Tuesday 16 May 2023

Happy Off Season!

 When everything was so predictable, and there aren't any scandals to keep us busy (by that I mean real scandals like last year's jury collusion, not the usual fan-manufactured ones), we can still take pleasure in the little things, such as Harrow sharing his joy from Eurovision taking place in his home town. And that is something I wish all of you to experience once in your lifetime.

So a big thank you to our blogging team, and to you for reading and commenting. See you next year for the on-season, maybe we'll be lucky to get yet another epic Eist Lidd fir Malmö.

Saturday 13 May 2023

Happy Eurovision Party!

As Eurovision fans, we al have our origin story. That excuse or explanation as to why we fell head over heels with a ‘monument to drivel’ - whether it’s family, flags, geography or yodelling. The hook that brings us in is one thing. But what makes us stay? What makes us care enough to go to Google and carve out our space as part of the 365 days a year niche community?

For me, everything leads up to the party. The day when we as super fans get the chance to ask for the full attention of our long-suffering friends. Sure they have fun, but if we’re honest they don’t do it for themselves, they do it for us.

My first ever Eurovision party was 2003. An excellent year longwise, not an excellent year for Liverpool and UK.

A friend came over early and we made Pierogi - a Latvia delicacy that was actually delicious and successful -though I’ve never repeated the pre-event cooking session. I prepared scorecards for everyone and insisted that they were filled out studiously with notes and a final top 10 to give points to.

My Mum’s hairdresser was in town, so during the interval I got my hair cut in the kitchen. When this was finished my party guests told me that UK were ‘still’ on nil points - and like my Scouse buzzcut  - things didn’t look any better an hour later.

Fast forward 20 years, with only a handful of years where I’ve not hosted an event - and I’m back at it again. This time not in my parent’s house, but not too far away either - in a pub opposite the actual arena hosting actual Eurovision. 

A friend will be there who was at that very first party. Since then we’ve lived in 5 different countries between us, but fate has brought us back for this one. She asked if she can be spared the bureaucracy this time - so I’ve prepared a scoresheet just for her.

Over the years I’ve pulled together many questionable outfits - I’ve been Laka’s sister, a Polish milkmaid, Sofi Marinova, Yulia Samoylova, Lys Assia and Gina G on multiple occasions. Tonight Matthew, I’ll be Käärjä - thanks to an inflatable pool float and some creative thinking.

This is our night to be the centre of attention. Enjoy your night whether amongst family, Eurofamily, old or new friends or lovers - or even all of them like me! 364 days led up to today, and tomorrow we will wake up (late, sure) to reconvene for the post-mortem (who saw Poland winning?!) and be back amongst friends to do it all again.

Friday 12 May 2023

Final Dress Rehearsal 2 (aka Jury Final)

Hi all, live from the online press centre in Amsterdam I'm trying to keep you updated on the jury rehearsal for the Grand Final of ESC 2023 in Liverpool

You're all familiar with how all the performances look, or at least should look. So I will - if the stream allows - just comment on what's striking in the performances, if anything. Car crashes, collapsing grills and other props, or excellent vocal surprises ... and all the things we haven't seen yet, including flag parade, intervals and of course the fake voting procedure.

Meanwhile what looks like two of the three drag queens from yesterday (but they might be different ones, we don't get close-ups) are doing the warm-up, counting down from 10 to 0, when the words 'Good to go' appear on screen. But apparently the producers think otherwise, so they're continuing after that. But I'm sure we'll start quickly.

And we're off! With a video introduction involving Kalush Orchestra, last year's winners from Ukraine of course. 'Stefania' is played by different musicians in different styles. We also see a metro form the Tick Tock postcard in 2014. The party continues inside the metro.

And then we are on the stage in Liverpool where the song continues. With dancers and all, but of course also Kalush Orchestra. And many others it seems. They obviously get huge cheers from the crowth. And then it's time for the flag parade! 'Superstar DJ, here we go!'. And hey ... after France we get to see and hear Go_A with 'Shum', they're in Liverpool.

Jamala makes an appearance with '1944'. Or a short fragment of it. Oh, even Tina Karol is there! Nice how they mix the Ukrainian enties with British dance classics. And then there's Verka Serduchka, she couldn't miss, could she?! Including her mum obvi.

Time for the hosts. You've seen them in action on Tuesday and Thursday but tonight they're joined by Graham Norton. Graham is the smallest on stage.

Hannah does a better job than Marlous in 1980 to explain why we are in Liverpool and not in Kiev this year.

We get a leaderboard of who has won the contest the most times! Nicely done, because obviously Ireland has seven and Sweden has six. And we know things may change this year. Also of course  🇱🇺 Luxembourg (?!) is mentioned too (with five wins in shared third place with Netherlands, UK and France), including obviously a mention of their return next year!

And then: Let the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 begin!

Austria is a brilliant opener really, to get the party going. Some feel they've been punished by being put #1, but my view is that it's not to their disadvantage. 

Portugal bounces on in red and black, definitely not killing the party mood we're in. So yes, it may not be a compliment to be put at #2, but everyone's a winner, you know! Crowth loves it no less for it :-) They don't need Luxembourg this year to get some nice votes I think.

Switzerland is still very red and black, but also blue. It doesn't bounce. But Remo gives a strong vocal performance. Nothing to worry here for them. Except maybe complaining about the running order.

Poland got by far the most Youtube views of yesterday's contestants, but that maejbe because of lots of reasons, not all very relevant. Yesterday I wasn't much impressed. I'm still not hugely impressed but it does what it wants to do I guess. I think vocally it was a bit stronger? But I think it's the first real filler of the night.

No break after Portugal this time as happened in this afternoon's rehearsal. They may have rehearsed getting the props replaced more quickly. Serbia just started and now I have a broken stream :-( Hope it will be fixed soon!

Missed part of Serbia ... anyway, like I promised, if there's hardly anything new to mention about an entry, why should I bother? I think I shouldn't bother. Just saying that he got a nice audience reaction. 

OK, first time 'for real' for La Zarra from France. I'm not a big fan of this staging, but it's quickly clear that she's giving it much more than in the rehearsal clip. But the Grande France Note: ? - it gets some what sounds like canned applause, and was still off I'm afraid. All in all, great reaction from the audience, and much stronger vocally (but not that one note).

We get the first break, but no offical commercial bumpers, so it will be mainly to get France off stage. We get a flashback to the highlights of Tuesday's and Thursday's shows.

Cyprus ... whereas Thursday I thought he was off/out of breathe singing the 'You can't break a broken heart' parts, they sound better this time. Everything still looks as good as it looked, and that helps a lot too. Nah, he sounds good, really! Great performance.

And it's the first one for real for Blanca Paloma from Spain. Or it's not, because Julia intervenes after the postcard to bring attention to all the social Eurovision channels. After a minute we're off to Spain indeed ... it was always going to be a love or hate entry. Can we expect much love for this? I honestly can't say. Last year I was totally wrong about Chanel too, so I don't dare to say if she's gonna wonning this or not. But staging is beautiful. Song may a bit long for some. And some notes a bit harsh. All in all, I'm tempted to say Europe is not going to be hugely impressed.

Another short non-commercial break with a nice look forward to JESC 2023. (insert icy.png here). It's going to happen on 26 November if you didn't know.

And I expected some reference to Terry Wogan at this point, but nope ... we go right away to Loreen from (according to Alesha) Swee-hee-den.

(Sweden) I really wanted to write about a failing grill, snowfakes and all ... but Loreen was just as amazing as Tuesday. And this comes from someone who never was a fan. But yeah, she nailed it really. (insert png again). I didn't watch every shot, I'm sorry. It looks impressive-ish just as much as it always did, but it's mainly the vocal performance that makes this the obvious winner.

another cut to the green room, so also the hosts can say 'wow', which I think is a bit over it.

Clearly Albania at this point serves as a bit of a filler here, but also one that touches the essence of ESC. You would never hear this outside ESC. Even if you wanted to. It's everything we want from Albania and she gets a lot of cheers. Unexpected, but in a way, totally cool that it's here tonight.

It's still not entirely clear for me if the trampoline jumpers  for Italy are really on stage or just on the screen. Anyway, what's the point of bringing them if you can't tell it apart form a screen projection. Anyway, they don't add much to this in my humble opinion. But it also doesn't destract too much, so well done for that. Totally decent vocally. Nice applause but nothing huge. But maybe because some people got pregnant.

Honestly haven't got too much to say about Estonia. Better applause than Italy I'd say, but then that may be mostly about their neighbour coming up next.

Finland definitely comes across much more sparkly than Tuesday, with huge help from the audience. Nothing to add to what we've already seen except that the Liverpool Arena is out of its mind.

We still haven't had a real commercial break and we won't get any now. So on to the 'second half' without interruption.

Czechia is still as impressive as it was on Tuesday, but I feel they are the biggest loser from the running order here, coming right after Finland without a break. On the other hand, it may well sound extra good to those who think Finland is just a lot of noise. Crowth is still very enthousiastic anyway.

Julia says we're halfway, but we're actually over. After a small look forward (billboard style) about what's hapening next, Julia welcomes the viewers down under and we're off to Australia. Don't use this as a pee-break (unless you don't care about Voyager) as it's really short.

Australia - nothing to add to what you've been able to see for yourselves. Not even a joke about a car crash to make here.

Audience audibly singing long with Gustaph 's first notes for Belgium which makes a good start for this. I think this is a bit overstaged with the stairs and all, but it's obviously lots of fun, and the hall loves it! I didn't see it before, but now I say: this is going to do very well with televoting!

And here's the first commercial break. So that's not doing harm to Belgium either! We get a small interval with Graham Norton who, just like Terry Wogan in 1998, also does the BBC commentary as usual. He's eating popcorn (the Noa effect?) but he asks for a pizza?! ... After that an announcement with Hannah with a reference to a former - very dairy - ESC performance.

On my tv set last Thursday Armenia sounded a bit underwhelming. Still not sure if it was my tv or the actual performance. But this is much more impressive. The dance break, I feel is a bit unncessary as the song really builds at tht point, and musically it's much of a letdown that we don't go to that supercatchy chorus immediately. But that may be just me. Very good, much good, all in all.

Moldova may be just that what many casual ESC viewers expect from ESC and even if it sounds a bit like Shum from Wish superficially, I can totally see this doing a a Trenuletul (with a thingy under one of the letters, don't remember which).

Of course there's a small break to Julia introducing the Ukraine entry. But very shortly, and surprisingly in English.

First time I see the full Ukraine performance, there's some pretty smart parts. It's hard to say anything about this, is it. Maybe I expected it to be a bit more spectacular. But then ... it's Ukraine. And it's a song I can see being much appreciated by juries. Though, on that alone it's never going to be more than lower top 10. 

Norway ... there's some serious off-key notes in the second verse. Oh and an awful screech further on. Even the scream crashed, so I missed the last 30 seconds. She gets a huge applause, but this was ... not so good, sorry.

I don't think Norway followed by Germany works very well, as they're both quite powerful/aggressive. LOTL's lead singer looks a bit like Dana International with feathers, at least the upper side. In direct comparison to Norway this works much better. I don't think Germany will be last in the televote. Or close to that. 

I can't help but feeling Lithuania is here just to give the viewers a break. And that may not even work to its disadvantage. Monika is vocally totally fine anyway! Not a big fan of the song but I enjoyed that performance.

Israel - fenomenal! Great staging / camera work and I couldn't notice any serious flaws in Noa's vocal performance. I'm not sure if we should consider this very dangerous. I made the mistake with Chanel, so I'm tempted to say: yes. Dangerous! And audience goes pretty wild again.

Totally I was totally surprised by how slick and still fun Slovenia was in that dreary second semi-final. Nothing has changed in the act or the performance. I find it hard to say. I see a surprise contender, but maybe I get carried away. Being surrounded by Israel and Croatia, I'm also confused whether that helps or not. 

Croatia ... nothing to add to this. Don't see it as the televote winner at this point, but it will get quite a lot obvi.

United Kingdom went down very well in the hall.

Now seriously, I think there wasn't much wrong with Mae's vocals. But they're just not very powerful. But this song doesn't need that anyway. Anyway, I think it may get some jury points, but no, this makes not much of an impression after all that action before. 

All four presenters get back on stage of course to explain everything about the voting. But Graham warns us: it's a long way to go before we get there.

From the recap I'd say the highlights of this ESC are Sweden and IsraelFinland a bit behind with Belgium, Slovenia and Moldova as biggest surprises. Croatia, Armenia, Italy and Ukraine would then fill the top 10. But I'm bad at predictions,  I got 13/20 of the qualifiers, so do with that what you want.

On that note, I expect very few televotes for France. Or Switzerland.

Interval number 1 is Sam Ryder with his new song 'Mountain'.

Then we get an interview with a woman who likes to say a lot of words:

anyway, tonight we don't have the real Jan Leeming. But her stand-in says a lot of words too. Nice flashback to Jan being confused about the exact location of Ralph Siegel.

After that we get a voting themed video with more historical footage, including four times zero points. And in fact, half of the 2021 televoting sequence, followed by another interview with Timur. And also the Australian commentators get a visit by Alesha.

After some references to the coronation, it's time for a second recap. 

Interval 2 is all about music from Liverpool/Merseyside. We see Mahmood singing 'Imagine' first. To be fair I wouldn't want Chanel to do this. After that it's Netta singing 'You spin me round'Her outfit looks a bit like the German singer and indirectly again like Dana International. But also a bit like 3 + 2. Guess you will see it tomorrow. Next is Daði singing 'Whole Again'. All performers do get quite their time, which I think is nice. I'm not as impressed with Daoi as I was with Mahmood tbf. There's lots of Gagnamagniðs on the screen behind him by the way. Next is Cornelia Jakobs singing 'I Turn To You' with an interesting choreography.

Clearly this second interval is a must-watch! Plan your pauses around it :-)

It's still not over. Flashback to Millstreet! Of course to introduce ... Sonia! Of course she sings 'Better The Devil You Know'. Then Duncan Laurence sings 'You Never Walk Alone'. Rather flatly tonight I must say, but I'd say he's holding in for tomorrow? During the last part a lot of people including hosts, but also some seemingly random people (maybe stand-ins?) enter the stage. We also see Ruslana, but only on a screen.

At this point, so right after all this it's midnight CEST or 11 pm in Liverpool. We get a third recap.

After that we see all four hosts standing behind a long desk ... but nope, it's not voting time ... yet. But they are closing the televote anyway, so we'll be close to the start of the jury voting, it seems!

We then get a video with Bjorn Ulvaes, obviously about ABBA. But a year too early, it feels? Ah, some attention for Rosa Linn! And also Sam Ryder and Duncan Laurence again. 

We see Martin Österdahl and we're good to go it seems! 

Graham and Hannah do the jury voting. Graham explains that the points tonight are fake. To which the audience disappointedly boo.

Not Italy, but Ukraine is the first country to vote. The spokesperson hopes next time UK wins, we will have an ESC in Kiev. Israel get the first douze. Italy votes second. Scoreboard graphics are very similar to those of 2021 I'd say. Points don't cover the flags. Text is black on white, though total points / points given are white on pink / pink on yellow. Dutch spokesperson (#4) is a stand-in and sounds more Dutch than Diljá. 

After five juries Albania is in the lead. But there's a disclaimer above. Niamh Kavanagh is there to shout her twelve points across the Irish Sea (and they're going to Slovenia). I'm sure Diljá speaks better Italian than John Kennedy 'from' San Marino. France has taken over the lead.

The graphics are a bit more elaborate than the last few years but nothing too extraordinary or unseen I noticed so far. Belgian spokesperson makes a joke in West Flemish. German spokesperson is not exactly Barbara and wanders out of screen and back. At the moment Italy, France, Norway, Cyprus and Slovenia are battling it out in the fake voting, but it's very close. Spain, Portugal and Serbia are still point-less. Graham is clearly a bit nervous/confused and mixing up spokesperson's names.

After 17 juries we get an interview with a female stand-in pretending to be Marco Mengoni. A commercial break for some countries. Also (a fake) La Zarra is being interviewed and Alesha has her microphones mixed up which was pretty funny.

 is giving the points from Iceland, or well, this takes some time. This was pretty pointless imho. But who knows what happens tomorrow. Italy is now taking quite a lead. Loukas is again giving the Cypriot votes (to Slovenia). We'll miss the audience shouting 'Greece' tomorrow, or well, maybe they'll still shout it anyway? Anyway, he's been around for quite some time this Loukas guy. After that it's Ben Adams for Norway. Swiss votes are coming from Lugano this time! Given by Chiara Dubey. Hannah says 'Wunderbar Copenhagen', that wasn't quite how the slogan went, right? Ruth Lorenzo gives the 12 points from Benidorm to Norway, who are recently scoring very well. Ilanit will give the Israeli points tomorrow, but she seems to be in bed right now as someone else is replacing her.

Georgian spokesperson makes a statement (joke?) nobody understands about losers not drinking alcohol and Hannah's and Graham's facial expressions like 'huh? what was that about' were priceless. 'Never mind', says the guy. That was awkward, I hope he repeats it tomorrow.

Later Graham makes a small slip-up and Hannah is not having it any more :-D La Grèce awards douze points to la Tchèquie, in French. So that seems to be its official French name now. Hannah is still laughing. Lithuania is the penultimate country and as usual the host get to close, and it's Catherine Tate right in the hall, but today it's just a stand-in. 

Jury result: Italy right in front with 247, then Norway with 194 and right below France with 193. Portugal is the only one on zero points :-(

Another interview with an excited fake Marco. And after that Martin Österdahl announces that the televote is totally in and correct ... so it's time for the fake televoting sequence. (Hannah is brilliant!)

Oh noes. Portugal gets a double zero :-((( 

After Estonia got 170 to go top 5 with it, Israel gets 200-much and is the new leader. Czechian stand-in is not happy with their 60 points. Albanian one gets 11 points and copies her reaction. Poland gets only 2 points, after which Hannah reminds us that it's an emotional rollercoaster. Belgium gets 239 and overtakes Israel. But then the UK gets 294 or so and stands at 409 with five more to go.

Finland gets 7 points :-D Graham: 'Slovenia, you got 44 points. Enjoy them!'

Split-screen with Italy, Norway, France and the current leader United Kingdom. France only gets 34 points and Graham laughs sarcastically :-D

We are reminded that Kalush Orchestra will in a moment hand over the prize. Norway doesn't overtake the UK. Only Italy to go now. Graham: 'It's a rehearsal, of course it's rigged'. Italy needs 163 points to beat the UK.....

Italy gets 142!!!! So Mae Muller and the United Kingdom win this voting and therefore .... totally nothing!

So now we're off to see a fake reprise of some sorts. Anyway, I didn't notice anything special with the voting graphics other than it looking just slick. 

A male stand-in makes his way to the stage and 'mimes' to the winning song as a reprise, but actually he just stands there a bit uncomfortably on Mae's prop.

That's it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed reading! There will probably be some sort of prediction post of the blog team later today! Enjoy ESC day! :-)

Final Dress Rehearsal 1


I am live (a Little delayed) in the Arena to bring to you coverage of the first rehearsal!

The hosts are on stage to get the show started after a flag ceremony featuring Jamala  and a brief Verka interlude

They have announced the return of Luxembourg to great (not greasy) cheers in the arena.

🇦🇹 Austria are first up, with the perfect opener. The arena loved this last night and they do again. Just outside the top 10 seems likely.

🇵🇹 Portugal get the ‘just happy to be here’ slot and perform admirably. They’ll take their lower half place with charm and entertain us in the meantime.

🇨🇭Remo is so sweet and he performs flawlessly. Happy to see Switzerland keeping up its final run with this one. Chills at those big notes

🇵🇱 You’ve all seen it on stage, but Poland really executes the song excellently.and use the stage very well. Blanka is gorgeous and I’m glad her Eurovision story has some joy after the rocky start.

🇷🇸Serbia will be on after a presenter time-filling spot thanks to the big prop!

🇫🇷 La Zarra gets wheeled on stage on a giant doughnut while they are clearing away Luke Blacks mess.

The Sarah Dawn Finer prop looks less impressive in real life but she nails it like the pro she is. This might do better than I previously feared.

Another break after France, with a VT to come on Charles and Camilla.

🇨🇾 Then we have Cyprus. The front rows will get a suntan from the fire on this one, he’s selling the song well even though it’s clearly very difficult to sing.

I’m not sure whether putting Andrew between La Zarra and Blanca undermines him or makes it feel like the ‘vocal powerhouse section.

🇪🇸 Spain isn’t the best for arena viewers, but she of course nails it and it fills the entire arena even when it’s half empty.

Alesha is really earning her paycheck with all these prop breaks.  We get a plug for JESC while Loreen is wheeled on stage.

🇸🇪 I’ve been team Käärijä but Loreen does bring Jamala vibes. Hopefully it’s as close as 2016! She’s holding back on vocals but she really is something special

A prop break again (there’s a lot of them) before 🇦🇱 Albania which probably only squeezed through the semi but will pick up it’s fair share in the final even with this draw.

🇮🇹 Phone lights are being asked for for Marco, and it’s a stunning performance visually, with the added staircase fallers making it more like performance art than just a dull ballad. Top 10 seems on as usual for Italy.

🇪🇪 Estonia was my bar break last night, so it’s good to see it once. But that’s plenty. Effective in the old-school way, and feels a little out of place in what has been an impeccable modern contest until now. Strange place in the running order but I guess it’s to make Finland even more impactful. The press seem to like it though

🇫🇮 is the big one for the hall, and it could snatch a victory if the arena reception at the jury rehearsal feels persuasive enough for juries. Massive

🇨🇿 Czechia may suffer from following Käärijä (and another short break) but on the other hand it also feels a strong top 10, maybe even a Shum. Well done sisters!

🇦🇺 Australia very much feels a story of the draw. They couldn’t not qualify, but now they feel a little thrown under the unecessary prop car. It has its audience (not me), but they’ll be lower half.

🇧🇪 Belgium doesn’t give me a lot to say, but it’s great for Gustaph to be here. After him is a break as Armenia’s cliff is built.

🇦🇲 Armenia gets a lot of support in the crowd, Brunette is a superstar and thankfully a kinder draw for this one with a chance of surprise jury success.

🇲🇩 Moldova shakes the room with that bass and really sell what can only be described as an ethnobanger.

🇺🇦 Ukraine make the best of the excellent stage, but although I really like the song this really won’t trouble the top 5.

🇳🇴 the other ethnobanger sandwiching Ukraine, this draw makes Ukraine feel quite limp. But Alessandra is Great and im sticking with my prediction of a high finish.

🇩🇪 Germany have a massive stage set up but they seem to get it set up quick enough to avoid bothering Alesha. The stage looks epic and it really feels like nobody wants to finish last this year. It won’t be Germany but it might be Spain or even Ukraine.

🇱🇹 Ostensibly a good draw for Lithuania, but in such a strong run I think it might get a little lost. But the crowd seem to like it and I hope I’m wrong.

🇮🇱 do you wanna see me lay down on the floor in several positions? Unicorn is a bop but I can’t see it competing at the top of the leaderboard. Best ending fireworks so far though!

🇸🇮 have been given a good draw but again I think they’ll go the way of Lithuania despite charming the crowd and audience.

🇭🇷 Croatia are going to get their best televote result in a long long time - if not ever.  They are pros and the world will have a lot of fun with them

A lengthy break before Mae who seems to have the trickiest stage prop.

🇬🇧 UK is the perfect closer and will be magnetic love. Her vocals are ok with the crowd behind her, and the staging is excellent. I have a new favourite fireworks too - they clearly spent a fair whack on everything.

I’m going to leave you here, but it’s an excellent show as expected and it’ll be a great event for all attending and everyone watching on TV.  Enjoy it!!

Thursday 11 May 2023

Qualifier predictions semi-final 2

Time for our ESC Nation team to post our predictions for the second semi-final (so that you can publicly shame us afterwards)

Last week Jeremy had the best prediction, correctly predicting 10/10!

Sild, SamB and Harrow all managed 9/10, myself and Yami managed 8/10 and Ben was unfortunately the worst with only 6/10. 

This time we're all in agreement that Armenia, Belgium Poland, Slovenia, Georgia and Austria will probably qualify. And we are also in agreement that Romania, Iceland and San Marino most likely won't.

The unique phenomenon of Euroclub

Have you ever done anything like this before?

Have you ever done anything like this before?

If you've never done anything like this before

Then you haven't been alive


If you’re lucky enough to have ever lived in a city with a relatively large gay scene, or one in Sweden, you might have been able to go to a party that only plays Eurovision music. If not, your best bet is the ESC Nation MB meet-ups - which offer a typically irreverent playlist to which everyone except Yami will be left quizzical on at least one occasion.

If you ever attend Eurovision live, you get the extreme version of this: one club - the same club - playing only Eurovision music every single night of the week.

As opposed to Eurovision nights in big cities, which are (based on my Berlin experience) not the most popular, Euroclub is the place to be, with long queues and sold-out status every night of the week.

We’ve all experienced the thrill of hearing an unexpected Eurovision song in the ‘wild’, and some of us might have even danced to the odd Euphoria or Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit at non-Eurovision events, or even seen a Balinese drag queen perform Hora Din Moldova (honest!) but attending an event where you don’t need to do the double take brings its own special kind of magic.

Ever the dedicated reporter, I went along to Liverpool’s version of Euroclub - hosted at Baltic Triangle’s finest venue Camp & Furnace (a fitting name for the many fire & desire rhymes which will be heard there).

Wednesday night offered Conchita Wurst, and armed with ticket took a ramshackle band of MBers, friends, nieces and cousins.

Two massive rooms with stages were graced by Conchita, as well as Tina Karol, Ell from Azerbaijan 2011 and TuralTuranX. The artists performances are probably the least exciting part of the night - as once they’ve sang their Eurovision entry, the artists are left with a dilemma of what to do next. TuralTuranX played to the home crowd with a Beatles medley, while the rest sang some of their post-Eurovision singles to less success. These performances offer the only opportunity to hear non-ESC/MF songs, and it’s one nobody really enjoys.

In a neat reverse, my non-fan guests experienced the thrill of hearing Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit in the wild - the thrill coming because it was one of the few songs they actually knew. Nevertheless it was clear how the catchiness of Eurovision songs lends itself to quick pick-ups and though by the end the crowd had ‘thinned’ to hundreds of mostly superfans, a great time was had by all.

Bumping into many Eurofriends - some of whom I haven’t seen in over a decade (since Euroclub 2010 or Melodifestivalen) there was a common refrain - Best Euroclub ever.

Why? An excellent venue, used to handling hordes of drunken people at events like Bongo’s Bingo. Many different bars with staff who are in the spirit - even when bopping to La La Love for the 5th time of the night. Outdoor spaces for snacks and smoking and rest your dancing feet. So much space, without feeling overwhelming. I haven’t checked my bank account, but hopefully the drinks prices are ok too.

While this was probably my only foray to EuroClub this year, there are many fans who go every evening. I’d highly recommend it if you ever get the chance - as the mix of people, entertainment and drinks forms a great concoction which doesn’t fail to make great new memories. Hats off to OGAE and Camp and Furnace for achieving such an accolade!

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Second Semi-Final Dress Rehearsal 2 (live blog)

Hi all. I'll be blogging this rehearsal. I've only heard most of these songs once, and even then probably not the full 3 minutes, so it will almost be the first time seeing and hearing them in full.

Starting with a recap of last night's talent and the qualifier announcements, then straight to the hosts. Once again the hosts' fashion is gorgeous with black, blue and yellow outfits.

1. Denmark

Very cool opening with close-ups on Reiley's face and and interesting contraption on stage. Vocally this is very competent and a good ending. They should be quite pleased with this.

2. Armenia

Brunette starts on the floor and the colours are gorgeous. Beautiful vocals and the camera work for the first part is intimate and engaging. The rap parts are in alternating white and black lighting and the audience clearly likes this. It ends on a slanted elevated stage and this is a fantastic rehearsal for her.

3. Romania

It starts with a beautiful pan out shot of the stage, then he starts singing and it sort of gets lost from there. He's alone on a stool in a pink shorts suit and a guitar and it doesn't seem to connect. When the song gets going faster there are LED images of him in a long sleeve white tee..hashtag choices. I doubt this is staying beyond tomorrow night and there's very little engagement from the audience. 

4. Estonia

Ooo there's a piano that plays itself. What kind of sorcery is this?!? Now she's sitting by the piano and singing in a beautiful blue outfit, then she starts moving on the stage. She looks stunning and this is very professionally staged. She's very animated for the last third when the tempo picks up and her vocals are flawless, especially that last note. They should be very pleased with this.

5. Belgium

The opening of this is great, and it gets the audience going immediately. Gustaph is a stage animal and he's incredibly engaging and a damn good vocalist too. His interaction with backing ladies is also very slick, every second of this is so thought out. The audience is eating up every bit of it and it should do very well tomorrow. Biggest applause so far by far.

Chitchat break with Timur and Graham, and some more banter on stage.

6. Cyprus 

Nice dark blue staging starts this off and good vocals (the little of it that isn't pre-recorded). There's not much going on stage, but he's nice to look at so I imagine that's the idea here. There are some fiery parts towards the end. There's too much pre-recording here to assess this properly. 

7. Iceland

Dilja starts on the floor and the stage looks lovely for it. Very strong vocals throughout the song even when she's running back and forth. As good as she is, though, the song isn't very engaging which is a pity, and there isn't much reaction from the audience. 

8. Greece

Nice start to this, he's extremely likeable and the audience is clapping along to the first chorus. Vocals get a bit patchy in the second part when he's walking down the catwalk but it doesn't really matter because the camera loves him and the audience is cheering him along. Lots of closeups on him and this  seems to me like a very good rehearsal. 

9. Poland

Lots of Fuego vibes to this from the getgo up to the on-screen smoke effects. Vocally it's awful, but it's all about the stage and spectacle which is visibly pleasing. The dance part comes off a bit amateur hour to me and the audience, it seems, isn't sure of it either. It'll probably Q but Fuego this ain't. 

10. Slovenia

This starts off very slick and with great vocals, they're such pros and the staging is perfect for a band song with lots of guitar riffs. The audience is loving it. The entirety of the song is on the forward circular part of the stage. Great rehearsal!

11. Georgia

Powerful opening with Iru owning every inch of the camera and perfect vocals. Even her mid part sounds are so well done and the dark staging is a great fit. For the last part she makes use of the stage LED panels that rotate open and ends it all very dramatically. Should be top 3 tomorrow.

More chitchat and a clip with Luke Evans

12. San Marino 

Confession: first time hearing this. The lead Jack is a decent vocalist but the song isn't going anywhere, nor is the staging for this very engaging. They should ask for tips from Slovenia how to stage a band song. His jacket has an exposed back - cool. It ends with a lot of off-pitch screaming. 

13. Austria

Within the first few seconds the audience are clapping along and loving it. Oh my word, this is so well staged and they're so in sync with one another. I think the weak spot is the "zero zero" part which no one will get and it stays a bit flat from that point to the end. Huge applause though.

14. Albania

The Kelmendi's are here to party! Actually, it's a cool opening with lots of red and black and some nice LED effects. The audience loves the ethno instrumental break with the red handkerchiefs. The vocals here are great and it's a damn good rehearsal. A family that sings together stays together :-)

15. Lithuania

Monika looks gorgeous in orange, and it looks effective when her backers join her from the sides of the stage for the chorus. The LED's for this are beautiful and it's flawless vocally and in every way. Definite Q. 

16. Australia

The song starts with the lead voyager sitting in a car. It's nicely staged and the mid part break is very cool, it's exactly how a rock entry should be staged and everything is on point. Not my jam but I can see it doing quite well. When it ends he yells "Eurovision Nation, we love you". Hi back :-)   


Summary: unlike the first semi this is much more even and it won't be easy at all to name 10 qualifiers. With the exception of perhaps 2-3 entries, they all stand a chance. 

The music intermission for this semi is with an emphasis on the Ukrainian talent, and it's quite lovely, and understandably very emotional. After another recap we get the "3 hosts" in drag which is cool and camp, with pride colours splashed everywhere on the stage. It ends with a nod to Australia 2018.  

Next is another zzz round of Filomena vs. Måns Eurovision trivia. This guy is the human version of Te Deum and will be featured in every Eurovision for the end of days.

Now it's time for the finalists.


Looks and sounds great, the staging is so on-point and the red drape effect is gorgeous. This is wonderful and so different than anything else in the contest. 

There are some technical issues setting up for Ukraine so the stage director is goading the audience to cheer on the stage hands. 


Always saw this as the weakest link of the finalists and this rehearsal doesn't change that. It's visually fine and cleverly staged with 4 LED cubes that interact with the artists, but as a song it's not all that engaging. The end part is great though and the audience shows them a lot of love.

More delays setting up for the UK, and more banter by the stage manager. The audience is getting excited for the home entry.

United Kingdom

Still a bit lacking in the vocal dept and it could really use a backing vocal track. The staging and backing dancers are fabulous, with beautiful LED effects throughout. It's unfortunate that the vocals are so weak, especially given that many entries use backing vocals throughout the entire song and here there are none, not even for the chorus. It's an odd choice and could be costly. 

Taped Q&A with the finalists (discovery: Blanca's sister was in JESC...never knew), followed by live interviews and finalist recaps. Fake qualifiers and good night.



Semi-final 2 - The first dress rehearsal (live blog)

Good afternoon! Or, whatever time it is when you're reading this. The show starts off with Melanie C (not Lynda Woodruff) informing us that it's 8 pm in Liverpool, 10 pm in Kyiv and 5 am in Sydney. So now we know that. And I will once again attempt to let you know of as much as possible of what's happening in this first full rehearsal of the second semi-final of Eurovision 2023. 

We don't get any video intro or performance at the beginning of this show. Instead the three hosts appear right away. They talk a bit about the voting again, Hannah is struggling with the French, and Julia is perplexed by the word "queue" on the teleprompter and needs to ask the other hosts for help. Then we start with the first song pretty much just a few minutes into the show.

1. 🇩🇰 Denmark

Reiley's first show is through a cutout of a heart on a paper, which he then draws some squiggles on and then throws it away. His pink rhinestoned jacket and trousers also have heart cutouts. Pink and heart-shapes seem to be the general theme here, as he walks around his prop walls. Vocals... well... No. His falsetto is unfortunately rather shaky throughout the song. The only parts that feel like they're well-sung are the bits that aren't in falsetto, but those bits aren't that many. And unlike in the Danish final, his voice is a lot more exposes in the mix here. Maybe they'll manage to fix it more until tomorrow.

2. 🇦🇲 Armenia

There's a short extra break after Denmark where Alesha is giving a short talk, probably to get the big props on and off the stage. Then Armenia begins. Which is another vey pink staging with lots of lying on the floor. Or rather, lying on a prop. It reminds me of Victoria's rock in 2021, but more flat and square. The projections on the prop look pretty, but they sometimes create weird shadows on her face as well, but that adds to the artsyness of it all. For the second verse when she starts to rap, the projections disappear and the lights go white. Then we get a pretty long dance break (I don't even remember this part from the studio version?) before the final two choruses. Vocally, this sounds exactly as it is supposed to sound. And the staging looks pretty nice. So they every reason to be pleased with this rehearsal.

3. 🇷🇴 Romania

The new revamped first verse and chorus actually work surprisingly well. You get the impression that he's just sitting there playing his guitar live, and it comes across as quite genuine. Then the song reverts to the old Sense Tu-style arrangement, and it becomes a bit messy. He's in his pink shorts-suit with the pink boots, running around seemingly without much plan. By the end a female dancer in a tight gold jumpsuit (not the Irish one) appears. Which seems a bit random. Vocally he nails this, though.

4. 🇪🇪 Estonia

Alika looks stunning in her blue dress. She starts off sitting next to the piano which plays and moves its keys all by itself. Then for a quick moment in the chorus she turns around and play the piano, before getting up and stats walking towards the circle stage and eventually back to end the song next to the piano. Vocally she really sells it, and visually everything i not just very pretty - but also very pleasing after all the pink and hectic performances we've seen so far. It does quite stand out in this draw. 

5. 🇧🇪 Belgium

Gustaph's postcard partly shows the "Angel of the north" statue in Gateshead, which I believe was in one of the 1998 postcards as well? Was it possibly even in the Belgian one? I can't remember.

The stage is very white, and Gustaph is at the top of his stair-prop. The LED screen features the faces of his backing singers and sometimes a drag queen and silhouettes of dancing people. The backing singers also features heavily in the staging, often being right next to Gustaph. In the bridge te dancer appears and does some vogue-inspired dancing. Vocally this is excellent. Gustaph sings it excellently, and the mixing of the backing singers is perfect (unlike in earlier rehearsal clips we've seen). It aIl comes across very peofessional. And I can imagine my mom (whose favourite in 2019 was Serhat) voting for this.

Next we get the ad break. Timur and Graham (fakes ones) are being interviewed for a bit. There's also a part with some people who I think are meant to be Scooch. And the stream suddenly starts breaking up and reverting back to bad quality again. Let's hope it's temporary.

6. 🇨🇾 Cyprus

The stream is back to normal now! The flag-colours at the end of the postcard makes it look as if this is Ireland. But unlike Ireland, he's alone on stage and the staging is simple. With a lot of smoke. And what looks like a waterfall coming down from the ceiling right behind him. He's barefoot, all dressed in black and the stage is dark and blue. So blue that even his face is blue. As the song progresses, the water becomes fire and everything goes red and orange for the last chorus. Vocally this sounds very good. There are some prominent pre-recorded vocals in parts, but mostly in the parts where it would be impossible for him to sing it live since there are so many vocal lines that overlap each other. And he does sing all the high falsetto notes.

7. 🇮🇸 Iceland

In theory the staging ere is quite similar to Cyprus. The stage is dark and Diljá is all alone on stage. But she moves around as if she was six people. The colours are mostly blue, green and pink - quite like a modern interpretation of a 80s neon colour theme. The LEDs seem to be running with a plant theme. Palm leaf silhouettes, occasional green leaves, tree outlines. Vocally it was decent but not perfect.

8. 🇬🇷 Greece

He starts off on the floor in his beige safari leisure outfit. It sounded as if he messed up the vocals in the first verse, and went "uaagh!" before quickly getting back on track. Vocally it's otherwise fine. But not much is happening in the performance. He walks back and forth on an empt stage, basically. Although there are several moments where he squats down on the floor and we see right up the legs of his shorts.

9. 🇵🇱 Poland

Oh. Last year's on-screen effects during the Polish entry are back. There are rose petals, fish-eye lense effects, and a holographic Blanka on the LED-walls. It feels quite unnecessary, because in the parts without the effects (mainly the choruses) this looks good. After three songs in a row with singers being alone on stage, this choreography with Blanka and four dancers is effective. And vocally she is totally fine for the type of song.

10. 🇸🇮 Slovenia

The band are all out on the circle stage in a traditional band-lineup. The stage is pink and purple and red. There are some very obvious pre-recorded falsetto parts where the other band members pretend to sing even though they have no microphones, which looks a bit silly. But the actual live vocals are good and sound effortless. Nothing crazy is happening during the performance, it's pretty much what you'd expect from this type of song. And it works well for what it's meant to be.

11. 🇬🇪 Georgia

Iru is out running some kind of Parkrun in Tbilisi during her postcard. I hope she's not out of breath for the performance.

She appears all dressed in white standing on a podium. The stage has smoke and a lot of flashing lights. There's also a wind machine in use. This also features a lot of obviously pre-recorded vocals, but this time nobody is pretending to sing them. The colours and lights are a bit like Cyprus. Often so blue that she herself becomes totally blue. Then in the final chorus the stage goes gold and peach and pink. Vocally she's good, except for one missed high note in the last chorus.

And now we're getting another ad break. We get to see a a video of some man talking about Eurovision, with archive sots in the background. We briefly see Milly Scott, Helga, Conchita, Dana, the 1960 scoreboard, among other things. The guy is mostly talking a lot of nonsense, which is probably meant to be about how great Eurovision is, but it sounds more like a very long inspirational quote meme shared by a boomer on Facebook. 

12. 🇸🇲 San Marino

The postcard features them playing volleyball in San Marino. Then we get the performance. It's very very red. The stage floor sometimes has a neon square pattern looking a bit like the 1988 stage. But red. The backdrop features mouths and eyes. Lots and lots of eyes. The band are all mostly dressed in different versions of black, occasionally making the whole thing look a bit like an Albanian flag come to life. And the lead singer nailed the vocals.

13. 🇦🇹 Austria

Teya and Salena are laughing a lot in their postcard while they're ice-skating. They start off doing the spoken bits in front of a massive LED-screen type-writer. Then the stage goes black, white and red (just like their outfits) and the four dancers appear in the background. Vocally it sounds a bit as if they're holding back. The vocals sound a lot softer and whispery than in the studio version, but that might just be a rehearsal thing. The performance is surprisingly un-crazy. It's mostly just the two of them standing next to each other, singing the song. It's not bad, but I was hoping for something a bit more wild and memorable considering the song is anything but regular.

14. 🇦🇱 Albania

Here are some people who are definitely not holding back their voices. Albina nails the intro, and they all look like they're having a lot of fun on stage. I'm quite pleasantly surprised by this. There's suddenly something very likeable and charming about them. I have a feeling that it could translate into making it quite televote-friendly. The stage is mostly red, and they're all wearing black, so it's a bit like San Marino but here it actually makes sense to look like an Albanian flag.

15. 🇱🇹 Lithuania

The stage backdrop is looking beautiful. There's a round shape behind Monika which sometimes looks like a sun and sometimes like some sort of pagan zodiac symbol. She's in a short orange dress with sleeves and shoulder pads today. The backing singers, dressed in black, join her in the first chorus. And they spend most of the rest of the song on the circle stage together. It's sung very well and the staging seems quite perfect for the. But it also seems like it might not be an ideal draw to have this and Albania after each other.

16. 🇦🇺 Australia

Last but not least, we have Voyager on stage. Very modern 80s neon theme here as well. Hot pink and blue. He starts off sitting inside the car (with the steering wheel on the right-hand side, for authenticity). It looks a bit restrictive for him, though, because the car is actually quite small. The camera shots are a bit all over the place and of the kind that makes me a bit seasick to watch. Vocally it's good, even though I think he's holding back a bit in some parts.

Cue the now mandatory "Europe, Australia AND the rest of the world - start voting now!" After the voting opens there is for some reason a conga train in the greenroom. Then we get a recap. In Denmark's bit there's a cameraman visible in most of it. Georgia has that one note that she didn't manage to hit.

Disregarding my own song preferences, I would say that the ones that most impressed me today were Albania, Belgium, Cyprus and Estonia. They didn't necessarily have the best performances, but they exceeded what I expected for them. And in reverse, I was the most disappointed by Iceland, Georgia, Austria and Australia. But this is all based on quite minor things that may have absolutely zero impact on the outcome.

Next up we get an interval act with a medley of well-known Ukrainian music performed by Mariya Yaremchuk, Otoy and Zlata Dziunka (yes, I had to check Wikipedia for this). It's pretty nice! 

Then the second (shorter) recap. 

Next up we get a drag-themed interval act where Hannah, Julia and Alesha get transformed into drag queens. But it's not them, it's three three actual drag queens. Currently they're rehearsing the beginning of this over and over again, figuring out how Hannah should go into the queen machine" which is just having to squeeze through an opening in a LED wall. 

The drag performers then perform and dance and lip sync number together with a bunch of other dancers. It's all definitely a lot more up-beat and positive than the previous interval act. They eventually proceed to pull up "random" people from the audience, who turn out to also be dancers. 

The songs that they perform are first some old-school gay/drag classics, but then it turns into... "We Got Love" by Jessica Mauboy.

And now we finally get part 2 of Måns and Filomena's quiz battle. This time they have to guess if Lithuania 2010, Malta 2018 and Moldova 2010 qualified or not. Followed by a video clip of four scouse children showing us around the arena. 

It seems like we're finally about to get performances from Spain, UK and Ukraine any minute now.

🇪🇸 Spain

As far as I can tell, it's more or less the same as in the national final, but amped up a bit.Vocally it' excellent, especially the ad libs at the end. And two of te other women on stage also seem to actually be singing a bit as well. They all move out to the circle stage towards the end where there is a small podium. 

🇺🇦 Ukraine

It seems to take a while for them to get the Spain props off the stage and to rig everything for Ukraine.

Eventually we get the performance. They are all wearing sunglasses. Which feels like an accessory that doesn't necessarily have the best track record in Eurovision. But the performance comes across as tight and effective. Vocals are on point. It's all performed out on the circle stage, which should be quite effective when surrounded by the crowd on Saturday. 

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

They are getting the stage ready for Mae. I think the same LED-sided platform is used for this was was used earlier for the drag interval act. It's basically a ca 2 metre high and maybe 6 metre long rectangular platform, where the front of it has 3 LED screens that are miniature versions of the stage's own back LED screens. 

And here we go. In case there was any doubt, it is the video version of the song, not the single version.

The stage looks great. A lot of cool graphics going on. Mae walks down from the podium in the second verse. Then she and her four dancers move out to the circle stage. There is no sign of the robotic male backing vocal that we heard last week. Instead she seems to have a female off-stage backing singer. We can hear that singer's voice clearly in some parts of the song when Mae isn't singing. Problem is, neither Mae nor the backing singer are quite pitch-perfect. But overall it's better than I feared. It's the type of song whee you can get away with some not-perfect vocals.

Now the interview section with these. Blanca Paloma reads English from a paper when talking about why her fans are called "pigeons". Tvorchi says something about life being difficult. And Mae talks about being born in 1997 when the UK last won and what an honour it is to represent the country.

Time for results! Only fake ones, of course. And this time they didn't make the performers wait around to rehearse this, so we only have stand-ins in the greenroom. But the countries qualifying" in this rehearsal are:

San Marino










That's all! Thank you and good afternoon!