In honor of my Spotify Wrapped this week, here’s a story for you...
Many moons ago, I set out to get tickets to the tour of the century. I should start by saying that I’m not a big concertgoer, usually. I hadn’t been to one in years prior to this one, and I can maybe say that I’ve been to a dozen or fewer concerts in my life. I had a sense that this one would be different from all of those, though, and it would be one of those experiences that I’d regret not trying to make happen. So, when I heard that I could try to get a code for advance ticket purchasing, I thought, “I’ll toss my hat in the ring here.”
I wasn’t expecting to get a code, but the day they were released, I was surprised to find one in my inbox. I told my wife, who had no idea I’d even tried for this and didn’t know that I was going to attempt to get us tickets. Silly me, I expected the ticket-buying process of old: you go to the site, click on the tickets you want, enter your credit card information, they send them to you (either mobile or print), and then, you’re done.
I was working the day the tickets went on pre-sale, so I started up my personal computer and set it on my desk next to my work one, went into a meeting, and told the person I was meeting with, “One second, I have to get in the ticket waiting room.” I joined the room, expecting to wait an hour or two, and about four hours later, I finally got in. Like anyone else trying to get tickets, I joined The Great War that day. Every time I went to click on tickets, I was told they were gone, despite them being available a microsecond before, or there was an error processing my purchase. I felt like one of those people working at the New York Stock Exchange yelling at virtual strangers to stop buying up my tickets. I must have tried to get tickets in every section, including floor seats, dozens and dozens of times before my wife came in and tried to research what was going on. You see, back then, for those not in the loop, we were naïve. We did not yet know that TicketMaster was the problem. I thought it was me. I thought that because I’d changed my TicketMaster password earlier, it was messing up. I told them I wasn’t a robot so many times, I worried they’d think I was a robot. I was so frustrated, I thought about giving up.
My wife decided that she’d take over, and we re-joined the waiting room just hoping something would be left, but by the end of that day, we still hadn’t, like many others, secured tickets. I was disappointed in myself because, again, I thought I’d done something wrong and had been flagged as a bot or scalper in the system.
Dear Reader, it turns out, it wasn’t me at all. It was greed and capitalism of the highest order from a company that has a monopoly on concert tickets and venues in this country, but this isn’t a blog about them, so let me get back to the real story.
The following day, I had to work again, so my wife went into the waiting room on my behalf. Lo and behold, after many hours and many more attempts, she secured tickets to a concert that just happened to be on her birthday, which was one of the reasons I’d wanted to get these tickets for her (us) in the first place.
I’ve been in some pretty high-stakes situations in my time. Car accidents; really bad plane turbulence; lost in Florence, Italy, with no phone and no clue how to find a cab; just being a woman walking down the street alone at night (or, anytime). Anyway, you get it. When I tell you the relief I felt when she got us the tickets, it rivaled that plane touching ground after oxygen masks deployed at 36,000 feet.
We were going to The Eras Tour, and while I will admit, I’m a late-to-the-game Swiftie, joining the ranks in the 1989 era, I was excited at the chance to see her perform live. I booked a hotel near the venue in advance, so we wouldn’t have to worry about traffic, and I thought, now, all I have to do is wait.
Boy, was I wrong… That hotel, which was part of my rewards program that I joined close to twenty years ago, decided to cancel the reservation I’d booked way in advance with my points just two months before my show. Practically all the hotels were already booked or were more expensive per night than the concert tickets themselves, but I persisted and found another hotel, after complaining to customer service and getting some bonus points for my trouble.
Then, because I’m an anxious planner and can’t leave anything to chance, like trying to get a shared ride or a parking space the night of the biggest event in town, I went to book a car to take us from the hotel (several miles away from the venue) to the concert, and every single company was all booked up, except for one. I booked them. I thought, now I’m done. I can wait and go to– Nope. My wife noticed a refund on our bank account one day close to the show from the aforementioned car company.
I reached out via email, and over a week later, they finally got back to me that they’d canceled my ordered ride by mistake. Cool. Cool. Cool. My stress and anxiety weren’t going through the roof or anything. I decided we’d just walk. I’m going to let go, chill out, and do what non-planners do: wing it. It about killed me, but I’d made my plan, and I was going to stick to it. Parking at the venue was sold out, so I couldn’t get a spot there. We’d walk and try to get a shared ride if we can. Then, I got an email that spots about a mile away were available for purchase. I snatched my spot because walking one mile would be way better than walking three miles in a city at midnight after the show.
Now, it’s the day before the concert, and we get to the hotel. We got there early because we were going to the second show in the city, and I knew traffic would be bad. We checked in and headed down to the hotel restaurant for lunch. I’m hAngry at this point, which I’m adult enough to admit, and we got the newest server in the place because half the staff had called off, and everyone else had been slammed all day because of people like me… ones attending the concerts that weekend. She was sweet, but it took twenty minutes to get our drinks (I got a soda, by the way, and my wife had water) and another forty for our food, which wasn’t very good. I tell you this because it had been an exhausting day already, I was starving, and they had the door open with a nice breeze coming through. I said to my wife, “That breeze feels good.” She said, “Something has to.” And I cracked up possibly out of sheer exhaustion, hunger, or because that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard.
The next morning rolls around, and we’re still debating how we’ll get there. Yes, we can park, but should we try for an Uber instead? Would that be easier? I should tell you, I am a big-time planner who gets nervous going to new places, especially with a lot of people, so I’d read every article I could about what to do, not to do, what to bring, what to not bring, etc., for this event ahead of it, and I still hadn’t decided if I was going to drive, park, and then walk, or get a damn Uber, if I could, right up until the time we left.
Now, here’s where the night really begins. We decided to drive and park, and that was surprisingly easy. The guy scanned the pass I’d bought, and I found a spot with ease. We got out of the car, and I said, “Follow the glitter,” or something equally appropriate, I’m sure. We followed hundreds of Swifties toward the venue, and some stopped and asked if I’d take pictures for them, so I did. Everyone was giddy. It was like a high I couldn’t explain. Pedi-cab drivers got the memo and were blaring Taylor songs from every era as they drove past, trying to pick people up and take them the rest of the way. At one point, I heard Lover, Wildest Dreams, and Karma playing at the same time. Then, there was one guy playing Rihanna, I think. He did not get the memo. We decided to keep walking, and I was getting more anxious the closer we got because there were more and more people around, but surprisingly, besides the heat and some crowded areas, we made it, and there was no line to scan our tickets. Before we headed inside, we saw a guy holding up a sign that said, “If you’re selling tickets, Speak Now,” and I loved that for him.
In we went, and we were surrounded by a lot of pink, sequins, glitter, clear bags with all our earthly possessions in them, funny shirts, and more. Again, I was anxious because that’s just who I am as a person, but I also strangely felt safe and understood at the same time. I think that’s what was different about this concert for me than the ones I’ve been to in the past: everyone was welcoming. Sure, there was some light pushing to get from one place to another, but when there are 70,000 people around, you get that. People were smiling and excited, talking about what they wanted to see that night. The air was thick with anticipation.
I had no idea who the opening acts were because I’d researched everything else but that, and we went to the bathroom first because I did not wear the adult diapers like some articles had suggested I do, and I wanted to take care of that first. The line was short, and we joined an even shorter one to get a bottle of water. At this point, we were sweating from our one-mile walk, and I was dreading sitting in the sun for another hour and a half before Taylor even hit the stage, but my genius wife managed to get us tickets in the section that was just below an awning. Is it an awning? A roof? Something like that. Anyway, we were shielded from the sun, and because the suites were right behind us, we had no one back there kicking my chair all night. Winning!
So, we sat there and put in our Loops. I highly recommend them for any concert. I could hear the whole show clearly, and my eardrums didn’t burst in the process. We watched the opening act, and the floor beneath our feet began to quake. Yes, where we were sitting had a warped metal floor, and whenever my fellow Swifties jumped, we felt like the earth was going to swallow us whole. So, you can imagine that we felt that for the next five hours or so. You get used to it.
One opener led to another who performed 5-6 songs. Then, it was a very short break; one of the shortest I’ve seen from openers to main acts, even when they only have a few instruments to set up. Finally, the giant clock appeared with 00:02:15 left until the show would begin. The cheering started and didn’t stop until around 11:45 PM that night.
When the clock struck 0, it began. Now, I’ve come prepared, so I knew what the opening would look like and what many of the costumes, sets, and the overall setlist would be, but when I tell you that it’s totally different in person, I mean it.
She pops up from under the stage and under the giant pink wing or cloud-like structures. I don’t know what the hell they are. Fans, maybe? And the screams I heard made me glad I brought those Loops.
I’d planned to take a few pictures and a couple of videos of my favorite and my wife’s favorite songs, but I practically had my phone aimed at the show the whole night. The little girl sitting next to me with her mom made probably 200 friendship bracelets and was trading with the women in front of me. The ones next to my wife didn’t stop jumping all night long. The ones right in front of us sang at each other more than they watched the show, and I do not want to watch their videos because their phones were aimed all over the place, and I’d probably get seasick.
Everyone had on their bracelets that lit up in choreographed dances that only got brighter and cooler as the day turned to night, and as that sun set, and the eras rolled on, I found myself thinking both, “God, this is a long show. I’m exhausted. My legs might fall off,” and, “I hope it never ends.” I don’t know how she does it night after night, and she’ll keep doing it for the next year or so, but she’s only off the stage for a total of possibly 10 minutes; might even be less time than that. She, of course, talks to you through the show and tells you a little about her journey in song. My favorite moment is when she says, “My name is Taylor,” as if no one there knows who she is. And what’s most interesting to me about that and everything else she does on stage when she’s not actually singing is this: she means it. She’s being genuine.
I’m not a human lie detector, even though my wife thinks I am, but I am generally pretty good at picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, and things like that to understand when someone is being truthful, lying, embellishing, or otherwise not being genuine. Despite the fact that she’s done this show numerous times and has said the same things night after night, heard the same screams, applause, and foot-stomping so loud I was fully prepared for the floor to cave in, over and over again, she still means it.
When she says thank you to her fans for supporting her re-recording her music, she means it. When she sings Archer and gets to the lyric, “You could stay,” it feels as if she’s saying to the fans, “You’ve stayed. You’ve stayed through all the eras, the good and the bad things that have been reported about me (whether true or not), and you’re still here.” Whether that’s true or not, or just how it felt to me in that moment, I’ll never know, but there’s something about how she looks on one of those big screens when she sings it, and there’s something about how the crowd screams back at her as if they know it, too, that makes me feel like I’m right.
Song after song, era after era, and night after night, she’s on that stage for 3.5 hours and never stops. Her energy, her theatrics, her movement, and her overall performance are better than anything I’ve ever seen on a stage. She controls 70,000 people at a time with heart hands or a Fearless twirl. She asks, “Do you have about ten minutes,” and touches the non-existent watch on her hand, and everyone cheers because they know it’s All Too Well time. They get quieter. When Marjorie is played, cell phone flashlights go up in unison to show support for the song about her grandmother. After Champagne Problems on the piano, it’s as if everyone just knows that’s when we’re all supposed to cheer forever, and she takes it all in.
When she gets to her surprise songs, the whole stadium is quiet and listens for that first note because we have no idea what she’s chosen for that night. I even found myself, hopeful for a certain song, listening, trying to pick out a few notes as she talks while strumming. When she tells us the name of the song, people cheer, and I’m sure some are disappointed because they wanted a different song, but she plays, and they sing, jump, and applaud. Then, the next song plays, and remember, it’s my wife’s birthday. She’d been hoping for one of two songs. If you’re still reading this thing all the way down here, you should know that she got one of them, the one she really wanted, which made the night that much better.
By the time we got to the Midnights era, I was tired, and I was just standing and sitting. Again, I don’t know how Taylor does this all the time. I felt like I needed to sleep for days to recover just from being there, but that was the adrenaline and the stress leading up to getting there more than anything. At the end of the night, she performs Karma. And I know it’s the final song, but I don’t want to leave. I want to stay there, locked in that world where she can sing, “Shade never made anybody less gay,” and the crowd cheers. Where people hand out friendship bracelets, even if you don’t have any to trade. Where people sing, dance, scream, and cry in happiness because they got to be one of The Lucky Ones to see this live.
The hardest part of the night was leaving that behind. Yes, getting out of the stadium sucked. Everyone arrived at different times, but we’re all leaving at once, so you can imagine. I heard someone walking behind me say, “I want her to start over right now and watch it all again.” And while there was no way I could go back in and do it again then, I agreed with her in spirit. I wanted to go back in and watch the whole thing, and I was happy I’d held my phone up for most of the night so I could at least relive part of the experience.
At one point during the show, Taylor talks about how these songs are all about different moments or feelings or experiences from her life, but her goal for the night is that we’d all leave with memories from the show connected to those songs now. I will fully admit that is the case for me. I love the last great american dynasty, and I’ll never be able to separate watching her perform that on stage in the folklore cabin, with her dancers moving around and the background forest greens behind her. I’ll never be able to think about Bad Blood without feeling the heat from the pyrotechnics that go up on beat. I’ll never be able to think about Karma without the fireworks that signal it being the final song of the event. And I’ll be honest and admit that I’ll never be able to think of Vigilante Shit without thinking of a certain outfit and chair situation.
Back in our room for the night, we crashed hard. The following morning, we woke up and proceeded through the day like zombies. The coming down from that kind of high was hard. There were naps, plural, and I kind of lost track of time a little. It felt like I’d lived two days in one, and I spent time uploading my photos and videos, watching them as I did to go back to that place at least virtually now.
With all the controversy and stress leading up to it pushed aside, once she took the stage, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. And I’ll always be grateful to Taylor Swift and everyone who contributes to her putting on a show like that, as well as all the other fans in the stands who were there making everything feel so Enchanted.