In May I flew to Stockholm to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, one of those big bucket list things I’ve always wanted to do. And given how hot 4 Eurovision Sweden is, when they’re hosting, that’s the time to go see it. This is what happened, according to my Instagram account.
Visit the place where Stockholm Syndrome happened
I was delighted to discover that my hotel was just a few blocks down the road from the former Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg where in 1973 a group of hostages taken in a bank robbery were noted to have felt sympathy toward their captors. The thing I love the most about it is the later idea that “Stockholm Syndrome” is really just “being Swedish”.
Heard “How Bizarre” playing in a 7-Eleven late one night
It had been a long day. I was so tired, sleep deprived and jetlagged (I tried to pay for my sandwich with euros) and suddenly “How Bizarre” comes on the radio. I looked around to see if the other customers (90% drunk) were as delighted as I was, but they were all too busy buying energy drinks and dropping their credit cards. But still, it felt like vindication – New Zealand can produce amazing pop music that holds its own in a country that is overflowing with popstastic goodness.
Spent most of the time indoors at a converted ice hockey arena
The press centre for the Eurovision Song Contest was located in Hovet, an ice hockey arena, with the ice replaced with carpet tiles. But weirdly, some days the floor would be really cold, and I kept thinking OMG, what if someone has accidentally turned the freezer back on. It didn’t happen, but it was a concern. In this photo, the press centre isn’t even close to being at capacity. I sat with the team from wiwibloggs, under the small TV screen in the top-right corner.
Visited the Swedish Music Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame can be found lurking in the corner of the ABBA Museum, and of course it’s filled with tributes to just the best artists, both international stars (yeah, ABBA are there) and Swedish legends. I got kind of emotional seeing the tribute to Neneh Mariann Karlsson aka Neneh Cherry, whose transatlantic cool-girl style had a huge impact on young Swedes.
Visited the former home of Cheiron Studios
This tiny little building, surrounded by apartment blocks in a pleasant, leafy residential neighbourhood, is where Cheiron Studios was located. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, it’s where the songwriter and producer Denniz Pop works (along with his apprentice Max Martin), creating iconic hit singles for artists such as the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. Just down the road from it is a little corner park, and I wondered if the Backstreet Boys came down to play hacky sack during their breaks. I bet they did.
Voted in the Eurovision Song Contest
This is not normally a luxury afforded to me as a Eurovision viewer in New Zealand, but in Stockholm, with a Tele2 sim card, I was free to make my 20 votes. This is me voting for Serhat from San Marino and his discotastic song “I Didn’t Know”. Sadly Sweden didn’t award San Marino any televote points but only just missed the top 10, coming in 11th place with Sweden’s televotes. (Also 2.15am! I don’t even know what time zone I was operating in.)
Watched Sergey Lazarev soundcheck at the #wiwijam
Sergey Lazarev is a the biggest pop star in Russia, and regularly packs out stadiums in his home country and neighbouring lands. He performed at the #wiwijam, a little concert that wiwibloggs organised on the Wednesday night between the semi-finals. So he shows up in the afternoon to soundcheck, first running through his Eurovision song “You Are the Only One”, and then just casually doing his total banger “Take It Off”. And I’m just dancing away, metres from this huge pop star, just doing an amazing warm-up. And he was just the nicest guy.
Watched the Eurovision semi-finals in the Globe Arena
It is utterly thrilling to be in the audience while an expertly produced live television show takes place. They start technical rehearsals months in advance, using performing arts students to stand in for the artists. This is Australia getting set up in the second semi-final, with 30 seconds to set up the screens and to position Dami Im on her cube. The audience is going crazy because “The Sound of Silence” was a huge fan favourite. I wasn’t particularly fussed by this song until I saw it at the semi-final when suddenly I was all overcome with emotional and I completely got it.
Watched the Eurovision grand final in the press centre
I missed out on tickets to the grand final, but the alternative turned out to be just as good. The atmosphere in the press centre was amazing, with most people more in party mode than serious journalist mode. And it was worth it to see the room erupt when Ukraine won, along with the Ukrainians singing along with “1944” when Jamala reprised it. Also, here is video evidence of me at the time of the winner’s announcement, being so tired that I couldn’t even manage a half-hearted “yaaaaasss”.
Fika is Swedish tradition that is actually just morning tea or afternoon tea. The day after the grand final, the world was feeling grey and straight so I went to Modern Museet, hoping that some modern art would cheer me up. It to a point, but the best thing was sitting down to enjoy a kanelbulle and a coffee. There’s just something about a cinnamon bun that cures all ills in a way that gingernuts could never do.
Wandered around Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan is the old town, full of cobblestoned streets and dozens of buildings that predate the Treaty of Waitangi. It was also the moment when I realised that I actually knew a bit of Swedish after 15 months of study. A lady came up to me and asked, “Pratar du svenska?” and I immediately said “no”, before realising that I had automatically understood and answered her Swedish question, even though I’d answered in English. So actually, ja, jag pratar svenska. And that’s worth travelling to the other side of the world to discover.