If you’re not a follower of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Wiwi Jam might seem like a cult classic.
As with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, fans who show up to Wiwi Jam are typically long-time followers of the song contest and happy to shell out thousands of dollars to watch it in someone else’s country.
The Wiwi Jam features performances by Eurovision participants from all over the globe. While the Eurovision itself is in its 64th year, the Wiwi Jam only began in 2016.
The party’s host organization, Wiwi Blogs, caught the attention of a group of dedicated Eurovision bloggers and social media devotees in 2009. This year’s show last week was held at the Theater Club in Jaffa, in between the two semifinal competitions.
And while flying across the world might seem like a good excuse to take an international vacation, for Aaron Paraiso from Australia, it was routine.
“I tend to go to Eurovision every year and this year is no exception. I got into it in 2002, and every year I follow it closely,” Paraiso said. “The show [the Wiwi Jam] has just been awesome, we’ve had such a great time tonight. It couldn’t be better. It’s an awesome atmosphere and great company.
“The Wiwi Jam has a great combination of artists and I’m really impressed they were able to get them all here.”
The idea of the jam is to bring the main stage performances to a cozier venue where fans can meet and take pictures with contest participants.
Fans who pay for VIP access to the second level, or balcony-style section of the theater, where they have an even better shot of chilling with celebs.
The stage had back-to-back acts. Contestants who both made it to the second semifinal (or not) got to sing their original song to fans who seemed to know every single word. Other acts slipped in between Eurovision numbers including routines from Israel’s premier cabaret group, Euroflash.
One of the acts even included a rendition of last year’s winner, Neta Barzilai’s song, “Toy,” which became an international hit. More than a dozen of this year’s participants were present both in the audience and on stage. The show carried on till the wee hours of the morning.
The Czech Republic’s lead singer, Albert Cerny, seems timid one on one, but that image fades away when one sees him take to the stage. Jumping, dancing, arms in the air, Cerny became more than just a “Friend of a Friend” (the title of his song) to his audience, who were raving in the theater. He became a celebrity.
“I’M LOOKING forward to being backstage at Eurovision,” he told the crowd. “When the night starts, the girls are doing makeup, the guys are doing hair and everyone who works there starts dancing and they party a lot.
There’s this festive atmosphere combined with something relaxing, and when I get on stage, I try to get into party mode, and I take their energy from backstage that I’ve accumulated, and I go blah,” he said.
Cerny said he loves the food in Israel but is hoping to make some more local friends to add to his experience. To start, he’s accepted lunch plans at the home of a young woman named Estee, who lives in Bnei Brak. The teenager works for Israel’s Public Broadcasting station KAN 11, and Cerny noted she was getting her job done without one of her legs. The two met backstage of the concert and soon after he got the invitation.
Cerny’s band, Lake Malawi, is working on releasing a new album in the fall and will be performing in a world tour.
Katerine Duska, Greek’s representative for the Eurovision, said had not had a day off in six months. Duska, who was raised in Montreal until she returned with her parents to Greece at the age of 16, describes her sound as “soulful pop.”
“I’ve been involved in everything,” she told The Jerusalem Post, “from production of the song, to the music video, to the staging, so it’s been a lot, it’s an incredible workload.” Duska wore a sequined gown with a black embroidered cape tied around her neck for the Wiwi Jam.
“I feel like I’ve done a PhD in performance,” she continued. “I’ve learned so much about putting a huge show together.”
Duska says that while she’s representing her country, she feels more that she’s representing a new generation of artists.
“We’ve [Greece] been through tough times in the last 10 years with the financial crisis, but art has really been blossoming and it’s a new generation of DIY [do it yourself] artists,” she explained. “And for me, it was such a surprise that the national broadcasters of Greece targeted this genre of music.”
Duska said she hopes the international stage will help bring her new listeners from around the globe. She’ll be releasing six new songs on an EP once the competition wraps up. When asked if she believes she has a chance to make it to the top, her positivity shined through.
“You have to believe you’re a winner, or else you’ll never be a winner,” she said.