Friendship bracelets, Tay-gating: Inside Taylor Swift fans’ plans ahead of her closest concert to DC

A mural by artist Emily Kelley is located near 200 South Street, Philadelphia. (Courtesy Emily Kelley)
Mother and daughter duo Lisa and Kaitlyn McGurgan made friendship bracelets to attend the Mother’s Day weekend show. (Courtesy Lisa McGurgan)
Abby Korb is wearing a shirt with a lyric from Swift’s song “All Too Well (10-minute version) (Taylor’s Version)” with a red reflective skirt. (Courtesy Abby Korb)
Caitlin Feltenberger and her friends at Taylor Swift’s last tour in 2018. The group will be reunited this weekend for The Eras Tour. (Courtesy Caitlin Feltenberger)
A photo of Caitlin Feltenberger from years ago when she recalls she would curl her hair to mimic Taylor Swift’s style of wearing her hair in tight curls. (Courtesy Caitlin Feltenberger)
Abby Korb made friendship bracelets to exchange and give away. (Courtesy Abby Korb)

Many D.C.-area Taylor Swift fans were disappointed when the singer didn’t include any dates in the D.C. region on her new tour, but thousands are “swiftly” heading north to see the next-closest shows this weekend.

Swift is playing three-hour-long sets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, as part of The Eras Tour. Her openers this weekend are artists Phoebe Bridgers and Gayle.

D.C.-area Swifities (the name fans coined for themselves) who survived the great war of buying tickets on Ticketmaster amid technical difficulties and hourslong wait times are traveling more than a hundred miles for the show.

Leaving the D.C. region for concerts might not be the norm for many residents, as oftentimes artists schedule shows at nearby venues, such as the District’s Capital One Arena.

Caitlin Feltenberger and her mom are driving up from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to meet up with some of her D.C. friends and one of her friend’s moms in Philadelphia. The group also attended Swift’s last tour together in 2018 for her “Reputation” album.

“We haven’t all been together in probably like two to three years, especially because of COVID,”  Feltenberger said. “This is like our mecca event of the decade that we’re all going to be together seeing the person who bonded us.”

In addition to being the closest show to the District, Philadelphia is considered Swift’s hometown show; the pop star grew up nearby in West Reading, Pennsylvania, before moving to Nashville.

Following the trend of host cities welcoming Swift with offerings (including the key to the city in Arlington, Texas), an artist in Philadelphia painted a mural of Swift. Emily Kelley shared her work on Twitter. The work is located on the corner of 2nd and South Street in Philadelphia.


For Swifties, the party starts in the parking lot before the opening acts.

“‘Tay-gating’ is just basically tailgating, but with a funny spin on it for Taylor Swift,” Feltenberger said.

Fans are pulling up to the stadium hours before the show starts, equipped with coolers and snacks. Some Tay-gaters don’t have tickets for the show but plan to listen outside the stadium.

Feltenberger said activities for “Tay-gating,” include, “walking around and seeing some of the outfits and talking to some people and maybe trading some friendship bracelets.”

‘Make the friendship bracelets’

Inspired by a lyric in the song, “You’re on Your Own Kid” that calls on listeners to “make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it,” fans, such as Feltenberger, are coming adorned with bracelets up both wrists to exchange and give away at the show.

“I want to go above and beyond for the show because the show is above and beyond,” Feltenberger said.

Abby Korb, 24, is making a day trip to the concert from D.C. with her friends. Korb — rainbow loom and beads in hand — said her table is overtaken with “craft things.”

“I’m not so worried about coming back with as many as I’ve made, but more about making that a fun experience for somebody else, especially, kids who might be going to their first concert,” Korb said.

‘Never go out of style’

Another layer of the planning is the outfits. Fans are drawing inspiration from Swift’s lyrics or style of dressing throughout her different albums. Others are creating replicas of her wardrobe.

Kaitlyn McGurgan, 19, is headed to the Mother’s Day Weekend concert with her mom, Lisa. In the middle of college finals week, Kaitlyn is hopping on an Amtrak train. Lisa, of Germantown, Maryland, plans to pick her daughter up from the station and drive the remainder of the way.

For Lisa, 53, that means red Converse shoes and a shirt that says, “It’s me, hi, I’m the cool mom,” a play on Swift’s “Anti-Hero” lyrics, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem.”

She said her daughter took a “flashier” approach, opting for purple reflective pants and a shirt with tassels inspired by Swift’s albums “Speak Now” and “Midnights.”

Korb is wearing a reflective red skirt and a shirt with a lyric from the song “All Too Well (10-minute version) (Taylor’s Version),” which she says she’s looking forward to singing with thousands of other concertgoers.

“My roommate and I would literally just drive around and listen to it and park the car somewhere if we were back home to finish the song,” Korb said.


Swift’s performance includes songs from most of the 10 albums in her discography. Each show also features two surprise songs.

Swift has released three entirely new albums since her “Reputation” tour along with two rerecorded albums. The pop star has been releasing re-recordings of her early albums due to a dispute over the ownership of the masters.

“Once the rerecords of her ‘Taylor’s version’ stuff started coming out, it was really kind of like a blast-from-the-past nostalgia for me,” Korb said, who remembers listening to Swift’s debut album on the ride to school as a child, singing along with her friends.

Korb isn’t alone in looking forward to hearing songs of her childhood.

“Getting to celebrate that in one tour is just like celebrating all the fans’ lives up into this point, which I think is really, really cool and special,” Feltenberger said.

Feltenberger recalled being in elementary and middle school and looking up to Swift — even going as far as to mimic the hairstyle she wore during her time as a country artist.

“I used to curl my hair in those tight little ringlets just like her and tried to like pretend that I looked like her when I definitely didn’t, and it just kind of grew from there,” Feltenberger said.

Kaitlyn has similar memories of jamming to Swift’s albums as a kid, specifically her hit, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” adding that her ability to cross genres has contributed to her success as an artist.

“I feel like there’s a lot of empowerment in her songs,” Kaitlyn said. “She’s very confident and her songs can fit any age group, any person can relate to them.”

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up