Notes after Semi One Dress Rehearsal

Well, last night we had our first look at the stage setup at Globen, and our first chance to see the 18 acts of the first semifinal.  Overall no painful catastrophes, but below the top rank and the acts below there is a clear delineation.

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Finland, Greece and Moldova opened the contestant portion, and I think tonight’s semi will probably be the last wee see of them. Greece has had a perfect record of qualification, but this year’s offering is a messy rap-ish number that I think few viewers will relate to. Finland is a peppy opener, but dated and not visually exciting, while Moldova is merely bland and pleasant. San Marino offered a whispery disco number from Serhat, and I think it also will struggle to qualify. Bosnia and Herzegovina offered up a weird melange of Balkan ballad and Euro-rap, and though there are many friendly neighbors in the voting, it probably shouldn’t make it through.  And Montenegro’s hard alternative rock looked and sounded fine on the big arena stage, it will struggle to appeal to televoters.

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Croatia has been getting its share of criticism for Nina’s strange stage wear, but she was in fine voice last night. Azerbaijan has put the press through painfully offkey rehearsals this week, but on stage Monday Samra was good.  Estonia sounded good, but his weird cardplaying theme seemed a bit disconnected. Austria had a big fanbase in the audience, but her song is a little simple and sweet to make any big impact. Hungary looked attractive, but Freddie’s song is not the strongest.

For the big votegetters, I think Armenia, Malta, Russia, Iceland, the Netherlands,Czech Republic and Cyprus are all pretty safe bets to qualify.

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The hosts of the show are lively and fun, and the opener was a repeat of Måns Zemerlöw’s ballad version of “Heroes” with live children’s choir that was so striking at the Melodifestivalen finals.  It should be a great show tonight, and I will be interested to see what surprises may be in store when the ten finalists are named.

Miss Congeniality?

After seeing and hearing Greta Salome from Iceland performing her entry “Hear Them Calling” two nights in a row, last night at the Nordic party at Euroclub and tonight as a special guest in Hera Bjork’s solo show, I am very impressed with her talent, musicianship (tonight she actually played the long violin introduction to the song live) but especially her warm, down-to-earth personality.  She seems like someone I would be friends with in LA, fun and normal with a little bit of a bitchy sense of humor.

I think Greta will pass through the semis and we will see her competing in the Grand Final, but no matter.  If there was a Miss Congeniality portion of the judging, Greta would be my number one contender for the victory.

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Guess You Have to Enter to Win

Last week I noticed that ESCtoday was having an Instagram contest to win a pair of tickets to see brilliant and hilarious Icelandic diva Hera Bjork perform her show “The Queen of Effing Everything” at the Playhouse theatre here. I had nothing to lose, and gave it a shot.

Guess what? I woke up this morning to an Instagram message on my phone that I was selected as one of 6 winners, so I know what I am doing tonight. My ESC traveling friend Phideaux hasn’t arrived yet, and my Danish friend Christian is busy in the press centre all day and evening, so I think he is connecting me with a friend of his to come along.

Can’t wait to see and hear fantastic Hera, and will try to get pictures at the show tonight.

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Arrived in Sweden, and Ready to Post Up a Storm!

My trip from LA to Stockholm was reasonably fast and uneventful, except for the torturous 90 minute security line at LAX. Sweden customs and immigration could not have been nicer and more friendly, especially when they asked the purpose of my visit and I told them I was visiting for 10 days to watch and cover the Eurovision Song Contest.

My AirBnB student apartment in the high-rise Skrapan building overlooking the trendy Sodermalm district is cozy and Scandinavia-cool, and in the absolutely most central and convenient location for tourism in general and Eurovision events in particular. Globen and the shows are 5 minutes and three stops away on the subway, and Eurovillage performances and the Euroclub for accredited press and fans are three stops away in the opposite direction.

The only thing I haven’t yet worked out is where I will work out. That will be my Saturday morning project tomorrow. Meanwhile I am attending a concert at Eurovillage tonight and then the prestigious Nordic countries party at Euroclub afterwards, where I am especially looking forward to getting a first live glimpse of all the Scandinavian acts on an intimate stage.

LOGO will air Eurovision Live in US!!

Amazing, stop the presses kind of news for Americans interested in Eurovision! For the first time ever, American fans can watch Eurovision Song Contest LIVE on television in the United States.  No European satellite or cable channels, no playing your internet feed through a smart TV, no gimmicks required beyond a cable or satellite TV subscription.

Viacom announced today that LOGO network will air the complete Eurovision Song Contest as it takes place in Europe, Saturday, May 14th at 3pm Eastern/noon Pacific.  Check to make sure that your tv provider airs the East Coast feed of logo with no three hour Pacific delay (in which case the show will air at 3pm Pacific also).  But just turn on your TV, tune in LOGO network and watch all the festivities and look for me in the front standing section by the stage (I usually find a place on the left side facing the stage).

Here’s the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/arts/music/eurovision-grand-final-will-air-on-logo-in-us.html?_r=0

This is a delayed case of my manifesting an American broadcast. Years ago I started putting the thought out there to a LOGO producer at my gym that his network would be the perfect demographic to reach Eurovision fans in the US.  His response indicated that he didn’t take the Contest seriously, and he sort of laughed it off.  But somewhere along the line the idea sunk in and here we are.  Maybe it was President Obama mentioning ESC a few weeks ago as a unifying cultural event in Europe…

 

Watch and ENJOY!

Eurovision 2016 — Rockers and Rappers!

Every year at Eurovision Song Contest has its share of rock bands or singers and the inevitable rap act. As a rule they haven’t scored highly, but every year one or two rock acts break through into the top half of the scoreboard. This year’s crop has some top five and bottom five contenders.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a pretty stellar record in Eurovision, but this year’s entry will challenge that. Dala and Deen start out with an ok, standard-issue Balkan ballad, then the annoying rap section comes in… Because the Ex-Yugos support each other in the voting, this can’t be counted out of qualification, but it doesn’t stand much chance in the Finals.

Cyprus, on the other hand, has had a spotty record that has improved in recent years. Their rock entry towers above the rest this year and should make top ten if their stage show has anything to offer.

Georgia has done pretty well with some strange acts in recent years. Young Georgian Lolitas are probably not going to set the voting lines on fire this year with their standard alt rock.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Greece has a great record of qualification, but if that string of successes is going to end, it will probably be this year, with their rockin/rappin anthem “Utopian Land”.

Hungary has done well recently, even with weaker songs. Freddie is an attractive and charismatic performer, so his somewhat pallid song may still propel him to the Finals in May.

Montenegro has never been a top contender since they broke off from Serbia in 2007, and though Highway and “The Real Thing” is credible alt-rock, it is not exciting enough to draw voters and qualify this year.

If there is a rock band to watch, look for Cyprus to score well in the semis and attract votes in the final.