I love music festivals. Like, love. The crowds, the music, the excitement in the air. MidPoint Music Festival is special for all of these reasons, but also because it’s essentially in my backyard. I don’t have to find a hotel, or crash on a friend of a friend of a friend’s couch (see: Lollapalooza 2011) or worry about parking (see: no car) or getting lost (see: backyard). I can wander around the streets of Over the Rhine and downtown Cincinnati with lots of other like-minded people, basking in the glow emanating from each venue, where musicians and fans are creating those magical, collaborative moments I love.
This year’s MPMF has started off with a bang, which is good, because I’ve got something to confess: I’ve never actually been to MPMF. I know, I know. It wasn’t on my radar until 2009 (for which I’ve lashed myself daily) and I worked the festival last year as a volunteer. So, this year, I wanted to fully enjoy myself.
CityBeat has asked me to keep my finger on the pulse of the festival daily, and you, lovely readers, are gonna get it all.
The Hanke Building
This warehouse-type building has been renovated by Vitaminwater for a series of Vitaminwater Uncapped Live events this month, and it’s fitting that everything in there is absolutely day-glo brilliant. The backdrop to the stage is covered in colorful graffiti, the floor is a swirly-whirl colorwheel, and Vitaminwater cases line the walls. (My favorite flavor is Essential; I must have consumed at least six in one night. Hydrating is cool.) It’s like a rave club from the ‘90s was dropped from the past, with updated brands and furniture (and no visible acid).
The Lions Rampant, a Cincinnati three-piece, was a fittingly raucous band to reverberate off the colorful walls. These bluesy rockers took the stage at 9:30pm, and I made my way down about halfway through their set. It never matters; their show is boisterous and dynamic from start to finish. The crowd was just starting to gather at this point in the evening, and I saw plenty of familiar faces jamming out. Vocalist Stuart MacKenzie’s quite the showman, with lots of blond-curl flinging and drawling yelps. I loved the energy. Definitely the right show to start the night off with.
Courtyard Café might be the smallest venue I’ve ever been in. I’m pretty sure the stage is about the size of my bathroom. And Cincinnati six-piece Banderas was on at 10:15pm. These boys are creative if nothing else, and they crammed two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer AND a lizard-like lead singer into that place, and owned it. These guys embody what Hard Rock + a Metal finishing school x excessive drinking in basements sounds like, and they put on one sex-filled show. Singer Jeremy Harrison crawls all over whatever stage he has present, and at Courtyard Café, this guy was writhing on the windows behind the band, vamping into the crowd, and, during my favorite point, actually crawled up from the floor to the exposed roof beams about 15 feet up, microphone wrapped around his neck, maintaining utter cool while dangling above the sardine-like crowd.
The intensity Banderas plays with is evident on each of their faces; guitarist Chris Harrison pours sweat with his eyes closed, whipping his guitar around like a rag doll. It was like a rock-metal waltz onstage, carefully choreographed with lots of close calls that really impress the judges. I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many people intrigued by what they heard that they were lined up outside against the windows, straining their necks to get a peek at the antics that were occurring. A good note: the showman-like quality of Banderas never detracts from their sound. They are a cohesive, dedicated band you should catch the next possible time you can. (They’ll be playing the Clifton Heights Music Festival on Oct. 8 at Christy’s Biergarten!)
If you haven’t noticed yet, I didn’t really make it off Main Street Thursday night. A lot of stopping and chatting occurred on the street, which is nice, but Friday and Saturday I’m dedicating myself to more music. I wandered down to MOTR to meet up with The Bright Light Social Hour (see: interview) and listen to Beat Connection. I didn’t catch up with TBLSH here (see: later in the evening) but I was really glad I caught this duo from Seattle. I love dancing to synths and samples as much as any other corn-fed hipster, and Beat Connection delivered the goods. My notes actually say, “dancey as fuck."
There was a sweaty throng of people packed in MOTR, so I stayed close to the edges and enjoyed the thumping drums, all-over-the-place synthesizer and ringing falsetto vocals. Lots of musical layering combined with infectious energy made this show one of those lucky finds. At one point, they asked the bar to turn the lights all the way down, and encapsulated their entire show for me by saying, “Music up, lights down!" An accurate summation.
I had planned on getting to Arnold’s to catch Josh Eagle and the Harvest City (see: A-Line review) but my stars were not aligned, and I ended up getting caught in conversation outside of The Hanke Building. It was serendipitous to say the least, because a cab pulled up, two long-haired boys hopped out, and lo and behold, they were half of The Bright Light Social Hour!
They told me about the Brass Bed, a quartet from Louisiana, with whom TBLSH had played. The boys and I made our way down the street, and I was greeted with chill Indie Rock. I enjoyed the pieces of Brass Bed I was paying attention to, but nothing particularly grabbed me. I should probably have spent a lot less time talking that night, seriously.
Friday and Saturday night, I’m probably going to wear a sign around my neck that says “Do Not Disturb: Concentrating." Or not. We’ll see!
Check out more photos from MPMF.11's opening night here.