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On Tuesday, Merika With drove from Chicago to Omaha with supplies for Wednesday's Taylor Swift concert.
Among them: bright red lipstick and a lion costume.
She wore both — and carried a Taylor Swift tote bag — to Wednesday's concert. Though With, 25, has been a Swift fan since she heard the song “Teardrops on My Guitar” years ago, she had never seen her live. So she decided to make her first concert count.
She and her friend, 23-year-old Samantha Kerr, made the eight-hour, 465-mile drive just to be there for the first night of Swift's “Red” tour. With had read that fans who were creatively dressed were the most likely to be tapped to attend post-concert parties with the singer (called, for the record, T-Parties), so she donned the furry full-body suit.
“This is my attempt to go to the T-Party,” she said.
With said she had initially planned to go as Chewbacca — Swift's favorite Halloween costume. She couldn't find an affordable Chewy outfit, though, and considered several other costumes before she made her decision.
“I figured that no one else is going to go as a lion,” she said.
She was indeed the only lion milling about the CenturyLink Center before the show, but almost everyone there was showing some kind of Swift pride.
Many fans wore bright red lipstick — an homage to the Cover Girl spokeswoman's lip hue. They wrote the number 13 — Swift's favorite number — on their hands, and many wore sundresses with cowboy boots, which for years was a Swift trademark.
Many others, like 16-year-old Kassidy Gordon of Sioux Falls, S.D., wore something glittery (another of Swift's favorite things). Gordon wore both sparkling shoes and a light-up belt. Still others dressed in red — a tribute to the name of Swift's most recent record and the tour. During the concert, Swift herself wore at various points a short red dress, a long red gown, slim red pants and glittery red shoes. She accessorized with a sparkling red microphone, guitar and manicure.
Averie Konrad of Kingsland, Ga., also wore red pants, and she convinced her mom and cousin who accompanied her to do the same.
Konrad's 15th birthday was Wednesday, and her mom surprised her at Christmas with tickets to the opening night of the tour.
“I cried,” Konrad said. “I was so excited.”
Konrad said Swift's songs resonate with her — particularly the ones about relationships. And she likes that Swift is bold and not afraid to be herself. She feels an extra affinity for the singer because both have naturally curly hair.
That's the thing about Swift — her fans relate to her.
“Her music is her diary,” said Claudine Ottinger, one of Swift's longtime spokeswomen.
Her confessional lyrics and relatable personality drew many fans from out of state. Adam Anderson, 20, traveled more than 600 miles from Menominee, Mich.
“I didn't want to wait,” he said.
Anderson gets grief from his male friends for his love of the singer. But he likes her lyrics, her voice and her message so much that he puts up with it. Plus, he feels like her songs provide a window into what women are thinking.
“I feel like I can learn from her songs,” he said.
Anderson and other guys were in the minority at Wednesday's show. Most of the 13,500 seats filled on Wednesday belonged to the ladies.
“We love her so much,” said Renae Breemes, 19, a Lincoln North Star graduate who attends the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Breemes watched Wednesday's concert from the seventh row with her friend, Jess Brestel, also a UNK student, and her sister, Mallory Breemes, a senior at North Star.
The three spent months planning for the day of the show, Renae Breemes said. They listened to all of Swift's albums, they decided what they were going to wear, they practiced the dance moves that Swift makes up to accompany her songs. They fell in love with the song “22” from her new album, in which Swift sings about the misery, magic and fun of not having it all figured out yet.
“I think '22' is like our generation,” Renae said. “It's just so spot-on.”
They saw Swift during her last show in Omaha, too, even though it was the night before high school graduation.
“She always comes first,” Renae said.
Even fans who won't see Swift until tonight spent Wednesday getting ready for the show. Mindy Barna of Omaha helped her 5-year-old son, Grant, make a glittery red sign for the show.
Tonight's show will be Grant's first concert. He fell in love with Swift two years ago, when he was a train-obsessed 3-year-old. He happened to see Swift's video for her song “Mean,” which Swift played on her banjo early in Wednesday's show as fans excitedly sang along. The video includes several scenes in which Swift sings in front of a train.
The train may have gotten his attention, but her voice kept it. Grant began to pick out her other hits on the radio. When friends and family began to tease him that Swift was his girlfriend, he would blush deeply.
Barna said that Grant's Swift obsession has raised a few eyebrows — 5-year-old boys are not her main fan base, after all. But Barna believes Swift is a good role model, and she said that Grant's love for “Mean” — which became an anti-bullying anthem — provided an opportunity to talk to him about the importance of treating others with respect.
“I approve of his first love,” Barna said. “Hopefully I approve of all the loves after that.”
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