Everything was easy — parking, finding venues, moving from place to place. Easy street. Even the weather was easy — not too hot, not too cold, not even crisp yet. Clouds just hung out in the sky, slightly alive, so gray. Steel.
When I literally jumped out of the car in front of SCPA, excited strange people started offering me donuts. I didn’t take one, but I considered it. Fuck, that was stupid, I should have. Free damn donut. “Glazed!” they yelled, “Glazed!” Shout out to hot Dot, the lady in pink with the donut tray.
Welcome to the randomness that is sometimes called Midpoint. Bring it on.
My first stop was SCPA’s Corbett Theater to catch local singer/songwriter cup of awesomeness, Kim Taylor. At the theater, the staff was incredibly helpful, and downright eerily cheery. Truly, I was being greeted by a slew of Willy Wonkas. Inside, the lighting was soft and glowy, giving it a surreal feel. Definitely yellowish and romantic. I felt like I had a ghost on my ass. Really, I have one word for this venue – classy.
Wearing stripes and her trademark loose, layered hair, armed only with her backup singer and drummer, playing in front of a simple black-curtained backdrop, Taylor was a real pro. Mesmerizing. The crowd was silent, listening to each mellow note. Taylor is a master at delivering a subtle emotional pull that’s slightly haunting. I’ve always had a “voice crush” on her, I admit. Who doesn’t? Honestly, I didn’t want to leave her. Ever. I mean, maybe if there were tornadoes or something, I would want to leave, but I really was comfy there with Kim. That’s right, so comfy I feel like I can use her first name. Loved her smoky scene. I mean, no one was smoking, although I wanted to, because it felt as if I’d been catapulted into an old piano bar, listening to stirringly rich vocals. Mix up Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, and other songwriter greats, and add a sexy female sound, and there you have it. When she busted out “Days Like This,” the room was an intense cat ready to pounce on its suddenly found live meal. Waiting on each note, the audience’s anticipation was fierce. This was the perfect venue for her. Smart.
Around the Midpoint Midway, I spied a strange crowd of bikers wearing head lamps, Yusef Quotah (of You, You're Awesome) playing music on the street and singer/songwriter Tracy Walker checking out the scene. On the sidewalk, I almost ran smack into July for Kings’ singer Joe Hedges, who has grown a foot taller since I last saw him. Or maybe I am shrinking, not sure. The Midway was awesome with its Connect Four game that was as tall as me. Skateboarders made their way up a steep snake ramp. A bus was decorated with yarn.
Anything goes here, folks.
I made it to Grammer’s in time to miss the band I wanted to see and also in time for them to confiscate my partner’s knife. There was tight security there, and all in all, it felt like trouble. I enjoyed the frisking. By the security, that is. Wait, I think it was security. Oh well, it’s Midpoint. Bring it on.
Next stop, MOTR Pub, which recently celebrated its one year anniversary. Here, I checked out Minneapolis-based Prog Rock band, The Color Pharmacy, who was definitely quirky and had maybe hung out with They Might Be Giants here and there. Like they all partied together and discussed sound and decided Neutral Milk Hotel should be in on the discussion. MOTR was packed, as it should be. That venue is always full of amazing acts. Walk in straight-faced, and you’ll leave smiling all teeth.
Back at The Know Theater, where they were having their own little Lilith Fair, I discovered that The Watson Twins really are identical twins. Two lookers from L.A., one of them announced, “I’m so impressed with your dang city.” Their harmonies filled up The Know with a clear, open sound, filled with harmonica, strong voices, and of course, obvious chemistry.
Why is there a bathtub go-cart outside of Arnolds? Shrug.
At the Blue Wisp, I caught local Jason Ludwig’s solo set. Ludwig is never, ever disappointing. Wailing and full of powerful energy, the former noctaluca singer gave his whole heart on this one. It was well worth it to make the trek there. When he sang “Pacifier,” the crowd was hooting and hollering, cheering him on. Ludwig has a two-CD release show coming up at The Southgate House Friday, Oct. 14. It’ll be his first solo release in a long while, a real treat for sure. Like Taylor, Ludwig always comes off as smooth and professional.
I dig the fuck out of local-based Banderas, and The Courtyard Café was packed and hot while this band punched out their adrenaline-packed metalish goo, and they’ve won a slew of awards in this town, and I don’t mean to be a dick, but why the hell does the singer lick things so much? In my book, the music is well-written and full of power. This shit is great, and it stands on its own, and the performance is great, and it would still be great without the saliva. I was distracted by the licking. It’s easy to get distracted by licking, isn’t it? Just sayin.
We headed back to The Know in time to catch Lydia Loveless, a Columbus native who played the small stage. She’s a tiny blonde with a big heart, backed by an upright bass and drums. Her vocals came out with a Country vibe, and her scopey, Rockabilly sound is definitely catchy, however, not my cup of Seattle’s Best joe. Don’t get me wrong, she’s damn good, and her voice is bold and clear with a chest-centered force, so if you like this sound, then you’ll like this trio. I just veer toward the rough.
Overall, most venues were packed and kicking, the crowds were unbelievably supportive and attentive, and for a Thursday night, there was a kickass amount of energy in the air. Everywhere, music and art love were on the brain. Between the skateboarders and the art bus and the donuts and the music scene, it gave me a sweet, constant rush throughout the night. A rush, like sitting in a car, listening to all the lost songs, making out with someone, feeling that energy pulling in the center of the chest. Here, like Midpoint, even when you’re sleepy, you won’t want to leave. There’s an unidentifiable feel, something close to a special surge, a twinge of anticipation. You get the drift.
It’s hard to pick a favorite. Ludwig’s chops, Taylor’s smoke and steam, Banderas’ sweat, random skateboarders filling up the scene. Those were my favorite things. If I had to rate the night, that’d be the order I’d make of the madness. Take it for what you will.
It was a good’un. Not too raucous, not too quiet. Full. Just random enough. Just right.
As Ludwig might say, I’m ready for the “wicked rest” of the fest. Yo, bring it on.
Check out pics from MPMF.11's opening night here.