A Taylor Swift Fan Experiences the Rites of the Altar—But From a Distance

Photo credit: Raphael Lovaski via Unsplash



The people heading toward Arrowhead Stadium in the late afternoon of July 7th are not decked out in the red and gold garb of the local, prolifically successful football team, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Nor are they dressed in the merchandise of an opposition team; our only enemies are the entire corporation of Ticketmaster and its scalpers.

This is the Eras Tour. Today, the concertgoers heading toward Arrowhead play the newly rereleased version of Speak Now. They hoist up red, white, and blue flags that read Taylor Swift 2024. It is satire. I think. Actually, with Swifties, you can never be too sure. They wear gold dresses to channel Taylor’s Fearless album era and purple for Speak Now. They break in their cowgirl boots to pay homage to her country roots. Jasmine, my friend, and I made quick stops at Target; she bought a cowgirl hat for the occasion. She kept the tag on the hat and the receipt in her bag. They listened to “Love Story,” Taylor’s 2008 hit single, to get a whiff of nostalgia, and the lyrics “You were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles” led them to dress up as his star-crossed lover, Juliet. They anguished over their costumes, but it was worth it the moment a Swiftie screamed, “AHHHH, I LOVE THE REFERENCE!”

They are six and sixteen, thirty and seventy years old. They are mostly women. They are mostly White, but not totally. During that week, they confirmed their overpriced hotel bookings and made friendship bracelets for each other. They mobilized online in forums and fan accounts. They arrived, by car or shuttle, mostly in pairs and bunches, but some alone. Me and my bunch? We traveled by car, thus contributing to the gridlock on I-70. Yes, we were the nuisances to all those tax-paying, responsible civilians just trying to make it home from their nine-to-five jobs. And we relished the idea of being the subject of their dinner conversations.

Eventually, everyone congregates in the lot. We zigzag our way through the compound with our wrists and arms bejeweled with bracelets so plentiful that they, no doubt, are beginning to cut off our circulation. We greet each other with a “Would you like to trade?” Some are willing. Some are hesitant, too attached to their Michaels-made jewelry. Some requests are made by parents as their kids peer from behind them. The girls compliment each other with squeals. Their dresses are exaggerated and sparkled, their skirts flared and ruffled, and their pants eccentric, all representing the different songs and albums of Taylor.

A smile was not enough to convey my adoration for my favorite looks. My compliments were fervent. The luck we had in gaining these tickets deserved to be celebrated.

I will admit, my compliments for men were few and far between, for most I saw opted for some variant of blue jeans. The plain white tees they paired with them read “Girl Dad” or “Swiftie Boyfriend,” preempting questions about why they would be there with the answer that their appreciation for Taylor Swift was contingent on some woman in their lives.

Such was the case of the father sitting in front of Jasmine and me in the nosebleed section. His kids, two girls, sat sandwiched between him and his wife who jumped to her feet whenever Taylor’s older country songs were performed and sat still for the newer songs. Her girls mirrored her rhythm in reverse—blankly staring at their mom as songs like “You Belong with Me” that dominated the mom’s early thirties and my tween years blasted before jolting up for “You Need to Calm Down.”

They would regroup between sets.

“I have a question,” one of the daughters, a young curly-haired blond girl with an intermittent cough, began. She robotically took a selfie on Snapchat, an app emblematic of my middle school days. “What would like happen if our section just like collapsed or something?”

“Ummmmm,” her sister responded. “I feel like we’d be ok?” She paused. “Right, Dad?”

“Not exactly, kid.”

The group to the right of them, three millennial women, made it a habit to coo at everything these girls said and did. Dressed in all black and counting with the countdown the seconds until Taylor began her set, they held hands and rose from their seats. The woman in the middle took out her iPhone 11—it was cracked at the moment—and each member of this millennial group participated with excitement as they stared at the camera. “This was worth this month’s rent!!” The recording duty for each song alternated from person to person. The woman in the center sobbed when Taylor performed the songs from her Reputation album. Her friend on the right, wearing a newspaper graphic T-shirt, panned the camera towards her. Instinctively, the woman on the left raised her hands to cover her face, aware of the camera yet feigning embarrassment.

I did the same thing when Jasmine turned the camera towards me, singing louder and emoting more than I ever have. Sitting at the concert, being one of the only ones able to secure face-value tickets out of 3.5 billion requests, it is hard not to feel the immense need to document everything. How can we not proclaim that we were one of the chosen, somehow set apart? We marched into Arrowhead, tens of thousands of us, wearing varying symbols and colors that tied us to Taylor, studying the scripture of her lyrics that helped us deal with grief, heartbreak, or just the plight of being a teenage girl. We swapped stories about how we were able to secure tickets, each experience unique but universal in how we faced the trials and tribulations of Ticketmaster. We screamed when Taylor appeared on the stage, even if, to our eyes in the nosebleed section, she was a mere dot, for being in a room with her alone is enough. We were mesmerized by every dance move and every note. We sang along, like parishioners dutifully following a hymn on the songs we did not love, and like enthusiastic megachurch attendants for the songs we did love.

Taylor’s concerts serve as sacred places where fans come together and experience collective effervescence with fellow fans. One may not have any Swifties in their day-to-day life; thus, an occasion like this allows us to band together with those who also cling to Taylor’s lyrics. Every lyric, every melody is chanted with a fervor that surpasses mere admiration; it is a manifestation of devotion.