Taylor Swift fans arriving at Union Station Friday afternoon.

Photo by Neil Steinberg

‘Swiftian’ takes on a new meaning as Taylor Swift fans descend on Chicago

Like Gulliver, travel downtown this past weekend brought you to a world transformed.

My wife and I joined the legions of Taylor Swift fans heading downtown Friday afternoon, clad in white cowboy boots, little fringed dresses and pink sequined cowboy hats.

The fans, that is. My wife and I wore regular clothes appropriate for a 60ish couple visiting the Art Institute (sigh, all right. Me: black jeans, sky blue button-down shirt and blue boat shoes; my wife: lovely in a deep red flowered skirt, black blouse and sandals).

Our journey had nothing to do with the big concert at Soldier Field. But the timing certainly was fortunate. The ingathering for the first of the weekend’s three Swift shows cast a festive tone.

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Most people waiting on the platform in Northbrook for the 1:35 p.m. Metra were Swift fans, though not all dressed for the occasion. To our left, a 30ish couple in standard-issue suburban dishabille, the man carrying a backpack. Heading, he said, to check into a hotel before the concert.

“Smart!” I replied, the “What’s a few hundred dollars more on top of the several grand you laid out for tickets,” being unvoiced.

Not to pass judgment. You put your money where your passion lies, if you’re lucky enough to have both money and a passion. My wife and I blew ... ah ... a Taylor Swift ticket worth of greenery to plant this spring. Those bushes and flowers will no doubt be dried husks buried in landfill while memories of the concert are still glittering bright.

To our right, five young women in two groups. A pair in the aforementioned white boots and fringes. A second group of three teens, a father flitting around them. As he left, he turned to us — like an actor breaking the fourth wall — and observed that sending them downtown is the easy part. The challenge will be driving to Soldier Field at midnight to retrieve them.

“A full-service dad,” I said, approvingly. Since part of what the media does is validate, I should take this opportunity to give a big tip of the hat and official Sun-Times thank you to every parent who did the logistical heavy lifting and wallet emptying to get their kids to the show and back. I’m sure your children would thank you, too, if they only could.

Taylor Swift actually gave me an empowering hug — from a distance, alas — in that even I know who she is, and have heard and enjoyed several of her songs (“Shake it Off,” “Anti-Hero”).

Typically, big acts sending seismic shock waves through society draw an utter blank when they reach me. For instance, take a recent New Yorker article about top musical acts performing private shows at weddings and parties. The Rolling Stones will show up and play for half an hour at your 50th birthday party if you pay them enough.

The narrative was built around the appearance of rapper Flo Rida — for an unspecified six-figure fee — at a Chicago-area bar mitzvah party. This was literally the first time I’d ever read the musician’s name, and I just couldn’t imagine shelling out $200,000, or whatever the figure was, to wow a 13-year-old and his pals. The father blushed at having his own name printed, and we find ourselves at an odd cultural moment when rich benefactors disassociate themselves from the gawdy potlatch displays they have just expensively orchestrated.

I almost suggested the Taylor Swift concerts were unifying civic events. Then reflected that she seems to have an overwhelming white audience, for starters, a Fraternal Order of Police image of the ideal city.

Still, this past weekend shows that people will haul themselves downtown, venting big money, given a strong enough incentive. I’m not master of the Swiftian canon, though I have read “Gulliver’s Travels” and sometimes deploy the word “Brobdingnagian” correctly.

But I can state with near certainty that Taylor Swift makes her fans feel loved, needed and both validated, internally, and part of something bigger than themselves. (Oh c’mon, give it up, “Swiftian,” Jonathan Swift, that’s a good joke). Now Mayor Brandon Johnson has to figure out how to somehow do that all the time for everybody.

Taylor Swift is off to Detroit for two nights. Chicago seems to have gotten through one summer weekend with a body count of only ... gee ... 41 people shot, nine fatally. Quite a lot really. A concert can distract us from that, and perhaps even should. God knows the problems are all still here, waiting for us Monday morning.

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