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Last weekend, my girlfriends and I decided to escape to the big city for two whirlwind days of shopping, foreign food and live music.

I awoke early on Saturday morning to catch a bus to Seoul with my friends Rachel and Jenny Ryan. We headed straight for Hongdae upon our arrival, and dropped our bags at our crash pad for the night, Backpacker’s Space. The hostel, which was roughly 90% occupied by our posse, was adorable, clean and comfortable. It featured three rooms with bunks and fresh linen, one (western-style) bathroom with countless toiletries, and a vanity corner with a hair dryer and a straightener. I died, since I hadn’t straightened my hair in 10 months — I was waaaaay too excited.

The owner was pleasant and helpful, and a water cooler with cups was a welcome amenity during the wee, hungover hours of the morning. Plus, it was located in the heart of the bustling University district, so we were just a hop, skip and jump away from the clubs where we spent our night bobbing and dancing to jams.

So we ditched our packs and headed to Dos Tacos for some food. It was the same restaurant that we visited in Gangnam with my ‘cuz last summer, but the Hongdae location. Meat and avocado burrito, yummers. Just per-fec-tion.

Afterward, we took the train to Myeongdong to do some serious retail damage. I couldn’t get out of Forever 21 without a necessary top… or five. Oooops!

We also ran into a grungy, creepy Garfield in the midst of our shopping spree, nbd.

On our way home, we got wrapped up into a conversation and missed our subway transfer (whoops) but eventually made it back to the hostel! We grabbed some beer, dolled up and got ready for our night on the town. I chose one of my new tops from F21 and paired with with a black skirt, black tights, black boots and my Lady Gaga ring. Faboosh!

The crew, about 15 women deep, rolled to T Bell to grab some more Mexican grub before going out to Club FF. I ate a taco, and a burrito… and part of Sasia’s quesadilla… and Priscilla’s nachos. Yeah. Bad move leaving me around available food.

Club FF was awesome! The event was the 7 year anniversary of the hot spot, and had a bunch of great bands to celebrate the occasion. The first act we saw was Kingston Rudieska, an awesome ska band. At 11 PM, the bar started serving FREE cocktails that we enjoyed for an hour. Needless to say, I only bought one beer during our stay.

Later in the night, I decided to meet up with Alyssa at Shake! a mile-a-minute underground dance party. Alyssa popped into Club FF to tell me her location after her phone went missing, and we realized we were wearing the exact. same. outfit.

We had both purchased the same shirt that day without realizing it, and went on to dress ourselves in the same threads. It was hilariously mortifying — we looked like a Korean couple on their honeymoon.

We stayed at Shake for hours, went back to Club FF and shook it til the wee hours of morning.

I scraped myself out of bed in the morning, showered and enjoyed a picturesque cup of coffee while I waited for my ladies to get ready.

I also enjoyed the view of Hello Kitty cafe across the street. So cuuuuuute — where was Candace when I needed her? ^_-

After everyone was awake, we cabbed it to Itaewon to get some pub grub at Wolfhound. Rachel was sooo very excited to get her Bloody Mary. I skipped my own Mary for a pint of strong cider, and went crazy for their menu. In the end, I opted for a shepherd’s pie and a side salad with ranch. RANCH DRESSING! The second time I’ve enjoyed the creamy, fatty goodness in ten months. Yum!

Evan probably would have guessed that my eyes won a competition over my stomach during this meal, but I ate every last bite. Nom nom.

Being the wonderful girlfriends that we are, Rachel and I popped into Quizno’s on our way home to pick up sandwiches for us and boyfs to eat for dinner, which I enjoyed with Ev after a sleepy bus ride home.

Successful, wonderful weekend getaway!

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After the serious shenanigans at the school Christmas party, I was really looking forward to a few song-and-dance free holiday celebrations with my good friends, cousin Tim and Evan. Ask and you shall receive!

On Friday, Evan and I put together a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner consisting of scrumptious fried chicken, cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce sent from home and steamed broccoli.

I cooked the stuffing on the stove, then transferred it to the toaster oven to crisp up a bit. I also popped the chicken in the oven for a bit to warm it up, oh man was it good. We bought the bird from E-Mart and did not regret the decision to go precooked. It was spicy, seasoned perfectly and the crunchy texture was a nice contrast to the tender broccoli and soft stuffing.

Of course, there were holiday songs playing while I cooked, and the presents were stacked under the plant :) Tim arrived that night, and after we filled our bellies we met up with some friends for beers at the Beatles bar. There, we were able to see our friends play some live Christmas music, which was a nice treat.

The party continued into the wee hours of morning at Radio Star (with more live music and beer, obvi)

On Christmas morning (afternoon) when we rolled out of bed, I got to work mixing some delicious lemon-ginger scones sent by the Naylon family in an amazing care package full of yumminess (including gorgeous jewelry and the ingredients for some seriously delicious polenta cakes we made). What a wonderful Christmas treat — thank you!

Evan had to open one present early (coffee from Starbucks) so it could brew, and Tim showed us one of his gifts also — WIRELESS INTERNET! Best gift ever! No more being a slave to the cord.

We ate the scones with eggs and slurped coffee while we watched Home Alone. I forgot how awesome that movie was.

After a cat nap and a shower, we threw together mashed sweet potatoes and gravy, then hurried out of the apartment to Beatles, where we were meeting friends for a potluck holiday dinner.

We hit the street just in time to see a flurry of snow fall from the sky. A white Christmas! I whooped and hollered, taking lots of pictures and even a video. Snow is still novel to me, okay?

The spread at the potluck was insanely good. The star of the table was the turkey from Costco — a rare and expensive find here, so I was grateful for every tryptophan-laced bite.

The sides ranged from vegetables and stuffing, to potatoes and bread, to onion dip, bread and cheese! It was a delectable feast that I grazed at all night. It had been so long since I had onion dip, so I was majorly hooked on it, and only stopped trying to scrape up the last gobs from the bowl when it was, sadly, removed from the table.

I opted for red wine with my dinner, but was in for another treat when Eric brought homemade eggnog. Amazing. It was so good! Just like Lyndon’s mulled wine/brandy, a Scottish traditional drink.

The layout was perfect for a holiday meal, with comfortable couches littered around the place and cheery carols on the speakers.

At one point, Tim got into an amusing Go Stop marathon with a lovely girl we met their, Jasmine.

They were pretty evenly matched, but Jasmine took Tim in the end (and the 8,000 won that was at stake on the card game). You win some, you lose some.

I particularly enjoyed singing carols onstage at one point, crooning and laughing into the mic. Dave took care of the guitar!

All night the snow didn’t stop falling, and a few times I caught myself in a trance, hypnotized by the soft, slow flakes that glided gently to the ground. It was picturesque, simply stunning, and mesmerizing.

After our bellies were full and the food was put away, we decided to throw on our dancing shoes and head to M2, a relatively new club in Cheonbukdae.

We went with a few friends, and met up with a few at the club!

The place was seriously poppin’ — Christmas isn’t so much a family holiday in Korea, so the twenty-somethings had no qualms about hitting the dance floor on Jesus’ birthday. While we were there, three different deejays took the turntables, and they were all awesome.

Here’s clown face spinner — a little creepy but spins really well.

We stumbled out of the club into the snow after 4 AM, then headed straight for KFC for some fried chicken. nom nom nommm.

A very Merry, and certainly memorable, Christmas <3

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Every year, Radio Star hosts a Rock Lottery, where musicians from all around the city enter their names into a drawing, bands are randomly selected, and the rockers have about a month (I believe) of practice before taking the stage together.

On Saturday, we pregamed with some liters of Hite at Chris’ apartment while watching a truly hilarious show called “An Idiot Abroad.” Basically, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send their pal, comedian Karl Pilkington (who is ridiculously funny) around the world to experience new cultures. Very funny — download it now.

After wetting our whistles, we snagged a front-row table at the bar, grabbed some pints, and waited for the show to begin.

While the lottery participants prepared to go on, the opening band DillyTangs took the stage. This is a band that we’ve seen at Radio Star quite a few times, and they kill it with their covers. Quite entertaining.

Our buddy Dave took the stage first with his troupe, Mormon Vampires. Looking snazzy in their suits, the men played a variety of songs, including an interesting mash-up of Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wonderwall — and my personal favorite, Johnny Be Good.

Up next were Tae Sang and the Terrific T’s, who belted out some jazzy beats and a particularly nice version of Hotel California. The lead guitarist, as you will see shortly, is hands down one of the best I have ever seen. Seriously. He’s incredible with that thing.

The Serene Sex Wailers took the stage next, and unfortunately, I missed a chunk of their set to run and grab two BLTs from Little Jakob’s, a coffee shop down the street in Jungwhasadong (we skipped dinner to get good seats at the show) — which happened to be one of the first decent sandwiches I’ve had in Korea! But more about that later. Here is the band’s rendition of When You’re Strange, courtesy of my buddy’s YouTube channel.

After them, ladies took the mics during the Liquor Art set, and they played The XX which made me so excited that I only ended up filming a bit of them so I could start to dance and sing along, and not be bothered by my camera :)

The last act to perform was In Your Eyes, but I wasn’t feeling 100% and bowed out of the club early to get a good night’s sleep before a Skype date with my bestie in the morning. I missed most of their set, but liked what I did see! The afterparty sounded like fun though, so I wish I had seen that.

Here are some highlights from some of the performances — mostly early ones, since my mind wasn’t on my camera later in the evening :)

It turned out to be a really fun night, full of awesome music, friends, dancing and singing. Really and truly, is there anything better than live music to liven up an evening?

Maybe a story about how later on that evening, Evan and Chris went to McDonald’s five minutes before breakfasttime and were forced to get “real food.” LOL.

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This weekend, Evan, Greg, Rachel and I went on a mission up to Seoul for Global Gathering 2010 — a huge electronic music festival held at Hanji Park next to the river in Seoul. The all-night event, in a matter of words, was epic. The first time I have really danced my pants off since coming to Korea!

We hopped aboard a bus from Jeonju around 10:45, which put us in Seoul around 1:45. Since we weren’t planning on going to the venue right when the music started (since, who does that?) we had some time to kill in the big city. We joined a party crew of my college friend Alyssa, who is living in Seoul, for the weekend.

Since Alyssa got stuck with an incompetent cab driver who got lost en route to meet us at the bus station, our new friend Lydia saved the day by taking us back to her apartment. She is totally hospitable and fabulous, with extra cool points for being a fellow gaucho.

After downing multiple drinks and burgers from a joint near Lydia’s place, we made our way to the subway, en route to the festival! We danced, sang, shouted, sipped soju and stomped our way through the subway stations, missing one of our stops on the way.

Evan and I passed time on the train by rocking out to — and occasionally singing aloud — jams from my ipod. Robyn S “Show Me Love” is always a good song to get pumped to! After getting out at the World Cup Stadium, it was another hike to get to the park. Travel time was three hours, but we had fun and didn’t miss Justice, so it was all good.

We pushed our way to the front of the crowd as the French deejays played, swaying and shaking it with the crowd. Alyssa lost her cell phone briefly, but it was found by a nice group of guys next to us.

Lydia gave them a proper thank you.

Fatboy Slim took the stage next, and he killed it. The best thing about the performances is that they were hours longer than I had ever seen any of these artists play. We danced nonstop, as the seemingly endless stream of music flowed out over the crowd.

Armin Van Buren ended our evening (er, morning) with a trance mix. Evan, Alyssa and I got a second wind as we bounced and pumped our fists to the Dutch spinner’s tracks.

We decided to head straight to the bus station after the concert, since it was nearly 5 AM and the first bus to Jeonju was at 5:30. By 8:30 AM, we had stumbled home safely, exhausted and happy, and were able to curl up in our own bed.

The sheer length of the deejay sets made this experience a real stand-out. That, and the food and drinks at the venue were a steal — the quality of the grub didn’t compare to the fare at Fuji Rock, but it was still fairly impressive.

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Music festivals are notorious for their greasy fare — from salty nachos to fried Snickers bars, you are able to get your gluttony on while jamming to your favorite bands. As the world gravitated toward fresh, local and sustainable food in the past few years, these fiestas still specialized in serving up artery-clogging delights.

Alas, times they are a-changing. The demand for delicious and nutritious chow has trickled down from the hybrid-driving, farmer’s market attendees to people grooving to indie bands during this music festival season. (The county fair-goers have yet to catch on to the trend — don’t hold your breath. They still think that vegetables that aren’t from the Jolly Green Giant are for liberal elitists) That’s okay, more for us — they’ll be singing a different tune when they’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Smear that on a cracker and eat it, Laura Ingraham lovers!

Not that I don’t love me a double-fried corndog — it’s just all about moderation.

As an expat in South Korea, I have been blessed with (forced to deal with) the limited availability of my favorite fruits and vegetables. Gone are the days of year-round cherry tomatoes, creamy avocados and sweet corn. We certainly are spoiled in the sunshine state.

The 2010 Fuji Rock festival marked a significant change in my less-than-enthusiastic attitude about concert grub. Freshly cooked seafood paella, sprinkled with paprika, replaced soggy fries sitting under heat lamps. Gone were the fried pickles, substituted with lesser-known Jamaican food. Nary a corndog in sight — but whole fish fire-roasted on a stick provided a healthy, filling alternative. Imagine!

Not only was the prepared food healthier, the festival promoters also offered a variety of summer-ready produce, including cucumber-on-a-stick and an plump, meaty tomato, bitten straight into like it was an apple. Both of those ended up selling out by day two – those Japanese proved to be more health-conscious than us peanut oil lovin’ Americans.

For two days I indulged in döner kebabs, the Turkish treat that took me right back to stumbling the streets of Paris in a tipsy stupor, looking for late-night food to satisfy my angry, drunk stomach. Thin layers of meat were shaved into a warm pita, piled high with cold, crisp veggies and drizzled with a Tzatziki sauce. Not my most waistline-friendly option, but it was damn delicious.

The arrival of ethnic cuisine to the music scene has brought along with it improvements in the caloric count. Apart from the British (who served up deep-fried fish and chips), the World Restaurant at Fuji contained a wide variety of heart-healthy alternatives.

One particularly tasty meal we had at the festival was a Japanese-style hamburger, made with poultry and smeared with a miso-based sauce.

The other delectable dish we shared was a rustic, wood fired pizza, with a crispy, thin crust smeared with a light layer of tomato sauce, sausage, tomatoes, basil and cheese. Best pizza I’ve had since leaving America, hands down.

The better quality of festival fare isn’t limited to Asia — it has successfully crossed the pond to granola-loving San Francisco. The 2010 Outside Lands festival boasts an impressive range of food from local establishments — everything from grass-fed organic beef hot dogs and Hawaiian poke to raw oysters and cilantro-lime chicken skewers. The website even features the cuisine prominently as an attraction, dubbed “A Taste of the Bay Area.”

The world is moving in a healthy direction — and I’ll be here to lap up the rewards every step of the way.

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When camping at Coachella, my friends and I would always dance and party to the wee hours of morning, then pass out in our tent until the scorching heat woke us up earlier than we had ever intended to see the next day. We were “roughing it” with the other campers, waiting in lines for our private showers and sweating nonstop in the desert heat.

Flashback pic!

Fuji Rock made camping at Coachella seem like we were staying in the Palm Springs Marriott.

After arriving at the festival, Ev and I pulled our bags through mud and muck, hoping that the rain would stay away long enough for us to pitch our tent. When we arrived at the campsite, all of the flat land was covered by brightly-colored tents and tarps, full of cheery campers. We found a slight incline, and set up our orange Coleman Hooligan.

At this point, we hadn’t eaten for hours, we were covered with mud and sweat, and ready to finally enjoy the festival. Not so fast. Originally, we set up shop so that we were laying perpendicular to the incline. I casually mentioned it may have been better if we had pitched it so our feet faced downward on the slope, and planted a seed in Evan’s head. There was no turning back until we moved the tent. So we took out the stakes, and rotated it.

We packed a backpack with our ponchos and headed into the gates of the festival. Since umbrellas can impede views of musicians, and also poke people’s eyes out, they were strictly forbidden. The rain started to come down as we danced under the Red Marquee, listening to The XX.

It poured. I hadn’t seen rain shoot from the sky like that in a long time. When it came time to switch stages, we put on our ponchos and faced the flood.

The water that rushed from the sky caused the ground around many of the stages to turn into a muddy slush. I wore rubber rain boots to protect my feet, but the first day Evan braved it with flip flops. Needless to say, he didn’t do that again.

Aside from the water works, hiking between stages also presented a challenge. The rain may have been thundering down, but it is still summer — aka HOT and HUMID — so sometimes the thick, plastic ponchos became unbearable saunas, forcing us to remove them and let the rain dampen our clothes. The pathways in the woodsy venue were not grassy hills. Instead, we climbed over everything from mud and jutting rocks to gravel. My feet still have not forgiven me, still bruised and scarred from the uncomfortable terrain and blisters that formed in my footwear, which I hadn’t had the time to break in.

The rain stopped when we headed out of the festival on Friday, so we shoved our muddy ponchos in the backpack and fell, exhausted, on to the floor of the tent. We tossed and turned in our sticky sleeping bags, which were perfect for cold weather but much too hot for summertime in Japan. Finally, we gave up on them, and slept on the tarp bottom of the tent. Sleeping through the night was really hard — I found myself waking up at the bottom of the tent, nestled up against my suitcase after having slid down from the elevated part where my head sat.

I couldn’t sleep any longer than 6 or 7 AM each day, as the sun breathed fire on our little tent. On Saturday, I hit the shower line hot, sweaty and dehydrated. I lasted about 45 minutes in the brutal sun before feeling faint, chugging water, and then throwing it all up in front of disgusted campers who were waiting with me. I ended up waiting at least an hour and a half before I was able to get into the group shower room with four other girls. By that time, my pale, freckled skin had become a deep crimson — a painful reminder of the weekend that lasted a good seven days.

The river did provide solace from the sizzling sun — I romped around in the water in my rain boots, grateful as the hot rubber dropped degrees.

After drinking water and eating chips, I was back to my normal self. The rain started coming down hard around mid-to-late afternoon every day, and as soon as the drizzle started, we’d slap on our dark-blue rain protectors and keep right on trucking.

The occasional bouts of sunlight were appreciated, but got too warm too quickly. My sunburn didn’t worsen over the weekend, but I certainly felt the affects of having been careless the first day in the shower line. On rare occasions where the grass was dry, we’d lay down and soak up the rays.

On our last night, while waiting for Scissor Sisters, we passed out under the trees and woke to rain dumping down on us. Luckily, we had our bags under our ponchos, so they were spared from the water. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t let up that night, so we had to take off our ponchos and our shoes before getting into the tent, soaking ourselves and the inside of our shelter in the process.

We awoke at 6 AM the next morning, exhausted but determined to beat the crowd to some of the first shuttles leaving the campsite. The weather didn’t like that idea, so rain angrily pelted our tent for 30 minutes, as we waited impatiently to get the hell outta there. Finally, the showers subdued and we were able to quickly wipe down the tent and roll it up as our fellow campers poked their heads out of their tents and started disassembling their own shelters.

We ditched our soaking wet towels and practically ran to the shuttle line, which was still relatively short. Everyone had to be out of there by noon, so you can see why we were in such a rush at 7 AM. Luckily, we were able to get to the train station and catch a Shinkansen back to Tokyo by 9:30, putting us — dirty, wet and cross-eyed tired — back to Mary’s a little after noon.

It would be putting it mildly to say that we roughed it — I mean, neither of us is Bear Grylls, but the weather was definitely a challenge. Alas, getting whipped by rain and charred by the sun is just part of the Fuji experience — and there were definitely transcendent moments of rain lightly splashing on me while I danced, and soaking up sun on a mountain in Japan, that were truly unforgettable.

It was all worth it — after all, disasters aside, nature is our element.

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If the exquisite landscape of the music festival weren’t enough, a number of my old favorite bands — as well as some new, pleasant surprises — strummed, drummed and rocked the forest for three nights straight. We listened to the music, soaking it in as we lay in the sun or dancing methodically as the rain poured down around us. So many different experiences and moods squeezed into one weekend!

On Friday, we were all about the Red Marquee. After chowing down some lunch, we headed under the crimson tent, sat on our plastic bags, sipped our ciders and waited for Miike Snow to arrive onstage.

The Swedes did not disappoint! Ev and I grooved to their electro-pop sound — they were a definite highlight of the weekend.

Next onstage were Broken Bells, a well-fitting combination of Danger Mouse and James Mercer, the lead singer of The Shins (Pink Bullets, anyone?) They killed it. Excellent.

Last at the Red Marquee were The XX, who were even better when we saw them open for Friendly Fires at the Music Box in L.A. Seriously, the lead singer Romy’s voice is so sexual, so hypnotic you feel like it is oozes offstage and floods the dance floor. Intense, and amazing.

Broken Social Scene was on next. We sat in the trees, in the rain, to listen to their melodies.

After that, Evan and I trekked to the Green Stage to watch Muse for a bit — who actually killed it. The rain had picked up by then, and everyone in the crowd was on their feet, jamming to the music and enjoying the light/laser show. The robots during Supermassive Black Hole were awesome. We whooped and shook our stuff, squishing our feet in the muddy field.

Then we decided to head deeper into the festival to catch some of !!! at the White Stage. Again, an impressive performance. I had seen them at Coachella a few years back, but it seemed like they hadn’t lost their edge.

Late night it was time to get silly at Orange Court, where Fischerspooner and Ken Ishii spun some sick beats. We bounced around with our fellow festival-goers, shaking their lightsticks and screaming as the deejays threw down intense bass.

After a long morning that consisted of me becoming sunburnt and so dehydrated in the bathroom line that I got sick, I was ready to relax and listen to some Red Marquee tunes while we ate lunch in the trees. After exploring the festival for the morning, Evan and I found soft grass at the Gypsy Avalon to lay on and doze as we waited for Matt and Kim to start. It was nice to mellow out for a bit.

Matt and Kim officially became the second highlight of the festival when they brought down the hippie crowd at the rainbow stage with their upbeat tunes. The Brooklyn-based duo also showed a lot of appreciation for being invited to their first-ever Asian show, and did a great job of pumping up all of their Japanese fans.

They also covered Better Off Alone, which was amazing. Ev and I were two of the only people who knew the words, so we shouted them, haha.

Feeling refreshed after the cat nap and jump around in the mud, we hung out at the river a bit, grabbed a bite to eat, then headed toward the Green Stage to see John Foggerty. Evan joined the crowd and I hung back, sipping beer and swaying slowly on my portable plastic sheet. The sun set as he belted out all of the great CCR jams. It was fantastic.

By then, it was time to head to the White Stage to grab a spot for MGMT. Luckily, I found a platform on the stage left, where we could rest our achy feet and legs. Because of the monsoon-like weather, you were grateful to find seats when you could. We were also glad we got there early — they had to shut down entrances around the stage due to over-capacity!

MGMT put on a great show, much better than when we saw them at Treasure Island in SF (then again, this time they weren’t competing with the phenomenal Passion Pit and MSTRKRFT). We toasted, took pictures and sang along to our old favorites.

This instrumental break, during “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters,” is and will probably always be my favorite piece of music done by them. Simply beautiful — there’s really nothing like swaying like one with a crowd full of strangers to music that transports you to another level.

After that show, we passed out under the Red Marquee, waiting for Boys Noize to start their late night spinning set. They were amazing, even though we were both so groggy by the time they took to the turntable.

On Sunday, we were treated to an early-ish set by Yeasayer, another excellent show.

From there, we hiked to the Field of Heaven to watch Ozomatli give some latin flavor to the festival. The whole crowd, with billowy clothes and throwing peace signs, jammed and danced slow cha-chas as the Los Angeles band did their thing.

We grooved with these guys, they were loving it!

Afterward, we gave up the chance to see Hot Chip in order to catch LCD Soundsystem perform This is Happening — another highlight of the weekend. They were fantastic! I was so jealous after I missed them at Coachella, but seeing them from “our platform” at the White Stage more than made up for it. They played during sunset too, singing tunes as the sun sank below the tree line. It was awesome.

We planned on dozing under the trees near the Red Marquee afterward, and ended up passing out only to be woken by raindrops the size of quarters thundering down on us. Thank goodness we had the sense to cuddle up in our ponchos, or we would have been DRENCHED. We snapped out of it, and ran to the Green Stage to see Scissor Sisters.

Ah-ma-zing. Here’s a little taste of the music that we were treated to during the weekend:

We plugged on for three days, running on ethnic food, lots of booze and very little sleep. Music ran through our veins, filling us with adrenaline and the motivation to keep hiking, nay running, from one stage to another, even with blisters covering our feet and never ever getting quite dry. It was a battle of the elements, and worth every single yen and minute spent.

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