Schlager brings a smile to Stockholm’s Europride

You would need a heart of stone not to smile at the sight of tens of thousands of gay men screaming at middle-aged ladies singing Eurovision ditties, says James Savage.

Schlager brings a smile to Stockholm's Europride

Anyone who has spent the last week in Stockholm would have a tough time escaping Europride. The two-week gay party has led to a whole television channel turning itself over to repeats of Queer as Folk, to public buses flying rainbow flags and to endless articles in the media on gay rights. For the moment, you can be gay and almost feel like you’re in the majority.

One other thing that’s inescapable during Pride week is schlager.These days, it might be hard to discern a single Eurovision genre, but in Pride Park on Thursday they were keeping the myth alive. If it had been in the Eurovision Song Contest (or a Swedish heat), it was in.

What makes this such a winning concept at Pride is that a large core of Swedish gay men have a knowledge of Eurovision history that can best be compared with many straight men’s knowledge of football. When the delightful Mark Levengood announced that the next act had come second in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest, the whole audience seemed to shreik in recognition (for anyone not up to speed on Eurovision history, it was French singer Amina).

One consequence of this crazy level of adoration was that the singers repaid it, without exception, with gutsy performances. A sixty-something duo singing a catchy (if dated) ditty called ‘C’est la Vie’ proved that gay men and middle aged women often have peculiarly similar taste in music.

Charlotte Perrelli, the singer who took Sweden to an ignominious eighteenth place in Eurovision, found an audience quite ready to let bygones be bygones. They lapped up her ‘Hero’, but reserved their strongest applause for ‘Take me to your Heaven,’ which won her Eurovision in 1999.

When Perrelli repeatedly told them ‘Ni är helt fantastiska’ (‘You’re completely wonderful’), she must have known she was addressing an audience who will still be cheering her on thirty years from now. Likewise, a succession of one-hit wonders and middle-aged schlager singers can still come to Stockholm Pride to don their spandex and feel the love.

The Big Foreign Act of the night was the exception that proved the rule. Dana International, the Israeli transsexual singer who won the contest in 1998, sent the audience delirious with her hit Diva. But even Dana couldn’t steal the show from Sweden’s own Lena Philipsson, who reminded everyone why she’s a first-class entertainer. The combination of a solid voice, great legs and a willingness to act smutty for her audience meant that there was only one name the audience was chanting when it was time for an encore.

Gay Pride may ostensibly be about politics – and if you happen to be gay or transsexual and living in Uganda, for instance, the struggle is far from won. But don’t for a minute be fooled that half a million people took part in last year’s Stockholm Pride to be lectured to about human rights or to express a sense of victimhood. They were there to party, and in the case of Thursday night’s festivities, to indulge their love of schlager. And it would be hard to find a more good-natured, exuberant, carefree and downright fun night out anywhere in Sweden.

Happy Pride!


What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.