In the Heart of the Nation: The Titanic Spectacle of Taylor Swift

The first impression is a memory from high school. My mother and I attend a sold-out performance of Mamma Mia! and cursory examination reveals I am one of a dozen men in the audience. Rarely in my life have I felt like such an interloper.

Taylor Live

Saturday night was this multiplied by fifty-five. Soldier Field is jammed with women and girls, wearing a mix of official merchandise, homemade T-shirts, and their finest dresses. There is plenty of red lipstick and homemade electric signs casting light in the darkening sky. This is Taylor Nation, and they have come to experience the biggest singer-songwriter in the world.

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“We will get by, we will survive.” The Last Concert of the Grateful Dead


They were there for hours that hot summer day and I know because I was there for hours, too, walking through the greenery by the Field Museum and the south parking lot. I saw people begging for spare tickets holding up signs reading “I need a miracle.” I saw people in dirty khakis sitting on the grass playing acoustic guitars and selling everything from bottled water to jerk chicken burritos, from jewelry to bowls. I saw tailgaters who gave anyone who liked their little set-up a free beer. I saw elementary school girls bravely dressed in teddy bear costumes. I saw more tie-dye and vintage T-shirts (not thrift store vintage but owned and lived in for years, cherished vintage) then I’ll ever see in one place again.

It was the largest audience in the history of Soldier Field – 71,000 people – and they had gathered to see history that was not just Chicago’s but America’s. They came to see the last performance of the Grateful Dead.

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Mr. Rostan at the Movies (and Music): All Or Nothing with Ol’ Blue Eyes

Andrew Rostan was a film student before he realized that making comics was his horrible destiny, but he’s never shaken his love of cinema. Every two weeks, he’ll opine on current pictures or important movies from the past.

Capitol Sinatra

His mother spoke over fifty dialects of Italian and helped neighborhood girls with abortions. His father was a barkeep who boxed under the last name O’Brien because people thought only the Irish could fight. His voice teacher was a drunk ex-opera singer who lived over a restaurant in New York. He was friends with lawbreakers and Presidents. He was a teen idol who became an institution.

Charlton Heston said at a testimonial dinner that every one of his songs sounded like a four-minute movie. Frank Sinatra, who celebrates his centennial this year (and died seventeen years ago today), had a past that fueled a lifetime of stories.

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