Four beers, a couple of brats and one regrettable weekend at Oktoberfest later, I’m ready to see what else Cincinnati has to offer in terms of merrymaking. Midpoint Music Festival is supposed to be the real deal, and my hopes are high. I’ve had my fill of jacked-up prices on warm keg beer and German interpretations of musical blunders such as the chicken dance song.
My MPMF adventure kicks off Thursday night with Gaby Moreno at the Blue Wisp Café, which drew all sorts of characters, from golden gals who put ice in their chardonnay to pretentious twentysomethings who thought Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High” was the second coming of Christ. I find myself surrounded on all sides by the regulars as well as those lured in to the hip night club by one Gaby Moreno. With their MPMF schedules and patient girlfriends in tow, these eager beavers talk good beer, bad TV and the upcoming MP shows they can’t wait to see … and then Gaby takes the stage.
She’s a natural beauty who could (and did) silence a crowd with a sound check. This dame has the pipes that send chills down your spine. She even evokes a mild applause while conversing with the sound guy. While Gaby’s voice is the driving force of her four-piece troupe, the band doesn’t just act as backing sound, they carry their own weight. From Suda Americana-influenced Country ballads to the raw sound of the Blues, these cats have a family dynamic that makes their in-sync sound seem effortless. “Letter to a Mad Woman” sticks out during the set as a song that allows Gaby to show her range and the rest of the band to exhibit their understanding of soul.
I fell in love tonight. This soulful siren shares a common denominator with Camille Dalmais, Zee Avi and Joss Stone and is exactly the type of singer/songwriter I’ve been looking for.
After drinking myself into a stupor and watching Van Dyke Parks slam on the black and whites for a while (he hung out and mingled in the club all night before his closing set), I mosey on over to the Contemporary Arts Center for some Indie Rock. As a hipster sympathizer and general music lover, I just have to get me some No No Knots. The Knots’ in-your-face Synth Rock tunes make for a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!/Radiohead lovechild to die for. With dreamy melodies met with explosive vocals and a saxophone to boot, the Knots boast the ability to effortlessly blend creative improvisation into their rehearsed pieces that sets precedence for other Cincinnati live acts to aspire to.
And then … Holy ComicCon, Batman! After grabbing a well-priced lager to sober up, I venture back to the CAC's standing room-only crowd to hear Shonen Knife. These well-preserved, pint-sized ladies are hard to catch a glimpse of through a crowd all doing the twist to Shonen anthems like “Flying Jelly Attack,” but just being able to hear their set is worth putting up with the house lights being flickered on and off every time a song ends. Shame on you, CAC! In any case, Shonen Knife will always have a special place in my heart as the female version of The Ramones (who can actually play their instruments) — but if I had it my way, it’d be The 5,6,7,8’s giving the MPMF its J-Pop fill.
Thanks to Metro’s shuttle agreement to let three-day pass holders ride for free, I'm able to make it back to my loft without incident or spending any more money. I’ve got to hand it to you, MPMF, it’s hard to find a bad thing to say about you. But it’s only been one date, and it’s usually on the second one when I find out you don’t eat meat and have hair on your upper lip.
Until then, arigato, Shonen Knife. Gracias, Gaby Moreno. Thank you, No No Knots. And I’ll see you tonight, MPMF.