Here's What You Learn Volunteering at Pitchfork Music Festival
It's not an awful thing to want free music. More importantly, it's not awful to freeload at summer festivals without paying triple digits for a three-day pass. Outside of press credentials and breaking in, there is one pretty reasonable option available to all broke music fans: volunteering.
This past weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival, I embarked on my second year as a volunteer. Not only did Chicago's Union Park become our playground, but our time helped provide a donation to a local not-for-profit, Girls Rock! Chicago which helps empower girls through music.
And so, here's what a weekend of free labor and free music can teach you:
Volunteering Does Not Technically Mean You Will Get to Enjoy Live Music During Your Shift
Last year, while volunteering at the same festival, a group of friends and I were blessed with the very rare opportunity of being stationed directly across from two of the three stages. Standing there handing out schedules, we were able to hear acts like Cults and Flying Lotus. We also helped keep jumpers from breaking down the fence as Danny Brown passed by, and chased down Ezra Koenig as he passed by. Our hopes were unrealistically high for this year's festival.
There are numerous positions that have to be filled by volunteers, like, of course, scanning tickets, giving out wristbands for 21+ attendees who would like to be drunk, guarding the entrance to VIP sections, and guarding fences around the park from equally enterprising music lovers. Some are more glamorous than others. Our Friday evening shift saw us enter into the familiar world of working a festival entrance. Unfortunately, we were stuck at the much smaller one behind the Green stage where we could sort of hear the acts play in the seemingly far distance. In retrospect, it was a far better position than being painfully close to the Blue stage guarding a fence from jumpers without actually getting to see the stage. Sucks to suck.
But That Doesn't Mean You Don't Encounter Your Favorite Artists
The band Merchandise happened upon the entrance where we were scanning tickets Friday night after being misdirected a couple times while searching for the artist check-in.
Guarding a Fence From Jumpers Is Less Exciting Than It Sounds
Seriously, how many people actually jump a fence to enter a music festival? Maybe there are a ton that I don't know about, but none of them showed up during the few hours we sat there watching it and playing Pitchfork Mad Libs, which were helpfully available in one of the passport booklets supplied upon entry. We were there alongside several equally bored security guards sitting and waiting as nothing happened while Ryan Hemsworth apparently wore sweatpants on stage in the crazy weekend heat. But I wouldn't know because the second fence to the park was blocking us. The closest to excitement that we came was when a homeless man stuck his head through a hole in the fence to tell us how much he loved us before very suddenly leaving. Maybe he just wasn't that big of a Ryan Hemsworth fan.