Confessions of a Eurovision attendee: Ghosting, glitter, and garlic cheesy chips
"I think I might be the first person in history to be ghosted by Jedward."
Grand Final Eve, May 12
I'm more coffee than man at this point. It's Eurovision weekend, and after an ill-advised night out in a friend's pub, I'm arriving in Liverpool on three hours' sleep between buses and planes.
I make my way straight to the Malmaison, as security eyes me up and down with my tracksuit and bulging Nike kitbag. Unshaved, unshowered, and definitely underdressed, I head up the stairs to the first interviews of the day.
I meet some Eurovision superfans, with a combined TikTok following of 1.2 million. The youngest, is a walking encyclopedia of Europop and inter-country politics; like if the UN had a karaoke night. We talk about the competition (what else is there to talk about?) in a plush sitting room area, full of ring-lights and branded mirrors. This is a competition that has embraced social media and all its power to turn artists from any country to international superstars.
Next stop, the hotel I'll actually be staying in. Far from the glitz and glamour, I'm shacked up in an underground room down an alley not too far from Glitz Ground Zero. Quickly get around to the three S's (Shower, Shave, and... you can figure the rest) and then straight back out to hit the streets.
I flash the press pass at the arena, and I'm led into the grand final rehearsals. Some of the tracks are absolute bangers live, and some fail to impress. If harnessed correctly, the raw energy from Finland's Käärijä could power the city.
'I'm still processing the hurt'
Trusty tripod and corporate sponsored microphone in hand, I start chatting to attendees of the festivities. I saw more Union Jacks in 4 hours of recording than I did at the King's Coronation. Everyone is very sympathetic to Ireland's recent record, except for one Scouser with a chain and septum piercing who told me we never stood a chance.
I chance my arm at getting an interview with Ireland's greatest recent Eurovision export and send a DM to Jedward, but no response. I think I might be the first person in history to be ghosted by Jedward. I'm still processing the hurt.
A huge village has been set up by the docks to facilitate the thousands of fans in the city without a ticket to the main event. Performances from Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Brooke Scullion and (my latest beef) Jedward keep the revellers distracted from the astronomical prices of the drinks and merchandise.
I have a scientific hypothesis that Irish people are magnetically attracted to each other, and it was proven this weekend. How is it that I'm hundreds of miles from home in a crowd of thousands and yet I hear the most distinct "Ah JESUS, here we are so" in my life a few metres behind me? I get chatting to the group, and they take me under their wing. One came over to visit a friend and decided never to leave.
We throw shapes left and right until we're being kicked out, and land in Nabzy's, where the lads behind the counter keep calling one of my new friends "Queenie". A fella is hoofing a chicken tender into his mouth with a dodgy guitar in his schoolbag. Next thing I know, the guitar is in my hand, and I'm performing Oasis to a captive audience waiting for pizza. I need to get home.
Grand Final Day, May 13
I just about wake up on Saturday morning, and I'm dreading what's to come. Not for lack of craic; more because I know I'm going to end up in some dodgy club throwing shapes to ABBA at some point in the next 15 hours. I get dressed in a funky shirt and checked trouser ensemble.
I've been invited to a party in the Liver Building, and the dress code is "glam", which sent me into panic stations. I wouldn't know glam if it slapped me in the face with a silk handkerchief, but then I remembered it was a Eurovisionglam party, so no matter how dressed up I was, there would always be someone in far more sequins than me.
I nab a free coffee off "Queenie" in her shop and a pack of Skittles from an exhibition. Truly, the breakfast of champions. The party begins, and slowly but surely, a group of creators with a combined follower count around the world that could fill the population of the UK itself arrive. I haven't a notion who 98% of them are, but I'm sure they could call a hitman on me if they wanted.
I end up chatting to a future Eurovision hopeful and her mother, and we book in an interview for next year. This is all getting too surreal, so I make my way down to the regular Joe Soaps in the village. I, once again, meet a pair of Irish people, and they are exhausted. The superfans have flown in at midday, and are flying back to Dublin at 6am in the morning. "We're going straight from the club to the airport," one of them says with the sort of enthusiasm you need when you're pulling off such a feat.
The main event begins, and the crowd is losing their mind. People know all the words to Sweden's entry already, but Finland is the clear crowd favourite. The whole thing feels very Hunger Games; beautiful hosts appear in glamorous clothes with bright smiles and cheery demeanours, but the crowd is fervent with anticipation that their country wins.
I can't begin to describe the cheer when Finland won the public vote. It was like the second coming of Christ had happened, and he was dressed head to toe in sequins. I try to find Swedish people to interview after the win, but they are nowhere to be found. The ones I did talk to were quite reserved; it was like talking to a Dub after winning five-in-a-row.
Just as predicted, we've ended up in a bar, finally facing our Waterloo.
The dark room and dense crowd hides the fact that I look like a tomato quite well, but I just know that once the lights come up, I'll glow like a Eurovision contestants outfit. I march my way to the Lobster Pot, and hoof a fish and chip into me. A pair of sisters in their 40s are on their first night out together ever, and one is convinced she'll drop dead before she can even even smell her garlic cheesy chip.
3am, and I'm finally home. I can't feel my feet, my skin is starting to peel, and my earphones are nowhere to be seen. I'm a broken man.
Post-Grand Final Day, May 14
And here we are now. I'm writing this on a park bench beside a chapel, while an old man drinks tea and smokes the same brand of cigarettes my grandad did. Despite all the aches, heartbreaks, and booty shakes of the week, I'd absolutely come back again. Potentially with an Irish act in the Grand Final for once.
If there's one thing I learned this weekend, it's that stranger things could always happen.
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