What is it like attending Eurovision in Ukraine

Isaiah Eurovision SBS

Back in 2015, Guy Sebastian gleefully belted out to the world that he wanted to do Tonight Again. Fast forward to 2017, I know exactly how Guy felt. Bring on the dramatic lights, creative flair, the ground-breaking, the cringe-worthiness and the sometimes down-right weird of 42 nations all together on one grand stage. Then combine that with all that sparkles, crazy costume attire and A-grade vocal talent and you have the greatest song competition spectacle of the world – Eurovision. It would prove to be a time in Ukraine I didn’t want to ever end

Australian entrant and former X Factor contestant Isaiah Firebrace may be exercising his remarkable vocal cords, singing about ‘how it don’t come easy and it don’t come cheap’ – but what I think he was actually referring to is scoring a ticket to the main event in the first place. Tickets were released earlier this year with a majority snapped up quickly to Europe’s signature cultural event. My purchase would be part spontaneous, part living out my Eurovision fantasy of attending the song contest. Yes, it has been a long-time weakness and bucket list goal of mine to attend this cultural phenomenon event of a lifetime.

In the past I had come so close yet so far to Eurovision glory. I had previously attended the live event of selecting the act that would represent Estonia at Eurovision. Remarkably, whilst on holiday in the Philippines last year, signs were plastered around the lazy beach town of El Nido promoting the low key concert of 2014 Eurovision winner from Austria, Conchita Wurst.

Naturally and keeping true to my love of Eurovision, I extended my stay on the island to see Conchita in all her glory belting out her 2014 Eurovision anthem ‘Rise Like a Phoenix.’ It turned out to be a double-whammy with seeing LGBTQ icon Conchita Wurst again riding down the canals in an elaborate and colourful manner at Amsterdam Pride Festival.

The stars have aligned this year as I now find myself in Ukraine. Together with a fellow Aussie expat also living in London, we decided to make the pilgrimage to the other side of Europe to attend in whatever shape or form.  We managed to get our hands on tickets to one of the semi-final live shows and the grand final dress rehearsal. Forget winning the coveted holy grail of Euro-culture, we also became last minute champions by scoring tickets to the live grand final as part of a last wave of tickets released. We could be deemed somewhat tragic Eurovision fans but if you make the effort to travel to Ukraine, might as well go all out right? Cue the Australian flag and the cheap yet chic new-age ABBA inspired silver spandex attire with sequined flairs all tightly packed in the suitcase and capped off with a silver bob wig;  because this Eurovision experience would not be fabulous affair without some of kind of homage to its famous Swedish alumni.

Being in Kiev is like being on a rainbow on earth. Kiev has taken its hosting duties that extra mile with partly closing off one of Europe’s premier shopping strip and Kiev most famous street, Khreshchatyk, to host Eurovision Village. It is here day and night that dedicated fans show off their outfits, cheer drinks, wave flags and belt out Eurovision’s Best Of Soundtrack together with new friends from all corners of Europe. Australia’s inclusion into Eurovision not only leaves some people still somewhat slightly as to why we are taking part but also which flag to wave with some lovely Norwegians with good intentions mistakenly waving the New Zealand flag. Bless them.

It seems to be the case that Australians are much more excited for Eurovision than most Europeans. Or maybe Australia has festival envy and just wants to have a good time like the rest of the world. With us now being officially part of Eurovision, it gives us more reason to celebrate and really get behind this event that has been in existence far longer than the EU, which may have even been what inspired Europeans to form a union.

On my first night in the stunningly beautiful Kiev, I found myself at the SBS Eurovision Fan Party where I met the man of the moment, the incredibly talented Isaiah Firebrace. It is hard not to be mesmerised by the vocal chops of the gifted 17-year old. The love affair with Isaiah and the main event was ever so strongly felt in the small intimate crowd, predominately filled with Australians. The evening was capped off with Isaiah Firebrace thanking his dedicated fans by performing three songs including his song entry ‘Don’t Come Easy.’ His high notes kicked off the tone for the remainder of my time in Kiev.

A ticket to witness the event live is something else. Think of it as the vocal Olympics. The atmosphere is jovial with positive vibes felt all around amongst the 8000 strong crowd. By taking part of it, you realise it isn’t about who has the best song or voice; it is how the performer captivates the crowd. With it being Eurovision, it is expected that anything goes. Forget Jay-Z or Kanye, rap was reimagined with Romanian singers Ilinca and Alex Florea introducing rap-yodelling to the world with their upbeat ‘Yodel It’ which got the crowd on its feet.

I also feel the need to voice the biggest of thank you’s (or Tak’s) to Danish entrant Anja Nissen. Despite representing Denmark, Australia’s Anja Nissen made me burn off my calorie intake of hearty Ukrainian food with me waving the Australian flag rapidly with her compelling performance of her song ‘Where I Am’ which reached a crescendo when a waterfall of fireworks made it that every bit more dramatic.

The last note may have been sung but the party of the ages kicks off at Eurovision’s dedicated night club, Euro Club. If you ever had a weakness or the urge for wearing a dazzling outfit whilst dancing the night away, this would be the place to channel that inner disco diva. The dance-floor was filled with a congregation of Eurovision devotees letting loose and having a great time singing the the hottest 100 Eurovision anthems.

If there was any peace on earth, this Eurovision is a heaven for it. It isn’t about where you were from or what nationality you represent, it is simply coming together with one-of-a-kind musical performances, enjoying life and embracing diversity.

Again, I will have to agree with Guy Sebastian; Eurovision one tough act to follow so let’s do it Tonight Again with the grand final.