EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> On Friday afternoon, a seemingly endless parade of Taylor Swift fans wearing flowery dresses, sparkly cowboy boots, sequined T-shirts and handmade friendship bracelets made their way to East Rutherford, turning the vast asphalt parking lot at MetLife Stadium into a pop-up performance space, a fashion runway and a meeting ground for friends old and new.
Two months and 25 shows after the pop megastar’s career-spanning Eras Tour began, the show arrived in the New York area for three weekend dates — her first concerts near (but not quite in) her adopted hometown in five years.
“I really, really missed you!” Swift told the sold-out crowd of more than 72,000 people.
And they had missed her.
One young woman announced that she was crying tears of joy as she strode down a tunnel leading to the parking lot. Two fans with tickets to Saturday’s concert who had traveled from Costa Rica came hoping to see Swift on Friday as well. A woman in an “I (heart) T.S.” shirt refused an interview request, admitting that she teaches at a public school and was not supposed to be at the stadium on a Friday afternoon.
Even getting into the parking lot required dedication — and a potentially pricey ticket.
Six months after a Ticketmaster presale filled with snags, a single seat at the show Friday was available on the secondary market for no less than $1,000. The astronomical costs led Swift’s loyal fans, known as Swifties, to band together to help one another find tickets at fair prices.
Charlie Tokieda, 39, of Brooklyn, got face-value tickets to Friday’s show by waiting online during the presale, and he bought another pair of tickets on the secondary market to a show in Denver to celebrate his birthday in July.
“We did get a great deal, and that great deal could have bought a pretty nice used car,” he said.
On Friday, security guards in orange shirts stood near the gates that formed a perimeter around the parking lot and demanded to see proof of admission before stepping aside. It was part of an effort to crack down on “Taylor-gating,” — hanging out in the lot and listening to the concert without a ticket — which MetLife Stadium said would not be allowed.
Maria Naeem, 32, who arrived via Uber around 9:30 a.m. and slipped into the parking lot unnoticed, was among the smattering of fans and chaperones who remained outside as Swift was preparing to go onstage. Naeem, a doctor, had asked two colleagues to cover her shift and had driven from Virginia in hopes of buying a ticket at will call.
“They’re not selling, and everything online is very expensive,” she said, disappointed.
Many of Swift’s most dedicated followers dressed in DIY costumes, resembling the singer during different moments of her career. One fan draped herself in a pink-and-white “Taylor Swift 2024” flag. Others sported skirts that featured snakes, a reference to Swift’s 2017 album, “Reputation.”
Robert Pszybylski, 19, of Long Island, wore a flowery shirt inspired by Swift’s 2021 Grammys dress, more or less custom-made for the concert.
“I kept Googling ‘3D embroidered floral fabric,’” he said. “I ordered off Etsy from China. It took a month to get here.”
Even those who were not fortunate enough get tickets found other ways to take part in Taylor Mania.
For months, fans with and without tickets have been obsessed with procuring concert merchandise, sometimes camping out overnight to get first dibs on the most coveted items. Perhaps in anticipation of a mad rush to vendors, MetLife Stadium’s flagship store began dispensing merch a full day early.
But those efforts did little to shorten the lines Friday, when, in addition to a prized blue crew neck sweatshirt, fans were hoping to take home a new special edition “Midnights” CD (yes, a CD!) that included a remix of the song “Karma” featuring up-and-coming Bronx rapper Ice Spice.
Near the end of the show, Swift premiered the remix’s video starring Ice Spice, announcing that while in the studio, she “not only fell in love with her but just decided she’s the entire future.” The rapper later joined Swift onstage to debut the remix and close the show. Cue a fresh round of frenzied screaming.
Though she has played about 40 of the same tracks during each three-hour-plus set, Swift has also unveiled a handful of “surprise songs” to keep delighted fans on their toes.
On Friday, she invited her frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff to perform “Getaway Car,” a fan favorite from “Reputation,” then took a seat at a piano for “Maroon” from “Midnights,” the most recent of the four albums she has released since her last tour.
The LP, she said, was about “nights throughout my life,” “things that kept me up” and “memories you keep going back to.”
“Maroon,” she said, was about a memory from — you guessed it:
And I lost you
The one I was dancin’ with
In New York, no shoes
Looked up at the sky and it was maroon