Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ain't No Party Like A T-Party

Taylor Swift is immensely, insanely popular. But you didn't need me to tell you that. Even though Taylor herself still can't quite come to grips with it sometimes. Every single concert on her currently-winding-down Speak Now Tour is filled to the rafters by legions of screaming, half-delirious fans, most of whom aren't quite sure whether to like her more for her music or for being the kind of person she is and has remained despite her fame. (Check out her rider from the Fearless tour; the list of demands an act asks of their various venues. It reads less like the outrageous demands of a huge music superstar and more like 'could you guys do my grocery shopping, please?' The most demanding thing there is that if there happens to be a Starbucks, have a couple cups and a pumpkin loaf to her bus by 11 AM.)

And I mean 'filled to the rafters' literally. Thus far, over the course of the entire Speak Now Tour and all the gigantic venues booked throughout, up to and including Cowboys Stadium, Swift has only left 300 total seats empty, all in a single show in London. The venue is irrelevant. It has sold out. Several times they've added additional shows, and an entire leg in Australia and New Zealand, so they can sell those out too. Swift could probably sell out the moon right now. (UPDATE: Okay, so apparently she left about 1,100 empty seats the previous night in Manchester, England as well.)

If you were to ask any random Swiftie- that's what they call themselves- what, out of all possible Taylor-related things that could happen, they would wish for most, at least 90% of them would probably tell you that they'd want to meet Taylor. But there's a good chance they'll put it a little differently.

Hey, conveniently-located Swiftie. What do you want more than anything in the world?

"Oh my God I wanna be in the Tea Party!"

In case you're wondering, this is why Taylor Swift is today's topic. I heard 'tea party' and wondered what the hell is going on here because I don't think I've heard Taylor ever express any political opinions at all.

As it turns out, that phrase, amazingly enough, had much more benign, friendly connotations until a few years ago and I had forgotten about them. And also I spelled it wrong in this context. It's not 'Tea Party'. It's 'T-Party'. got confused too. So it's not just me. If it happens to you, if you ever hear the phrase in relation to Swift and get confused, here's what it means.

Every Swift concert has this little private after-party, which Taylor dubs the T-Party. It's a fairly elaborate meet-and-greet. Throughout the show, Taylor's mom and an assortment of other people in the entourage look through the crowd for whoever they deem to be the "most spirited" fans of the night, and somewhere around 20 fans a show get invites in the form of little Livestrong-style bracelets. Sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less, but 20 is about the target. There's no real set criteria- sometimes they pick the loudest, craziest person in the building, but sometimes they look in the nosebleed section for someone really quiet and just happy to be there. A trip to the T-Party is, in Swift's fans' eyes, the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and probably plays at least a bit of a part in why things get so crazy.

Because unless you really, truly are that way, let's be honest, you're not going the quiet and shy route. More often, over-the-top schemes are hatched the instant people know they're going to the concert. The presence of glowsticks has been identified as somewhat increasing one's odds of getting a T-Party invite, so one common strategy is to cover oneself in as many as one can get on one's body. (Taylor does notice and appreciate all this; she spends a fair bit of time just looking around, seeing just what people are doing to stand out and wondering 'wow, how long did that take you to put together? And you did that for me?')

In fact, as she noted in a YouTube interview in September, her shows eventually start to resemble less a concert than a taping of Let's Make A Deal. (skip to 23:09)

"A lot of people have been going for the costume route. So we'll look out, and my guitar player will lean over to me and be like, 'That girl is dressed like a chicken.' And I'm trying to find the meaning, I don't know why, but you know, we'll look out and there's, like, a Santa Claus. Or people who've duct-taped their entire body in neon duct tape. Or people who have just made giant cupcakes around themselves, and they're like, they're this big. (gestures with arms) Or people who have dressed up from the Mean video, or something like that. But then there's just these ones where the girl is dressed as, like, there's a clown and a starfish. And we're like, 'I don't know why, but I love it.' And so there's been a lot of costume stuff lately on the tour, so if you look around and you see someone dressed up as a giant cow, and you don't know why, we don't know why either, but it's welcome."

And that's the thing. Taylor is of the mindset that, hey, she is performing with her friends, mom in tow, in front of tens of thousands of people chanting her name and going totally bonkers in the hope of getting to say hi to her and maybe having her write her name on something, and all she has to do is basically sing her diary to them. If the worst thing that happens on a given day is that she can't figure out why one of her fans- her fans, she has fans- dressed up like a cow beyond 'she really wants to meet me', that's a really good day.

Otherwise, she would not be closing out her pre-encore Speak Now Tour setlist with 'Long Live', which is five-plus minutes of her telling her band, aka her "band of thieves in ripped-up jeans", just how awesome their lives have gotten and how much everything that's happening to them ought to be appreciated. (No, YouTube commenters. It is not about Harry Potter. Repeat, NOT about Harry Potter.)

And why not? She gets to go to every T-Party.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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