Welcome aboard, Eurofans! Tonight we'll be liveblogging heat two of Eurovision 2016 from Stockholm. Well, in fact Eurovision is in Stockholm. I'm currently having a burger at a cafe in Garkalne (very tasty, I recommend it) so I had better hop in my car and drive home to prepare myself for what will either be Eurotopia or Eurogeddon for Latvia's Justs. I sincerely hope he makes it to the final but if I was a betting man I'd say all the other evil countries in Europe will gang up and stop us.
At least we can take some consolation in the fact that Estonia is already out, their singer unceremoniously sent packing from heat 1. So technically we are ahead of them. Even though their song was way better than ours. I didn't say that out loud did I?
Before I burn rubber, I just want it on the record that unless I specify otherwise, we can take it as read that all the songs tonight will consist of a quiet first bit in which the singer admits to being sad and having some mild form of mental illness before busting into a massive shouty anthemic bit where they defy the Fates and insist that really they are great and are gonna survive whatever the world throws at them etc. Then another quiet bit with a shouty bit to finish. Got that?
You might even be able to follow events via our live stream at www.replay.lsm.lv (subject to territory).
See you in an hour at 10 p.m. Riga time!
Well, I made it back despite being followed by a police patrol car for most of the way (seriously). I guess my cheeky comment earlier implying that Justs was unlikely to qualify for the final enraged the authorities to the extent that an All Points Bulletin was issued. Luckily they did not pull me over as we proceeded at glacial speeds through the middle of nowhere or they would have smelled on my breath that I was HIGH ON EUROVISION!
It's traditional to settle down to watch the show with friends and share drinks and snacks. I hope you are doing that. I am all on my own with just a large bottle of Rigas Black Balzams for company which I intend to down over the next two hours as I slump into patriotic oblivion. Usually at this point it would be necessary to issue a health warning about the dangers of alcohol, but everyone knows Balzams is good for you, which is why it is generally known as "Doctor Balzams".
Oh, and if you want to send any messages, jokes or abuse to cheer me up, you can tweet to @LSM_eng.
Soft focus stock footage... good natured introductions. Fair play, the Swedes manage to marry high production values with a nice sense of humor that was sadly missing in some recent venues.
Wow! A great Rodgers & Hart style Broadway number from the hosts that mocks the fact that the hosts can't actually afford to stage it. Riga even gets a namecheck!
I want this introductory number to win, it's wonderful!
First up is our very own Justs. In intro we see him applying for a library card and standing around Riga. The sing was written by Aminata, which is why it sounds a lot like her song from last year only played backwards.
Someone has bought him a new leather jacket. It's the same as the old one but black instead of tan.
Go get 'em kiddo!
Good solid performance by Justs, who looked like a hybrid of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.
If being hyper critical his dance moves could have involved more than striking his fist against his manly chest. But well done son!
The Polish entry is a sort of miserable Army of Lovers tribute act performed by a spaniel in a ringmaster's jacket. The best lyric is "Ohohohoh". Suddenly it stops. Next!
Swiss Miss Ryka has a song called "Last of Our Kind", presumably about the banking industry reforms. She performs a series of squats in lieu of dance moves.
"Standing tall at the end of the story/Watching the world's collide". And the cliches, dearie. Utterly unmemorable. Next time send alpenhorns and chocolate please, Switzerland.
Hovi Star is an interetsing looking dude even by Eurovision standards and his introductory video is notable for his appalling ten pin bowling skills which are made to look like a massive strike, a bit like Jesus from the Big Lebowski.
The song is a dirge about being made of stars, a concept which has been thoroughly debunked by Stephen Hawking.
More worryingly he wears one sparkly glove. History tells us that is never a good sign.
Here's Ivan from Belarus and his wolf. They are both nude. President Lukashenka is a big fan, I hear. He has the right moustache and everything.
Then it's clothes on for up-tempo soft rock!
An unfortunate sunbed accident has left Ivan with three white stripes across his smiling face.
"I will help you learn to fly" offers Ivan. It's a wolf, man! Do you see any wings? Are you going to build it a glider or what?
Make mine a double. Down the hatch we go! Prieka!
"I wish we could stop it" says Serbian black widow with her first words.
You can, just walk off and save us all four minutes.
Song consists of the word "I" attached to various boasts of emotional resilience. If she is getting paid by the "I" she will be a rich woman by the end of the night.
At the end her fellow dominatrices join her for a curtain call.
The Emerald Isle is represented by an amateur soccer player who apparently used to be in the boy band Westlife. This immediately sets me against him.
His voice is weaker than the watered-down Guinness I used to drink. "You turn me upside down, inside out," he grins. Ugh! Gruesome image. Song's not too bad. But not too good.
Dona from Macedonia looks very smiley in her intro video. Refreshingly she sings in Macedonian, which is a rather attractive language, it turns out. She can really belt out a tune, too!
And the chorus is basically chanting her own name: Dona! Dona! Dona! She's great - big voice, big song and some emotional sincerity! That's what you get from the older woman.
If I was ten years old, I would want an aunt just like Dona from Macedonia. My favorite so far!
Lithuanians never knowingly go for understatement and this is no exception.
Donny Montel (presumably Donatus Montelonius or similar in real life) is a bit too much in love with himself but credit where it is due, his uplift-by-numbers song is effective if derivative. The sort of thing you think is great when you are clubbing at 3 am after one too many Lithuanian honey beers.
Domi Im from Australia has a song with the promising title "The Sound of Silence" [did Simon and Garfnukel okay that?].
Unfortunately she fails to deliver on this pledge, squawking through the usual quiet bit/loud bit pattern.
If anyone wants to marry her on the spot, she has the dress.
However, Australia has a great chance this year because the organizers definitely want to go somewhere warm next year.
I was hoping Slovenia might enter the mighty Laibach, but no such luck. Manuella has a saucy little smile at the end of the intro video and twirls a baton with the best of them but the song disappoints, sounding like The Cranberries on Prozac.
She is aided in these efforts by a hunk swinging on a pole, like some meat popsicle.
Polly from the land of yoghurt and cheap skiing has escaped from Tron perform for us tonight.
"If love was a crime, we would be criminals," she muses. Yes, indeed, and if the moon was made of cheese you could eat it. Proving what? Aristotle would have demolished this line of thinking in minutes.
Against my better judgment I must admit the song is annoyingly catchy, greater than the sum of its parts. In that regard, possibly a Nietzschean approach.
Three freshly-scrubbed Danish teens pose a series of college poetry questions which they proceed to answer with matching platitudes.
"What's the meaning of a world on fire?" The meaning is don't play with matches, sonny.
Their ultimate manifesto is that we be "soldiers of love" holding hands and never letting go. Better hope the opposing army is doing the same rather than using their hands for firing cannons and so forth. Utopian nonsense.
Time to get some ice and blackcurrant juice for Dr B.
From Utopia we plunge deep into Dystopia with a virtual Requiem Mass from Ukraine.
"Everyone dies... swallow my soul. Our souls."
Norway's Agnese says she will be my icebreaker. Just in time, madam. Can you get these out of the tray please? Would you like one too? No? Suit yourself. I don't like your song much, though the time signature change in the chorus is quite clever.
What's this? Riffs? Hey, this is quite nice semi-sleazy rock about smoking in bed and stealing things from your girlfriend's bag. We've all been there, right?
It's not exactly Motorhead but actually not bad! Trip to Tbilisi next year anyone?
Eneda Tarifa (I think that means Import Tariff) has John Lennon glasses in her intro video. That's where the resemblance stops, however.
She looks like the most glamorous teacher in a junior school and sings a song that has been rejected five times as a Bond theme.
Laura from Belgium asks "What's the pressure?" which is evidence of her time working in a tire repair shop.
Surprisingly this is the first sign of disco funk we've had all evening. As a result it gets the crowd in a groovy mood as the stage transforms into Saturday Night Fever mode. This is a shoo-in for the final.
What's the pressure? 34 pounds per square inch. Shall I change all four or just the front two?
Right, we've had all the songs. I think I deserve a drink for managing to keep up.
Justs' vote hangs in the balance. Will he stay in Stockholm or does he have to return to the chicken sheds of Kekava and the prospect of lending his expertise to Supernova 2017 next year? Only you, the great.gullible public of the world can decide!
Apparently you can vote multiple times, just like in a Russian election. Remember JUSTS (number 01) is the candidate you MUST vote for.
I never thought I would hear myself saying this but: "COME ON FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (not northern province of the Greek Republic)!"
And Justs, natch.
Voting closes, slamming shut like the very gates of hell. The doom of the defeated is sealed - they just don't know it yet.
Let's hope Justs is sent up to the Purgatory of the final contest ahead of ultimate ascent to the Elysian Fields of everlasting victory rather than being consigned to the subterranean dungeons of Eurovision non-qualifiers who are tormented by the demons of under-achievement for all eternity.
Yes, that is slightly over the top.
We get previews of the automatic qualifiers thanks to their force of arms.
Germany will be represented by a Dungeons and Dragons roleplayer.
Italy will be represented by a rosy-cheeked Umbrian peasant girl.
The UK will be represented by a pair of army deserters called Joe and Jake. "You're not alone, we're in this together," they say. Let's just wait and see how the Brexit referendum turns out, lads.
Yes LATVIA is the first qualifier! Well done Justs!
Well that was fun(ish).
Most importantly Justs is in the final.
So are our Lithuanian neighbors.
Sadly, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is not. Farewell Dona, these fools know nothing!