Swifties without tickets settle for the next best thing: listening from outside

Hundreds crowd the grassy lawns on the north and south sides of Soldier Field.

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Fans gathered Friday on the southwest lawn outside Soldier Field to listen to Taylor Swift.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Not every Swiftie at Soldier Field on Friday night heard the first notes of “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” from inside the arena.

Hundreds crowded the grassy lawns on the north and south sides of the stadium, singing and dancing to Swift’s extensive set list of crowd-pleasers and deep cuts.

Taylor Swift kicked off her sold-out Chicago leg of The Eras Tour on Friday. She will also perform Saturday and Sunday.

Ashley Kamholz and Lexi Meyers began looking for tickets to the show at 8 a.m. Friday. Meyers said she set her alarm that morning and spent much of the day glued to her phone, refreshing in hopes of finding a reasonably priced resale ticket or one of the few tickets released directly by Ticketmaster that day.

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Ashley Kamholz and Lexi Meyers enjoyed listening to Taylor Swift’s on the lawn outside of Soldier Field.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Meyers said she felt “angst the whole day.” The duo ultimately ended up without tickets and joined the crowd on the lawn, singing along to “Love Story.” Meyers said the song took her back in time to fourth grade.

Emily Clancy and Amy Thayer caught the concert from the Soldier Field parking lot. They said they had tried to buy tickets throughout the day, but could not find anything in their budget, so they hung out in camp chairs by their car.

Clancy and Thayer said they arrived from Kenosha that day around 3 p.m. and had enjoyed seeing people’s Swift-themed costumes and outfits.

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Amy Thayer and Emily Clancy drove from Kenosha in the hopes of finding Taylor Swift tickets, but they were more than happy to listen to her show in the parking lot at Soldier Field.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

The Chicago Park District said Thursday that tailgating would not be allowed after Swift started performing, but Clancy and Thayer said no one had asked them to leave.

Kayla Neuhaus arrived earlier in the afternoon to swap friendship bracelets and socialize with other Swifties. She said stayed up until 4:30 a.m. making bracelets for the show.

Like many of her fellow Swifties, Neuhaus was embracing the preferred bonding ritual of the tour’s guests: finding beads with meaning to the singer’s audience and stringing them into bracelets to give away.

The idea seems to have originated with a lyric from “You’re on Your Own Kid,” a song from Swift’s latest album “Midnights,” in which the artist encouraged listeners to “make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.”

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Kate Mondejar (from left), Taylor Axton, Laylah Maugeri, Ryleigh Maugeri and Sienna Gahan display their friendship bracelet collections at Soldier Field on Friday.

Catherine Odom/Sun-Times

Famous Swift fans including Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have taken to social media to show off bracelets they’ve received from strangers.

By the early afternoon, crowds of Swifties in sparkly boots, DIY jean jackets and elaborate face paint were already forming around the venue. Some groups in bedazzled dresses and colorful cowboy hats congregated in the shady, grassy areas near the stadium. Others blasted Swift’s greatest hits in the parking lot.

Temperatures reached the low 80s Friday afternoon as fans posed for pictures and lined up to buy sweatshirts and posters at merchandise booths. Fans wore elaborate costumes and outfits representing different albums, songs and eras of the singer’s career.

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Kaitlyn Estrada, 20, came from Milwaukee to see Taylor Swift and dressed as one of Swift’s lyrics from the song “Death By a Thousand Cuts”.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Kaitlyn Estrada, who traveled from Milwaukee with her friend for the concert, wore a traffic light costume, a reference to the song “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”

Kailey Steward, a longtime Swiftie from Oak Forest, also dressed up in Swiftie attire for the occasion. She arrived early with her mom, Janice.

Steward, who is also attending Sunday’s show, wore an outfit and face paint representing Swift’s song “Midnight Rain.” Around one eye, she painted a sun, and around the other, she painted a moon with blue streaks dripping down her face.

Steward, 27, designed and made outfits for herself and her mom, Janice. She painted a black T-shirt with the words “I had the best day with you today” on the front, a lyric from Swift’s song “The Best Day,” which Swift wrote about her mother. She painted the back of her own jean jacket with a lyric from “Midnight Rain.”

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Kailey Steward (left) and her mom, Janice, wore DIY Swift-themed outfits to the Friday date of The Eras Tour. Both said they have been fans of Swift’s music since her debut album.

Catherine Odom/Sun-Times

The mother-daughter duo said Swift’s music is connected with many fond memories for them. Kailey Steward recalled listening to Swift’s album “1989” with her mom as she drove home from her freshman year of college.

Antoine Budig, who came to the show with his dad, wore a sparkly jacket based on an outfit Swift wore while touring for her album “Red.” Budig, 15, came early to secure The Eras Tour’s most sought-after merchandise: the blue crewneck sweatshirt. Budig, 15, snagged the coveted $65 shirt, which goes for over $300 on some resale sites.

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Antoine Budig (right) and his dad arrived early to Soldier Field to buy merchandise. Budig’s outfit is based on a costume Taylor Swift wore during her tour for her album “Red.”

As showtime approached, some fans lingered around the stadium, hoping to buy last-minute tickets. Olivia Alvarado, who celebrated her middle school graduation earlier on Friday, was counting on ticket prices to drop and waiting to buy with her older sister Emma.

The sisters said they would buy tickets if the price dropped to $300 or so, but if they don’t get any, they planned to come back tomorrow and Sunday and try again.

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Bill Perry of Elmhurst attended his first Taylor Swift show alongside his wife Natalie and daughters Rachel and Maddie.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Swift’s music was a family affair for other fans at Soldier Field. Sisters Maddie and Rachel Perry came with their parents Natalie and Bill, who live in Elmhurst. Bill Perry wore a shirt that read “Swiftie Dad” and “real men love Taylor.”

Bill Perry said he will “cry like a baby” when Swift plays “my tears ricochet.”

In the parking lot, some Swifties tailgated — or “Taylor-gated” — as they tried to secure tickets.

Emily Krakowski and her friends hosted a tailgate in the parking lot complete with friendship bracelets and Swift-themed cookies.

Krakowski said she and a friend bought two tickets during Ticketmaster’s presale for $68 apiece and resold them for about $650 each. On Friday evening, they bought two floor seats for $3,600 total. She said they lost some money, but that she was happy they would have better seats.

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Even without tickets, Taylor Swift fans can’t stop and won’t stop grooving Friday outside Soldier Field.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

To buy the tickets during presale, Krakowski said she spent eight hours on her computer waiting.

Some Swifties at the venue were not planning on going to that evening’s show at all. Ella Black and her sister Ava came to the stadium on Friday, but they do not have tickets until Sunday’s show. Addie Phillips, who came from Bloomington, Illinois, with the sisters, said she did not have a ticket at all.

But the group was planning to come every night this weekend to hang out, trade bracelets and try to catch the show from outside.

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