Oz: Soaking it Up

The only concerns I had for my last week in Australia were my final exam and soaking up as much of Perth and Fremantle as I could.

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Mandurah

We take the Mandurah train line to get to and from Perth, but we had never actually been to Mandurah. Some friends and I changed that Monday when we hopped on the line to Mandurah to explore the waterfront. It’s a cute town set with a walkway along the shore and shops and restaurants. After a stroll along the water, we got some tasty fish and chips from the closest thing to a diner I have seen in months.

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Tuesday was spent studying for my final the following day mixed in with some blogging. I ended up being well-prepared for my final, so I am actually not dreading the revelation of my final grade. I celebrated the end of finals with Sierra, Jordan and Lynn by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the movie passes we had won at the very beginning of the semester. The movie was great, as suspected, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. That night, we had our final Murdoch University Village dinner in the form of chicken curry, which was absolutely fantastic.

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The first half of Thursday was spent in the Media Arts Center’s television studio for my own personal practice. However, I have absolutely nothing to show for it because technology hates me (really, it does). However, my sorrows were lifted with a delicious half-price caramel and banana waffle from a restaurant in Perth.

Afterwards, Sierra, Nicole and I decided to be extra touristy and take a tour of the Perth mint, which is Australia’s original and was established in 1899. The gold pouring at the end reminded me of watching glass blowing in Venice.

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The largest gold coin in the world

The night ended on a high note, quite literally. Sierra, Nicole and I went out with the pancake Friday crew to a karaoke lounge and it was one of the best week nights I had spent in Australia. One thing to know about me is I love to sing and I constantly have songs stuck in my head, and being able to scream tunes shamelessly with my friends was much needed and extremely fun.

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Singing with Nicole

Finally, Friday came—our last full day and night in Perth. We spent it by going to the Fremantle Markets for lunch. That night, we headed out to The Court, which is a club we went to one of our first nights out in Perth. Dancing the night away is one of my favorite things to do, and doing that with my study abroad friends made me feel so lucky.

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Saturday’s lunch

Saturday is not easy to think about because it was our last day in Australia. Sierra and I cleaned in the morning and headed to the Fremantle Markets one last time with Brian and Nicole to devour anything that caught our eye. It was a sentimental last Saturday afternoon, or should I say, “arvo,” as the Australians do? Fremantle has to be one of the most unique, fun places to explore and I am so thankful I got to experience it over and over again.

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Cronut

My friends told me I was going to miss the plane because by 4 p.m. I had still not started packing. One of my hidden talents is packing last minute, though, and I proved my friends wrong!

Because we had to leave the village at 3 a.m., Sierra, Nicole and I decided to stay up the whole night and we did that by taking on Northbridge one last time. I love Northbridge because it is always buzzing with people and the energy coming from the streets and clubs, and it is always able to throw a smile on my face.

We went to Mustangs to watch a band Nicole fell in love with the previous week (or should I say the guitarist of the band). I had no idea what to expect from the band and I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything from Taylor Swift to The Killers played by them. I was jumping around like a five-year old high on sugar all night and I loved every second of it.

I could not have asked for a better last night. Luckily, our friend drove us home and we got back an hour before we had to leave, which gave me the perfect amount of time to shower, eat and drag my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, the rest of the crew that we went out with that night pulled up to the village right before we left, so I got to say a second and final goodbye to them.

And with one last hug and a stream of tears, the craziest, most wonderful months of my life were done.

 

Oz: My First Music Festival

Australia’s hot new music is broadcasted on Triple J radio station, which is filled with different sounds—incredible tunes—that I never heard until I moved here. I am so fortunate that I was able to attend my first music festival partly sponsored by Triple J and see some of my new discoveries in the land down under.

Getting to Groovin’ the Moo was not an easy process. I was supposed to attend with an acquaintance I met, and we even paid for an Airbnb. Unfortunately, he cancelled, I lost my accommodation money, and I was stuck with two tickets. However, I very quickly sorted the situation out because my roommate, Seirra, was more than happy to purchase the ticket and we bought bus vouchers, which were charted by Groovin’ the Moo. Once we got there, all the issues I had melted away and I experienced one of the best and longest days of my life.

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In front of the Cattleyard/Triple J stages

Upon arrival, all I could say was “Wow,” as I saw the main stage and another area covered in a giant tent which reminded me of the circus appear before my eager eyes. There were four stages at Groovin’ the Moo (Cattleyard/Triple J, Moolin Rouge (the circus-like structure), Mootown and Silent Disco), the Cattleyard/Triple J stages being the largest. These stages were on one huge, main platform, only being separated by a divider so that acts can perform one after another on alternate sides, which worked out beautifully.

Sierra’s and my day began with some incredible food truck munchies: I bought a vegan doughnut and Sierra got some tasty fries. I did not expect there to be a vast array of food trucks at the festival, and it really pleased me when I realized I would not be eating overpriced, run-of-the-mill venue food.

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After our delicious treats, we headed to Moolin Rouge stage to await our first favorite Performer, Amy Shark. Amy shot to fame with her song “Adore You,” which rose to the number two spot on he Triple J Hottest 100 Chart in 2016. Luckily, we arrived at the tent at the right time, because we were front row for her performance! She was so talented and sounded completely the same in person as she did on recording.

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Amy Shark

Our luck grew when we were able to meet her and receive her autograph at the artist signing table. She told me she liked my shirt and was such a pleasant person to meet. She is heading to America soon for a small tour and I am so excited for her!

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Amy Shark and I

After this meeting, Sierra and I moved over to the main stage almost three hours before our next two favorite artists, Tash Sultana and Milky Chance. We were again extremely lucky that we arrived when we did, because after the fist performer we saw at the stage, the crowds did not dwindle and steadily grew. Before we knew it, we were in the second row of a wild mosh pit. If I have any advice for people attending general admission shows, it is to not enter the main crowd if you cannot handle being pushed, shoved and touched by random people. It is not fun. The only reason I survived the hours of waiting was due to the fact that two people in front of Sierra left the crowd before it got too packed and I shoved her onto the barricade. That’s right—we found ourselves front row again for our two favorite performers!

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Tash Sultana

 

The hours of standing and alternately watching people on the stage in front of us and musicians on the other side of the stage via giant screen was worth it. After what seemed like forever, we were enveloped by the sweet music of Tash Sultana. Tash is a singer, songwriter and looping artist from Melbourne. A looper is a tool that allows one to record herself singing or playing an instrument multiple times and layer the recordings together. Man, does this girl know how to jam! She does not even need to sing; I could listen to her on the looper working her magic all day long. When she performs, it’s like all my worries fade away and it is just me captivated by her beautiful music. Tash is by far one of my favorite musicians I have ever seen live, and that says a lot because I have seen a fair share of artists.

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Milky Chance

Luckily, our final favorite performer played on the same stage as Tash one act later. Milky Chance is a German electronic/alternative/folk group whose single “Stolen Dance” lead the men to the number one spot on music charts in several countries in 2013.  Seeing Milky Chance in person is even better than hearing the band’s recorded music. The lead singer’s on-stage presence was so much more animated than any video I had seen of him. I also did not expect his adorable German accent to draw me in so much. Between Tash and Milky, I was in music heaven.

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The Wombats

The festival ended with Sierra and I shoving our way out of the mosh pit to find some food. After we finally sat down in the barely lit grass, we returned to the Triple J stage to watch The Wombats, another notable and pretty famous band, and back to Moolin Rouge, to see Dillon Francis, an American DJ.

Sierra and I got back to Perth city around 12:30 at night and had probably the best idea that day, which was to take an Uber home. I cannot believe I experienced my first music festival and that the experience was as incredible as it was. This without a doubt will be one of my favorite shows I have ever witnessed.

Oz: Magic, Music and Markets

Wizards assemble! My busy weekend started Friday with a Harry Potter-themed pub crawl to which I won tickets through a company called Blue Elephant Promotions. This company successfully runs crawls through the UK and Ireland, and decided to bring them to Australia, which I think is pretty cool. My crawl started at seven (there were multiple time slots), which is a bit early to be out on the town, so it definitely was not as energetic as it could have been. Regardless, I received a hand-made wand and completion certificate, tasted magic-themed drinks and got to be surrounded by people decked in Harry Potter apparel, so it was still a pretty magical night.

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It only took 21 years and moooo-ving across the world, but I finally made it to my first music festival, Groovin’ the Moo. This is a three-weekend travelling festival that spans all of Australia to let the whole country come enjoy the beautiful vibes and pure talent provided by the performers. Something that I didn’t expect when I moved to Australia was to find new music and fall in love with it. When I found out my new discoveries were going to play at the festival, I knew I had to go. There were several bumps in the road from the start, but I made it there with my roommate and had the time of my life. The best part was that I was front row for my three favorite new artists and got to meet one. There will definitely be another post coming about this incredible time.

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To end the weekend, Sierra and I visited the Freo markets for the first time since the first time we went, which was all the way back in February. Our friend Shelby is really into crystals and their energies, and I talked to her a lot about her beliefs over the Southwest IMG_1678trip. I have been wanting to restart my crystal and stone collection, so I thought this was the prime time. She brought us to a few crystal shops and advised us to pick a stone with which we connected. I almost did not get anything, but then I saw a bag of gemstones meant for people with the Taurus zodiac sign and felt like it was the perfect option. I am excited to learn more about crystals and the belief system behind them!

Random luck brought me to something I never imagined I would participate in Friday night. Determination drove me to finding a way to GTM on Saturday, which turned out to be one of the best days of my whole semester. Curiosity lead me to purchasing some crystals at the lovely Fremantle Markets on Sunday. All these things added up to giving me one of my favorite weekends in Australia yet.

Oz: Birthday Week

The last few days I have felt nothing but loved and lucky. Turning 21 is a time I will never forget.

I started the celebration by heading to the beach Monday. I was supposed to go Tuesday, on my actual birthday, but we had a feedback session with the vice president of AIFS to attend. This was my first time skipping class, but it was only a lecture, which is recorded and available online to watch. It was a beautiful quick escape with my roomie.

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Well I was already fun, but now I am also 21! Tuesday was a low-key, but great day. I spent most of my day, and my week, talking to friends from home. I only had my wellbeing class Tuesday. This class focuses on the promotion of and facts around physical and mental wellbeing, but that day we got to experience what I think a wellbeing class should be: yoga. I got to take a free yoga course for class—what a birthday treat! I have never been good at yoga between my lack of flexibly and my racing mind, but I am still glad I could try it out again.

Tuesday night, Sierra, Brian, Nicole and I went out for my birthday dinner; or should I say dessert? We went to an eatery called San Churro, and it serves only churros and sweets. We split a platter of 18 churros with six sauces (dark, light and white chocolate, hazelnut spread, caramel, and salted caramel) and I tried a salted caramel popcorn hot chocolate. It was the sweetest dinner I ever had! Then, Brian and I split a savory salted caramel lava cake.  We literally had dessert for dinner and for dessert! My dream. I could feel the sugar rush coming fast and strong.

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Nicole said she had to buy me a drink since it was my birthday, and she didn’t let me argue, since apparently her surprising me with chocolate cupcakes was not enough. So afterwards, we walked the strip and settled at the National Hotel bar to listen to some live music. I had no worries and no complaints!

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Wednesday was an average day of class for me, but nighttime was nowhere near average. We invited a bunch of friends over to Courtney, Stivia and Hannah’s apartment and had a birthday party complete with pink and black balloons, my favorite colors! I could not believe I was all the way in Australia having a birthday party for my big day, and that I had made enough friends that cared to celebrate. Thankful does not even describe how I felt.

After my birthday party, we took the train to Raffles, a hotel and bar on the water. I was nervous that it would not be a satisfactory place to celebrate, but it ended up being mint. Everyone had a blast! I am so delighted everything worked out so well.

Between last weekend and this week, this has to be up there with the best birthdays ever (maybe the ponies at my sixth birthday has it beat). The best part is that the celebration is not ending here—Friday morning I was set to depart for a weekend getaway to the Southwest region of Western Australia!

Oz: Nature and Nightlife

The weekend arrived and I was ready to celebrate! If the enjoyment that came with Thursday night was an indicator for the days to come, I knew I would have a fantastic weekend.

Friday started off with my favorite chocolate chip and Nutella pancakes, which I had missed for a whole two weeks. The rest of the day consisted of homework and finally creating videos from my Northwest trip. While I was trying to plan Friday night, I learned that it was the last night of the Twilight Hawker’s Market in Perth. This is the lively food market right in the Central Business District that we visited during our Perth City Lights tour and we all agreed we would love to go back. Well, it looked like we had plans!

hfghSierra, Nicole and I visited the market and we were eager to try some fantastic food. Nicole took my advice and got paella, which was her first time having it, and she was super excited she did. Sierra bought an Asian noodle and chicken dish, which was light and refreshing. Before dessert, we wandered to the stage to listen to the Latino band that was performing. Nicole and I got up and twirled around together, shamelessly laughing at our horrible dance moves.

We finished the night by sitting on a bench and eating some scrumptious fried dough covered in Nutella. I am so glad I made it out to the city for a tasty night with my girls!

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I got up to exercise the next morning even though we had a full day of hiking ahead. AIFS planned a waterfall tour for us Saturday, so at 8:30 in the morning, we were on the bus and ready to explore Perth’s surrounding nature. Along the way, we stopped at Serpentine Falls, Ellis Brook Valley Reserve, Lesmurdie Falls and Noble Falls. We saw some wild kangaroos at Serpentine Falls, which was a great way to start the day. I braved the chilly water and went swimming at the first and last stops.

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Noble Falls

There was no water flowing at Ellis Brook, but the hiking and views that reached to Perth City were still beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring trails and visiting some waterfalls, even if there was not much water to fall. In my opinion, a day in nature is a day well spent!

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Ellis Brook

I left no time for rest Saturday night. The resident assistants planned a “Big Night Out” at Library nightclub in Northbridge and I was super excited to go to a proper club. Plus, this would be the last night I went out of age everywhere besides America. That’s right—my 21st birthday is just around the corner! It is almost legal for me to get into clubs and bars and purchase alcohol in the United States, which is a bit of a right of passage for us Americans.

I gathered with some friends I met on the wine tour, and we all headed out to begin the night together. Unfortunately, Sierra and I are the only ones who made it out to the city due to several different reasons (one person chose to got to her boyfriend’s house, one person had a cold, etc.). Library treated us super well—Sierra and I danced all night with people we don’t usually get to spend time with and it was a blast. What a way to start my birthday week!

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Sierra (left), me (middle), Nicole (right)

I reverted to my state of laziness Sunday, as I was giving my body a break due to the exercising, hiking and walking around in heels I endured Saturday. Sierra and I made a movie day out of Sunday by watching Grease, Twilight and New Moon (throw back to my middle school Twilight obsession). This weekend was absolutely fantastic and definitely motivated me to get back on my school, exercise and fun grind. Up next: my birthday!

Oz: Purpose World Tour

Monday, March 6 may not see like that important of a date to most, but I had been looking forward to it for months. It is the day I saw Justin Bieber on his Purpose World Tour at NIB Stadium in Perth, Australia.

As soon as I found out he would be in Perth when I was, I knew I was getting tickets. The only uncertainty I had was if I would be going alone or not. Luckily, Jordan is a huge fan, and Brian wanted to see the special guest, DJ Martin Garrix, so I had two friends to share the experience with.

The opening act, Sheppard, is an indie pop band formed in 2009. The leads are both super talented and I thought to myself I would have to check them out. Then, they played their last song, “Geronimo,” and I realized I had heard it before. I became super excited I got to see a fairly popular band and hear a song I already knew.

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Sheppard

 

The next act was Martin Garrix, who I almost saw in Ibiza. He played an hour long set, weaving in and out of remixed songs and beats set to vivid graphics and tricked-out light and fire effects. He ended with his new song “In the Name of Love.” I enjoyed his music, but one can only listen to a DJ for so long. I was ready for The Biebs.

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Martin Garrix

The lights went off. The screen came on. A video came on the screens with Justin’s silhouette teasing the audience. About a minute later, the one, the only Justin Bieber rose from the stage in a clear box, which we wrote “Mark my words” on, which was his opening song. This was it. He was finally here. Someone I have supported for about ten years was right in front of me.

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Justin Bieber

To make it short, his whole performance was absolutely marvelous. This was my seventh time seeing him, and I can confidently say this was his best performance yet. For a while, he was going through a rough patch in life, and seemed like he was just moving through the motions of touring. However, this time around, he was joking, smiling and talking to us with meaning. I had never been more proud of him and thankful to be in his presence.

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My favorite photo from the show

On top of the spectacular show, my seats were super close to the stage, about 25 yards away from him, so that was just fantastic. He wore Adidas soccer pants the whole time and only changed his top three times, which is a smaller amount than usual. He thanked Australia for having him back, and I thanked him for being there.

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Jordan, Brian and I had such a great time. I think Brian even turned into a bit of a Bieber fan, even though he doesn’t want to admit it. I can’t wait to see Justin back in the states!

 

Oz: The Beach Life

Luckily I do not have classes on Fridays, so you can guess where I ended up: the beach. That was after the free chocolate chip pancakes I ate for breakfast with Nutella and syrup, of course. It definitely seems like a sweet life, that’s for sure!

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After Nicole, Jordan and I returned from a splendid time at Leighton Beach, I cooked for myself and got ready for the evening’s festivity. The on-campus tavern was finally open after a renovation, and it was holding a beginning of the semester beach-themed party.

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The party was not as happening a I had hoped, but there were free cookies that I indulged in and some pretty good music to dance to. I ended up staying until the end and then spent some time with Brian and fun people he met that night.

A day at the beach, and a beach-themed party. The beach life is the best life!

Oz: Festival Day

You didn’t think my first week of classes was all work, no play, did you? I don’t work that way!img_1426

On the first day of classes, there was a mock tail night put on by the university village. The resident assistants showed us alcohol-free drinks we could make, and add alcohol into on our own (in a responsible way, of course). I really enjoyed the daiquiris, which were basically frozen fruit and ice. Because it was the first week of classes, I did not have a science lab or workshop that day, so I used my free time to go to the beach beforehand. Is anyone surprised?

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, I was pretty busy buying my expensive books and getting started on my plethora of pre-lecture homework and readings. I was lucky enough to score a new textbook for $100 less than its cost, thanks to a Murdoch buying and selling page. I am also lucky that Brian is in half of my classes, so we could figure out the first week together.

Thursday was super fun because it was Festival Day. This is held on Bush Court, the central area on campus. Clubs and organizations are not too popular here, but there were a few, including Quidditch, mixed in with many outside organizations aimed towards students. I also indulged in a Nutella crepe, which made my day.

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I made some last minute plans with some of the group after classes finished Thursday. We headed into Perth to check out some spots the others wanted to see. This included a fast food place called King of the Fries. The name tricked them, because they thought the place would have a variety of fries, which it did not.

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We spent most of the night at Elizabeth Quay at a really cool pop-up bar. We watched the sun set behind the city and then took a stroll across the bridge there.

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We ended up stumbling upon the Cider and Pork Festival, which was really cool. All the food there was centered around—you guessed it—cider and pork. We sat on the grass there listening to a great vocal/guitar duo before heading back home. To our surprise, on our way out, we passed a music concert that was part of the PIAF (Perth International Arts Festival).

Thursday night was the perfect way to end a fairly stressful week. The best thing was knowing I did not have class the next day.

 

Australia: Getting Organized

Wednesday was the freest day we had, and we kept it that way for the most part. After the most stressful trip-sign up ever, I went on a nice run and cooked myself breakfast. I was finally able to sit down and finish organizing my life; e.g. charting my food intake, exercise and expenses. Nothing feels better than feeling like you have control of your life.

After that, I took a trip to the grocery store. Something I have realized here is that food from the market expires within days of purchase. Some people are saying American food is just highly processed and full of preservatives, but I have noticed that food I am buying has its expiration marked as the next day, which is definitely making it more difficult to plan meals. With that being said, I have never been so thankful to have a freezer.

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Dinner for one!

It has definitely been fun figuring out how to live as in independent person, with no one to buy toilet paper, soap or food, or to cook. I make up my meals on the spot at the grocery store, as I see what is on sale and work with what I feel I can buy without breaking the bank. I was proud of myself Wednesday night for cooking fish, which I rubbed in seasoning and baked with orange slices. I placed it on a salad and drizzled some balsamic dressing over it, and voila. I didn’t poison myself!

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The Newport Hotel

It is Murdoch Village tradition to go to the Newport Hotel, a club/bar in Fremantle, every Wednesday. To kick off the start of the semester, over 100 students loaded party buses that the village kindly ordered for us and we headed to the bar. The venue was in a traditional colonial-style building, and was very open on the inside and dressed with plants and wall murals. There was a DJ who played song mixes all night long. It was a fun, carefree night with friends to mark our first week down under.

Fall Concert Series: Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood has the most effortless voice in the world. You won’t catch me listening to country music very often, but Carrie is an exception to all the laws of the universe. Honestly, she might not even be human; she is more like an angel.

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Before the show

I recall my nine-year-old self watching Carrie on American Idol and rooting for her until she claimed victory, and seeing her in concert not too long after. I yearned to see her again ever since. When I heard she would be touring this year, my friend and I immediately bought tickets for her first-ever show at the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden.

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The stage

Upon arrival to MSG, I was mesmerized by the setup of the venue. Carrie’s stage was in the middle of the floor, right where I stood at the 2016 Video Music Awards. The stage was composed of a main circular part in the middle, with two long legs jutting out and stretching out across almost the length of the arena floor and ending in two more circles. There were also two shorter legs reaching out from the opposite direction, which also ended in circular platforms.

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Carrie’s opening acts, Eatson Corbon and the Swon Brothers, were fantastic and really got the crowd going. Before I knew it, it was time for the queen to arrive. The center, circular part of the stage rose, and a few seconds later, there was Carrie, looking like an edgy, rockstar cake topper rising above the audience high in the sky. She started the show with the first song on her album and one of my personal favorites, “Runaway Renegade.” I was in awe and I did not expect to have as large of a reaction to her presence as I did, but the mixture of tears, my shaky voice screaming “OMG SHE’S PERFECT,” and my rapid heartbeat were all there.

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Carrie rising above the crowd

Carrie put on about a two hour show filled with nothing but talent and sincerity. I honestly don’t know how she does it. One minute she was blowing on an electric harmonica, and the next moment she was belting a 16 note lyric. I’m telling you, she’s an angel. A highlight was when she cast pictures of her adorable son and husband on the screen as she beautifully sang “What I Never Knew I Wanted.” Talk about a sweet love story. I also got lost in her powerful voice with throwbacks such as “Before He Cheats” and one of her favorite songs, “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

The night was remarkable. I am so proud of Carrie for being a new mom, being in the business for over ten years, and still giving an unmatchable performance. I also appreciate that Carrie seems to still be a down-to-earth, “normal,” person, despite having a legendary career. The post-concert depression I felt after the show left me no mercy, and I cannot wait for warmer weather so I can blast her in my car as I drive around with my windows down.