The people of Swiftogeddon came from all walks of life, with only one thing in common: a love for the music of Taylor Swift so abiding that they would attend an entire night dedicated to her. And what a night it was.
There is a particular type of joy that comes from discovering people love the same thing you love. It could be sitting on the bus and seeing the person next to you is glued to a book you adore. It could be spotting a pin badge on a passing lapel that shows its owner has also listened to all 262 episodes of an obscure podcast you’re obsessed with. Or, if you’re really lucky, it could be spending five glorious hours screaming every word of all your favourite songs along with every other person in a sweaty room in east London. It could be Swiftogeddon.
I still remember the first time I heard the music of Taylor Alison Swift. In the long hot summer of 2007 I was seventeen years old and Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ was dominating the charts. My older brother returned from a gap year in the USA clutching a country music mix CD made by someone he met in Kentucky. One song stuck out from the rest. It was catchy, funny and like nothing I’d ever heard before. A girl exactly my age? Making country music about boys? Amazing. I feverishly wrote in my diary that August: “She makes songs that are just great, excellent, brilliant pop songs the likes of which haven’t been heard in years… It’s only the production that makes them country. If Radio 1 played them, they could be massive.” And maybe we should start giving teenage girls more credit because, well, I guess I was right.
Late one evening last year I was scrolling through Instagram and received a promoted advert for an event calling itself Swiftogeddon: The Taylor Swift Club Night (thanks, algorithm!). Having been a huge fan for over a decade, this was not something I could miss. As soon as possible, I booked tickets for the next London date.
By the time the night rolled around, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen some photos on social media from the previous events and could see that people seemed to be having a good time, so my sister (my partner-in-crime for the evening and for all things Swiftie) and I knocked back a couple of ciders, pulled on our cutest outfits and hopped on the Overground to Hackney. I’d not been to MOTH Club before, so walking into the bar was… worrying. I had no idea what the vibe would be and assumed that the small, quiet, well-lit room I had entered was the actual event. My heart sank, thinking, “this is weird, I knew it would be weird, of COURSE it’s weird…” until my sister, laughing, dragged me through the next door and into the heart of Swiftogeddon.
We were in a big dark room, with a huge projection of Taylor Swift videos on the wall, posters and quotes and in-jokes pinned all around. Taking it in, we headed to the bar.
“WAIT.” I stopped in my tracks and hit my sister’s arm to get her attention. “Listen!!” Eyes widening, we realised the song that had started playing was ‘I’m Only Me When I’m With You’, a little-known deep cut from the 2008 reissue of Swift’s debut album. I had literally never heard that song outside of my own headphones or car stereo, and here it was blasting in a club, and everyone around me was singing. I pulled out my phone and texted my friend, “This is my utopia”, grabbed a glass of dodgy white wine and thus started the greatest night out of my life.
It’s hard to describe how much fun I had at Swiftogeddon, but I’ll try. Imagine a night out where every single song played, all night, is a song you know off by heart and adore. Imagine wearing a band t-shirt you bought five years ago, and having random strangers see it and tell you they were at that show and how much they love that you’re wearing it. Imagine a night out where every person you encounter, from the queue to the dance floor to the toilets has a huge smile on their face and greets you like an old friend.
The music was obviously a huge part of what made it such a peerless evening, but it was more than just the music. The vibe of the event was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was groups of girls and boys and friends and lovers and it was free of any hint of the toxic masculinity that blights so many nights. And that’s not to say it was free of straight men — indeed, the creator and DJ of Swiftogeddon is a man married to a woman — it was just free of the bad ones, or at least of their bad behaviour. It was a haven for sisters to dance as freely as they wanted to ‘Getaway Car’ and boys to grind up against each other during ‘Style’ and girls to make out during ‘Cruel Summer’ and for a cheering crowd to watch a beautiful Liverpudlian dip to ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’.
Last June, when Swift released ‘You Need To Calm Down’, I wrote an in-depth article about how it was her straight ally anthem. I argued that while it was Not Great for her to take up space during Pride month to shout about how much she supported the queer community when we could have been hearing from actual queer people, it was still a fantastic song and that it was fine for straight allies like myself to have an anthem of their own. Well, long story short, over the course of writing that article and after some thinking and some conversations, I came to acknowledge that perhaps I was not as straight as I had led myself to believe. By the time I went out that night in Hackney I was out to myself and a few other people as bisexual. When ‘You Need To Calm Down’ started playing, the crowd went off even more than it did for all the other songs, and on the line “shade never made anybody less gay,” Pride flags were waved around the room as queer people embraced and danced and sang, just as welcome and safe as any other Taylor Swift fan.
The people of Swiftogeddon came from all walks of life, with only one thing in common: a love for the music of Taylor Swift so abiding that they would attend an entire night dedicated to her. If they’re anything like me (and judging by the way the evening went, they were), they will have spent years tucked up in their rooms listening to a young country singer from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania while everyone else was listening to whatever was more popular, or edgier, or some indie record that’s much cooler than her’s. Yes, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, but she wasn’t when she released ‘I’m Only Me When I’m With You’. There will have been moments when the people in that room felt like they were the only ones in the world who loved Taylor Swift as much as they did.
The last song of the night was ‘Long Live’, an album track from 2010’s Speak Now. It was 3am, I was tired, a little bit drunk and filled to the brim with joy.
I said remember this feeling / I passed the pictures around / Of all the years that we stood there on the sidelines / Wishing for right now
Looking around the room, I saw these people I’d shared my night with. I saw groups of friends, strangers, couples, queer people, straight people, people who loved country music in 2007, people who loved Lover in 2019. I saw them listening to ‘Fearless’ in their earphones on the school bus, I saw them learning to play ‘Tim McGraw’ on the guitar, I saw them standing on the sidelines, waiting, wishing for right now. I saw us all living inside a moment we could never have dreamed of a decade ago. Wherever and whenever we first heard her music, Swiftogeddon gave us a place of total acceptance, a place to — as the tagline on the website goes — “come together and worship at the altar of Taylor Swift”.
Swiftogeddon started out as an experiment. The creator saw that other ‘single-artist’ nights had worked and decided to try a Taylor Swift one at MOTH Club in Hackney. It sold out a month in advance, with over 300 people in attendance. Since the first event in August 2019 it has become ever more popular, with events all across the UK. There are more than a dozen upcoming dates on sale for later this year, including as far afield as Los Angeles and Brooklyn, and a huge event at London’s Oval Space. Originally scheduled for April 2020 and postponed — like so many thousands of others across the country — the Oval Space night was replaced by a livestreamed DJ set to raise funds for various charities.
As I type, in another life tomorrow should have been the day of Swift’s British Summer Time concert in Hyde Park, a fortnight after her career-defining headlining set at Glastonbury. In the age of coronavirus, when we can no longer assume we know what the future looks like, it is the memories of nights like Swiftogeddon that remind us that despite necessary social distancing, despite everything we have been through, there is nothing in the world that compares to true connection. Instead of being in Hyde Park with Taylor Swift, I will be tuning into the Swiftogeddon livestream party, and I will be dancing in the garden with my sister.
And it will be holy ground.
Originally published at https://www.jodiekate.com on July 11, 2020.