Baku Blog Day 6

Vision magazine editor Hass Yusuf reporting from Baku, Azerbaijan, as all the action happens at Eurovision 2012

Disclaimer: This blog is being written quickly as things happen, so a few errors, typos, missing words, bad grammar will probably creep through. Just go with the flow…

Well it’s Friday May 18th and some of us have been here a whole week already.

In the press centre we’re waiting for the first act to arrive on stage – everyone’s favourite grannies  from Russia. Today will feature the second rehearsals and press conferences for the last remaining acts from semi-final one and the first half of semi-final two – 13 in all. Tomorrow we’ll see the rest of semi-final two and the Big Five and host country acts. Hurrah. The Hump and the UK delegation should be arriving in Baku sometime today.

Now that we’ve worked out where to catch the special Eurovision buses and shuttles to the venue, it makes life much easier. Despite the manic traffic, this really is a great looking city – you can tell where all the oil and gas money has gone.

They’re still laying down tiles outside near the Crystal Hall, but everything will look super by the time the live shows start next week. The view from the venue is superb. This is going to be a great Eurovision. And they’re offering us a better selection of food at the press centre as well. Who could ask for more?

They seem to organising a fleet of London-style black cabs nearby to take everyone home from the three shows. It’s best to have the name of your hotel written down – and perhaps a map with your hotel marked to show the driver – as they’ll have no idea where your hotel is unless it’s the Hilton – and even that’s doubtful.

Anyway, it’s 11.30am here in Baku and Russia are about to start their second rehearsal. Those grannies are marvellous. They come from a village somewhere in rural Russia – they must think all this is a bit surreal and bonkers.

I went to the stage area to see them rehearse – and as usual they were perfect. The thing about the grannies is that anyone, even old clubbers like myself, can follow the dance movements – just stand still and move your arms and hips slightly. Fab. As usual there were loads of camera crews for them – their publicity machine have it easy! They’re getting coverage all over the world.

Their press conference was packed as usual – most of the questions were in Russian, so nothing to report there. But the young ladies baked some traditional small pie-like pasties. Naturally there was a big scrum for them. Once the queue died down I picked up one, took a bite and spat it out again. Bless them for cooking them, but they were vile. Obviously a required taste.

Compact Disco for Hungary sounded fab on stage. Their entry is rather good – a cross between Oasis and Depeche Mode – a nice 1980s sound. Another act that deserves through to the final.

Austria are an act that I really shouldn’t enjoy – what with pole dancing as part of the act – but it is tongue-in-cheek. Good use of fluorescent material. The two singers make good use of the two catwalks. It’s lively and fun. Will it get through? Depends how many rappers and booty-lovers are watching.

Moldova get around the stage as well – but this is a more fun song. Lots of energy – but maybe too frantic for the song to be properly appreciated. This shouldn’t have any trouble getting through to the final. They’ve changed the dance routine though – there’s no ‘ride ’em cowboy’ sequence anymore. Just as well – as we had enough naughty suggestions from Austria – not that you can have naughty suggestions of course.

At the press conference Pasha and his singers gave us an acoustic version of the song. He revealed that he gets a bit sweaty on stage so he hasn’t performed in his outfit yet. Something to look forward to then at the dress rehearsals. He also said his ear-piece kept on cutting out – I’m sure that’ll be fixed in time or we might have a Jemini moment.

Pasha likes to try to write his songs with music and lyrics at the same time – gets a better feel for it. He was presented with a Moldova mini-icon t-shirt designed by OGAE UK member Ben Morris.

Those cheeky-chappies from Ireland, Jedward were next to perform. The sound was a bit off – but the effect with the special fountain prop works well. If you hear this song enough times you can actually begin to appreciate it.

Their press conference was a real hoot again. They basically took over the conference and hosted it themselves. All the journalists and photographers were huddled at the front of the stage – but I manage to get their attention from the middle of the room – so John climbed over the stage and jumped through chairs to come over to me so that I could ask my question! (If I was 16 and female I probably would’ve fainted.) I asked that as this was the second year they’ve entered Eurovision – if there’s a chance that they don’t win – will they be back again and again and again – as we probably couldn’t take the strain! Not sure what John said, but they may not be back next year as they’ll probably win this one. It was pure manic stuff – but they are lovely chaps. Good skin too. Oh, and they wore specially made sweet-machine outfits. Lady Gaga eat your heart out.

That was the last of the semi-final rehearsals – time for semi-final two.

Serbia are first on – and a faultless  performance from everyone on stage. Just pure class. Nothing more to really add.

I’ve caught up with real-time again – and Kaliopi from Macedonia is now on stage. She sounds great – and the more I hear the song I like it – but it may be touch and go to qualify. But you can’t go wrong with a bit of rock-opera style song.

A fan-favourite Joan Franka is on stage – looking and sounding fab – but I’m having to do OGAE UK club duties for a while.

Back to the show – Malta are now on stage showing off some fancy footwork. Kurt Calleja is a groovy mover. Not much more to say really. All the rehearsals seem to be going well.

Next up are Belarus where Litesound are doing strange things with their bodies. Only at Eurovision.

At the Netherlands press conference the lovely Joan Franka was in top form. She said she had a great second rehearsal and that songwriting is a passion for her. She was inspired by people like Neil Diamond – the 1960s being her favourite musical period.

Next on stage we have Portugal – sounding great as usual. Things are getting a bit samey now. Most camera shots have been perfected from the first rehearsals – and that’s why most Eurovision shows run so smoothly  – it’s rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. But there’s a limit to how many times you can listen to a song and try to get something more out of it.

Rehearsals and press conferences are going on until mid-evening which is really too late compared to previous years – so many journalists have left the press centre to eat or go to the Euro Club for any delegation parties. Switzerland are having a combined party with San Marino this evening, but I will have to miss it. They’ll be plenty of other parties on other nights. I’ve also received a personal invite to a private party from top Eurovision maestro, Ralph Siegel.

Tomorrow  is the special Opening Party which is always worth going to.

Before I sign off tonight – not many people left in the press center, but the Belarus press conference was good-natured. I asked the group, Litesound, how they met up, how long they have been going and who was the one in charge. Obviously they never answered the last part – but the two brothers Dmitry and Vladimir Kariakin started up the group ten years ago and added three other members – one also from Belarus, one from Italy and  the final member from Russia over the years.

The brothers apparently won awards in the States for pop video production and direction. But so nice not to see any big egos here. It would be great to see this in the final.

Had to miss the second rehearsals for Ukraine and Bulgaria which is a shame.

Back again tomorrow. And the Hump will be on stage!