I would be lying if I told you that Eurovision did not have an influence on my Erasmus destination choice. Being lucky enough to be a European student, I applied for a 1-year-long exchange in Southern Sweden, promising myself to go to Melodifestivalen should I ever be accepted by the Swedish university I had applied to.
Well guess what, ha!
I woke up early back on that Monday of October to get a good seat for the second show in Malmö. 3 and a half months later, I was on a bus to Hylie, the location of the Malmö Arena, to sit in the audience of a show I have wanted to go to for some time.
Speaking of transportation, the location of the Malmö Arena is perfect: placed right on top of a train station and accessible by a multitude of buses, it puts it in reach for a lot of people and makes it really easy to come and go.
18.30. My bus finally arrives at the arena. I get out and walk there, a huge smile on my face: at last I’m doing it. I’m finally going to see Melodifestivalen live. I can hardly contain my excitement.
I’m going through the front door, and a ticket control later I’m in. I can’t help thinking “I’m stepping on holy grounds!”: the place hosted Eurovision 4 years ago, after all! Just a quick stop to drop my coat at the cloakroom (which happens to be mandatory if you are, like me, getting a seat on the floor) and I’m on my way to take my seat in the concert room.
Before doing that, you have the choice to eat something at one of the food stands in the arena, buy some accessories (such as a flashing hat, a Melodifestivalen T-shirt or a fabulous feather boa) or take part in the various activities offered by the sponsors: quizz, games, etc. – all of them in Swedish, of course. I didn’t do any of this and headed straight to the main hall: I would much rather stare at the stage for one hour! I followed the signs (in Swedish, although being in Sweden makes it very easy to ask your way in English should you need to) to get to my seat and I’m finally in.
19.00. Phew. I’m shaking with excitement. Even once seated, my legs just wouldn’t stop shaking until the show began. I obviously take a walk around, taking pictures of the stage from all possible angles. Speaking of the stage, it actually looks larger than it does on TV. Sweet!
I then take my seat as I try to calm down. Which is not working. My seat is so close! I’m literally sitting next to the end of the catwalk. I really hoped artists would use it more than they did last week. After the mandatory Mello-selfie in front of the stage for me to post on Twitter, I take a look around. Did you ever wonder how does everybody in the audience come to have a balloon? They’re already there! On each seat (at least on the floor) sits one balloon – you do have to blow it yourself, though.
A DJ eventually makes his way to the stage and starts mixing a medley of some of the most recent Melodifestivalen songs: Save Me, Heroes, Youniverse, If I Were Sorry… Clara, David and Hasse – this year’s hosts – also make an appearance on stage at some point. A ticket to the final in Stockholm is offered to a random seat (I didn’t win, boo!). Some goodies (a few T-shirts I believe) are thrown at various places of the audience – even to those sitting on the upper floor. More DJ action. And finally comes the moment.
19.30. Everybody must now sit. A few moments later comes Henric von Zweigbergk – THE man in charge at Melodifestivalen of warming the audience up – who gives us some instructions so that we are the best audience Mello has ever had. That includes, among other, asking you to start clapping when the hosts say “text och musik…”. Which you will obviously forget to do after the first song. But no worries, you get reminded every time.
19.59. Nearly there. Just a few seconds away now. Hasse is now sitting on stage, ready to perform the opening of this second semi-final. Two screens located on each side of the stage give us live TV-feedback and give the signal: the Melodifestivalen intro has started – it is time. The theme sounds like an anthem to my ears, and I’m all teary-eye when the screens show “Malmö”. I’m finally there. I still can’t believe it. Every cell of my body is still shaking.
Now comes the opening. Some nice singing and dancing involved. My Swedish understanding is still far from perfect and it quickly becomes clear: the hosts’ voices are much clearer and it’s easier to pick up what they say while watching on TV. It’s alright. I guess you mainly come to see the artists sing anyway.
I always thought an event like Melodifestivalen would be much more comfortable to watch on TV, and I’m not really used to seeing artists live. I was thus a bit surprised (in a good way!) to realize how much I enjoyed the show. Being close to the stage helped a lot, of course. And seeing many of the artists coming forward on the catwalk was a blessing!
I kept my phone away most of the time to enjoy the show with my own eyes and not through a camera (but still took a few pictures here and there. I just had to!). I missed a few good pictures opportunity, but I don’t care: this was so much fun! Seeing it all in person, with all the lights, the pyrotechnics, the artists standing a few meters away from you… I just can’t describe it objectively: it was simply amazing.
I haven’t been to Eurovision or any other national final, so it’s hard for me to compare. But my experience at Melodifestivalen was excellent and without any bad surprise.
At first I thought this would probably be the first and only Melodifestivalen of my whole life, but after that night, there is no way I am going to stick to just that one show. Sweden is pretty close to my homeland, so I may very well consider a quick trip every year to get my fix of Swedish pop and Eurovision national finals.