There was a lot going on all the time at this year's Underground Music Showcase (UMS). Bands were setting up and breaking down to keep to the festival's tight schedule, fans clogged the sidewalks for blocks on both sides of the street, and food trucks and other purveyors of trinkets and pot paraphernalia hocked their wares outside nearly every venue.
Among the throng were always one of two serious looking people, obviously not among any of the aforementioned groups. Clad in hard-to-miss green t-shirts, they manned the doors, checking IDs and event credentials and generally helping make the whole thing move along.
They are the volunteers, a 375-strong pack of mostly young, college-aged students with a host of reasons for giving up their time to spend four days dealing with drunks and belligerent non-badged interlopers and providing the answers to endless questions about schedules, bands and where to find a particular venue.
Nia Efeoglu is eighteen and a freshman at Red Rocks Community College. She says she took the job along with some friends, looking for something interesting to do and a chance to get to see some new bands. Volunteers are given free four-day passes for their time, a $75 value for working a minimum of two shifts of several hours each. That's a big draw considering the sheer number of artist on the bill.
"I saw Ian Cooke," says Efeoglu. "It was amazing. I think it's definitely worth it."
But it's still work. Efeoglu was stationed at the box office on Thursday. Later, she was assigned to Eslinger Gallery as stage manager, greeting all the bands, telling them where to store their gear, how long they had to play and making sure those that are supposed to get paid do.
As at any job, paid or not, things don't always go the way you think they will. On Saturday, someone didn't show up for his shift, and so Efeoglu wound up manning the door at Eslinger. It's actually two doors, with people streaming in on both sides. Efeoglu is relatively small -- without the bright t-shirt she'd be easy to miss. But she handles her duties with gusto, occasionally turning people away who aren't wearing the requisite wristband. It doesn't seem to bother her that they are visibly annoyed.
Keighley Voorheis, 25, from Glenwood Springs recently relocated to Denver. She says the event is so much fun she couldn't resist being a part of it.
"I went to UMS last year and fell in love with how everything was set up," she says. "I know a lot of people in bands so I decided to come back and volunteer to get my free wristband."
For that coveted piece of ID Voorheis worked one shift Saturday night, a total of five hours, at the box office on South Broadway. It was a lucky break, as her schedule made her original assignment impossible.
"They were very flexible," says Voorheis. "I initially got different hours but my schedule changed so Amy (Salonek, volunteer manager for UMS) got me this one shift so I could still get my free pass."
And she's using it to it's fullest potential. By Saturday, she says, she'd already seen more bands than she could remember including Inner Oceans, Bud Bronson And The Goodtimers, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and In The Whale.
"Also some new stuff and random shows that I just got swept to with other friends," she adds.
And even with only one day left there was a lot more to come, particularly a repeat performance by Residual Kid who played UMS last year and packed the Hi-Dive. Not bad for three kids aged thirteen to fifteen.
"[Sunday] is the biggest day for me because there are so many bands and they are second or third performances so if you missed them during the weekend you can still catch them," she says. "So I'm going to be here all day, like eleven or twleve hours."
Like many festivals, Salonek says the UMS relies on volunteers for a number of jobs, from tending bar, selling tickets and managing events at individual venues. Anyone can volunteer, she says, as long as she or he has a love for music and a willingness to work. Recruiting for next year will start immediately following the close of festivities for 2014, with things really heating up in the early spring.
There's never a shortage of people ready to give their time for the event, Salonek says, and the relatively light lifting for volunteers combined with the chance to see dozens of bands in four days has volunteers like Voorheis eager to return.
"I'm definitely going to be volunteering again next year," she says. "Absolutely."
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