The opening acts were done. The crowd was raucous. The energy was building, and I was there, in the middle of it all. I can’t describe how amazing this Taylor Swift show was, but I can tell you with utmost certainty that I will remember it for as long as I have control of my faculties. It’s a week later, and I’m still so blown away by the atmosphere, by the connection, by everything that made it such a special series of moments.
And Taylor. So much Taylor.
“It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you.”
I guess it all started in 2010, when I first heard “Back to December” on the radio. Back when I actually listened to the radio. The song was pop, but with a force behind it that made me sit still and just listen. If you know me, you’ll know how rare that was, and is, yet there it is. I had to know who the singer was, and when I found out it was Taylor Swift–the country singer–I was taken aback, but I didn’t hold it against her. In fact, it reminded me of how thin those lines really are between musical genres.
I’ve been a fan ever since.
Fast forward to last fall, when, after twelve years, I was finally in a position to see Taylor Swift live. I found out when the preferred tickets were going on sale, and I did what any Taylor Swift fan would do. I prayed. Then I turned to my wife, who has experience with this kind of situation. She promised me we would do what we needed to do to get the tickets. So, at ten in the morning on ticket day, I was in the queue, and I got this message: You are 10,000+ in the queue. What did it mean? Was I 10,001 or was I 60,000?
Was I going to get tickets?
I had, of course, heard the horror stories from people who had been ripped off by the new (and definitely not improved) dynamic pricing on tours from Springsteen on down, but Taylor Swift was the ultimate, so I knew there was no guarantee I would get tickets, or if I did, that I wouldn’t pay through the nose. Some tickets were going for a thousand or more, I found out, as Twitter churned throughout the day, and I stayed at 10,000+ in the queue. People were swearing about scalpers and how they were devastated when they were kicked out of the system after waiting for hours.
I looked at my screen at one in the afternoon, and I was still at 10,000+ in line, and I started to worry that all the tickets would be gone, that I would be devastated, that I would be kicked out of the system without getting the golden ticket(s). Damn that Veruca Salt for making me hate her impatience when I might very well be her when all was said and done. Then I got the text from my wife. She was down to 9,886 in line, and then my queue position finally started shifting as well.
I prayed again. Once the queue started moving it was only a matter of time before I got into the screen where the map was that would define my future. I had tried for the May 13th show at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the city of my birth, believing it would be lucky for me. I crossed my fingers as my wife texted me that she was in. I was still 100+ away from the coveted stadium map, and I told her to go for it–to get the tickets! She had them in her cart, but it wouldn’t let her buy them! I was freaking out as I finally got in and saw the map full of so many seats already gone! It was my worst nightmare, but I couldn’t think of that. I had to focus, to make sure I could think rationally enough to still get tickets.
My wife told me the tickets weren’t going to work out on her end, so it was up to me. I saw section 102 had a few seats still available, so I dove in, and I got them. I still can’t believe I got them. Even when the screen shifted (after of course making sure there was room on my credit card for the amount I had promised to pay) and said “You Got the Tickets!” I still needed to pinch myself.
I was going to see Taylor Swift.
I screamed out loud. Thank god I was alone in the house, that no one else was around to hear the sheer exultation, the pure animal exhalation that emerged from my lips, or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself anyway. Swifties gotta Swift. I was going to be in the same place, at the same time, as Taylor Swift. There was nothing in that moment that could have been better, save actually skipping the intervening months and arriving at Lincoln Financial Field, ready to celebrate with the woman herself. Don’t worry. I saved some of that sheer passion for when I finally locked eyes with Taylor Swift, when she arrived on stage those many months later, and I let myself pretend it was just the two of us.
Just the two of us, and the thousands of other sycophants who surrounding me, who sang along with me to every single lyric, who cried tears of joy at just being there, at just having the experience.
Before the show, when we were walking the halls of the stadium, I came across a man who was wearing a shirt that was the exact same pattern as…
“Evermore?” I asked him.
“You bet,” he said.
That man is my tribe.
Then she was on the stage, and–to steal shamelessly from Metallica–nothing else mattered. For my wife this moment would be equivalent to her finally getting to see a BTS show, so she understood, and she was there for me, holding onto me lest I pass out from the sheer magnitude of the moment.
I somehow survived, drenched in sweat and tears, having given my heart and soul and gotten it back many times over in return. When Taylor sat down at the piano, and we cheered, she smiled–again, just at me–and giggled. Oh. My. God. Taylor Swift giggled, and I was there to experience it. I was there for it. I was in my glory, and so was she, and so were we, and it was everything and more than I could have expected.
When I tell people that I’m a Swiftie, I see the looks. Either they understood, because they’re Swifties too, or they judge me because how can a man in his forties truly feel any kind of connection to Taylor Swift? They don’t understand, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if anyone else understands, because it’s a personal thing, though it’s also a thing shared with so many others. I looked around that stadium that night, and I felt it all around. My tribe was there for me, and we were all there for Taylor.
I won’t tell you how much I spent for those two tickets. Suffice it to say they weren’t cheap, but I also didn’t buy from scalpers, so there’s that. I ended up with VIP tickets, which came with a bevy of items in a box the week before the show, from a special physical ticket, to a set of posters specifically for VIPs for each particular show. Because I got two tickets (and my wife isn’t a Swiftie) both of these boxes are mine–one never to be touched, and the other to help create my Taylor Swift shrine.
Don’t judge me.
This tour was aptly named The Eras Tour, because it featured sections of songs from Taylor’s different eras (or really based on her different albums). The smallest Era represented was the Speak Now era, and I can only think that it’s because she is re-releasing that album later in the summer, and that it will get its own expanded set later on. I still missed hearing “Back to December,” though. But wow, what we did get was a rollicking thrill ride of 45 songs expertly woven together, with minimal breaks between each Era. What we did get was peak Taylor, with amazing wardrobes, incredible dancers, beautiful music, and the screaming voices of thousands of fans adding to the fervor and spiritually uplifting experience.
The show was over 3 1/2 hours long, but I would have stayed all day, basking in the glow of Taylor Swift, in the amazing moments we spent together. When it was over it was far too soon to leave. I stood there for a few minutes, while the strains of “You’re on Your Own, Kid” blasted over the speakers and others streamed past on their way out. I thought if I stood there long enough they would all be gone, and I would remain, and it would never end.
But, in a very real way, it never does end, not so long as I have the memories of that time, of that show, of the moments.
And Taylor. So much Taylor.