For true Swifties, the fun begins when the stadium gates open

Fans wait to enter a stadium.
Fans wait to enter the stadium before Taylor Swift performs at Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High on July 14.
(Grace Smith / Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, which pulls into Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium for six sold-out shows beginning Thursday, provides fans with more than just a concert; it’s a hyper-curated experience that begins the moment you enter the stadium. That’s when security guards hand fans their light-up wristbands, linking the audience together for the rest of the evening.

Depending on when you choose to arrive at SoFi, your immersion into Swiftmania can last anywhere between three hours (her set length) to six-plus (there are two opening acts each show, Gracie Abrams and Haim among them). If you’re a Swiftie with a lot of stamina, consider getting to the stadium when the gates open at 4:30 p.m. — first opener is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. — so you can experience the full breadth of the preshow festivities.

If you’re worried about having enough to do if you arrive early, don’t. As I discovered at Seattle’s Lumen Field gig two weekends ago, there are multiple ways to pass the time at the Eras preshow, and they all take you deeper into the universe that Swift and her fans have created together across the record-shattering tour.


Cultural dominance. History-making album sales. Sold-out stadiums. Add them up, and Taylor Swift’s current moment has little precedent in pop-music history.

Aug. 1, 2023

Some experiences feel masterfully orchestrated by Team Swift, like the Eras-themed cocktail glasses in the shape of disco balls that have since become coveted concert swag among some fans, and the director’s cuts of music videos like “Bejeweled” and “Anti-Hero” that early attendees can watch on the jumbotrons before the openers take the stage. (Said director? Swift!) Unlike the long version for Swift’s “All Too Well,” none of these videos have been released to the public; their airing is a treat meant for the Swiftiest of the Swifties.

Other experiences, like the bracelet swapping parties and group costume reveals, feel more improvised, spearheaded by the thousands of fans that arrive in the afternoon heat. These random acts of friendship happen all across the various stadiums, but the intimate vibes are strongest in the bathroom.

That’s where Rebecca Stainback, who caught the show in Kansas City, experienced her first high of the night. A young girl standing next to her in line asked her to trade friendship bracelets after Stainback told her she looked beautiful. “She started crying, her Mom started crying, and I started crying,” Stainback, 35, said during a recent phone call from her home in New York City. “It reiterated to me that Taylor Swift celebrates female emotions all the time, and that’s what I started to glean from the rest of the night.” Stainback and her friend, Charlotte Cruze, entered Arrowfield Stadium around 6:30. They wish they arrived even earlier. “It was just electric inside,” said Cruze. “Everybody was friends.”

Before you see Taylor Swift performing at SoFi Stadium for the Los Angeles leg of the Eras tour, here are some things you should know, including the bag and outside food policy, what SoFi Stadium is like and what to eat once you’re there.

July 31, 2023

Audrey Dyer attended Swift’s July 14 show in Denver and entered the Empower Field at Mile High soon after the gates opened. She and her friends purposefully explored the stadium’s different sections before heading to their floor seats so they could soak up the atmosphere. “It felt like you were walking a fashion runway or wandering around in a museum with fun things to look at,” Dyer said. “People were just so happy.” It was obvious to Dyer that Swift had considered early revelers like herself when planning the tour. “She cares,” said Dyer. “She wants us to have an experience.”

One of the main ways that experience came to life in Seattle and elsewhere was through the pre-show playlist that plays in the stadium. Clearly approved of if not curated by Swift, its mix of rock, pop, ‘90s country and hip-hop quietly affirms her dual identities as a genre-hopping music nerd with great taste and a pop star who champions up-and-coming artists. It also smartly winks at her own music’s eras. For instance: Hamilton Leithauser’s “A Thousand Times” shouts out her indie-folk records “Folklore” and “Evermore”; Ice Spice’s “In Ha Mood” nods to her collaboration with the rapper on the remix of “Karma”; and King Princess’ “For My Friends” recalls her “Lover”-era status as an LGBTQ ally.

Yes, it’s possible that Swift’s mixed tape is simply a snapshot of songs she likes, and not an extension of her mastermind-level marketing skills. But that hasn’t stopped her fans from overanalyzing the song choices. Florence and the Machine’s “King” has been the subject of spirited conversation on Reddit for months, with users speculating that Swift may relate to its lyrics about ambition and gender roles. Others have pondered the inclusion of the 1975’s wistful break-up ballad “About You,” given that Swift recently emerged from a rumored fling with the band’s lead singer, Matty Healy. And one eagle-eyed concertgoer observed that Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman,” which previously served as the intro song on Swift’s Red tour, now plays over the behind-the-scenes edition of “The Man” video. “That little detail is everything I love about Taylor Swift,” the Redditer wrote.

Fans arriving for a concert at a stadium.
Taylor Swift fans arrive at Boston’s Gillette Stadium in May.
(Erin Clark / Boston Globe via Getty Images)

For Dyer, the tone of the playlist mattered more than its contents. She appreciated the shift in mood that occurred as Swift’s set time drew closer and the ruminative likes of Lana Del Rey and Boygenius were swapped out for party-starters from Doja Cat and Blackpink. “Those songs got people up, and not just up and clapping; people were losing their minds.”

By the time Lady Gaga’s “Applause” came on in Seattle, the audience was like a sponge in need of a good wringing. Then, when the countdown clock appeared on the main screen, and the first notes of Dusty Springfield’s brooding version of Lesley Gore’s feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me” rang out across the stadium, several of the women around me burst into tears.

“It was such a power move for Taylor to play that before this whole tour that’s celebrating her ownership of her music,” Cruze said, referring to the re-recorded “Taylor’s version” albums that Swift has been releasing in the wake of the sale of her master recordings. “It took my breath away,” added Dyer. “And I don’t think it would’ve been the same if I had not gotten there early. It was the combination of amazing music and the community feel that you got by exploring and becoming besties with the people around you.”