Ten years ago, August 22, 2008, my daughter and I attended our first Taylor Swift concert in Hartford, Connecticut. The original plan was to attend the concert a few weeks later in Massachusetts – a bit closer to our home in Maine. About to start high school, however, she was a bit worried (i.e., panicked): what if I have too much homework … So, we made the late August trip to Hartford. (The September concert was our second concert.)
This summer, my wife and I visited our daughter in Maryland. On a very hot and humid night at FedEx field, the three of us attended my 30th Taylor Swift concert.
There are so many memories across 10 years and 30 shows – from that 8-song set opening for Rascal Flatts to the 2-hour reputation Stadium Tour show.
With my daughter –
- Finding a public library with wifi close to my meeting in Rhode Island, waiting for Fearless tickets to go on sale and then sending her the two-word e-mail, We’re In!
- Later that summer driving home from that concert in Connecticut through a tropical storm.
- Deciding, sure we can make the drive to Philadelphia for a concert during spring break.
- Eating brunch in the Wesleyan dining hall before driving home for Christmas, while waiting for tickets that went on sale online at noon.
- Foxboro in the rain (more on that later)
- Stopping in DC for a concert on the way to college visits in North Carolina and Virginia
- Driving to Tanglewood on the rumor that Taylor would perform at the James Taylor concert. (she did)
- Capping off a family trip to Colorado, Wyoming, and Mt. Rushmore with a concert in Denver
- Walking around Georgetown last November taking pictures with ‘reputation’ UPS trucks.
And on my own –
- Trips driving around North Carolina for back-to-back shows in the Raleigh – Greensboro – Charlotte triangle (extended to Charlottesville/UVA and back-to-back-to-back shows in 2013)
- The 20-hour visit to NYC via Amtrak during Thanksgiving week for a concert at Madison Square Garden – with surprise guest James Taylor
- Combining concerts in the Twin Cities with visits to old friends from the University of Minnesota
There are two memories, however, that will always stand out above the rest.
Taylor in Maine – aka Hello, Boats! (August 27, 2010)
Taylor was in Maine for the premiere of the video for Mine, to be broadcast that evening on CMT. The radio was full of Taylor Sightings and rumors about the location of the secret broadcast. I was spending one of the last Fridays of the summer with the family. At the end of lunch, I decided to turn on my laptop to check my e-mail – no smartphone at that time.
There in my Inbox was an e-mail from Taylor Nation with the subject line “You’re Invited: Taylor’s CMT Taping in Maine”. The e-mail contained instructions about how to dress/behave for a live television show, and directions to a school in Kennebunkport where a bus would take guests to/from the still unnamed location of the taping.
This had to be some sort of prank. Sure, I lived in Maine, had attended a few concerts, and had already purchased way too much merchandise, but still… But what if it’s real? All we had to lose was the time for a short drive to Kennebunkport.
The e-mail didn’t mention anything about bringing a guest. If it’s real, will it work for two people? We made a plan and my daughter and I drove to the pickup location.
The good news, there was a bus and a small group of people. The bad news, all of the other people seemed to have had some involvement in the taping of the video earlier that summer – as extras, volunteers, or staff in places Taylor visited. There was a local person with a check-in list. Of course, we weren’t on her list and she knew nothing about the e-mail invitation. Thankfully, after reading the invitation and looking at my daughter she told us to get on the bus!
While the bus was on its way, the secret location was announced on the radio. When we arrived, there was a crowd lining the street and driveway leading up to the seaside property where the show would take place. With orange wristbands secure, we were led through the crowd to our designated area on the lawn. We were told what to expect and how to react during the run through without Taylor, the rehearsal with Taylor, the live show, and that there would be a small concert following the show. We were told that some of George H.W. Bush’s grandchildren were there and that the former President would arrive soon.
I stayed off to the side and watched Taylor arrive, and then a bit later, President Bush. My daughter, being better able to fit in small places worked her way up toward the front of the crowd. It all went perfectly. Taylor came out for the interview, turned and waved hello to the crowd of boats off shore, and the video premiered. After a short break Taylor returned with her band returned and performed a short concert. What a night!
Foxboro in the Rain (June 25, 2011)
I‘m not a fan of stadium shows, but I have attended five of Taylor’s ten concerts at Gillette Stadium (only half, clearly not obsessed). Each Gillette show has been a memorable experience, but none will ever match Foxboro in the Rain.
My daughter and I didn’t sit together. I had a seat on the floor near the stage. She didn’t want to sit on the floor, so she had a seat near the top of the lower level – in what fortuitously was one of the few covered rows at Gillette Stadium.
For me, the two highlights of the night were Mean and the rain. Coming into the show, I didn’t understand how strongly young fans related to Mean. Many of Taylor’s songs were autobiographical, but Mean was the first that was not a generic experience. It was explicitly about her and the claim that she couldn’t sing – “drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing.” I thought that the direct reference made the song less relatable. Apparently, however, the magic of Mean is that direct connection to Taylor’s experience.
Walking around before the show we saw a sea of ‘why you gotta be so mean’ t-shirts and small groups singing the song all around the stadium. And then the concert; sitting in front of the stage and hearing 50,000 young voices singing out strong
But someday I’ll be living in a big old city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
It was an overwhelming experience.
And then there was the rain. It started out as a light shower over part of the stadium. My daughter thought it was part of the show – Oh, they even have fake rain. There had already been fake snow earlier in the show (Back to December). It all fit together. No, the rain was real. It rained hard and it kept raining. Taylor kept singing, dancing, and lying in puddles of water on the stage when the choreography called for it. And fans kept singing, dancing, and taking pictures with their iPhones. This was so different than the time I was soaked to the skin in my wool band uniform at a Harvard-Cornell football game.
(I was amazed that the phones were not damaged by the rain. Reading the online forums the next day, many of them were.)
As it turns out, it’s not a good idea to lie in puddles of water singing in the rain. Within a week, Taylor was sick and had to postpone shows. I was there for her first show back in Montreal in mid-July, but that’s another story…
It Was The Start of a Decade…
When my daughter and I drove to Hartford in August 2008 I had no idea it was the start of a decade of 30 shows in eleven states plus Washington, DC plus Montreal. The first time I listened to her first album, ‘Taylor Swift’, I knew these were great stories and this was a great storyteller. When I heard Fifteen those were words I wanted to tell my daughter. And when I heard The Best Day those were words I hoped to hear from my daughter someday. And when I heard All Too Well, well ….
So, next weekend I will sit in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, sobbing through Long Live one more time. And if fate steps in and there are no more Taylor Swift tours or concerts for me after this summer, I know that for as long as I live, and I hope as long as my daughter lives, these last ten years will be remembered.