So yesterday I went to see the recording of Round 1 of the Austrian national final for 2015. Upon arriving at the ORF centre it’s immediately apparent which topic will be the dominating one in the upcoming months: Building Bridges logos and Conchita Wurst pictures wherever you look. And – being from a country that hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse in Eurovision – it still hasn’t completely sunk in that the city I live in is hosting the contest next year. But I’m slowly getting there.
The recording took no less than seven (!) hours. It was certainly a marathon for your gluteal muscles. 16 artists got to perform one of their songs in order to present themselves to the judges and the audience. Please note that these songs won’t be their actual NF entries.
Before we even got to see the first act, we had to record various types of clapping: normal, enthusiastic and hysterical applause. Ah, the merits of prerecorded television. After about 30 (okay, I might be exaggerating a little there) clapping attempts we finally moved on to the actual performances.
First up were the Makemakes with their feel-good song Million Euro Smile. I’d classify their music as catchy Indie pop. Great start – they definitely know how to perform!
Then we got to hear Tandem with Zeig ihn mir. Hmm, this one confused me a little – a weird mixture of Indie and Schlager which wasn’t really my cup of tea. They performed it competently though.
Kathi Kallauch sang her song Das Leben ist zu kurz. The main thing that stood out here was her really pleasant and soothing voice. The song itself was cute but rather on the boring side. I certainly saw some potential there though.
The band wo/Men had the glorious idea of covering Pharell William’s Happy. Because we totally hadn’t heard that song often enough already. Anyway, they did well and delivered a good performance. The act definitely lacked some kind of originality though.
Up next was the singer/songwriter Clara Blume. I was really pleased to see her being included in the line-up since I already discovered her great music some time ago. And this time – performing her song Love & Starve – she didn’t disappoint either.
Celina Ann went for Aretha Franklin’s song I Never Loved a Man. And she sang it really, really well. Despite the flawless vocals, everything seemed a little too polished and clinical – I missed some personality and charisma on stage.
If you’re into Austrian alternative music you’ve certainly stumbled upon Kommando Elefant before. They’re an established band in the scene and performed their song Mein Design fürs Leben this time. It’s quite hard to classify their style but I’d say… funky electropop meets Indie pop?
Lemo performed his calm song So leicht. It wasn’t exactly exciting but definitely very nice. But you know what they say about ‘nice’.
In order to keep the audience entertained in the breaks between the songs, we got to listen to some of the greatest moments in the history of music: everything from Barbie Girl to YMCA. To my great joy, all artists got to play their instruments live – which explains the long breaks between the acts.
My personal highlight was the band Renato Unterberg with their song Love. And wow, the lead singer Renato is one hell of a performer! There was something very Tom Waits and edgy about the whole thing. Great discovery!
Next up we had the band The Su’sis and they came on stage with their very pleasant Swing song This and That. It would be really interesting to see this kind of song in Eurovision.
DAWA is another band I’ve already known for quite a while. With their song On the Run they managed to create a really intimate and cozy atmosphere on stage – including some glockenspiel action! A personal favourite of mine!
Then we had Johann Sebastian Bach. The name says it all: they perform with Baroque wigs and have this crazy mixture of 17th century classical music and electropop going on. Despite not being the best singers, their performance of Heart of Stone was really kick-ass.
Fancy some traditional Austrian folk music? Then Folkshilfe might be your kind of thing. In their song Seit a poa Tog they mixed it with Reggae elements which sounded interesting but it didn’t really work for me.
A big positive surprise was the just 18-year-old singer Zoe. She performed her catchy song Adieu – a combination of electro-swing and French chanson. And she did really well at selling it!
The wackiest act was definitely Mizgebonez. They brought two desks and turned the stage into an office. With a medley of their songs Murmeltier and Fitnesstraining (for which they literally started working out on stage) they really got the crowd going. Regarding the genre: I really can’t put my finger on it but let’s just say they are a way better version of Trackshittaz.
Last but not least we had the rap trio Royal Kombo with their Reggae-influenced song Ram Pam Pam. I pretty liked this one even though it wasn’t too exciting in the end.
So that was it. On the whole, I’m really pleased with what ORF has put together. The scouting team managed to pick some great undiscovered talents plus some experienced artists you’d never expect to see in anything Eurovision-related. The line-up was diverse and mostly high-quality. The only thing I’m rather sceptical about is the whole thing about the coaches – the vast majority of these artists seems independent enough to do their own thing. But we’ll see how they’ll be approaching it.
Then we were just waiting for the results. Perfect opportunity to record some clapping again, yay! The jury was made up of various music industry professionals, 2007 participant Eric Papilaya (wow, ORF really pulled out the big guns with that one…) and the Austrian ESC commentator Andi Knoll. Their task was to cut down the line-up to just 6 artists. Quite a tough job I must say. The 6 qualifiers will get to present themselves in the next few shows and work on two potential songs for Eurovision.
Then we moved on to the results. Exciting moments. They kept telling us not to reveal anything to the public. I’ll respect that and keep my mouth shut until the first round gets aired in February. After all, it would be unfair towards the competing artists who possibly want to promote themselves as national final participants.
All in all, this was certainly a fun experience and I’m already looking forward to seeing the final product in February!
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