The 2008 MidPoint Music Festival will feature several tweaks of its original concept, as CityBeat begins to firm up plans for its first year producing the annual event.
For the first time, signed touring acts will be included in the MidPoint lineup Sept. 25-27. The majority of MidPoint performers will continue to be unsigned independent artists selected through a submission process; early registration ends April 30, with a late registration deadline of May 15 (acts sign up at www.mpmf.com).
CityBeat Marketing and Promotions Manager Dan McCabe, who's organizing and booking acts for MidPoint, isn't ready to announce any confirmed acts for the festival. During his remarks April 9 at the official MidPoint kickoff event at Below Zero Lounge, he said that Cursive -- who played later in the evening -- is the kind of touring band he hopes to present in September. (Cursive records for Saddle Creek Records in Omaha, Neb., their home town; the label was founded by Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.)
Also for the first time, this year's MidPoint will stretch to Newport, where the Southgate House will host three stages each night.
McCabe says he's working to confirm venues and hopes to link the festival from its longtime home in Over-the-Rhine through Downtown to Newport.
On April 9 McCabe announced three major sponsors for this year's MidPoint: Scion, a division of Toyota; Dewey's Pizza; and Bud Select, which will be the festival's official beer. Additional sponsors will be announced as they're confirmed.
McCabe also unveiled the festival's new logo, created by brand design agency LPK. The logo features Cincinnati's downtown skyline rendered as an equalizer readout found on audio equipment and places the word "Cincinnati" before the MidPoint name -- both intentional, according to McCabe.
"Cincinnati is in the forefront of everything we're doing with MidPoint because this event helps promote the city as a music town," McCabe says. "The logo also reminds people that MidPoint is in an urban setting in downtown clubs, which is pretty unusual for these types of weekend festivals."
This year's MidPoint is not hosting a conference or trade show, as in previous years. McCabe says he's redirecting the funds that had been used to build the conference panels into the talent budget in order to attract high-profile touring acts. He says he's planning to resurrect the conference component in 2009.
McCabe did announce one act for the 2008 MidPoint Music Festival: the Shake It Records Soul Spectacular and Revue. He says he's planning to have each year's MidPoint showcase one aspect of Cincinnati's rich musical history, and this year will highlight the area's late 1960s/early '70s soul music and R&B scene.
The revue will feature Kenny Smith, a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Hall of Famer whose career retrospective CD One More Day was released by Shake It Records. Other acts scheduled to perform include Charles Spurling, Sisters of Righteous, James Bowens, Cody Black and Rufus Allen, with local rock band Pearlene backing them all.
The venue for the Shake It Records Soul Spectacular and Revue is to be announced.
Bill Donabedian, who with Sean Rhiney founded the MidPoint Music Festival in 2002, said at the April 9 event he felt like a father watching his child leave for college -- and he couldn't wait for the child to get going. Donabedian and Rhiney created a festival that featured only unsigned independent acts, all of whom applied through a submission process, and helped promote clubs and venues in the Main Street Entertainment District in Over-the-Rhine.
Donabedian and Rhiney will remain involved in MidPoint as advisers to CityBeat, and many of the volunteers and team leaders they developed will remain involved as well.
McCabe says that, even though touring acts will be introduced to MidPoint this fall, the original vision of the festival as supporting unsigned independent artists remains.
"Adding signed touring acts raises the profile of MidPoint with fans and with the music industry," McCabe says, "which raises the profile of every musician involved with MidPoint. Independent acts will now share the same stage with touring acts and get seen by more people, while the touring acts will play smaller clubs than usual, which should excite fans."