Ticketless Taylor Swift fans gather outside the stadiums for a different kind of Eras Tour experience

CHICAGO — After demand for Taylor Swift’s Iras tour overwhelms the Ticketmaster system, fans across the country left empty-handed congregate on the next best venue. In a park outside Soldier Field, where Swift was performing, hundreds of fans gathered on Friday to create their own concert experience.

The sold-out tour packed venues night after night, smashing attendance records at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey And Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Ticketmaster’s disastrous pre-sale last year left fans frustrated and desperate, tickets are now selling for thousands over their face value, and prices have only gone up since opening night in March. With tickets out of the question for many, fans got creative.

As one fan was heard saying to a friend, You can’t stop Swifties.

Samantha Funk, 28, spent Friday night outside Soldier Field in Chicago listening to Taylor Swift’s concert, sharing friendship bracelets, and dancing.Akila Townsend/NBC News
Akila Townsend/NBC News

Jane Kennedy, 8, was on a “play date with Taylor Swift” Friday night with her friend Estelle Boone, 7, who is also a Swift. Decked out in colorful sequins, the girls waited for Swift to start the show with their mom, who was an old-school fan of Taylor Swift.

“We tried and tried and tried to get tickets, and earlier this week my husband said, ‘You know it’s going to be a once in a lifetime atmosphere,'” Kelly Kennedy, 40, said. “You can’t be inside but maybe you can sit in.” outside and still be part of the experience.”

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Akila Townsend/NBC News

Kennedy and Estelle’s mother, Christine Boone, said Swift’s fame has shown something positive beyond music: a community in which their daughters feel part of. Older fans were “very friendly” to introduce themselves to the two girls and made friendship bracelets with them, a reference to a lyric from Swift’s song “You’re on Your Own, Baby”.

“They won’t remember, I think, when they’re older if they’ve been in or out,” said Boone, 46.

Akila Townsend/NBC News

The fan connection is part of the noise

As the tour began playing outdoor venues, fans cheered each other on to join them outside the gates, gathering thousands in cities like Tampa, Philadelphia, and Nashville. in videos on TikTok, people shared positive experiences which ensured a growing crowd in the city on subsequent nights.

While some Swift venues have attempted to discourage ticketless crowds due to site restrictions, Soldier Field is uniquely laid out by state parks, Where the party sound is still surprisingly clear.

From the steps of the Field Museum to the fence outside the stadium, there was a sea of ​​sparkles, sequins, and friendship bracelets as people flocked in on Friday night. The moment Swift took to the stage was evident even from the outside, as fans screamed in unison to the sound of “Miss Americana and Prince Heartbreak.”

Adriana Vermazine, right, drove 3 1/2 hours to celebrate her 28th birthday at the park outside Soldier Field. It’s a handcrafted replica of Swift’s costume from the “Red” tour. Akila Townsend/NBC News
Akila Townsend/NBC News

Marissa Payne, who isn’t Swift, just popped in to hang out with her friend and super fan, Maddie Jordan. But she also admitted that she wanted to see “what the hype is about” after seeing many TikToks fans prepare for the tour, whether they had tickets or not.

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Payne compared the night to one she had outside of Chicago Bears games, calling the Swiftie crowd “more fun”.

“I almost cried on the way here,” Payne said. “I was so flustered. I went up to the redline and it was like, hundreds of girls in sequences and pastels. Everyone looked so cool. But I think it’s because of how friendly everyone is…the energy is unparalleled.”

From left, Mallory Hulse, 24; Alexis Middleton, 24; Marissa Payne, 27; and Maddie Jordan, 27.Akila Townsend/NBC News

Jordan, who drove seven hours to see Swift in Nashville, said Swift is probably the only person she would go such a distance for. She also suspects Swift is one of the few artists who can bring people together in droves.

Because she is so vulnerable, her fans can’t help but feel the connection [to each other]Somehow,” Jordan said.

A few feet from the stadium fence, 28-year-old Samantha Funk and Caitlin Worrell were exchanging bracelets and making new friends. In the middle of the night, they’d dance and take pictures with the group to their left, the people they met that night, shouting out lyrics to songs like “Delicate” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Akila Townsend/NBC News
Akila Townsend/NBC News

One of those strangers was Lindsey Perrin, 35, who drove herself four hours from Indianapolis to “be a part of this.” She first saw the crowds gathering outside a concert she attended in Nashville and decided to go to Taylgate in Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Minneapolis.

“The energy is unparalleled,” Perrin said. “When everyone stood up when ‘Fearless’ came on, it was so exciting… It was like everyone was so excited to be here.”

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Akila Townsend/NBC News

Worrell, who hasn’t been able to get tickets to any shows yet, described the environment in the park as “magical”. She’s a newest fan of Swift, but the connection she feels with others has made her feel like everyone is “one in the same.”

“I’m like a little Taylor Nation kid but especially with this tour, it’s so cheesy but like a girlhood community is thriving right now,” Worrell said.

Getting tickets to a show or not is irrelevant for Taylgaters, because even those who’ve seen Swift on stage want to be part of the outdoor crowd.

Samantha Funk, 28, and Kaitlin Worrell, 28.Akila Townsend/NBC News

It didn’t matter what kind of seat you had, said Funk, who was able to get a ticket with other friends to attend Swift’s opening night in Arizona. She explained that it’s all the fans inside the stadium to create the kind of show you deserve to be in that make the Taylgating crowd.

“What her songs sound like, basically, Taylor said on the opening night show, is an autopsy of everything that happened in her life,” Funk said. “And the fact that she’s always been so open about it is why everyone is here. It’s because everyone can feel some kind of connection to her experience.”

Akila Townsend/NBC News

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