The throng that assembles for any night at the Eurovision Song Contest is always an eclectic crowd, and last night - as hordes gathered outside Turin’s Pala Alpitour for this year’s second semi-final - was certainly no exception.
At 8PM, as the acts from 18 countries prepared to take to the stage inside the arena to fight it out for a coveted Saturday night final’s place, outside in a piazza the various ticket-holding tribes who make up Eurovision’s IRL audience mingled. Suit-donning, ballgown-clad dignitaries from across the continent talk shop with the smart-casual, wine-drunk media executives on a jolly amidst the Italian Alps. There are intrigued-looking locals unsure of what to make of it all; bronzed celebrities, bored security guards and a disconcertingly large number of bloggers and photographers. But really, it’s the smattering of super-fans who set a Eurovision audience apart: the campily-costumed, endlessly eccentric obsessives who flock here year on year, who somehow manage to make flag-wearing and high patriotism seem mostly unthreatening.
As they soaked up the last of the evening’s booze and sunshine before heading in to see San Morino’s sexy stripper and catchy Swedish pop melodies and whatever Georgia were up to, VICE went to find out what keeps Eurovision biggest enthusiasts coming back for more.
Mary and Mark, Ireland: ‘We used to watch it as kids together’
How did you become Eurovision superfans?
Mark: This is our first Eurovision in person. We used to watch it as kids together, but in lockdown we got really into it. There was nothing else to do, so we swatted up.
Mary: And it’s really nice vibes in Turin. Everyone on the street has been coming up to us to tell us they love Ireland’s song this year. There’s so much support for Ireland. [Ed note: Ireland did not make it through the semi-final.]
Best and worst acts this year?
Mark: The Netherlands are our favourite, but I think Ukraine will win this year with everything going on.
Mary: And Switzerland is the worst. They qualified for the final, but it sounds like a John Lewis Christmas advert. It’s elevator music.
Any good Eurovision games?
Mark: We’ve created our own Eurovision bingo, cards and all. You tick a box off for all sorts of reasons: bump into Graham Norton, get on TV, find Guinness from a tap, bump into this random bloke from our fan WhatsApp group.
Mira, Sweden: ‘As you approach retirement, you have to… show how unashamedly crazy you are’
What’s going on with your outfit?
I’ve lived in Sweden almost my whole life and so have to support my country, but as you can clearly see from my costume, because my mother was born in Poland I have Polish roots. I’m not sure I like the Polish song very much this year.
How do you normally watch Eurovision?
This is only my second time in person. I attended Stockholm in 2016. Most years I watch it on TV. I try to force my son to watch it with me every year, but now I drag my friend along instead.
Why are you such a big fan?
It’s a springboard for so many artists to start careers. And as you approach retirement, you have to live life fully and show how unashamedly crazy you are. That’s what I’m doing. Tickets are so expensive. I don’t mind paying, but I need to find someone else who is as mad for it as me.
Last one: what have you ordered from the food truck behind you?
Oh, yes, a cutlet. Excuse me, where is my cutlet? I ordered a cutlet. I have paid for a cutlet!
Peta, Australia: ‘In Australia we drink for wind machines’
Why have you come so far for Eurovision?
I was going to go in 2020 to the Rotterdam Eurovision, but it got cancelled. I had all these flight vouchers that needed using up. Now I can leave the country for the first time in two years? I was going.
Any good Eurovision facts?
Ireland is the country with the most wins of all time, but Sweden is very close. I swear to god everyone is supporting Sweden but I do NOT want her to win so Ireland can stay top.
Do you play any Eurovision drinking games?
In Australia we drink for a white dress, drink for a costume change, and drink for wind machines.
Strangest thing you've done for the Eurovision cause?
We normally eat the host country’s food all weekend back in Australia. I’ve learnt how to cook food from all over Europe. When Sweden hosted we bought way too much fondue cheese and had to eat cheese found for six days.
I’m pretty sure fondue is Swiss.
Agata, Poland: ‘It’s gay people who can predict who will win’
What brings you to Turin?
We live in the Netherlands, but I am Polish. This is our first time attending the show, but I’ve been a fan of Eurovision since 1998. We don’t drink anymore, but it used to be a big night for us.
What don’t people know about the competition?
Really, it’s gay people who can predict who will win. At least, that’s what my gay friend told me. He always says he knows better than me. Whether or not I like a song, he says, doesn’t matter. I always get it wrong, but he always gets it right.
What’s going on with your outfit?
We arrived without any costume, but realised we needed them. They didn’t actually have a Polish flag in the shop here, so we had to buy a Dutch flag and then we cut off the blue section. I’m really sorry.
Patrick, Netherlands: ‘I met my partner at a Eurovision pub quiz’
What are you wearing?
S10, our contestant this year, has long blonde hair like ours, and this dress is typical of the region she comes from. I am like her old aunt.
Your favourite Eurovision memory?
When Holland won in Tel Aviv back in 2019. We were watching the scores, we went totally nuts. Oh, and I met my partner at a Eurovision pub quiz in Leiden, our hometown. I totally forgot about that.
Why does the UK normally do so badly?
Last year we thought he was really good! This year the UK has a great entry. What’s his name again? [Ed note: It’s Sam Ryder.] The British like Germany, France, Italy and Spain go straight to the final so they get no exposure in the week. That makes it hard for them. Well, Italy did win last year.
Nikki, Ireland: ‘I’ve been out every night’
What made you come this year?
I’ve been a fan forever, and I live in Turin so I couldn't not come for my first one. Normally I host a party at home, people from all places. Our drinking game is simple: every costume change, and every time a country gets 12 points, take a shot. That happens a lot. It’s how you end up on the floor.
Are you enjoying Turin’s Eurovision takeover?
Yeah, and we never expected it. I’ve been out every night, and going to work every day. I’m going for the golden week here.
And what’s the outfit?
I’m the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow, obviously.
Kyle, US: ‘It’s unlike anything we have at home’
Is this your first time riding the Eurovision rodeo?
This is my tenth Eurovision trip from Atlanta. It’s unlike anything we have at home, notwithstanding the stupid American version. My first was in 2011. I love the atmosphere: the only friendly competition left in the world.
Your favourite act this year?
Serbia - she’s so original and fun. My least favourite is honestly Ukraine, I’m really not a fan. I didn’t like Latvia at all either.
Why does the UK usually flop so hard?
For the last few years the songs have been weaker, and the staging isn’t usually all that exciting. It can feel stale.
What’s happening with your outfit?
I wear this hat to Eurovision so people can find me, Nobody really has one similar. And then it’s a US flag with rainbow stripes on my back.
Aled, UK: ‘Tonight I’m channelling Geri Halliwell’
Why are you such a big fan?
It started in 2014, I’ve been every year since, aside from the last two. It’s a massive party, everyone comes together. It’s just fun. So tonight I’m channelling Gerri Halliwell, with killer red heels.
Drunkest you’ve been at Eurovision?
Last year during lockdown, we had a little bubble get together. I had a bit too much to drink, and totally forgot who had actually won.
When did Eurovision last make you cry?
Last year, when Switzerland didn’t win. I was gutted, and also very, very drunk.
Wildest thing you’ve seen at Eurovision?
When Belarus was naked on stage with a wolf in the background. Needless to say, it didn't make the final.