I was already planning on attending Big Turn. Their lineup boasts some of Minnesota’s most well-known acts: Charlie Parr, Dessa, Gaelynn Lea, the 4ontheFloor, Dosh, Chris Koza, and Lydia Liza, among others. I’m required to do 16 hours of volunteer work for school, so I decided to kill two loons with one stone.
Red Wing is a cool town. They’re famous for their shoes, the first established bar in Minnesota, and (now) the Big Turn Music Festival. The festival involves 23 venues, and over 100 bands and performers. It’s small enough that it doesn’t suffer from the corporate saturation of SXSW, but big enough to host a lot of artists you’ve heard of. Nearly all the bands are Midwestern, and there’s a distinctly Minnesotan vibe to it. Fans of all ages attend, and the crowds remind me of a local bar in a small town.
I had never volunteered at a festival, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When filling out my volunteer form, there was a checkbox to be considered for Venue Captain. I checked it because I wanted people to salute me. I was assigned to 223 Barrel House (the first established bar I mentioned earlier). We had to check wristbands, answer questions, count guests, and stop letting people in once we reached capacity (75). My role as VC was to be the main point of contact between the volunteers, the sound guy, the venue owner, the bands, and the volunteer coordinator. I had to make sure people stuck to their set times and ensure it all went smoothly. It was a lot of fun! It was a great excuse to introduce myself to bands and talk about music. Due to the snow storm, I only volunteered the one night, but it was a good experience.
Before my shift, I had the opportunity to check out some shows. I wandered into Artreach, a visual arts non-profit, where singer-songwriter Sterling Haukom was performing for about five people. I took a seat in the back. Among the attendees, I spotted Charlie Parr in the front row. Earlier that day, I overhead Dosh introducing himself to someone at the Artist Check-in Hub. I couldn’t go to their shows because of my shift, but it was exciting to catch them out in the wild.
I only got a small taste of Big Turn, but it was a good time. Talking with the bands, listening to music, and hanging out with the other volunteers was great. The community of music lovers was alive and well, and it was an honor to be a part of it. I recommend volunteering if you get the chance. It’s a fantastic way to support the arts, and it’s not hard. You get to meet a lot of cool people and be part of something meaningful.
Notable Acts (that I actually saw)
Savannah Smith – Singer-songwriter. Dope vox. Telecaster. Former Ukulele-star. Soundcloud.
Spaceheaters – Brass-based funk rock. Great for dancing. Groove city. Bandcamp.
Sterling Haukom – Singer-songwriter. Folk. Powerful, high voice. Dynamic. Had Charlie Parr watch his set. Spotify.