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July 30, 2007

Carrie Underwood, Dixon Fairgrounds in Dixon, CA. July 28, 2007

800 miles round trip. Three full tanks of gas. Two half-days spent in the car. $140 non-budgeted dollars for two tickets. All for one chance to take the most exciting picture of my life, for one person, Carrie Underwood. Three months of anticipation were fulfilled through an incredible experience and opportunity to not only see, but personally meet one of the top artists in music today. On a night where the Dixon Fairgrounds were illuminated by a breathtaking full moon, Underwood and her band put together an unbelievable set that featured the first ever live performance of her new single "So Small," and exceeded any and all of my expectations.


Since buying tickets nearly three months ago, an envelope labeled “CARRIE UNDERWOOD!!!” tacked up in my room symbolized the most anticipated concert of my life. While I stand behind my assertion that “Carrie Underwood is the most beautiful woman in the history of the world” and the “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian” according to PETA, I wanted to see the multi-platinum country star in concert because she is my favorite singer and personality in music today. Just two years ago, Carrie Underwood was my favorite on American Idol going into the daunting “Hollywood Week.” And now, I was taking an entire weekend, tripling the mileage on my new car, and breaking my single-night hair product use record for the sole purpose of seeing her perform. The night had an added bonus: I had managed to arrange to meet the chart-topping Idol before the show.

As we got closer to the venue, the concert traffic began to get the better of the small two lane street leading to the fairgrounds. With only ten minutes to spare before the most anticipated celebrity meeting of my life and my night’s concert wingwoman Erin Stenklyft in the driver seat, I did what any desperate 23 year old male would do. I jumped out of the car and started running.

With “Jesus, Take the Wheel” playing in my head like the theme to “Chariots of Fire,” and more adrenaline than I think my body has produced in the past three or four years, my munchkin-like build took off down the street like a high schooler running from parents breaking up a makeout party. So yes, many parents, teenagers, and small children looked at me like I had lost my mind, since the concert wasn’t scheduled to start for another twenty minutes, but nothing but death and/or ebola was going to stop me from making it to the Meet and Greet.

I frantically claimed our passes at will call and met up with my quick-parking wingwoman so we could stand in line “stage left” to meet the country music superstar. Four minutes before we were scheduled to go backstage, I noticed that everyone else in line had posters or headshots to get signed. Dammit, all I had was my dorky Five Star notebook! Again, I took off running, this time across the fairgrounds and towards the souvenir stand.

This time, I found a line that was literally 200 feet long and four lanes deep filled with people looking to buy Carrie Underwood t-shirts, hoodies, posters, and key chains. Seeing this mob of Carrie-loving fans, again, I did what any desperate 23 year old male would do; I bribed somebody in the front of the line to buy a headshot for me. Mission accomplished.

If ever I needed an oxygen mask or a paper bag in my life, it might have been the moment we all, anxiously waiting for Carrie backstage, saw her emerge from her trailer to wave our way. As someone who does not normally get star struck, my embarrassingly girlish reaction (have you ever seen those videos from the 90’s of sweaty women spontaneously passing out at Michael Jackson concerts? That’s the best way to describe how I was feeling) was indicative of how unreal this moment was for me. As Carrie graciously signed autographs and took pictures with fans that will inevitably end up being emailed around the globe and showing up on MySpace (Add me, ladies! Kidding…but I’d probably accept because I am occasionally that vain), I was finally at the front of the line. My friend Erin gave me a reassuring push forward as my legs may have stopped responding to my brain at this point.


“Hi Carrie! It’s so great to meet you. I’m really looking forward to your show!” My voice didn’t crack; small victory… But it was really, really high for some reason.

“Hi there! Well, thank you so much. We loved playing here so much last year that we thought it’d be great to come back.”

“Do you think you could sign this to ‘Dave?’”

“Of course! Is this for you?” Carrie looked at me and smiled, as most of the people seeking autographs were pre-teen girls and I was just a twenty something male superfan. I promptly responded by soiling my pants in the front and the rear.

Kidding (come on guys, give me some credit). As far as I know, I just smiled and nodded, but it’s all a blur at this point. With no exaggeration, Carrie was just as unbelievably beautiful and warm in real life as she comes across on TV, YouTube, or those unbelievably fly Skechers ads that adorn mall advertising spaces.

Then, I put my arm around her (believe it, never wash this arm again), took the picture of a lifetime, and was on my merry way. Life gets no better.

So no, I didn’t tell her that she is the most beautiful woman ever on the planet (yes, I’d take that argument all the way back to the dinosaur days). And no, I Noe~* DisPlaY My LimITed AzN charms, nor did I say anything remotely entertaining. Basically, this was like watching one of those little kids win a contest to play basketball with Shaq all day, only to have them say almost nothing except show him his trophies and play XBox – I was completely star struck. Rico Suave’ – hell no, but fulfilling a dream –  hell yes!


Opening the show was Carolina Rain, an up and coming country trio trending toward mainstream. Playing to a nearly full audience (this picture is deceiving because a group of people went to go get food in front of us) that maintained an incredible 7:1 girl to guy ratio (some call this heaven, I call this competition for Carrie’s attention), filled with scantily clad teenage girls, Carrie Underwood t-shirt wearing superfans, and plenty of families (which was actually really nice to see), this was a great opportunity for the group to showcase their talents. After taking the stage, the group said that if the crowd screamed loud enough, Carrie might be able to hear us. On cue, I gleefully obliged the group’s request, perhaps even jumping slightly as I transformed my alpha male growl to a high-pitched scream to match the crowd’s dominant demographics.

While it’s hard to match the distinctive vocals of Rascal Flatts, Carolina Rain’s style is similar,  though the lead vocals have more of a traditional country sound (see: Southern accent) than the more pop-sounding Rascal Flatts. One of the group’s recent hits, “Isn’t She,” featured some very strong vocals and spot-on harmonies that are expected from all of today’s most popular country music acts. “The Perfect Moment” was another great ballad that made it obvious why the group has been finding so much success lately. There were a lot of Carolina Rain fans in attendance tonight and the group closed out the set with “Get Outta My Way,” a fun, upbeat track that was a perfect fit to get the crowd excited for Underwood.


In between sets, to my horror, I found that my trusty pen that I have been using all summer had drawn its last scribble. In desperation for the third time that night, I took off running to the women’s bathroom (I now realize this sounds awkward, but it has already been typed), searching for women with purses, only to find a girl who happily volunteered her green pen to me on the first try (I’m very non-threatening, one of my charms). I came back to my seat only to see the whole Fairgrounds crowd rise to their feet and start screaming excitedly. Was Carrie taking the stage?? Was she coming up the side??

No, it was the stage crew testing the lights. Through a non-verbal game of telephone, everyone was convinced that the band was on stage… but it ended up being more of a general celebration of the miracle of electricity, which I suppose could be done more frequently anyways.


Opening up the show with the familiar guitar line to “Young and Beautiful,” Carrie Underwood and her band took the stage and the audience again immediately jumped to its feet – for real this time. Never before have I been at a concert where the whole audience was straining their necks to try and catch a glimpse of the artist on stage. No side conversations, limited karaoke (some songs are irresistible), no silly laughter, or insane leaping in excitement; all eyes were solely focused on the stage. After all, this was Carrie-freakin-Underwood! (not her real middle name, which would be Marie, not that this matters) Underwood’s performance was spot on, not overblown/off-key, nor the least bit timid. Throwing in some extra runs that made the show worth the price of admission after the first song; no one was going to leave disappointed tonight.


The full set list for the night was as follows:

- Young and Beautiful

- That’s Where It Is

- Wasted

- Starts With Goodbye

- Lessons Learned

- Stand By You

- Don’t Forget to Remember Me

- Inside Your Heaven

- I Remember You (originally by Skid Row)

- Before He Cheats

- Sweet Child of Mine (originally by Guns N’ Roses)

- I Just Can’t Live A Lie

- So Small (first performance of the new single off upcoming album)

- Jesus Take The Wheel

- Alone (originally by Heart)

- I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore

Next up was “That’s Where It Is,” which calmed down the very excited crowd. Her center-stage performance with a mic stand brought many of us back to the memory of seeing Carrie on stage at American Idol. “Wasted” was a truly awesome vocal performance. Instead of shying away and using falsetto on the high notes, Carrie fearlessly attacked every note with the same precision and power that comes across in the studio versions. There was a long fiddle solo at the end of “Wasted,” that was a welcome addition to the opening track of Carrie’s multi-platinum album “Some Hearts.”


“Starts With Goodbye” was a bit edgier than the CD version and even became a borderline rock ballad with a heavy emphasis on the drums, somehow improving upon what is already a pretty powerful ballad. By the time Carrie performed “Lessons Learned,” it was in front of an uber-attentive audience that neither moved from their seats, nor took a ton of pictures due to their entrancement with every note that came off stage. At first, I didn’t recognize the next song because of its dramatic opening, but it turned out to be one of Carrie Underwood’s new fan favorites, “Stand By You,” as heard on American Idol’s “Idol Gives Back.” Seated on a stool in the center of the stage, Carrie approached every note with a vulnerability and passion that silenced even the biggest of superfans. Though some still sung along, I attribute the unexpected quiet to the fact that more wanted to listen than wanted to audition for Idol from their seats.

In an unexpected surprise, Carrie took on the acoustic guitar for “Don’t Forget to Remember Me,” another single off the album. After the song, Carrie revealed that it was 40 degrees in Nashville when she and her real-life mom shot the music video for the ballad, but that they still had to dress as if it was summertime for the shoot. With all of us completely enamored by Underwood at this point, this ended up being one of the most endearing stories that any of us had ever heard. “Inside Your Heaven,” the first song Underwood performed after winning American Idol, was performed with a beautiful acoustic arrangement, accompanied by some welcome harmonies via Carrie’s backup vocalist. Listening to this performance, I couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic as I recalled a teary-eyed Carrie Underwood performing this song under falling confetti for the audience that had just made her a major recording star.


While performing “I Remember You,” a song made famous by Skid Row, Carrie’s mic started having some audio difficulties. But with the composure and grace that we’d come to expect at this point, she managed to swap out microphones and miss not a note of her performance. Few people may have noticed the smooth transition, but I was impressed. In what started to feel like an enormous game of “Heads Up 7 Up,” Carrie’s performance of “Before He Cheats,” the near-caricature like country song that has found crossover appeal, got the whole crowd quickly back up on its feet. I’ll admit that I initially wasn’t crazy about this song, but the song grew on me. Carrie’s performance had me moving like I did at the Anger Management Tour featuring 50 Cent and Eminem a couple years back, a tribute not only to how fun the performance was, but also how little I cared about others’ opinions of me that night.


Believe it or not, the next song “Sweet Child of Mine” was an incredible rock performance on a brightly lit stage by a female country artist. Complete with the strobe-like white lights and Carrie singing on a rock-inspired, scarf laden, microphone stand, this performance made me a firm believer that if Carrie ever wanted to make a more rock-oriented CD, all of her fans would be right there with her. On the “Where do we go” part of the song (if you know the song, you know what I’m talking about), Carrie’s voice took on a completely different rock-inspired personality and she seemed like she was having a lot of fun with it. The crowd responded accordingly and was abuzz was positive energy throughout the performance. Instead of working the crowd into even more of a frenzy, Carrie brought the enthusiastic crowd back to sanity with “I Just Can’t Live a Lie,” which was one of the best performances of the night. One of Carrie’s band members took on a male harmony part during the bridge and final chorus which sounded incredible! It was a nice change of pace that made you look forward to Carrie future collaborations with other country artists.

Perhaps the surprise of the night came when Carrie said she’d be performing hew newest single “So Small,” off her upcoming album for the first time. Carrie’s newest single is an extremely catchy ballad that shows off her powerful range at numerous points of the song. This song is a bit more vocally demanding than “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and utilizes much of Carrie’s higher register. As we’ve come to love from Underwood, the song has one of those soaring choruses that just beg for you to roll up the windows and sing like you were getting paid for it inside your car. It was a beautiful song that sounds like it will be another Underwood chart topper to me and when it gets released to radio later this week.

After performing her newest single, Carrie performed her first single off her album, “Jesus, Take The Wheel.” As soon as the familiar keyboard began playing, the audience took a seat and was just taking in the whole performance. At the end of the song, the large white stage lights focused on Carrie and created this pyramid of light that surrounded her and was truly a beautiful sight as the full moon was now nearly directly over the stage. Whether this was just coincidence, or if the moon was just trying to get a good view of the most beautiful woman on the planet Earth, I cannot say. In any case, if I was the moon and Carrie Underwood asked me to move directly above the stage, I would do it.


For the obligatory encore, Carrie performed ”Alone,” originally by Heart. This performance was one of the best of the night. Carrie was so active in this performance and it was just a joy to listen to. Despite the reaching vocals, there is no way Randy Jackson would have said the performance was “a little pitchy,” because Carrie just “made it her own,” “blew it out the box,” and showed off some incredible vocals. After thanking the crowd, Carrie finished off the show with “I Ain’t In Checotah Anymore,” before taking a bow to one of the most enthusiastic cheers that I have heard all summer.

Despite the extra time, money, and energy that it took to make this weekend a reality, this concert made this one of the most worthwhile life experience investments I have ever made. Not only did I see my favorite singer live in concert, but she was better than I could have ever imagined and more charming and beautiful than should ever be allowed (amazing, really). I cannot say enough about Carrie’s performances tonight, all of which were performed with such poise and incredible vocals that may have been the best I’ve ever heard in concert. In a night where I checked off two or three “things I want to do at some point in life,” this road trip is going to make every other seem pretty pedestrian in comparison for years to come. I’m more than ok with that.

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Totally awesome dude and Greatest pic ever.


bro. you crack me up. I wish i had a dollar for everytime you compared yourself to a group of teenage girls (competition) i would be a very weathly man. Obviously this seems to have been the highlite of your billboard summer!


hi, i seriously enjoyed reading your blog...not only did you unabashedly display your crush on carrie, the night was gloriously detailed with observations. i hope you write for a living.


Glad you enjoyed her concert in Dixon. I love your review. I love how you described the experience you had that night and you're really funny.


oh dave! i loved your review! maybe its because i can relate to you! im asian, about your age and also think Carrie is the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. my friend also told me he thought i needed a paper bag and oxygen mask when i first met her! haha!


OK, now I am disappointed... I always thought Schnitzel girl is your one and only. I guess, it's because she doesn't sing. A big hello to you from rainy Erfurt.


great blog.. you really get a sense of the experience from beginning to end.


Glad you had such a great time. I would have to agree that she is phenomenal live!


Glad you had a great time. Carrie is Carrie on or off the stage. Great writing also.


"nothing but death and/or ebola was going to stop me from making it to the Meet and Greet."
i almost forgot how funny you are. :oP


I CANNOT picture her singing "Sweet Child of Mine!" That's awesome! Seriously, though, you need to check yourself in to Stalkers Anonymous.


Sounds like it was an awesome show! Great blog and so excited that you got to meet her :) What an entertaining read.


WOW! I wasn't there unfortunately, but man!, after reading this i feel like i went.
You are so funny and detailed oriented. I love that! I don't know you but i feel like we're very similar. The whole little girls thing, i really know what you mean, i find myself chatting with teenagers at the Fan Club all the time and feeling just like if i was 14. I'm 26 and Carrie is my only artist ever. I've known what being a fan is because of her.
Thanks for the great review! I know you did CARRIE proud.
Go CARRIE Team!!!!
Eduardo (from Costa Rica)


Sounds like you had an awesome time! How I envy you! I guess I'll just have to live vicariously through you. The picture of you two is amazing. She's super cute and I love the suspenders!


This was freaking awesome. You're a great storyteller, and you could have been describing my night at the Dixon Fairgrounds (yes, I was lucky enough to get tickets the day they went on sale). But you got to meet her, lucky dog!!


Holy hell buddy, lmao that was the absolute best review i have ever read it my life!

check out www.carriefans.com theres a whole thread going on about how amazing this review is!

I got to meet Carrie at the Craven COuntry Jamboree in Canada and I know how you felt! I was bawling like a 2year old girl as we walked backstage! *dont worry ;) i stopped before i saw Carrie!*


It's like I was right there...which concert is next?


...oh yeah, and props for all the running and bribing successes. I was laughing aloud as I read this, mostly because I would do the same thing to get to the meet and greet.


Great review! It totally made me feel like I was there. She is amazing live, I love it!


Dave---LOVED your review!! Saw the link to it posted on Carriefans.com. So glad you got to meet Carrie and have your picture taken with her. Plus, you got the added bonus of hearing Carrie's new song for the first time EVER!!!

You hve a great way with words and an awesome sense of humor! Keep writing....you have a long career in the writing business!!



you touched carrie underwood... never washing your arm... EVER


you touched carrie underwood... never washing your arm... EVER

carrieunderwoodfanforlife (from carriefans.com)

hey! this is an awesome review! u r so lucky and that is a great picture!! thanks for the review and hope to see u more at carriefans.com!!



Oh wow! What an amazing review! I can totally relate to how you feel when it comes to meeting Carrie. I had my first Carrie event in June at the Fan Club Party and the Opry. I was got so nervous when it came to taking pictures and talking to Carrie that I was afraid to touch herand forgot what I was going to say. She truly is amazing and beautiful and down to earth. She always puts you at ease even when you are a nervous wreck. Somehow that amazing smile makes it all better.

She definitely knows how to captivate an audience. I brought a camera to the party to take lots of pics, but found myself not wanting to take pictures the entire time because I wanted focus on her performance. For me it was the best thing that I've done in a long while. Heck, I bought the tickets, booked a room and took the days off from work before I even arranged the babysitter for my kids. I knew that it would all work out in the end. It was one of the best times in my life. I can't wait 'til next time.

I'm so glad that you had an amazing time at the concert. I haven't made it to a full Carrie concert yet, but as soon as she comes a little closer to where I live, than I will definitely be there. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Please come by Carriefans more often. Also, you will find some great people at the OFC.


Great review w/ detail and humor. I love how Carrie sings live. What an adventure you had, great concert, new song and meeting Carrie. As Brad Paisley would say it can't get much "Better Than This".

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