Taylor Swift And The Era Of The Divine Stage: How Live Concerts Fill The Spiritual Void

By: Angela Serednicki

In our collective pursuit of meaning and connection, Taylor Swift emerges as a radiant beacon of artistry and unity. Whether you’re Sofia Richie Graige or a seven-year-old attending her first-ever concert, the Eras Tour has exerted an irresistible pull, welcoming fans from all walks of life to sing along together in sold-out stadium shows across the U.S. and, soon, South America.

The ongoing Eras Tour is enchanting audiences, dominating headlines and significantly contributing to the economy, as it’s projected to become the highest-grossing tour with an expected revenue of $1 billion. Beyond just entertainment, it unveils a profound and noteworthy phenomenon. With every sold-out stadium show, it’s clear that the captivating joy the crowd experiences in her three-and-a-half-hour-long performance reflects something greater than the irresistibly catchy bridges Swift is known to create.

Collective effervescence is the phenomenon that explains why people in crowds sometimes feel happy and energized together. This happens when ritual behaviour, such as exchanging friendship bracelets or enthusiastically shouting fan-made chants, cultivates a feeling of belonging and togetherness within a group.

Kathryn Lofton, a professor of religious studies, American studies, history and divinity at Yale University, explains why this feeling of community and connection is mesmerizing.

“The history of religions is a history of people organizing themselves to have that experience,” she said. As we evolve into a more secular society, with a third of Canadians reporting no religious affiliation, fandoms create a welcoming community for people of all ages – something that was once expected from faith communities.

“Becoming a fan of someone is an admission that you like someone other than yourself. And by being a fan, you willingly join a diverse group of people who share the same passion, even if you might not have much else in common,” Lofton said. She adds that Swift and concerts like the Eras Tour fill the gaps left by organized religion by creating a space where that positive support is expected.

Jaci Marie Smith, a content creator and podcaster in Los Angeles, shared in a recent TikTok video what seeing Swift perform at SoFi stadium really means to her. “Concerts are always like a spiritual experience for me, where I walk away with so many takeaways, and they’re just the most magical time.”

In fact, religion and music have always gone hand-in-hand. Music plays a significant role in evoking powerful and positive emotions during religious worship in Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. Like reciting sacred text, such as prayers, lyrics serve as guiding principles or mantras in people’s lives because it’s often repeated. Lofton explains this repetition helps people recognize it as their own familiar opinions and beliefs.

A 2018 study published in the Psychology of Music journal found that adolescents, regardless of age, gender, religious background, or education, reported experiencing a sense of religious connection when listening to non-religious music.

“In this study, adolescents often describe musical experience as deep emotional states with a loss of feeling of space and time as well as a connection with a superhuman power.”

Paired with the excitement of being in the presence of friends and your favourite pop star, could this explain why thousands of Swifties travel to gather outside stadiums, singing along to a show they couldn’t get tickets for?

Fans like Miri Makin believe being a Swiftie is more than just appreciating Swift’s musical talent. “Whether it’s a song about love, heartbreak, growing up or self-reflection, I find her lyrics so heart-wrenchingly authentic and universal that sometimes I feel like she could have ripped out the pages of my diary,” she said. “And when I’ve attended her concerts and am singing along every word with thousands of other fans, I can’t help but think they feel the same way.”

Even outside of Swift’s concerts, Makin has seen the power of the Swiftie fandom firsthand. In November 2021, a TikTok video inspired her and Victoria Morton to put together a small event they’ve always dreamed of attending: A full night of dancing and singing along to Swift’s music. The 250 available tickets sold out within 30 seconds of launching the event, with all proceeds going towards the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Soon after, Morton said they received numerous requests from Swifites across Canada, urging us to bring the TSwift Dance Party experience, “equipped with fans singing along to their favourite lyrics, fun decor, and cardboard cut-outs of giant Jake Gyllenhaal heads” to other cities. In response to the overwhelming demand, they hosted two more Toronto events that spring, which also sold out in less than a minute.

Since then, they’ve hosted nearly 40,000 Swifties at over 65 events in 17 cities across eight provinces. Most events have 500 to 1,200 attendees, with their biggest crowd being 3,500 people at Toronto’s Rebel Nightclub.

Mirin believes that TSwift Dance Parties create a safe space where she can go with her friends and feel free, dance like nobody’s watching, and sing lyrics at the top of her lungs with hundreds of other people feeling the same release.

Following in the spirit of Swift’s unwavering generosity – the popstar recently gave $55 million in bonuses to everyone working on her tour, including a $100,000 bonus to each truck driver — Makin and Morton always donate a portion of their profits to charities. The TSwift Dance Party raised over $106,000 for charities like Planned Parenthood, Sick Kids, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH), UNICEF and the Cystic Fibrosis Society of Canada.

After connecting with thousands of Swifties, Makin can confidently share the most common traits about the fandom: They are passionate, uninhibited in their singing and dancing, and exceptionally kind to a fault. She explains that almost event space wants them back.

“There’s an unadulterated excitement, a sense of being among friends, and a release I can’t say I’ve felt anywhere outside of our events and actual Taylor Swift concerts,” Makin explains.

It’s why Makin and Morton still run TSwift Dance Party events even while balancing demanding full-time corporate jobs. One particular experience sticks out in Makin’s that showcases the thoughtfulness of the Swiftie community. One attendee noticed Miri and Victoria shared posts about celebrating their birthdays during that night’s event. “She brought us cupcakes and a card that thanked us for making safe spaces where she could be herself.”

Taylor Myers, a 29-year-old Swiftie living in Vancouver, BC., isn’t surprised by these acts of kindness within the fandom. Myers has been a fan of Swift’s for 16 years and has been to eight of her shows, including a night at the Eras tour in Seattle.

Starting with Taylor Connect, one of Swift’s first official fan forums launched in 2009, Myers says the Swiftie community has always positively impacted her life.

Taylor Connect, one of Swift’s initial official fan forums established in 2009, marked the beginning of Myers’ connection with the Swiftie community. She formed enduring friendships throughout her life by sharing joyful and challenging moments on platforms like Tumblr and Twitter. To this day, they still send one another holiday cards, keep each updated on their lives and celebrate one another’s milestones. This involvement and dedication to the Swiftie community have opened many doors in Myers’ life, including meeting the global superstar herself.

In early October 2017, Myers was invited to a Secret Session for Reputation at Swift’s Rhode Island home. Taylor Nation hosted the top-secret event where approximately 100 lucky fans, including Myers, had the opportunity to meet Swift and listen to the entire album before its release date. Secret Sessions were an exclusive invitation-only event held by Taylor Nation for a select group of her most dedicated fans and social media followers.

Once the listening session and a short performance of New Year’s Day and All Too Well on her piano, Swift made a point to meet and take photos with each of her fans. When it was Myers’ turn to meet Swift, she was thrilled to receive a warm greeting of “Hey, Taylor!” Overwhelmed with emotion, Myers crouched on the floor, expressing disbelief that Swift knew her name. Taylor playfully replied, “Well, I mostly know you online as…”

Knowing her fans’ names (and their social media handle) is one reason Myers believes Swift truly cares about each person that supports her. “You can tell that the love is very much reciprocated.”

As a lifelong Swiftie, Myers can’t help but rave about how Swift’s Eras tour took the concert experience to a new level. Even people who aren’t big fans of Swift can’t deny the incredible stamina and flawless delivery she showcases during her epic three-hour shows, holding the attention of an audience of 70,000 fans engaged with her every move.

When trying to buy tickets to a Seattle show, Myers recognized that the ticket demand was something unlike the fandom had seen before. It felt impossible to secure a spot. “It was like suddenly everyone has become a fan,” she said, explaining that this is just the beginning of Swift’s continued rise to global superstar status.

Reflecting on her long journey with Swift’s music, Myers shares, “I have never been alone since I discovered her music on the radio 16 years ago. I have grown, loved, and lived alongside her.”

Tags: Taylor Swift, top story, topstory

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