I’m wondering how Taylor Swift can change the world.
It’s Saturday night and I lucked into a seat in row six, section 116 at Levis Stadium. There is only one word to describe what is going on all around and that is spectacle. Like, the foursome of 12-year-olds who are dolled up in sequins and dresses, dancing and screaming through the entire 3+ hour set. They are cyborgs, their phones glued to their hands except when they ask me to film the back of them while they dance (who watches these videos? I wonder). They not only know every word to every song, they screech with glee at the first notes of each, throwing their hands in the air like one does when one achieves a lifetime achievement.
The Swifties know Taylor: My wife’s niece recently gave a rundown of all of Taylor’s love interests and the only one she should ever, ever consider getting back together with (Taylor Laughtner).
But it’s not just the 12-year-olds. I had a 12-year-old once (now 25 and living in Portland) and we would go to Justin Beeber concerts and she would scream and smile and sing along and make all the hand signals and that was fine because I was exposing my kid to live music and concerts and fun but this is that, times ten.
I am very lucky to have an awesome brother-in-law in the music biz and because he has friends he has a Nashville connection (remember kids who you know is just as important as what you know), with Taylor Swift’s manager. Now, because it is summer and my wife and I were about to travel to see my son who lives in Hawaii, my wife’s nephew is house sitting for us and he is not shy about asking for things so when the event of the year happened, my sister in-law lucked into 8 tickets 24 hours before the Saturday concert. I had mentioned that I would like to see Taylor for purely sociological reasons and boy was I rewarded (also kids, know what you want, say what you want, get what you want).
First, let’s talk about the money. Yes, the tickets were free for us but parking at the Santa Clara Marriott was $200. (not $20. But $200.) and some of the seats for Saturday’s show were going for $10,000. and up. Even at face value ($150) ticket prices for 50,000 people at the stadium, the cash generated is bananas, about 7 million per concert, double that with VIP’s and merch sales.
The ERAs tour had 146 shows which is why Taylor has two private jets and writes 100K bonus checks to her employees. But, the show they put on is EPIC and this is also why Taylor can do super cool things like rerelease 5 albums because she was screwed by her management. Taylor Swift is truly the golden goose of pop music. And did I mention she’s also very relatable, like when she danced to the side of the stage and looked in my direction I totally thought for a moment that she was pointing and winking at me!
Next, let’s talk people. I have repeated many times the story of meeting a teacher colleague for the first time at a training and when he told me he was going to see Taylor Swift I replied,
“Oh are you taking your little niece or cousin?”
“No, just me and my buddies, we’re big fans” he replied.
“Oh.” I said walking away before I said the wrong thing or started laughing uncontrollably. I was a music snob (oh, who am I kidding, I’m still a music snob) and I was shocked because I thought (think) that Taylor was for the kids.
But was I ever wrong on Saturday night. The number of adult women in sequined Daisy Dukes, pink cowboy boots and cowboy hats with built in lightshows was staggering. And as I looked around these Swiftie MILTLA (Moms I’d Like To Laugh At) were everywhere and about half had no kids in sight.
Then there’s the music. I mean I’m all for breakup songs and getting through all the problems a white upper middle-class life throws at you but how do all these people know all the words and why do they think I want to hear them sing/yell the lyrics? Music has power, I can still hear when Pearl Jam mockingly belted out the first few cords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when they were the third band at my Greatest Concert Ever (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam New Years,1991 Cow Palace). Will “We are never ever getting back together.” Have the same impact? I look around and think, maybe it already has.
And what is it about the interactive nature of the show? Is it just evolution that everybody sings every song while videoing or streaming the entire concert? I did take a picture at the beginning and send it to my kids as a little humble family brag but then I watched the show because there was a whole lot to watch. I especially liked Taylor’s two-story moss covered cabin which she sang from while lying on the roof. And did I mention the MILTLA?
At 11:30 the show was over, the lights came on, everybody looked a little tired and a lot older. Some picked up the confetti which had blanketed the stadium as I walked out with one of the 8 in our party who happened to be the pastor from Santa Cruz who married my wife and I 28 years ago.
We talked about the Swiftie power (huge), the influence (very wholesome, I heard profanity twice in Taylor’s songs and smelled zero cannabis which is incredible anywhere in California especially at a concert), and whether the second to last number, and many of the Swiftie costumes, were a little too provocative (maybe, but don’t be such a prude).
We also had that post-concert evaluation conversation: best outfit (the snake), best song (Anti-Hero because of the line, “Did you hear my covert narcissism, I disguise as altruism.” Did I mention Taylor is kind of a freaking genius songwriter?) and best effect (the cabin and the huge fire bursts where you could actually feel the heat during one of the songs).
Did I like it? Heck yes, all experience is good especially when you luck into a 6th row ticket for a major pop star event. Am I now a Swiftie? No, I probably won’t repeat the experience mostly because the music is not my jam and the costs are comedically high. Am I cynical about other Swifties? Heck no, at 12 I was going to the Ramones at the Warfield in SF wearing a black T-shirt, ripped jeans and green Converse high tops and singing along loudly to, “Hey, Ho. Let’s Go!”. Different time, same feeling.
And where will she go from here? I’m hoping politics. And I bet that if she announced a presidential run in 2024 she could give the old guys (the waaaayyy too old guys) a run for their money.
Plus how great would it be to have her break into, “You need to calm down” during the debates.
Taylor has great power and therefore great responsibility and while I’m joking about a presidential run, maybe not so much. Maybe a popular, creative, wholesome and inspiring young person is just what the country needs.