Music

Getting Drunk and Hugging It Out With Eurovision Fans in Stockholm

This weekend, the streets of the Swedish capital were filled with people dressed like the Mad Hatter on a drunken, nationalist binge.

by Weronika Pérez Borjas, Photos: Liam Warton
16 May 2016, 7:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Sweden

I've never really been a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest but I have to admit that I've found myself falling for it over the years. It shouldn't come as a surprise that living in Sweden can do that to a person – Swedish people have a collective perpetual obsession with the ESC. This year, that obsession has been impossible to escape because Stockholm was hosting.

Over the last few months, the otherwise peaceful and harmonious capital turned into a frenetic, flamboyant wonderland. The largest department store decorated its windows with overblown wigs and gigantic silver shoes, pedestrian traffic lights played songs instead of that usual clicking sound and people in the streets dressed like the Mad Hatter on a drunken, nationalist binge.

This Saturday, I decided to go celebrate the final night of the competition with some diehard fans in the Eurovision village. The village was located on Stockholm's central square and welcomed fans who hadn't been so lucky to make it to the Globen Arena, where the contest was taking place. I made my way through waves of middle-agged men in ABBA wigs, groups of friends wrapped in their national flags and groups of mums with glittery paint on their faces. While Swedes and Brits dominated the place, there was a lot of support for the lesser represented nations too. The crowd was happy and carefree – even the habitual booing whenever the Russian contender was given screen time gave a sense of unity.

Halfway trough the results, it struck me that the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the few large scale events, where people get piss drunk, wave their national flags and peacefully hug it out together. I decided to ask some Eurovision fans what the contest means to them.

James – United Kingdom

VICE: Hi! Why are you here tonight?
James: Ultimately we are here to conquer the hearts and minds of the Europeans. We are here to spread the love for Britain and we feel that Joe and Jake really put us on the map this year.

Would you call yourself an extreme Eurovision fan?
It's my first year attending but my friends have been going for three years. We don't take it too seriously but it's a great way of having fun. Actually, one of my friends spent £1,000 to get here. £1,000!

So, he does take it too seriously?
He's a very wealthy man.

Thyra – Sweden

VICE: Hi! Would you call yourself an extreme Eurovision fan?
Thyra: Oh yeah, Eurovision is the shit. It's been a tradition since I was little –everybody would get together to watch it. I find myself thinking about Eurovision all the time now that it's so hyped. And I'd love to visit other countries for the finals, if I'd had more money.

Would you be able to date somebody who really hates Eurovision?
True love conquers all but it would be extremely difficult. I choose Eurovision before anything – I just skipped a concert by my favourite Swedish artist Silvana Imam to watch the semi-final.

Lucas, Clarissa, Sabrina, Armin and Sebastian – Austria

VICE: Hi guys! Why did you come here tonight?
Lucas: It's our third time attending Eurovision, after Copenhagen and our own city, Vienna. We decided that every time the ESC is in a city we'd like to get to know better, we'll travel for the event and for the sights.

What's the best thing that happened to you during the ESC?
Clarissa: When we were in Copenhagen, we were front row in the audience. We screamed and cheered so excessively for our Austrian contestant Conchita Wurst that people behind us came up to us to say they wanted to party with us. That night, it felt like the world united. When people saw our flags on the tube, they'd come up to us and tell us Austria was going to win. And were like, "What? Never – she has a beard!"

Matt (in the middle) and friends – UK

VICE: What's going on here?
Matt: Eurovision is like nothing else in the world. If you go to football, rugby or any other sport, there's always rivalry. Here, no one is aggressive or high on power, there are no barriers. What's amazing with Eurovision...
Matt's friend: ...is that you get very drunk.
Matt: ..is that if you lose, you get a hug in the end.

How do you prepare for the Eurovision party during the year?
Matt's friend:
We get really, really drunk.
Matt: We try to find the best outfit. What is so great in the UK is that we have the best flag for an outfit, don't we?

Patrick – the Netherlands

VICE: How much of a Eurovision fan are you?
Patrick: I like it very much. I watch all the eliminations and semi-finals, I follow the ESC on Facebook and have travelled to three finals so far.

What's the craziest thing you've done out of love for Eurovision?
A few years ago, we went to Düsseldorf for the final. Right after the second semi-final we made a bunch of T-shirts with all the 25 finalists on it, and added a scoring system to it. So people could vote on the t-shirt. We stayed up the whole night ironing these shirts and then drove to Düsseldorf on no sleep at all. That was quite extreme for me, actually.

Could you imagine dating someone who really hates Eurovision?
Well, right now I am luckily dating someone who loves it too. In fact, he just organised a Eurovision themed pub quiz in the town I'm from. We won, of course.

Javier and Pablo – Spain

VICE: Hey guys! Do you consider yourselves extreme Eurovision fans?
Javier: We're semi-extreme. This is the first year in a long time that Spain competes with a great song so we came here to give our support. Another important reason is our love for ABBA. We just visited the ABBA Museum – it was amazing.

Would you say Eurovision fandom is a kind of cult?
Pablo: It's just like football or other sports – there are always extreme cases. One of our friends has been here all week – he saw all the rehearsals live.

More on VICE:

Preparing for Eurovision With Song Contest Superfans in London

I Went to a Eurovision Sex Party

A Finnish Punk Band with Learning Disabilities is Going to Eurovision