What We Saw on the Beyoncé Express

Several cowboy hats tipped upward toward the departures board at Penn Station, their wearers unusually excited to board a crowded, sweaty train to New Jersey.

“Beyoncé, Track 14!” shouted a New Jersey Transit employee in a neon yellow vest. Commuters in sequins trampled over a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign in their rush to the escalators.

It was 7 p.m. on Saturday, and an Uber from Midtown Manhattan to the Meadowlands cost about $70. Many Beyoncé fans instead took public transportation to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, where the singer would soon take the stage for her Renaissance World Tour.

They clutched paper tickets between chrome manicures. They sweated body glitter onto concrete platforms. They vogued through a transfer at Secaucus. Beginning at 4 p.m., the ordinarily staid commuter rail line became the site of the people’s pregame.

“We’re balling on a budget,” said Alyssa Garmone, 22, an actress who lives in Queens. She wore rhinestone sunglasses and sat in a coveted corner four-seat with her sister; each had paid $5.50 to ride.

So had Victoria Muschitiello, 27, a dental hygienist on Long Island who had started researching how best to get to the stadium a week earlier. “Whenever I turn up, my little ‘Yoncé’ tattoo pops out,” she said, flipping her bottom lip to reveal Beyoncé’s nickname tattooed inside her mouth.

Many train cars looked more or less like party buses, albeit party buses with a lot of ads for Ramapo College. Some riders sipped from brightly colored drinks, while others blasted music from portable speakers. When the conductor approached, all passengers were on their best behavior.

Sierra Williams, 25, a video operations coordinator in Manhattan, was not letting anything stop her from seeing Beyoncé for the first time — including a mild chest cold.

“Bronchitis who? She’s gone, I left her at home,” Ms. Williams said. “It’s B and that’s not for bronchitis.”

She sat with Imani Tudor, 28, a photo editor from Brooklyn who had been exchanging meaningful glances with other decked-out fans all evening.

“We’re all a part of the same thing,” Ms. Tudor said on her way to the Saturday show at MetLife. (The stadium hosted a second tour date on Sunday.) Beyoncé’s album “Renaissance,” which had been released exactly one year earlier, was “a love letter to queer people, to Black people, to Black femmes,” she added. “It’s beautiful to see it come to life.”

Fans have been approaching the pop superstar’s first solo tour in seven years with determination. Some went so far as to fly across oceans for cheaper seats. New Yorkers needed only to cross the Hudson, which does not always come naturally to them.

“We Googled how people did it for the Taylor Swift concert,” said Camila Grisel, 25, who lives in Manhattan and works for Lincoln Center. She was lost in Penn Station, licking an ice cream cone from its subterranean Häagen-Dazs. Her fiancée, Linda Garcia, 28, a kindergarten teacher, spotted that the track number had been announced and pulled her down the stairs.

They reached a platform partly obscured by iridescent cowboy boots and looked around. Stetsons appeared to be transforming in to disco balls, their mirrored tiles casting light onto other fans’ silver bikinis. Football jerseys sported the song title “Thique” instead of surnames.

Otherworldly looks inspired by the song “Alien Superstar” — buglike shades, neon green accessories — were made somewhat more terrestrial by their surroundings. A pair of sisters in silver and black bustiers posed in front of a floor-to-ceiling image of Judy Blume.

“I feel like an oddball,” said Hannah Wheeler, 58, who wore a floral maxi dress and was riding home to Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., from her 40th high school reunion. Ms. Wheeler took a picture of the concertgoers to show her husband their “flashy flashy bling-bling.”

Jair Fonseca, who happened to be wearing a cowboy hat, was also not going to see Beyoncé; he was going to Rahway, N.J. Still, Mr. Fonseca, 38, who owns a Peruvian restaurant, said it was exciting to see people from New York and beyond flock to his area for the concert. “Today we are hosting here in Jersey,” he said.

In a tunnel below the Hudson River, fans debated whether the show’s special guests would be just good (Jay-Z) or great (Grace Jones). Before they could settle on an answer, the train reached Secaucus Junction, where the crowd had to transfer to the Meadowlands Rail Line to get to the stadium.

The sequined parade filtered under a sign dedicating the station to the former U.S. senator Frank R. Lautenberg. New Jersey Transit employees wearing khakis stood in front of a shuttered Sbarro, holding up signs that said “Queen B” in all caps with a red arrow.

The signs were just one piece of New Jersey Transit’s extensive planning efforts, said Kyalo Mulumba, a spokesman for the system. “Customers and the public don’t see the hours of preparation that goes into getting 15,000 or more customers to and from the stadium on event days,” he wrote in an email. (MetLife Stadium is also host to New York Giants and Jets games as well as other concerts, including Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.)

New Jersey Transit deployed close to 100 additional employees to help with customer service, he said. It also posted memes of train cars wearing glittery cowboy hats on Twitter to advertise its service.

Vinette Pryce, 74, who is retired and lives in Brooklyn, had not needed convincing. She talked her nephew out of taking an Uber by warning him that the parking lot would be clogged after the show.

It was Ms. Pryce’s third time seeing Beyoncé, including once with Destiny’s Child. She wore head-to-toe blue in tribute to Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy, who would perform later that night.

Ms. Pryce said that the artist’s boldness inspired something similar among her fans. “Beyoncé, she goes all the way,” Ms. Pryce said. “She brings out the fashion, and she makes you feel that you’re worthy, and that you can participate.”

By 8 p.m., the crowd had thinned out, but evidence of the BeyHive remained.

Ethan Lin, 20, a student in Los Angeles, found one of the “Queen B” signs on the ground at Secaucus Junction while heading back to Manhattan from a pool party. He thought it was hilarious. “Some New Jersey full-time government employee made this sign,” he said.

His friend Alan Gao, 21, an intern in Manhattan, asked when the Beyoncé concert was. “Now?” he said. “Maybe we should reroute.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com