbish, those three weeks would have kept this year high on my list of life’s best so far.
The only problem is that I’m going to want to repeat it every year, and I’m not sure my bank balance can handle that. It’s definitely not keen on me skipping Kyiv in favour of Melodifestivalen…but too bad, savings. Too bad.
I’ll be back again before 2016 turns into 2017 to say hej då to the past twelve months, Eurovision-style (I’m not 100% sure how yet, but I’ll think of something). Until then, make the most of what’s left of December – and use any Christmas leftovers to boost your energy levels for the upcoming national final season!