GILAD: THE MAN BEHIND EUROPHORIA
NEW YORK CITY (NY), USA – So how does one sell the idea of a European song-of-the-year competition to a country that doesn’t know what it is, can’t compete in it to begin with, and doesn’t care either way?
“It’s a new concept for everybody, they are not familiar with it,” says Israeli-born Gilad Mandelboim But they’re also intrigued. It’s different. In every bar, in every party, they are playing the same kind of music. It’s the same atmosphere. I walk into a bar in New York and everyone is so tense and not in the Eurovision vibe and mood. We’re bringing in something that is different and people are definitely intrigued. The staff, you see them dancing. You see them explaining to new customers what this ‘Eurovision thing’ is all about.”
The task is bigger than it sounds. Despite it having launched the careers of familiar names Céline Dion and ABBA, American unfamiliarity with Eurovision is further complicated by a tendency in the States to write off contemporary European pop music as fluffy ear-candy, even as Sigur Rós, Coldplay, U2 and Björk prove otherwise. Unsurprisingly, Mandelboim set up shop for his roving Eurovision party, “Europhoria, in what is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the New World, complete with a European population acting as a built-in fan-base.
PHOTO: GILAM MANDELBOIM / FACEBOOK
“There are so many foreigners here, so many Europeans here, it might work,” he says of New York. “Back in Israel, we had every week a Eurovision party. I missed it!”
He’s counting on those Eurovision fans spreading the word about Europhoria, but however worldly the Big Apple may be, Mandelboim’s keeps the introduction process basic: projecting clips of various contestants on a huge screen in a bar and letting patrons love-it-or-hate-it text-vote their opinions or make requests. Slowly making inroads into the notoriously fickle New York club scene, he is not above adding a few perks to entice the crowds; his November 16th Europhoria event at the Stellan Lounge, in Manhattan’s trendy Midtown West district, featured Eurovision alum — and current contender — Annet Artani, who sang her majestic 2006 entry, “Why Do The Angels Cry”.
“The fans are out there”, says Mandelboim of what could turn out to be a huge untapped market; his screening of last year’s competition pulled in a crowd of 200, the usual maximum capacity for New York bar. Eventually he hopes to bring an online version of Eurovision to America.
PHOTO: DAVID PERRY / OIKOTIMES.COM
To see Mandelboim in action is to see a perpetual motion machine at full tilt. Weaving his lean frame through the crowd at the Stellan, it is clear that he has vitally important art of the New York schmooze down pat, and not a little level-headedness coming along with it, making sure Artani and her two backups took the stage exactly at the right moment, and not skipping a beat even when the cable feed crashed and sent a dreaded Blue Screen Of Death up in front of viewers (he had it fixed within minutes). The efforts are not in vain; organizers in other American cities, San Francisco and Chicago among them, are taking notice and contacting Mandelboim in hopes of bringing Europhoria to their own venues.
Mandelboim is ready for all takers and does not exclude attending an event in Moscow — provided it has the aim of expanding gay rights in a country that has become an all-consuming black hole of bigotry. Having already attended Eurovision events from Israel to Azerbaijan, and with eyes on Copenhagen, he looks forward to the day other countries, such Tunisia, attend the competition under banner of music, equality, and a good time.
But it is the United States that remains first on Mandelboim’s list. “We are trying to create a new trend,” he says. “It would be amazing if Eurovision would be the Super Bowl, a festive afternoon where everybody goes outside, drinks, and waves flags!”
WRITTEN & EDITED BY DAVID PERRY (USA)