Love & Wisdom
Discovering Taylor Swift
A mosh-pit era music fan attends the Taylor Swift concert and finds a culture of kindness in Seattle
By Natalie Compagno July 28, 2023
The takeover was complete. King County Council named July 18th-25th Taylor Swift Week, “for serving as a positive role model for women and girls,” the proclamation read. She would become the first artist to play Lumen Field two nights in a row. I said to myself: that’s cool, with a shrug.
I was not a Taylor Swift fan, but I wasn’t opposed to Taylor Swift either, per se. I knew some of her songs, I don’t live in a cave. I’ve bounced around to “Bad Blood,” “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” and countless others —I am sure— in my workout classes. Her ability to seep into our heads by osmosis should not be underestimated. A tween or teenager might be singing her songs at any given moment as I walk around University Village, creating earworms without my knowledge.
Practically everyone I know with concert tickets made preparations for the shows. Friends raided my closet of everything pink, prairie girl, or sequined. My 14-year-old niece was making as many friendship bracelets as she could. Craft stores were working overtime to supply people with enough charms and beads to cover the small arms of 140,000+ fans expected to attend that weekend. Take whatever you want, I told the Swifties. I don’t need it. Oh and here, have some of my beads I’m never going to do anything with. Oddly, I had a small collection from who knows where.
Then, I got invited to the Sunday night show.
I am a 50-year-old hardcore music fan with no kids. Hardcore might be a bit much, but my version of a concert has a very specific feel. It’s visceral, physical, and a little bit dangerous. It’s a wild party, with unwritten rules passed down since Elvis. – You don’t go with your parents. I came from the generation that surged to the front, moshed in the pit, stood on the shoulders, and jumped. Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Bronx, Billy Idol, insert 80s hair metal band here. Even if it wasn’t a hard rock show, concerts were about experiencing a crazy night of music with a small group of friends.
I was totally unprepared for Taylor Swift. And her power. What I learned surprised me.
my version of a concert has a very specific feel. It’s visceral, physical, and a little bit dangerous. It’s a wild party, with unwritten rules passed down since Elvis. – You don’t go with your parents.
First, I regretted giving away my wardrobe. Panic slowly set in. Clearly this was a tour that had a “look,” like Madonna’s The Virgin Tour. If I showed up in the wrong outfit, would I miss out on the fun? As a non-Swiftie, would I give myself away?
Arriving to the stadium was like riding a wave of adrenaline and love, wrapped up in glitter and flashing lights. Thousands of people were camping out in front of Mukilteo Plaza, dressed up as Taylor Swift. Correction: in honor of Taylor Swift. They didn’t have tickets to the show. This gaggle of girls—with some men and boys sprinkled in—was sharing bracelets, lit up cowboy hats, selfies. They were singing and dancing and laughing together. It had the intense camaraderie of a Grateful Dead parking lot, without the druggy vibe and “I Need a Miracle” signs. These fans didn’t have to be inside, their miracle was just listening to the music with other fans.
Stepping onto the floor of Lumen Field was as if being pulled by a magnetic force. It was more than a giant crowd. It was a stadium-filled costume party, a giant Guinness Book of World Records sleep over dance party. Thousands upon thousands of young girls stared up at the stage, in joyous anticipation of the corporal manifestation of Taylor Swift.
Someone touched my arm and gushed, “I love your dress!” I can’t remember the last time a teenager spoke to me as an equal. But then I understood. We were the same. We were here for the show. More than that we were here because we valued the same things. We shared a bond.
Arriving to the stadium was like riding a wave of adrenaline and love, wrapped up in glitter and flashing lights. Thousands of people were camping out in front of Mukilteo Plaza, dressed up as Taylor Swift. Correction: in honor of Taylor Swift.
From all available reports, Taylor Swift is a good person, hard-working, intelligent, and kind. This sounds glib and meaningless, but it is actually rather important. When our pop stars reveal rotten cores (looking at you, Kanye) we feel hoodwinked. When our transference of adulation also results in noble humanitarian outcomes (say, Elton John), it lifts us up as well. The exchange of friendship bracelets is the nobler version of Mardi Gras beads. It’s not about how many you get, it’s about how many you give away.
Taylor embodies wholesomeness with strength. Humility and perseverance. Her fans want to emulate her qualities. They want to be the best version of themselves. Her spirit was generous enough on this night to give one of her backup dancers his own personal birthday moment. This seemed evidence of her famed inclusivity—and proof that her greatest skill might be remaining an elusive pop idol, while still connecting like everyone’s oldest friend. At 33 years old, in a sense for many, she is.
Just behind me, I saw two of the best outfits of the night. A boy in a white button-up shirt with a red sequined heart cut out in the middle. He sported a gold tiara, while his partner wore a white dress with a Miss Americana sash. The show began with a deafening roar as Swift opened with “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince.” The couple started crying. I stood staring, embarrassed. But they weren’t. They seemed touched by my curiosity and welcomed me into their emotion.
As I looked around the crowd a sea of faces lit up, beaming in adoration. And they were singing, every word. Taylor’s costume and set changes were frequent and spectacular–white light boxes with dancers inside, a cabin in the woods, ladders climbing to purple clouds, real flames blasting heat that seems to reach the top deck. Still, the show wouldn’t have been the same without the Seattle audience as backup singers.
Ahead of performing “Lover” on Saturday, Taylor revealed she found a diary entry from her 2018 Reputation Tour that simply read, “Seattle, Washington is the best crowd I have ever played for.” I feel confident that Seattle lived up to its status. At one point, the screaming and applause got so loud, Taylor put her head on the foliage-adorned piano and beamed, seemingly visibly moved. The noise kept rising into a crescendo, until I thought we would all be carried away into the night sky.
Families and fans came from all over to experience the Seattle shows. I met people from Portland, Calgary, Salt Lake City, Vancouver, and Montana. I saw fans exchange numbers and promise to keep in touch. A seven-year-old girl with pink cheek designs and sparkles in her hair gave me three friendship bracelets. She was exhausted, having woken up at 4am to fly to Seattle, but when I asked her what her favorite Taylor Swift song was, she perked up and replied, “All of them.”
My niece attended as well, which was a special treat for me. It was her very first concert, and to see her so happy and buoyant filled my heart. She told me the energy of the crowd was amazing when she played her hits. Her favorite thing about Taylor is that she is always herself, and she puts her heart into everything she does. Not a bad mantra for life. Another young fan put it simply, “She brings people together.”
A special moment I took home included her two surprise songs, “Message in a Bottle” and “Tied Together with a Smile.” They touched me not only because she happened to sing these ballads ten rows in front of me and I could see her every expression, but also because they were our unique Sunday night gift. This is what Taylor does, she makes everyone feel special. That portion of the show helped me understand what a consummate performer she is. Regardless of what you think of her music, she leaves it all on the field as they say.
This is what Taylor does, she makes everyone feel special. That portion of the show helped me understand what a consummate performer she is. Regardless of what you think of her music, she leaves it all on the field as they say.
After the show, I ducked into a dive bar across from the Link to wait out the crowd. Two women were visiting from Portland. They are getting married in October and at the last minute, tickets became available at a “reasonable” price. This was a pre-wedding gift to each other. One told me about why they are such fans. She is the same age as Taylor Swift and feels like Taylor spoke to her at every stage of her life, like a best friend who empathizes and always has the right answers.
The next day, I pondered why so many people, primarily men, put down Taylor Swift and her fans. The urban dictionary notes one definition of a Swiftie as “a very annoying person who has a strange and loving obsession with Taylor Swift.” I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “That’s the power of girls. It’s scary. They are strong and vibrant. This is the next generation. And they’re listening to what Taylor Swift has to say; it’s a positive message. It could be worse.” Truth.
A bit later, I walked around my neighborhood. A car drove by with “Taylor Swift” written on it and pictures of her taped to the windows. A young girl peeped her head out of the window and asked, “Did you go to the show?” I waved, yes. It seems I now have 70,000 new Seattle besties.