Party For Everybody!

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The grand opening party of the Eurovision Song Contest was the usual politely debauched funfest, that had the added  bonus of some chaotic local organisation. The plan was that the acts walked into the venue up a red carpet after their buses dropped them off at one end. But five minutes before the parade was due to start they were only just beginning to lay said carpet, and the buses were backing up around the block.

It didn’t help that the entrance to EuroClub (a building rather delightfully known to locals as The Palace Of Hand Sports) is a popular bus stop and taxi drop off point. So every time a delegation bus attempted to pull up, some beat up old Lada cut it up, causing the massed security services to converge upon it, angrily waving their big red traffic wands at them.

So, by the time the artists finally did totter off the bus and onto the red carpet, a good many of them were looking pretty snippy. But the chaos didn’t end there, oh no. Upon arrival into the building, it became clear that no one really knew where they should be going, and met with a wall of over-eager Euro fans a bit of a crush ensued.

The Russian nans were clearly perturbed by all the madness, and walked in one door, circulated the dancefloor once and then shot straight out the back. Our Engelbert was also a brief attendee and quickly made his excuses and left – but not before I managed to catch him for a handshake. And I can confirm that The Hump shakes hand like a MAN.

But once all the early teething problems were over and everyone got into the building and settled in, it was quite the night. A big disappointment to many was the lack of food – but who needed food when the bar was entirely free all night. So as you’d imagine, things began to get pretty messy pretty quickly. After an interminable jazz funk band noodled on for a bit too long, a collection of Eurovision acts old and new began to tread the boards.

Last year’s winners Ell and Nikki kicked the show off with their hit, but their spot was blighted by feedback so low that people were dropping where they stood. Old monkey boy Alexander Rybak treated us to a couple of fiddling gems, before a seemingly endless parade of this year’s acts got up for a quick warble. Highlight of the evening (well, for us at least) came when Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus and his band got up and played a dense and complicated Drum’n'Bass jazz art jam that had the Eurofans running screaming from the dancefloor. Good man!

Eventually we managed to trick our way into the VIP area, which afforded fine views of all the unseemly behaviour bellow. The slightly cruel side of us enjoyed watching Manuel from Trackshittaz, who only five minutes earlier was stamping around the stage like a badboy, take 20 minutes to get served at the bar, his little face looking more and more crestfallen every time he got ignored for some botox blonde. Ell and Nikki were holding court, walking around chatting to everyone like they were hosts of their own party, and Albania’s be-dreaded Rona was just sitting happily on her own, watching all the bands and clapping with genuine delight as each micro set ended.

It all got a bit hairy for a moment when the President’s daughter made an appearance. Security men the size of trains surrounded her on all sides, and no one was allowed to enter or leave the area. Which got a bit tricky as we were busting for a wee.

By 2:30 the bar had practically run out, and folks began to drink the strangest of cocktails, like whiskey and grenadine, and gin and rum, just because they could, and then we all got kicked out at bang on three on the dot. Drinking hero tonight was the German bass player, the only artist to last the whole course. We walked part of the way home with him down the gloriously leafy Bulvar. He can’t believe his luck that he’s managed to blag such a good gig. By the shiny look in his eye I suspect he’ll be back before too long.

The last of the individual rehearsals finish today, and we’ll have half an eye on who’s going to be in with a shout next Saturday. The first week in Baku has been fantastic – but one suspects that it’s only going to get better and better…


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