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Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in L.A.: Helping fans cope, find joy

On the third night of Taylor Swift’s marathon six shows in Los Angeles, fans came out in full force to experience her epic three-hour-plus performance of the sold-out Eras Tour.

Amid the dramatic outfits, homemade costumes, snaking merch lines and wholesome friendship-bracelet exchanges on Saturday, Swifties from across the country — and even around the world — paused to consider how the country-turned-pop-turned-folk/indie songwriter had affected their lives over her last 17 years of music making.

Almost everyone who chatted with these two reporters shared that Swift’s music went much deeper than any break-up anthem or boy-crazed tune — her music has helped fans grow up, grieve, get through challenging times and, most important, find joy.

Dealing with loss

A woman in a short purple flowered dress holds up butterfly wings.

Amanda Walsh, a longtime Swiftie, wore homemade butterfly wings to Saturday’s Eras Tour concert in Los Angeles.

(Grace Toohey / Los Angeles Times)

Amanda Walsh of Irvine waited with her mom in a long line for Swiftie merch Saturday afternoon at Sofi Stadium. The 29-year-old had fashioned flowery butterfly wings from a tapestry, with some sewing help from her mother-in-law, meant to emulate the Nashville mural Swift posed in front of in 2019 to promote her “Lover” album. (Don’t worry, she said, she’d take off the wings during the show so as not to block anyone’s view.)

A Swiftie from the beginning — Walsh saw the rising star perform when Swift was a teenager at Stagecoach’s Country Music Festival in 2008 — she said it was one of Swift’s more recent songs that had spoken to her most deeply.

“I actually lost my husband to cancer in January 2022, so the song ‘Bigger Than the Whole Sky’ really means a lot to me,” Walsh said. “Just because it’s talking about all the possibilities that are honestly never going to get to happen.

“I just think that song speaks a lot about grief,” she said, “and things you’re missing out on when you deal [with] and go through loss.”

Leaving negativity behind

Two smiling men pose together holding an orange umbrella outside a concert venue.

Brian Rush, left, and partner Justin Thai in a line for merchandise at a show on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

(Terry Castleman / Los Angeles Times)

Brian Rush, 36, came to the show from Koreatown with his partner of five years, Justin Thai, who turned Rush on to Swift’s music.

The couple decided Saturday morning to splurge on floor seats, spending $3,000 to see Swift up close and (kinda) personal.

Although he was dressed in a combination of “Red”- and “Lover”-era outfits — mixing Swift’s “A lot going on at the moment” T-shirt with a tie-dyed “Lover”-themed button-down — he said he’d found her “Reputation” album most powerful.

“How she came back, in a sense, from all the negativity and everything like that,” Rush said. “We all go through that in life, when people have something to say about us.”

Finding joy in dark times

A woman in black shorts and top and a man in a T-shirt that says "no its becky" stand outside a concert venue.

Michelle Ascencio and Armando Angulo drove from Tijuana to see a concert in Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

(Terry Castleman / Los Angeles Times)

Michelle Ascencio, 36, drove up for the Saturday show from Tijuana, excited to take a trip down memory lane through all the Swift eras, each of which takes her her back to a specific time in her life. Swift’s debut album reminds her of college dance parties with her girlfriends, she said, while later albums follow her adult life.

But it’s “Folklore” that makes her emotional.

“When I listen to ‘Folklore,’ when I hear ‘the 1’ start playing in my head, it transports me back into time to during the pandemic,” Ascencio said of the album released in 2020.

“There weren’t a lot of endorphins during that time; we were still in the middle of the pandemic — and I just get chills just thinking about how much joy that album brought me,” she said. “What, like, a breath of fresh air it was to hear Taylor Swift do something new.

“So ‘Folklore’ for me holds a special place because it brought me joy in a time where there wasn’t a lot [of that] going on.”

Entering adulthood

Two young women, one in cowboy boots, another in pink pants, smile as they pose outside a concert venue.

Mollie Alkazian, left, and Emma Jakl attend Saturday’s concert at SoFi Stadium.

(Terry Castleman / Los Angeles Times)

Mollie Alkazian has been a longtime Swiftie, but it wasn’t until the “Lover” album came out in 2019 that she really started to connect with the artist’s music on a personal level. She attended Saturday’s concert with friend and fellow Thousand Oaks resident Emma Jakl.

“The whole ‘Lover’ album was my first glance at her being older; she was growing up like we were,” said Alkazian, who was dressed in a “Lover”-style pink outfit complete with jewels and butterflies in her hair.

Alkazian, at 28, is a few years younger than the 33-year-old Swift, but the 2019 album’s songs about true love brought home their shared experience — “I like boys, too,” she said, laughing.

Moving through stages of life

Three people, one in a white shorts outfit, one in a black shorts outfit and  another in mesh black top and fishnet hose.

Sisters Megan, left, and Robin Vo and Liam Bell customized their outfits to match different eras of Taylor Swift’s music.

(Terry Castleman / Los Angeles Times)

Sisters Megan and Robin Vo, 23 and 25, wore contrasting white and black outfits inspired by Selena Gomez’s surprise performance with Swift on the 1989 album tour.

Their father died around the time of the release of Swift’s second album, 2008’s “Fearless.” Since then, the sisters have scored their lives with the music of their favorite artist.

“It helped me through all my middle school crushes and heartbreak,” Robin said, naming ‘You Belong With Me’ as a particularly memorable song, mentioning her then-crush, Daniel. “And she just gets it. She knows what heartbreak is at every stage in life.”

“‘Midnights’ helped us through med school,” Megan said, nodding to her friend and classmate Liam Bell. “We grew up with her, she grew up with us, she’s been there through every stage in life.”

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