Correct – Australia is a far away, distant land and nowhere near all that sparkles and shimmers on stage in Europe. But despite the thousands of kilometres in between, Australia has maintained a very healthy long-distance relationship with Europe, and it was only a matter of time before we were invited to take our relationship to the next level.
And to Europe – on behalf of Australia – I thank you for our inclusion (with arms lovingly open) into the Eurovision Song Contest as this is one Euro-party I never want Australia to leave.
The Olympics of song and dance
Think of Eurovision like the Olympics of song and dance. Instead of sporting gear, there are props of fire, glitter, confetti and all imaginable accessories in between. Forget contestants getting up on podiums; they are emerging from burning coffin-like pianos, running through human-sized hamster wheels or driving Dune Buggies, all competing for Eurovision gold.
Although Lycra attire may still be present, it is perfectly acceptable for them to glisten with jewels or rustle with flamboyant feathers to give their performance that extra bit of oomph and razzamatazz that would even make attendees at Sydney’s Mardi Gras blush.
The thing is, with Eurovision, there are no losers. Yes, one country will take home the coveted trophy; however, both performers and fans are the main winners.
A week-long musical
Eurovision is not just limited to a one-night only affair in the host city. Events and shows (rehearsals, jury or semi-final live shows) are run throughout the week in the lead up to the grand final. So, if you are an unashamedly tragic Eurovision fan, you can fulfil your craving for a high dosage of Eurovision fever.
Being the fanatic fan that I am, I have attended a combination of events over the last few years and boy, has my body paid for it! Attending each event can be likened to completing a high-intensity workout with the number of calories burned from flag waving and mimicking of new dance routines. (I’m looking at you Italy with 2017 entrant Francesco Gabbani’s ‘Occidentali Karma’!) Just be prepared to apologise to your personal trainer when you tell them you have maxed out your energy levels for the month… that’s if you haven’t lost your voice either.
Enter the Eurovision capital
The Eurovision party does not fall silent beyond the main stage as the excitement and the crowd sing-alongs spread across each host city every year. Besides the arena, each city is home to a dedicated Eurovision hub, Eurovillages, which feature cultural events and activities for fans to band together to watch live screenings and performances.
These centrally located villages are perfect for those who weren’t so lucky with scoring tickets to the main events to still be able to take part in Eurovision festivities with photo opportunities, pop-up bars, local entertainment and competitions aplenty.
With the last note sung, the party has just begun as many nightclubs and bars host Eurovision-themed parties throughout the week. The biggest party of all is the exclusive Euroclub, where current and past Eurovision contestants relax their vocal chords in favour of dancing the night away or mixing in with those with media accreditation or super-fan passes.
Eurovision is all about celebrating diversity through music that transcends through different cultures, despite their political clashes. There are no records to be broken with the only thing to applaud is how creative, original and downright bizarre a country can get with its act.
Think Finland’s Lordi, the monster-masked heavy-metal heroes that won in 2006 in Baku, or Romania’s count Dance-Dracula, Cezar, who delighted audiences with his marriage of hair-tingling opera and dubstep – both acts were so far-fetched, but proved immensely popular with crowds.
Even Eurovision queen Loreen seemed as if she had just come back from the Swedish ski-fields with a snow-blowing machine in tow for her ground-breaking, wind-swept performance of ‘Euphoria’.
Ultimately, the best thing about Eurovision performances is that anything can go – from song, dance, costume and props onstage. The only thing outrageous is if there’s no spectacle to go along with the song.
Prepare yourself for colour
If the thought of all the colours and shine of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert excites you, Eurovision is precisely that and more on steroids. Sure, you have probably attended one, two or several themed parties or festivals in your lifetime, but nothing prepares you for the outfits witnessed in the crowds at Eurovision.
Expect to see diehard and upbeat fans paying homage to their Eurovision heroes, taking wardrobe cues from the likes of ABBA, Conchita, Jedward and Verka Serduchka, whose Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man-inspired outfit has many stocking up on supermarket foil.
If it’s not costumes, it’s Jessica Mauboy’s ‘Sea of Flags’ vision that is held in the hands and draped down the backs of many.
I have never felt such a warm cultural embrace as being part of a Eurovision crowd. Although country pride is at almost every turn, the one thing that unites the crowd are the positive vibes that Eurovision provides. Spur-of-the-moment sing-alongs and dances with new friends in both the arena and along the streets of the host city are soon the norm with every passing Eurovision-filled day.
The final song
Eurovision is proof that music is a universal sing-along, connecting people through great melodies, soaring vocals and spectacular staging. To experience songs composed from different ethnic backgrounds and creative compositions at Europe’s biggest pop cultural event is one dance you will always want to have – as 2015 Australian entrant Guy Sebastian put it – ‘Tonight Again’.