The first day of the Eurovision fortnight was always going to be an intriguing one for us fortunate members of the "fan press". What would the set-up in the press area be like, how would the first rehearsals go, what about the other innovations that SVT has brought in with a view to streamlining the whole process? We're already starting on Monday rather than Sunday, and the first four days are relatively short, which is to be welcomed given the tendency to burn out by the middle weekend (especially among those of us who like a drink or three).
One interesting new twist is the "meet and greet" that has replaced the first press conferences - probably for the best, since there's really no need for two sets of press conferences when most of them usually brim with bland and fairly obvious questions anyway. Things were a bit chaotic at first, when Natália Kelly's session coincided with the lunch break, leading to something of a scrum at the standing tables:
...but the rest of the day was a lot calmer, and I suspect even the artists appreciate being able to talk face-to-face in a more informal environment. Good work.
So what about the rehearsals themselves? My opinions probably don't differ too strongly from those of my colleagues below. I did think Estonia came over strongly - in the context of the largely underwhelming start to the semi, at least - while Russia managed to start well and improve with each performance, although the whole thing has a deliberate but unmistakable old-fashioned vibe which might not quite work in 2013. So does the Netherlands, but I think that falls under "modern retro", and Anouk manages to be engaging enough without feeling the need to shag the camera.
But the big question is: what next for Ukraine? How can they stop Zlata from tottering around on her podium? How can they stop Zlata's hair from sticking to her face? Do they have more planned for the giant guy, or has he really been shipped all the way to Sweden just to appear for the first ten seconds then unceremoniously dump Zlata on a big fibreglass rock? Only time will tell!
But for now it's time to kick back on the patio, enjoy a beer (one with a real percentage, now that we've been able to get to Systembolaget) and prepare ourselves for the EuroClub/EuroCafé night ahead. Cheers!