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If you had told seventh grade me that one day she would be meeting Niall Horan, she never would have believed you. Then if you told her that she would be meeting Niall Horan because she won a radio contest on Twitter, she would have just laughed in your face.
I was sitting at work one day and just happened to see a tweet pop up from my local radio station's radio host, "Found out I can't go to @NiallOfficial's sold out show in Atlanta next week—want my tickets & soundcheck passes? RT + follow, u could win!" I had a past with this radio station that usually involved me trying to win something, them smarting off to me, and me never winning in the end. This time around I figured that it couldn't hurt to enter, but was not expecting very much out of it. I semi-hesitantly hit the retweet button and replied "I'm already following so I hope that counts *fingers crossed emoji.*" I then went on about my day without thinking very much of it. Seeing Niall at the time did not seem to be a huge deal in my mind. I had my fair share of the One Direction infection when I was younger, and eventually after the band broke up had out grown pop music and settled into the more punk and alternative scene. I knew that each member had been coming out with new music, however it wasn't in my top priority to listen to them again. In fact, when Harry's debut solo album came out, everyone on Twitter was raving about it so much that I decided to make a game out of how long I could go without listening to it, I was going six or seven months strong before I saw Niall.
A few days later, I had been out shopping all day and out to an early dinner with my family. My phone had died, but I didn't really think much of it. The moment I got home and plugged it in it immediately started back up again, the first thing that popped up was a Snapchat notification from my friend Kayla, who usually never snapped me unless it was something important. I opened it up to see "DM *radio host's name* now! I don't want you to miss this!" I rushed to open my Twitter app to see that I had been mentioned in a tweet by the radio host "yo DM me quick about Niall." It had been twenty-four minutes exactly since the tweet had been posted and I took no time to hesitate sending, "OMG SORRY! MY PHONE WAS DEAD! But what ab Niall tickets?" He took the two slowest minutes I've ever had in my life to respond to me that the person he had originally chosen to go couldn't make it and that I now had won the tickets. After giving him all my information I messaged my friend who I regularly attended concerts with asking if she wanted to go, know my car wouldn't be able to make the trip to Atlanta and plans were being made.
About a day or two later, it turned out that my friend wouldn't be able to make it and I was left to find someone to drive me. I messaged every friend that I had, offering them the second pass and could not find anyone that was able to make the drive to Atlanta. Eventually, I decided that it was time to turn to Twitter for help. I was no stranger to making friends online and meeting these people, but usually when I met these people we met up at big social events (concerts, conventions, etc.), I had never asked any of these strangers to pick me up and drive me three hours from home. However, I was hell bent on finding some way to make it to this show, because I was not missing this, I was 100% prepared to take a Greyhound Bus if I had to. I was tweeting frantically and eventually found someone driving all the way from South Carolina to Atlanta who was willing to go out of her way to pick me up all the way in Alabama. When agreeing to the plans, I was super nervous about what could happen (I watch way too much Criminal Minds to the point where I'm permanently paranoid in every situation) but eventually decided that if I was the one offering the meet and greet ticket, they were more than likely not agreeing to this just to come pick me up and kill me.
Two days later I was on the road with my friend Gracie—who I had met at another concert last summer—and Mariah—the girl who offered to drive me. I was a little fearful that the car ride would be a little awkward since we hadn't known each other for very long, but the moment we got in Mariah's car we all hit it off right away, talking as if we had all been best friends for years. A few hours later, we had made the arrival at The Tabernacle, the music venue in Atlanta where the show was being held.
We had arrived at the venue around 10 AM and the line was already wrapped around two blocks with over 200 people already in line. Because, I had won soundcheck and VIP, this wasn't a big deal for Mariah and me, but our friend Gracie was going to have to wait in this line and we had to hope she could get as close to us as possible at the show. The wait in line wasn't a terrible wait, considering VIP had to begin lining up at 2:30, so when that time came we slowly made our way over to the other side of the venue to join the line by the box office. There were two other girls already there whose names we soon learned were Violet and Hannah, just like me and Mariah, they both had never physically met before that day. We immediately started talking with them for a while before a few other VIPs showed up. Eventually, someone came to give us our tickets to the show, our VIP wristbands, and a plastic Ziploc bag that they made very clear to us was to hold our phone the whole time we were in soundcheck and meeting Niall.
About an hour later, we were walking inside the venue to meet Niall, it didn't feel real at the time it was happening, but I still didn't feel anywhere near as nervous as I usually do before I meet celebrities. Before we could meet Niall, we had to wait in the lower area of The Tabernacle, where the merch booth and bars are usually set up. Because we were walking in out current order into soundcheck, then meeting Niall, and then going back down to the lower area to wait again, everyone in the front of the VIP line was nervous as to whether or not we'd get barricade for the actual show like it was planned for soundcheck. Eventually, the venue made the exciting announcement that once we came back to wait after meeting Niall, we were going to line up in the same order and go into the venue for the actual show in that same order, there was a big sigh of relief among all of us it felt like the day couldn't get any better.
When it was time to go into soundcheck, we walked into the big empty room where we would be singing our hearts out later that night and it didn't feel real. Violet, Hannah, Mariah, and I took our place at the center barricade, and I couldn't believe that later that night, I'd be there for the actual show. When Niall came out, all I remember saying was, "Oh my God he's real!" He was wearing an Arthur (yes, the kids show) T-shirt and the first thing everyone asked him was, "What's your favorite character?" he soon replied with "I don't know! I just bought the shirt at Urban Outfitters!" The actual soundcheck itself was a magical and intimate experience that honestly is such a blur to me now, so I can't write very much on it. However, if you ever have the opportunity to go to a Niall soundcheck, you won't regret it.
When it came time to meet Niall, my heart began to beat out of my chest. I always worry about the smallest things whenever I meet someone. Do I smell good? Is my breath okay? Because I took all my precautions, I knew everything was fine, but you honestly couldn't blame me for worrying. When it was mine and Mariah's turn to meet him it honestly didn't feel real. The pose we wanted involved having to hold Niall's hands, so when we asked him about it, he said, "Okay, but I'll warn you, my hands are cold!" We just shrugged it off, and I looked down to see his hand open to hold mine and all I could think was, "What the heck! They're so freaking big!" After that we took our picture and went back downstairs to our holding room.
A little drama went on behind the scenes as we were waiting for way longer than we were told before we were to be let into the venue. Everyone had returned to their original spot in line as instructed, but as time went on and everyone began to panic more, everyone slowly shifted to the bottom of the stairs where the front of the line was. There was a slight scare that general admission was going to be let in before us and no one else that worked for the venue had any idea what was supposed to happen with us. Everything still worked out in the end with us getting let in on time, but because everyone crowded to the bottom of the stairs, everybody took off semi-running in fear of the barricade spot being taken away. Security tried to stop us from running, but that didn't work out well. In the end Violet, Hannah, Mariah, and I still had center barricade, but we all ended up separated from each other. Thankfully, our friend Gracie had made some other friends to stay with while we were at barricade.
Atlanta was one of the few shows that had Cory Harper as the opening act on this tour, which made everything a bit more exciting. He was super talented but I couldn't really hear much due to the girl and her friends next to me talking through his whole set. Soon after Cory's set was over, it was time for Niall's set, and the crowd was ready. Surprisingly, there wasn't a huge push on us up at the barricade (more than likely because the venue had added a second barricade in the middle, A+ for that, Tabernacle), so I was prepared for the rest of the night to go smoothly, and it dead. Soon I was hearing the words "Oh no, get ready," coming from Niall's microphone, like he was preparing us for the wave of emotions we were about to experience.
All in all, Niall's show was an experience like no other, and The Tabernacle was such a great venue for this event, just because it held so many people but still felt very intimate. The setlist for the show also lined up so well, it was like hearing a story, but also being apart of it with Niall. While making the drive home, all I could think about was how lucky I was to have this experience, and how glad I was that I didn't stop at anything to find a way to this show. I would never trade this experience for the world. If you ever get the opportunity to see Niall live in a small venue, go out of your way to buy those tickets because they are so worth it.