A week ago I did something I have dreamed about since I was 10 years old, something I have thought about time-and-time again, something I thought would never come to be a reality: I saw Taylor Swift in concert.
And might I say, it felt like a dream.
My mom and I drove up to New Jersey from Maryland, listening to every Taylor Swift song on the way up (in the order of my ranking, of course). It was a stroll down memory lane for my mom and I, with lots of laughter and tears as Taylor’s sweet and sassy voice filled the Honda air around us.
What I hadn’t realized until recently is the role my mother plays in my love for Taylor Swift. It sounds funny, but her songs have marked a lot of significant events in my life, all of which my mom has experienced with me. I touched on it a little bit in my last post, but seriously, I can remember exactly what I was feeling, and where I was as I listened to Taylor’s songs; Most of the time, my mom was right next to me.
So, when my parents surprised me with Taylor Swift tickets for my 21st birthday, I knew exactly who I wanted to take. It was a no-brainer, really.
My mom and I drove to Jersey full of excitement, listening to different Taylor eras, singing along to the lyrics, saying, “I hope she sings this one!” or, “OMG, she’s gonna KILL this song live!”, all the while documenting our trip with Insta stories and polaroids.
When we got to our hotel 4 hours later, we were bursting with energy. We set our bags down in our room, then went down to the hotel bar to enjoy a nice charcuterie board, along with a glass of red wine (thank you, hotel bartender, for thinking my ID was fake and telling me that I look no older than 16. That was great to hear.)
After finishing our wine, meat, and cheese, and seeing about 50 more girls come and check in to the hotel (a hub for Tay’s concert attendees, for sure), we headed back up to our hotel room. My mom brought a poster just in case we came up with an idea of what to put on it. Looking at the polaroids we took, it was clear we wanted to make a poster about our adventure and excitement getting to the concert, and what better lyric to use than “I had the best day with you today”. Disclaimer: when we played that song in the car, we both had to work REAL hard to keep the tears in.
We wrote the lyrics out in big, bold, black letters and placed the polaroids strategically around. We were so proud! I bet Mama Swift would love our poster if she saw it.
Unable to eat, drink, or do ANYTHING in such proximity to the concert, we ventured into our Lyft to the stadium, a little over an hour before the show started. We were dropped off right before the parking lots began, and had to walk the remaining distance to the entrance. As we started walking, we realized a bunch of people tailgating behind and near their cars. As we continued, we realized that every car was playing a different Taylor era. Some 2009 Taylor songs, some 2012, some reputation. As we walked along, the sweet sounds of every Taylor era filled our ears, and I became giddy. If I could imagine what it would be like to walk to the gates of Heaven, it would certainly be something like that.
Ear-to-ear smiles on both of our faces, we made it to the security gate. We hurried through the lines, expected nothing to be an issue, until a security guard tells us that our poster is too big, and we can’t bring it in the stadium.
What? Our mega cute mother-daughter poster is not allowed?
Turns out our lack of Taylor Swift concert experience shone through as there are measurement restrictions to posters. Nothing bigger than 11″x14″ allowed. Bummer. We snapped a picture of our beloved poster, tore the pictures off, handed the poster to the security guard, and made our way in the stadium.
The moment we stepped foot into the stadium, I lost it. Tears filled my eyes, emotions high as Taylor’s face and behind-the-scenes videos played all around. This was it. I was here. Now, a little fun fact about me: I am an ugly crier. Like some girls look really sweet when they cry, but not me at all. I’m an ugly wreck. So it was natural when I started crying just past the gates that I got some strange glances. Sorry, ladies. Ya girl is ugly crying all over her rep shirt. Deal with it.
After spending a good amount of time trying to find the way to our seats (you know my mom and I aren’t the best with navigating), we proceeded through the concrete hallway onto the field. There it was, that beautiful stage, where I would experience real life Taylor for the first time. What a magical place. What a magical night.
We made our way to our seats, freaked out with excitement, then sat and waited for the opening acts to start. Now, a fellow Swiftie of mine, who has been to 10 concerts come August, asked a couple days before the concert if I was going to dress up. I didn’t really understand what that meant. I wore high-waisted houndstooth shorts with a reputation shirt. That was “dressing up” right?
As I found out, dressing up for a Taylor Swift concert is like dressing up for a costume contest. Some costumes I spotted include Fearless Taylor, Red Taylor, ballerina Taylor, zombie Taylor, You Belong With Me Taylor, reputation Taylor, Taylor lyrics (ex: a guy dressed as a daisy holding a sign saying “I once was poison ivy but now…”), Taylor’s cats; You name it, a Swiftie was dressed up like it.
Swifties are notorious for creativity (and a bit of insanity, coming from an insider), and that definitely shone through the costumes.
The first act came and went, with scattered excitement or involvement. People were still filling in, with lots of empty seats around the stadium. A couple minutes before Camilla Cabella came on the stage to perform (who was wonderful, by the way), a dark-haired mother/daughter duo came and sat next to my mom and I.
“Oh my gosh,” the mother turns to us, speaking in a thick, confident, Brooklyn accent. “I’m so pissed. It took me TWO hours to get here. We live in Brooklyn, and it should NOT have taken that long!”
She turns to her daughter and tells her to go get food. Without hesitation, she gets up and walks away.
“Our seats were closer at her 1989 tour, but these are good too,” she states. “Have you ever seen her live?” She asks me.
I tell her it’s my first concert and that I’m beyond excited.
“Wow, that’s incredible. Yeah, she puts on a good show. It’ll be good, for sure. You know who else is good? Ariana Grande. My daughter saw Selena Gomez last year and guess what, even got to meet her! What a sweet heart, real kind. I’m taking her to see Ed Sheeran in September, that should be fun, except if the traffic is as bad as it was today. Ha! It better not take me that long to get here next time. Imma be pissed.”
I see my reflection in her large, round, blue sunglasses as she speaks to me, nodding and finding her fascinating already.
She looks around, observing her seats and the people around. Camilla comes on and we stand up, dancing to her music, watching her perform, as Brooklyn mom’s daughter comes back to the seat with a whole bunch of food. They sit down, starting to eat the food.
A group of girls from further in our isle ask to scooch by us, so my mom and I sit down to make room.
“You want some popcorn?” Brooklyn mom asks as she leans her popcorn in our direction.
We politely decline and she continues to eat her snacks.
The same girls scooch back into their seats.
Camilla’s act comes to an end, and music starts back up. The stadium is much more occupied, and filling up fast.
“So where are you guys from?” Brooklyn mom turns and asks us.
We tell her we are from Maryland and drove here for the concert.
“Oh my gosh, that is a long drive!”
She asks me how old I am and I tell her I’m going into my senior year of college.
“College?! What? No! I thought you were 15 or 16!”
So I’ve been told.
“My daughter is 15 so I assumed you were the same age as her.”
Okay, WHAT? Your daughter looks like a 23 year-old model, perfect skin and all. She could for sure star in Gossip Girl. Heck, she probably lives a real-life Gossip Girl life. How can she be 15? That’s just entirely not fair. When I was 15 I overused hair product, resulting in a constant crunchy hair look, and wore really ugly Rue21 outfits. Not to mention my social anxiety which resulted in constant awkwardness. Ugh.
I began to tell them about SCAD and my major, and they began to tell me about their fabulous life, traveling to Paris and Greece and Italy.
The girls in our row scooch in and out of their seats about 4 more times. When they ask to get back to their seats, Brooklyn mom turns to me, rolls her eyes, and says, “For the love of God, I’m gonna start charging admission to this row if they don’t stay seated! Ridiculous.”
I gave the girls a disclaimer that I would probably cry and lose my sh*t when Taylor comes out, and apologized in advance.
“Don’t apologize girl! That’s what her concerts are for!” Brooklyn mom assures me.
As many minutes have passed with behind-the-scenes Taylor Swift footage from music videos and secret sessions, the lights finally dim. A video starts to play on the screen, highlighting the gossip and trash people have said about Taylor. As the video played and the moment of seeing Taylor for the first time neared, I lost it, again. 10 years of hoping and wishing and dreaming of seeing her live was finally becoming a reality, and let me tell you, it was an emotional moment. Ugly tears came, and when the beat to “…Ready For It?” began, I lost my sh*t. The beautiful angel that is Taylor Swift appears in a black, sequin hoodie over her sequin one-piece, sky-high boots, and her curled blonde hair, as she shakes her hips and struts across the stage. Truly breath-taking.
Taylor performs on the front stage for a couple songs (including Love Story!!), gives a speech about what a reputation can do if it doesn’t match who you think you are, then she begins to sing Delicate (which you know, from my ranking, is one of my favorites). As she sings, she steps into what appears to be a wire bubble covered in string lights, which proceeds to lift her up and off the stage, into the crowd. She floats over the crowd, singing the lyrics to Delicate in her orange and blue sparkly outfit. As the song comes to an end, she steps off onto a hidden side stage.
WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?
She begins to sing Shake It Off, and I dance my BUTT off. Hair whips and all. After a couple more songs she steps off the stage and walks through the crowd to another hidden stage. At this point, my new fifteen-year-old Brooklyn friend turns to me and says, “let’s go!”, and takes my hand as we climb over chairs to get near the stage. Her fearless attitude and determination got us about 4 people away from the stage. It was amazing. We were so close, it was as if Taylor was singing right to us.
Surprisingly, my favorite song she performed was This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. The graphics were amazing, the energy was high, and everyone was dancing and shouting the lyrics together. It was so much fun, especially when I got to sing “here’s to my mama, had to listen to ALL THIS DRAMA” to my mom, and having my mom respond, “TRUUEEE”.
Needless to say, it was an incredible, dream-come-true experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted to experience it with any one other than my mom. After the concert we went back to our hotel room, ordered a pizza, and watched Friends until 2am. The best day.