Taylor Swift’s return to touring is an event of immense magnitude for her dedicated fanbase. Since her last tour in 2018, the superstar has released four new albums and re-recorded many of her earlier albums with added tracks.
Six of the first dozen shows of her Eras Tour are scheduled in Texas, with three taking place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in early March and another three this weekend at NRG Stadium in Houston. Fans are eagerly anticipating the pop sensation’s arrival back in the Lone Star State.
Swifties, as her fans are called, are known for their unwavering loyalty, which is partly due to their long-standing love for her music. For example, 31-year-old Austinite Cara Gustafson, who has tickets for the Houston concert, has been listening to Taylor Swift for nearly half her life and knows every song.
“I just feel like she’s been such a significant part of my life,” she says. “For every stage of my life and every album, I remember where I was when it came out and where I was at that time in my life.”
For Gustafson and other long-time fans, the Eras Tour holds a particular significance because Taylor Swift will perform music from all ten of her albums, spanning her entire career and taking concert-goers through each era.
Like any prominent public figure, Taylor Swift has her share of detractors, including those who consider her music to be overly simplistic or uninspired, and others who feel she is overrated. Some conservative listeners were displeased when she endorsed Democratic candidates in 2018, while some on the left argue that her activism is not extensive enough.
Despite being aware of this, the fans I spoke with expressed that their admiration for Taylor Swift runs far deeper than political affiliations or awards. Their affection for her goes beyond simply enjoying her music. They shared how Taylor Swift’s songs have been the soundtrack for both significant and small moments in their lives, providing comfort, understanding, and empowerment during hard times and life-changing events.
Michelle Pitcher, who grew up in Coppell and currently resides in Austin, recalls a small moment that left a lasting impression on her.
“In middle school, I distinctly remember listening to Taylor’s ‘Fearless’ album on a field trip, staring out the window of the bus, and pretending I was in a music video,” she said. “So, she’s been a part of my life for quite some time.”
For Katie Wilson, her very first concert experience was with Taylor Swift back in 2011.
“I was so thrilled, I was practically jumping with joy,” said Wilson, who was raised in Lubbock. “It’s also a sentimental memory for me, because when I was a junior in high school, my mom passed away, and when I was in the sixth grade, she took me to that concert. So, it was a wonderful moment for me and her, and I’ll always cherish it.”
Hope Lenamon, who grew up near Waco and now lives in Austin, found solace in Taylor Swift’s music. Lenamon, 26, remembers the first time she heard a Swift song.
“I was in the backseat of my dad’s old pickup truck. He was driving my sister and me home from school,” she said. “And I recall hearing ‘Our Song’ come on the radio, and I immediately became obsessed with it.”
Lenamon was around 12 years old when this happened, which was also when she began noticing something about herself.
“That’s when I started to realize that I don’t look at boys the way other girls do,” she said. “Being a closeted queer kid in rural Texas was difficult, and it was nice to be able to sing along to Taylor Swift’s songs. Many of her songs aren’t particularly gendered, so I could be thinking of my crush from eighth-period athletics, the eighth-grade volleyball star, but it sounded like I was singing about boys like all the other girls my age. It gave me a safe space to experiment with ideas of love and longing.”
Lenamon is attending two shows, one in Arlington and the other in Houston, with her college best friend, whom she bonded with over their shared admiration for Taylor Swift. They stay up late for all of the album releases but have never attended a show together.
A Family Gathering
Andrew Ledbetter is eagerly anticipating attending a Taylor Swift concert with his wife and two daughters.
“It’s a chance to see the tour and celebrate it live with the people I love the most in the world, who also happen to be Taylor Swift fans,” he said. “I’m really excited about it.”
Ledbetter is in his 40s and teaches communication studies at Texas Christian University. He acknowledges that he might not fit the typical Swiftie mold, but he’s fully committed. He loves that Swift’s music offers a song for every mood.
Ledbetter’s love for Taylor Swift is evident in his website where he has ranked all of her songs. He has also created a custom T-shirt for the concert, displaying his top 10 favorite songs and a QR code that leads to his site.
However, Ledbetter is not the only fan who has created custom shirts for the event, as what you wear to a Taylor Swift concert is a big deal for many. Some devotees spend hours crafting homemade costume pieces, embellishing their clothes with jewels or painting jean jackets.
Fans feel the need to go all-out for Swift and celebrate her music in the company of other enthusiasts who are equally excited and dressed up for the occasion. Several concertgoers have even picked an “era” to dress up as, matching the style of their favorite album.
Fans Uniting Through Shared Traditions and Love for Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s upcoming concerts are not just bringing local communities together, but also fans from all over the country. Several videos have emerged of Swifties singing together on planefuls en route to the shows.
Before the first note is even played, fans are already establishing new traditions for the Eras Tour. Many are creating dozens of friendship bracelets to exchange with strangers, while others are painting Taylor’s lucky number 13 on their hands or writing lyrics on their arms.
For Michelle Pitcher, though, the most important aspect of Swift’s music is the emotional connection it provides. “I’ve always been able to return to some Taylor Swift song that makes me feel like seen emotionally, makes my emotions feel validated.
It’s catharsis singing in the car,” she said. “She’s been around for much of my formative years. And, you know, she’s just like a friend at this point. She’s a pal. And I just really appreciate what she’s done and how she’s there for everyone.”
At the upcoming concerts in Texas, fans will be there to support Taylor Swift just as much as she has supported them through her music. Although not everyone was able to get tickets, those who did will surely make the most of the experience and the opportunity to connect with fellow Swifties through their shared love for the star.
“If I’m in a happy, upbeat mood, I might go for something from ‘Lover.’ If I want something more reflective, I can turn to ‘Folklore,'” he said. “If I want to remember the nostalgia of when I first started enjoying Taylor Swift, I can listen to ‘Fearless’ or ‘Speak Now’ or something like that.”