The MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF) has grown and evolved in so many ways since the first festival in 2002. The event’s founders, local musicians Bill Donabedian and Sean Rhiney, started with a staunch “independents only” policy (no label acts allowed) and built MPMF to help artists showcase their music and learn the tools of the trade from professionals and insiders at the daytime panels and conferences.
The concept was incredibly noble and nurturing. MPMF grew each year, bringing swarms of local music lovers to the city’s aching Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and, with the attention the event was receiving, even luring some suburbanites who came to the downtown area only to see a sporting event or attend Oktoberfest.
MidPoint also pulled musicians from all over the globe into our cooler-than-everyone-else-thinks town, showcasing the community’s embrace of arts and music and the benefits of being an artist in Greater Cincinnati.
In the year or two before CityBeat took over the festival in 2008, it became clear that attendance numbers had hit a ceiling. Our events guru Dan McCabe (long one of the town’s most vital booking agents for underground and up-and-coming musical acts) did what he does best and planned to turn MidPoint into more than just an event for the artists. By adding some established acts to the lineup while retaining a large dose of local acts and other independents, MPMF became something for the artist and the fan.
The independent bands weren’t just brushed to the side — they remain a huge part of MidPoint. And with more people going to the event to see artists they might be familiar with, chances are those indie musicians will benefit even more.
But Chief McCabe didn’t just grab a corporate sponsor and go hire Foghat and Rick Springfield to come in and play MidPoint.
As he’s done since his days booking Corryville’s famous/infamous Sudsy Malone’s in the 1990s, McCabe looked for artists on the verge, those who took chances and created something new, original and interesting.
This year’s MidPoint is the biggest yet, reaching the point where it’s able to showcase not only the scrappy new groundbreakers and risk-takers. MPMF10 also features artists who gave those newer acts a chance to do be as creative and experimental as they want to be, like singer/songwriter/arranger Van Dyke Parks, long-running Japanese Indie Pop trio Shonen Knife (pictured) and Tom Tom Club, featuring the famed rhythm section from Talking Heads, one of the most influential American bands ever.
Besides showcasing the musical pioneers of yesterday and today, here’s what else is new for MidPoint this year.
• Brian Bergen of Powerhouse Factories in Newport has organized an event celebrating a visual arts connection to music — artful silkscreened concert posters by area graphic artists and firms (Powerhouse being one of the biggest). The MidPoint Poster Expo will exhibit these works throughout the festival in Know Theatre’s lower level. Details here.
• Our amazing downtown Public Library branch is also lending awesome programming related to the artist/musician connection. Along with hosting live sets by MPMFers on its plaza in the afternoons, the photo exhibition Where the Kids Are Goin’ Tonite gives some love to the local photographers who make musicians look cool. A wide range of musical acts (many local) performing live or in posed situations will be represented in the displayed work of photographers Michael Wilson, David Garza and John Curley. Details here.
• Besides “Who’s playing the Secret Show?” and “Can you get me free tickets?” one of the more common questions I’ve heard is about the shuttle service that was so popular the past couple of years transporting weary or hurried venue-hoppers to their next destination. The little cars won’t be back this year, but you’ll still be able to get around in style thanks to Metro and their three giant hybrid buses, which will run the MPMF loop continually all three nights. Details here.
• Get all the ticketing details here, from three-day wristbands to Southgate House specifics to info on the free shows.