Many Americans have little knowledge of Eurovision, despite a number of well-known artists (ABBA, Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias) having roots from the annual song contest. Moreover, the US has had some songs from Eurovision become successful there, such as “Waterloo,” “Eres Tu,” “Ooh Ahh Just a Little Bit,” and “Save All Your Kisses For Me.” One person who lives in NYC, Gilad Mandelboim, wanted to bring a bit of Eurovision to the US and began a monthly barnight at a local bar called “Europhoria.”
The next edition takes place at HARDWARE bar on April 8.
The Facebook event for April can be found here.
ESCUNITED: First of all, thank you for agreeing to the interview! Will you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got interested in Eurovision?
GILAD: 31 years old, born and raised in Israel. Obtained a degree in Law from Tel Aviv University. Moved to New York 2 years ago to work for the Israeli consulate and do my master degree in Marketing. Growing up in Israel during the 80’s, we only had one channel. Yes, a very traumatic childhood. On the bright side, those festive events like ESC were a national event. Everybody was home watching it! It was huge, it was highly respected, it made a whole country hold their breath for 3 minutes and being (mostly) proud of the representation. I remember struggling staying up late just to get to see the results. When Dana International won for Israel I saw the real force of this event. It raised a lot of issues in Israel for public discussion. This transgender lady, who so many were against, made Israel proud and kicked all those who opposed her… in the balls
ESCUNITED: Tell me about Europhoria? How did it get started?
GILAD: Me and my friend, Itai came back from Eurovision in Baku to experience a severe, yet expected, post Eurovision syndrome. We missed the friendly and fun atmosphere of Eurovision. We felt that this is exactly what New York is missing! An event where people come to be a part of, not just stand, look and be looked at! An event where people can party effortlessly, and “share the moment”. We felt that the night life here needs to be shaken a bit. Yes, there is a lot of variety and options here, but basically it sums up to several few theme nights: drag, bingo, karaoke or dance. This is the most international city in the world, it needs a variety, it needs Eurovision! (and we needed it too, for ourselves of course)
ESCUNITED: Since many in the US have limited knowledge about Eurovision, how difficult was it to Hardware Bar NYC to agree to hosting?
GILAD: We were very passionate and persuasive
ESCUNITED: So tell us what a typical night at Europhoria entails?
GILAD: The bar is decorated with all the colors of Europe. We provide our Europhorians flags to raise and stickers to wear to get them in the Eurovision spirit. Our talented DJ plays all those Eurovision gems on our big HD screens, where people get to text, share their opinions, request songs. In no time, people are dancing, singing and waiving their flags on the dance floor. In addition, all participants are invited to enter a raffle to win a roundtrip ticket to Israel with EL AL Israel Airlines. The runner up will win a luxurious Eurovision cruise from Helsinki (Finland) to Tallinn (Estonia) in a deluxe cabin, courtesy of OGAE Finland. The winners will be announced in May in a special screening party of the Eurovision Song Contest.
ESCUNITED: What has been the response so far from those previously unfamiliar with Eurovision? Do those people have any favorites that you have played for them?
GILAD: Introducing Eurovision to those who are unfamiliar with the concept is quite a challenge. So far, we’ve been getting great reactions, but there are always some people who find it a bit “difficult to digest”. The interactive “text to screen system” we have has been great for us to know what our crowd is thinking! What songs they’re requesting, how they’re reacting to certain songs. We get a lot of feedback from people who are watching a Eurovision act for the first time and make remarks of the song or the performance. People seem engaged with Eurovision. People have been reacting well to the songs they never imagined were associated with ESC : Loreen, Abba, Celine Dion, Gina G and others.
ESCUNITED: Live orchestra or backing tracks. Which do you prefer and why?
GILAD: A tough one! Tradition vs modern trends! Eurovision is evolving and trying to stay up to date!
We lost the great value of live orchestration, but have been introduced to new and different sounds, so let’s let it grow!
ESCUNITED: Should entries have to be sung in one of their national languages? Why or why not?
GILAD: I enjoy both songs in English and in the country’s national language.
ESCUNITED: Do you think “bloc voting” exists?
GILAD: Absolutely but they’d never admit to it
ESCUNITED: Do you agree with the decision to have results be based on half jury votes and half televotes?
GILAD: Absolutely! Maybe every jury should include an OGAE member?
ESCUNITED: This year, the 33 countries in the semi finals will have their first rehearsals closed to the press? The press and fans are very upset – do you think this closed first rehearsal gives the country and their entry maybe more time to get it RIGHT without the prying eyes of the press and fans? Or should the first rehearsals have stayed open?
GILAD: I think the first rehearsals should have stayed open. Eyes will be prying and videos will be leaked anyhow.
ESCUNITED: Which country would you like to see return to Eurovision the most? Luxembourg, Andorra, Morocco, Czech Republic, or Monaco?
GILAD: All of them! Especially Morocco!
ESCUNITED: What are some of your favorite Eurovision songs and why?
GILAD: They keep adding up! It depends on my mood. I love clubbing to Euphoria, working out to Wild Dances or Melodifestivalen’s I’m in Love. When I’m blue or heart-broken, Everything by Anna Vissi, Israel’s The Silence That Remains or Albania’s Suus. Recently, Cascada has been on repeat in my playlist
ESCUNITED: What is your least favorite Eurovision song of all time?
GILAD: Moldova’s 2011 entry So Lucky! Sorry, Moldova! You usually do it so much better!
ESCUNITED: I know we still have many entries yet to be announced, but at this point, what is your favorite 2013 entry so far?
GILAD: Germany!!! Followed by Denmark!
ESCUNITED: Any closing thoughts and words for your readers and ours?
GILAD: Follow us on Facebook and let’s introduce America to the Eurovision culture
EUROPHORIA AT HARDWARE BAR 04-08-13