Moldova on Eurovision: 'Like a cross between Devo and a nightmare'

The deranged, pointy-hat-and-fairy-unicyclist genius of Moldova's Eurovision entry, despite finishing 12th, had Twitter abuzz

Did you see it? The Moldovan entry for last weekend's 2011 Eurovision Song Contest? So Lucky, by the veteran Gypsy punk band Zdob si Zdub, sounded a bit like the Knack's My Sharona as rendered by Madness, if Camden's nutty boys had been reared on some strange east European version of ska.

The band were as much of a visual as an aural treat. Three of them – the drummer, trumpet player and singer – wore tall pointy black hats that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. The hatless guitarist and bassist merely attacked their instruments with ferocious glee.

After a minute of this, a girl in a fairy outfit balanced precariously on a unicycle rode on stage. As one of the comments below the video on YouTube puts it: "Mad as a box of frogs."

Someone who was glued to the box last Saturday was Paul Epworth, producer of Adele and Plan B. He was one of several pop figures to tweet their delight at the Moldovans' deranged genius. "It was fantastic," he says. "It was like seeing a bizarre version of Devo in folk costumes. I just thought it was brilliant and absurd and so far removed from the slick operations of the western European entries, with all their money behind them. I loved the beautiful eccentricity of a small country like Moldova competing against the power of Russian money." He's referring to the fact that Russia's entry, Get You by Alexey Vorobyov, was written by RedOne, producer and writer for Lady Gaga.

Epworth, actually a longtime fan of that eastern European music known as cˇocˇek, was particularly impressed by Zdob si Zdub's "Gypsy brass band sound" and the fusion of rock and Balkan folk dance rhythms. "I found that really exciting," he says, but it was ultimately the pointy hats and the girl on the unicycle that "did it for me".

Also keeping Twitter busy last Saturday was Metronomy and MGMT remixer Erol Alkan, who was about to do a DJ set in northern Spain when the pointy hat brigade appeared on his hotel room TV. "Sometimes Eurovision can throw up some pretty insane moments, like [2006's metal winners] Lordi. This was one of those – they were like a cross between Devo and a nightmare. I wasn't expecting anything quite that abstract. I'm not usually too fussed about Eurovision, but this was unhinged, and quite ballsy."

For Alkan, the Moldovan entry was one of those rare moments when pop TV shocks – not quite in the Bowie-and-Ronson-doing-Starman-on-TOTP league, but special nonetheless. "I like that unpredictability," he says. So Lucky provided the sort of spectacle he keeps expecting from Lady Gaga. "That's something designed to come across as eccentric, but musically it's quite basic and square. The Moldovan entry was more appealing to me. It would have been amazing if it had won."

Instead, it came in 12th, one place below the UK entry, Blue, with the boyband pop of I Can. The BBC's presenter, Graham Norton, expressed his astonishment that UK voters awarded 10 points to Moldova. Epworth believes it is part of our "classic British cultural mentality to laugh at the absurd music coming in from other parts of the world, whereas they probably think ours is really boring".

As for Alkan, would he ever consider doing anything to up the crazy quotient of Eurovision himself? "Delete me from any of these equations," he says. "I would never get involved in Eurovision." Nevertheless, he's glad Moldova has kept pop's freak flag flying. "It was refreshing," he says. "Devo on a unicycle. You couldn't make it up."


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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