Smelly, dirty, rainy, and LOUD. If I could only use four words to describe this weekend, those would be them without a doubt. This past weekend was the Chicago punk-rock festival's second year in Denver, and although we weren't out in a crazy dust-bowl farm like last year, the patrons certainly made it fell just the same.
Riot Fest was just a little different for me this year, because I was actually working for the festival, instead of just covering it for Ultra5280. I was managing the two VIP Areas available to folks who paid for the fancier tickets, and I had no idea exactly what I had gotten myself into upon arrival on Friday. All I knew is I would be working, music would be playing, and it would be awesome. My idea was fairly spot on, but it became quickly apparent to me that for a show like this, I would rather be off having fun than stuck babysitting adults. For those of you saying, "but Maddie, Tour Managing is babysitting drunk people! you LOVE this!", babysitting drunks is only fun when you know them...and there's not 300 of them in a big parking lot, left to you to manage alone. Can anyone say "herding cats"?
The lineup for this year's show was amazing. Weezer, The Flaming Lips, The Cure, Manchester Orchestra, Taking Back Sunday, Gogol Bordello, Die Antwoord, The Violent Femmes, In The Whale, My Body Sings Electric, Wiredogs, The Epilogues, the list could go on and on...there wasn't a single day I wasn't excited for, so I thought it'd be perfect to work the show and get guaranteed admission. In that sense, my idea was perfect, but I didn't know that playing VIP Manager would mean I was corralled into the VIP areas all day every day. I had assumed that I would be running all of the performer VIP's around all day, handling their needs, not playing liaison to the folks who purchase VIP tickets. Lesson #1 learned this weekend: job titles can be very deceiving. The job wasn't endlessly demanding or even that hard at all, I was simply keeping things in check, making sure the VIP areas were presentable, and that nothing was going wrong with the patrons or the bar. Lesson #2 learned this weekend: I am not good at not having stuff to do. If I come to work, I want to be put to work. I don't wanna be standing around just minding my own, I want either my brain or my muscles to be burning...I want something to challenge me. With no one around to present challenges to me, I found ways to challenge myself. Interacting with patrons, checking on the bar staff, running back and forth between the two areas, always chatting with the security staff to find ways to help them. I gave myself pet projects and made use of my time, building my day around what area I needed to be in to hear whatever band I wanted to catch.
As the weekend progressed, I settled into my role and found myself having more fun. Matt and Castro from Ultra5280 arrived on Saturday to cover the festival for the blog so I could finally start tweeting and Instagraming for them when I had the time. My friend Tyler came on Saturday night to have a religious experience watching The Cure (which he did. He loved it), and Laurel came on Sunday and watched me mosh to In The Whale early in the AM, and we jammed to 3OH!3 and Dropkick Murphy's later in the day. I ran into tons of tour family throughout the weekend, and finally saw some folks I hadn't been able to meet up with since I'd returned home. I hung with some of the non-profit guys I'd met through my time at Red Rocks from the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation and helped them celebrate getting 666 donors registered by the weekend's end. I even got the chance to help some friends from CU Denver get jobs as well that weekend driving artists to and from stage (on golf carts! I wanted their job, no lie. I was jealous). Lesson #3 this weekend: Sometimes not being slaughtered by your work is okay. Having fun and getting paid can go hand in hand without you making your brain melt and your body ache.
By the end of Sunday night I was sad to see the weekend go. Although I missed the farm atmosphere that last year had brought the show, having the venue so close this year made the weekend feel like less of a crazy commitment. It felt much more relaxed, and thanks to all the hay bails, windmills, and tractors, some of the country charm was still present. Sunday we were drenched by rain and my feet ached, but the weekend had been so fun that I didn't care; I already couldn't wait for next year. I was so excited to have had the chance to prove to the Riot Fest team that I can be an asset in any situation, and I hope that maybe next year I can do something that will challenge me a bit more while still being involved in this amazing Festival. I am soooo happy that Riot Fest has come to Denver - how have I been missing out on this for the past decade?!? Lesson #4 of the weekend: I work in the coolest industry in the world. I love my job, no matter what it may be that particular day. I can't imagine doing anything else. The little weekend break from merch and Red Rocks was nice, and it's amazing to me that it's been five months since graduation and I'm somehow managing to stay afloat working in this business. I know i'll hit rough patches eventually, but this has been amazing. I'm so very thankful.