This afternoon, the Facebook page of crucial, longtime MidPoint Music Festival supporters, Dewey's Pizza, announced the first handful of artists book to play this fall's MidPoint Music Festival. And, after early-bird discount tickets quickly sold out several weeks ago, the rest of the tickets are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com.
The first batch of MPMF.13 performers is very representative of the bookings for MidPoint the past few years. You've got a Modern Rock legend, a few established acts, several current "buzz bands" and a few acts that, if past years' MPMFs are any indication, will be "buzz-worthy" by the time the festival rolls around, Sept. 26-28.
Here are the first 17 acts booked for MPMF.13, the 12th installment of the ever-growing music fest that utilizes various venues in Over-the-Rhine/Downtown. Below the list, you can check out a song by each artist on our first MPMF.13 playlist.
The Breeders (Dayton, Ohio)
One of the seminal bands of the "Alternative Revolution" in the ’90s, The Breeders are currently promoting the 20th anniversary, expanded reissue of their classic Last Splash album. Though the Dayton-based Deal sisters (Kelley of R. Ring and Kim of Pixies) have kept musically active since Last Splash, with outside projects and The Breeders, the world tour for the reissue is special because it reunites the Deals with the album's lineup — bassist Josephine Wiggs and veteran Dayton drummer Jim MacPherson, who also spent time with Guided By Voices. The Breeders are playing Last Splash in its entirety on the whole tour.
The Head and The Heart (Seattle, Wash.)
One of the top acts of the "Indie Folk" movement, The Head and the Heart formed in Seattle in 2009. An early, self-made recording the band sold at initial shows ended up becoming so popular, local record stores began stocking it and trying to keep up with the surprising demand. The recording began making the music industry rounds, leading to a bidding war for the band. They ended up signing to hometown label Sub Pop within about a year of forming. The group's self-titled album was released to critical acclaim in 2011. The band's warm, ear-grabbing sound has been used a lot on TV spots; you might recognize their "Lost in My Mind," which was the background music for the trailer for the big hit film, Silver Linings Playbook.
Warpaint (Los Angeles)
With an airy, mesmerizing take on Psych Pop, L.A. quartet Warpaint caught the attention of mad guitar genius John Frusciante, who offered to mix the band's Exquisite Corpse EP. That release and a successful CMJ festival appearance led to Warpaint's signing to the legendary Rough Trade imprint. The label released the album The Fool in October 2010 and the band went back to their relentless touring schedule, which included dates with the likes of The xx, Yeasayer and The Walkmen. The band is currently prepping a new LP.
Foxygen (New York, NY/Olympia, Wash.)
Foxygen is the engagingly adventurous duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who formed the group as 15-year-olds in 2005 and self-released a dozen or so albums while learning to play as many instruments as possible. The band's skewered Art Pop (akin to that of MGMT) with retro-underpinnings has been drawing attention since the release of the Foxygen full-length debut for the respected Jagjaguwar Records, the Richard Swift-produced We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, at the start of this year.
Cody ChesnuTT (Atlanta, Ga.)
Singer/songwriter Cody ChesnuTT first came to a lot of people's attention as the lead vocalist on "The Seed (2.0)," a fairly big single off of The Roots' Phrenology album in 2002. That drove a lot of Roots fans to ChesnuTT's full-length from the same year, The Headphone Masterpiece, though what they heard on that album — an underproduced, ambling collection of demo-sounding tunes that surfed a wide range of genres with ADD-like abandon. A decade later, ChesnuTT has returned with a new focus, showcasing a balanced approach based in vintage Soul (vocally, he's quite similar to Marvin Gaye) and Rock & Roll, on the full-length, Landing on a Hundred.
Daughter (London, UK)
Originating as the "one-woman-band" recording project of singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, Daughter — now a trio, which Tonra's husband on guitar and drummer Remi Aguilella — mixes an Indie Folk base with subtle electronics, creating an emotive sound that can be whisper-quiet one moment and epically lush another. After a self-titled EP, Mumford & Son's Communion label released The Wild Youth EP. Often compared to Cat Power due to Tonra's vocals, last year, the band signed to the 4AD label, a fitting choice given the legendarily ambient sound that defined the label's artists in its early years. The label released the trio's debut, If You Leave, in March of this year.
METZ (Toronto, Canada)
Relentless in its sonic attack, Canadian three-piece METZ recalls a lot of the punchier Post Punk bands of the ’80s/’90s, drawing comparisons to Big Black, The Jesus Lizard and any number of acts on the (early) Sub Pop and Dischord labels. After a few years of heavy touring, opening for like-minded bands Death from Above 1979, Mudhoney and NoMeansNo, the band signed with indie label legend Sub Pop, which released METZ's powerhouse self-titled debut last year.
Kishi Bashi (Norfolk, Va.)
Starting his career as a violinist for artists like Regina Spektor and of Montreal, Seattle-born multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter K Ishibashi went solo — under the less-confusing moniker Kishi Bashi — and began touring. Making engaging Indie Pop touched by Classical/Chamber influence, the Joyful Noise imprint released his first full-length album, 151A, last spring. There's a pretty good chance you've hear Kishi Bashi before, even if you didn't know it — his jaunty, Shins-ish single "Bright Whites" was used in a wide-running commercial for Windows 8.
Julianne Barwick (Brooklyn, NY)
Julianne Barwick makes angelic Ambient music based entirely on loops. The Southern-born experimental artist — signed to Asthmatic Kitty Records — creates her compositions by using a loop station and crafting elegant layers of sonic haze, using mostly piano, her voice, some percussion and guitar. Barwick — who recently announced her signing to Dead Oceans and a new album set for August — is an up-and-comer in the Avant Garde/New Music world, recently scoring an invite recently to Yoko Ono's Meltdown Festival in the U.K.
Spectrals (Yorkshire, U.K.)
Spectrals was originally the work of one dude, British singer/songwriter Louis Jones (with just a little help from his brother on drums). Spectrals' wandering sound touches on everything from Nuggets-esque Garage to swaying, elegant Pop (threaded with reverbed-out, Surf-ish guitar). Jones signed to the Slumberland label in the States, which released his first album, Bad Penny, in 2011. For Spectrals' latest, the Sob Story album, Jones, for the first time, had some help from other musicians (who aren't related to him).The album is due June 18.
Dent May (Oxford, Miss.)
Singer/songwriter Dent May makes unabashed Pop music, the kind that forces a smile on your face regardless of your troubles. The Mississippi resident singed with Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label in 2008 and released The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, which drew comparisons to the likes of The Beach Boys, The Turtles and Prefab Sprout. For last year's self-titled album, May put away the uke and decided it was time to dance. The album is a cooly eclectic collection of dynamic electronic Pop, retaining those classic Pop/Rock influences, but adding elements of Disco, Funk, R&B Electro.
Grandfather Child (Houston, Texas)
Grandfather Child was formed in Houston in 2009 by members of various other local bands. The group hit upon a compelling "formula," creating a kitchen-sink sound that is loaded with influence from R&B, Soul, early Rock & Roll and Gospel music, resulting in a pretty psychedelic vibe. The band is signed to New West Records, which released Grandfather Child's eponymous 9-track album last summer.
The Ghost Wolves (Austin, Texas)
With a blistering sound created by just two people — guitarist Carley and drummer Jonny Wolf (both sing) — The Ghost Wolves traveled many miles across the country to build a fan base one explosive show at a time. The group's debut was the raw and rugged In Ya Neck! EP, which showcased the Wolves' fuzzy take on stompin' Blues Rock expertly, like a two-piece version of The Cramps. The band is getting set to release its debut full-length, Man, Woman, Beast.
Jeecy and The Jungle (Detroit)
Known for their reportedly incredible like show, Detroit's Soul rockers Jeecy and the Jungle represent two sides of Detroit's music heritage, blending a modern-day Garage Rock energy with influence from classic Soul artists. Last summer, the band released its impressive five-track EP, Twist and Scream.
Caveman (New York, NY)
Caveman is an NYC quintet that makes atmospheric Indie Rock with the kind of soft-breeze effervescence found in everything from the best vintage "AM Gold" songs to Fleet Foxes. The band released its debut in 2010, CoCo Beware, built a following and signed to notable label, Fat Possum Records, which re-released the debut and also the recent self-titled full-length, which has been garnering great reviews.
Perfume Genius (Seattle, Wash.)
Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, a Seattle singer/songwriter and visual artist whose 2010 debut caught the attention of the Indie music press corps. Quickly signed to the esteemed Matador Records, Perfume Genius' latest is Put Your Back N 2 It, a gentle, intimate collection of spectral, folksy songs.
PHOX (Madison, Wisc.)
Slanted, sparse yet broad Indie/Folk/Pop band PHOX started turning heads this year with consistent touring and a knock-out appearance at South By Southwest. The band recently released its latest EP, Confetti, which also has a companion "video EP," featuring short films for every track that the group members made simultaneously with the musical recording.
The lineups for 2013's PNC Summer Music Series on Fountain Square — featuring live music from different genres for free throughout the summer — have been coming out gradually. We're happy to announce the lineup so far for the Friday night "Indie Summer" shows (presented by CityBeat and the MidPoint Music Festival).
Look for the rest of the finalized lineups — for American Roots Tuesdays, Reggae Wednesdays, Salsa Thursdays, Saturday's popular Beats night (with Hip Hop, Dance and Electronica) and the acoustic-music-meets-wine-tastings "Sunday in the Grove" — later this week. Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine is also again presenting regular music programming this year, with Jazz on Wednesday, Bluegrass and Roots music on Thursday and R&B/Soul/Hip Hop on Fridays, plus a new Tuesday night feature, Dance Under the Stars, featuring dance lessons in a variety of styles.
The bad news? The Indie Summer shows kick-off on May 31 with the final show by fantastic Cincinnati Indie Pop band Pomegranates. The good news? It will also be the first show by Healing Power, Pomegranates' new name. The opener will also serve as a "release party" for great local Indie crew The Yugos. Christian altrockers Seabird will also use their Indie Summer show to celebrate the release of a new album, the band's first independent release after a couple of albums on Credential Recordings/Universal Music Group. Northern Kentucky rockers Dept. Store Alligators will also put out their new release in conjunction with their Aug. 16 appearance with Belle Histoire.
Local restaurant/club chain 4EG will host "Happy Hour" parties on Fridays as well, featuring various local DJs and drink specials from 5-8 p.m. Indie Summer concerts are open to fans of all ages and run from 8-11 p.m. all summer on the Square. Click here for details.
July 12: Plumb; more TBA
Aug. 9: Archers Paradox; (headliner to be announced on June 2)
Get ready, MidPoint Music Festival fans. This Friday, the first 10 or so artists booked for 2013's MPMF — returning to the streets and venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 26-28 — will be announced. And longtime MPMF sponsor Dewey's Pizza will have the scoop.
Friday, those wanting the info first should head to facebook.com/DeweysPizza ("like" their page, not just for the yummy grub they serve but for the support they've given MPMF and local music over the years). Then, of course, check this here music blog for a recap and more details.
Also of interest to MPMF fanatics are the lineups for this year's "Indie Summer" concerts, every Friday on Fountain Square from May 31-Aug. 30. The performers for the MidPoint- and CityBeat-sponsored shows are expected within the week. Keep an eye on this blog for the full announcement as soon as we get the green light to post it. (The lineups for the other themed Fountain Square music nights — six per week — are due very soon as well.)
For artists wanting to be considered for a performance slot at MPMF.13, the time to submit is now, as the deadline is quickly approaching. Submissions will be accepted (visit mpmf.com for directions) until May 11 at 11:59 p.m.
Several weeks ago, two pricing tiers of "early bird" and "loyalty" MPMF tickets sold out almost immediately. Tickets for MPMF.13 go back on sale this Friday through cincyticket.com ($69 for a three-day pass or $169 for "VIP Experience" tickets).
For a limited time (while supplies last, as they say), seriously discounted tickets for the MidPoint Music Festival — which returns to the clubs and venues of Over-the-Rhine/Downtown Sept. 26-28 — will be made available starting this Friday at 10 a.m.
During this “Loyalty Presale,” three-day “All Music Access” passes can be purchased through mpmf.cincyticket.com (the site will be live for the public tomorrow) for just $49 (they’ll be $20 more come MPMF time). They are expected to sell out fast, so get ’em while you can. For those wanting a VIP MPMF experience, the popular VIP passes will also be available Friday for $129 ($40 off the normal price). The VIP tickets get you priority admission to all shows, access to catered VIP-only events and other goodies. (Last year’s VIP passes sold out before the fest.)
In other MPMF news, if you are a musician/performer interested in being considered for a showcase slot at the festival, submissions are now being accepted via Sonicbids. The submission fee is just $20 until this Friday; after that it goes up to $25. (Those without a Sonicbids account can submit to MPMF and receive a two-week free trial of the service.)
Stay tuned to MPMF.com and this blog for the latest updates on MidPoint.
Tonight at Rohs Street Café in Clifton Heights, local musicians get an industry trade show of their very own. The “Locally Insourced: Cincinnati Music Industry Trade Show” is being presented at the venue at 6 p.m., organized by the Counter Rhythm Group and presented in conjunction with the MidPoint Music Festival.
Along with being able to register for showcase consideration at this year’s MPMF (you can also do so now via Sonicbids; click here for details), Locally Insourced is designed specifically with Greater Cincinnati musicians in mind and features booths representing various music entities in the area, from recording studios and merch makers to local labels, radio outlets and much more. Among the vendors participating: Modern Misfit Classic Genius, Southpaw Prints, Bearcast Radio, The SoundWorkshop Recording Studio, El Rey Effects, Moonbeam Studios, Moonlight Studios, CincyMusic.com, Play It Forward, Phratry Records, DMark Video Productions, Cincyticket, Coda Photography, QCA and Sebastian Illustration.
The event is free and open to all ages. Visit locallyinsourced.com for more details.
Counter Rhythm Group main-man Brian Penick has just launched a Kickstarter project for his forthcoming interactive and customizable e-book, Musicians’ Desk Reference. Here is the pitch video that explains the project very well; click here to visit the Kickstarter page and check out the various perks your donation can earn for you.
For even more on the book, attend tonight's trade show and be sure to keep an eye on this here blog, where Penick recently began guest blogging monthly updates about the project.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, local promotional company The Counter Rhythm Group will debut a new "trade show" event that will offer local musicians a chance to check out a wide range of "good and services" available to them in the Greater Cincinnati area.
The first "Locally Insourced: Cincinnati Music Industry Trade Show" will take place at Rohs Street Cafe's large Sanctuary room in Clifton Heights. The event is free and open to musicians of all ages.
The MidPoint Music Festival is a sponsor of the event and will be on-hand to offer early registration for those wishing to be considered for a showcase slot at 2013's MPMF, returning to the venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown once again in late September.
Other vendors displaying their services for local musicians will range from video production companies, designers and photographers to promotional companies, poster and t-shirt makers, CincyTicket and many, many others. Locally Insourced looks to be a great chance for artists to explore the many options available to them in their own backyard and help them steer their careers in whatever direction they'd like.
Click here for more on the event.
I love the last day of MidPoint and I hate the last day of MidPoint.
I love the energy and anticipation of what has always been the best night of the festival and I hate the thought of going home at the end to the reality of another 362 day wait until we can do it all over again. Other than a couple of hiccups, both personal and universal, this may have ultimately been the most perfect MidPoint ever.
First up for Day 3 was a stroll to Washington Park for Freelance Whales, the Brooklyn, N.Y., Chamber Pop group that filled the void when a skateboard fractured Sleigh Bells touring schedule. This was my first experience in the park since it’s renovation and it really is spectacular from every conceivable vantage point. The design, the playground, the fountain, the attention to detail; Washington Park is destined to become a downtown jewel and everyone who threw in to execute this vision is to be commended, and perhaps knighted, if we do that.
I did want to see Freelance Whales, but I had a side agenda for coming to the show; I figured there might be a chance of spotting my friend (and former CityBeat contributor) Matthew Fenton since this is the kind of show he likes. As I scanned the growing crowd, I spotted and was spotted by none other than former CityBeat editor John Fox, now installed as a big cheese at 3CDC, largely charged with publicizing and programming Washington Park. We talked about the park and the triumphs and travails of attempting to make it as universally inclusionary as possible to all of Cincinnati’s residents. I hadn’t talked to John in a very long time, and it was great to catch up, but it was greater to see him so incredibly excited about the park and its potential. He has always been an incredible friend and booster of the city and he’s in the perfect position to channel that passion.
In the spirit of his being “the host” at the park (and my ever deepening poverty), I let him buy me a beer. In all seriousness, I owe John an unpayable debt. He recruited me as a CityBeat freelancer when he was building the paper back in 1994, and his one requirement for a place on the masthead was that I get back to writing features, something I hadn’t done in well over six years at that point. John’s conditional offer of freelance work launched me on a path that continues to this day, and absolutely set the stage for my transition into full time writing when I lost my full-time design gig in the idiot epidemic of 2001. So many great experiences and interviews and interactions and friendships resulted from a lunch meeting 18 years ago when John looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are too good of a writer to be doing nothing but reviews. You need to be writing features and that’s all I want you to do for me.” Without that firm encouragement and faith, the last couple of decades could have been very different indeed. I owe you an ocean of beer, Sir John Fox, and although it may be awhile before I can start making payments, please know that I acknowledge the debt.
OK, dry your eyes, pussies … on with the shows.
Freelance Whales were an excellent stand-in for the silenced Bells. Their gorgeous Chamber Pop swells and subtlety were made even more majestic and expansive with Music Hall as the backdrop behind the MidPoint stage. As the sun went down and Music Hall lit up in anticipation of the evening’s CSO performance, Freelance Whales’ gorgeous melodicism and quietly powerful presentation was exponentially amplified. Any fan of the Decemberists or Arcade Fire should make room for Freelance Whales in their playlists.
From there, it was a brisk walk through the teeming Midway (what a fantastic idea, please let’s do this forever) to Japp’s Annex to witness the loopy edge of the New World Ancients. The Chicago quartet exudes a definite Pop/New Wave vibe, a quirky clockwork rhythm that suggests Go 2-era XTC and early 10CC with hints of the frenetic artiness of what was known initially as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. That 21st century New Wave concept was reinforced on “Shape Shifter,” which careened like vintage XTC and Danny Elfman, while “Hole in the Sky” sounded like a Space Rock anthem collaboration between Andy Partridge and Godley & Creme; they even hauled out the brilliantly weird “We Are the Future,” an old song from Athens, the band that spawned NWA. All four NWA members had all-seeing third eyes painted on their foreheads, which offered just the right amount of creepy fun to the proceedings.
Ric Hickey ducked into Japp’s for a tour of the porcelain village, on his way to rendevous with Greg Gaston and Jeff Wilson to check out The Walkmen, and since I was headed that way myself, I followed him out. The four of us drifted down to Neon’s for a beer or two, bullshitted for a spell about music and life (like there’s a difference), watched the Reds tie the game in the eighth (glad we didn’t stick around for the extra innings … cest la vie — still division fucking champs, babe) then headed up to Grammer’s for The Walkmen (Ric rethought his schedule and hung around for the late lineup at Japp’s).
Although we were half an hour late for The Walkmen’s start time, it turned out they hadn’t been particularly timely. As we waited at the front gate (based on the asshole-to-elbow crowd that packed Grammer’s tent, I was convinced the line was designed to grease up latecomers so they could slide into the throng more easily), I was overwhelmed by the exquisite aroma drifting over from the food truck next to the entrance. Greg saw my sidelong glance and gave the taco truck and the young lady taking the orders a ringing endorsement.
The Walkmen were as fabulous as I suspected they would be. Spiffed out like a GQ Rock fashion layout, The Walkmen displayed a similarly stylish edge in the live presentation of their energetic yet restrained studio work. Still going strong a dozen years after forming from the ashes of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys, The Walkmen have evolved from atmospherically sparse Pop to more visceral and then Folk-tinged Indie Rock. The Walkmen’s new album, Heaven, is a more lush sonic affair, with songs that deal with the pressures of adulthood and the strength of love. The album’s sonic breadth is hinted at in concert but The Walkmen are more than capable of allowing the songs to do the heavy lifting, presenting them with power rather than mere volume.
In an age of disposability, The Walkmen have persevered for 12 years without a lineup change, going their own way in their own time, and seamlessly tempering their youthful enthusiasm with their hard-won maturity. It’s a wirewalk that few bands can pull off but The Walkmen manage to do it with an easy grace and humility; they were clearly affected by the huge turnout for their MidPoint debut.
I reluctantly bailed after about 30 minutes due to the start of the 10:00 pm shows I wanted to catch, and my creeping hunger, the launch codes for which had been entered coming into the show. I headed straight for the Taco Azul truck and quickly discovered Greg was right on all counts. The tacos were otherworldly good. All apologies to Mr. Hanton’s for straying from my steady diet of handwiches, but it was inevitable; when I was at Washington Park, I noticed that Island Noodles, which had been a huge hit at Bunbury and my favorite food of the festival, had a booth near the MidPoint stage and I briefly considered working in a walk back to the park to score a noodle bowl. Saturday was destined to be hot dog free.
I was just finishing my tacos when I ran into Black Owls' Brandon Losacker and three of the Sohio musketeers, who were all headed to Below Zero for The Ready Stance show, which was my destination as well, so off we went to see the wizards. Brandon graciously handed me a delicious Kentucky Bourbon Ale, the perfect cigarette after my taco interlude.
The Ready Stance was already in full swing and what a swing it was. The bar was absolutely sardine packed with fans loaded with love for the Stance and they didn’t disappoint. After a scorching spin through what I’m guessing was a new song (I didn’t recognize it as anything from their debut, the uniformly excellent Damndest), Ric Hickey stood wide-eyed and slackjawed and proclaimed the song’s classic brilliance. He wasn’t wrong. Damndest was a great opening volley, but their next shot could well be the one heard around the world, and this gig was an all too brief example of their talent and passion. A great set from a great band.
Near the close of the Stance’s set, I ran out to the Midway to catch the last three songs from Imperial Teen, because they’re one of my favorite Indie Rock bands with a quirk factor that is discernible but not obvious or trendy. I’d been looking forward to their 11:30 pm slot, but Imperial Teen’s set moved from the Hanke to 10:00 pm to accommodate the outdoor music curfew. It was clearly a great finish to what seemed to have beeen a rollicking set; Sean Rhiney declared it to be his favorite band of this year’s MidPoint. And the band was certainly appreciative of the large crowd that turned out for them; frontman Roddy Bottum noted that this was their only Midwest show and that they were glad that it was happening in Cincinnati. Their new album, Feel the Sound, is fantastic, as is the bulk of their catalog, and I hope they find their way back here very soon.
After that, it was a quick hustle over to The Drinkery to witness the Hard Rock fireworks provided by Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Bella Clava. I had written up the CityBeat preview for the band so I was already inclined to check them out, but the Mad Anthony guys had done some gigs with them and were highly recommending the show, so Bella Clava went from “possible” to “definite” in short order. The adrenalized quartet was hotter than fresh lava and proceeded to melt every face in the jammed Drinkery space with the ferocity of a bull on crystal meth. Frontwoman Caitlin Dacey was a mind meld of Ann and Nancy Wilson, switching between guitar and keyboard, guitarist Steve Suttie channeled the likes of Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore with sweat-drenched conviction and fury, and the rhythm section of bassist Scott Hannigan and drummer Zack Mykula created a thunderous bottom that could have been registering as a seismic event.
The band was clearly moved by the MidPoint love they were receiving; at the end of their set, Caitlin noted, “I need to get a picture of you guys; my mom won’t believe it.” Ringo Jones hopped on stage and got a shot of the band with the Drinkery’s Rock drunk crowd behind them. It was a thing of beauty.
Then it was back to Below Zero to yet another near capacity audience for yet another Canadian import. Zeus came highly recommended by Losacker and several others, so I decided to check them out. The quartet were as good as advertised, sort of a Hard Rock spin on the Beatles and the Kinks. In the studio, there is a more than noticeable Sgt. Pepper vibe to Zeus’ sound, but in the live context, some of that psychedelic subtlety gets shaved off in favor of a leaner, more visceral Rock experience. It was clear that a fairly large percentage of the audience knew what they were coming to see, because there was a good deal of song recognition and wild response in the crowd.
I ducked out after about 30 minutes of Zeus’s sonic lightning bolts to catch the end of the road for local Rock heroes The Dukes Are Dead. Here’s proof that sometimes bad luck can result in good things; London’s Leogun was forced to cancel their MidPoint appearance and so the Dukes’ final show was pushed to the closing slot, allowing them the leeway to play considerably longer than their original 9:45 time would have accommodated. In some ways, it’s been a bad year for straight-up Rock in Cincinnati, with the recent demise of Banderas (MPMF regulars) and now the dissolution of the Dukes. As befitting a band that was playing its last show in the last slot on the last night of MidPoint, the Dukes left nothing in the bag. The band’s frenzied set was a thrashfest of howling vocals and grimy, guttaral riffage that was so explosive it was tempting to think that Luke Frazier and Luke Darling were playing six string grenade launchers, while bassist Randy Proctor worked his bass like a lead guitar and drummer David Reid hammered his kit like he was forging broadswords for Middle Earth giants on an anvil made of asteroids and pain. Formed just three years ago, it looks like the Dukes are going their separate ways to pursue new musical projects, which we can only hope results in a massive stock split as four hugely talented Hard Rock provocateurs subdivide into a handful of new and similarly bent projects.
We will certainly welcome the Dukes Are Dead in their new individual configurations, but anyone was there will never forget the way they went out collectively. It could have been a bittersweet moment, and to a certain extent, it was, but it was also the joyous beginning of the rebirthing process, and in that context, the final show of The Dukes Are Dead was an absolute perfect way to draw the curtain on MidPoint 2012.
MidPoint 2012 Saturday Night Notes:
• Even by my standards, I swilled a lot of beerage at this year’s MidPoint. Mike Breen threatened me with an intervention and a film crew from the so-titled A&E show, but he also offered to buy the beers, so it was all good. Still in all, if you ran into me and expect to see our exchange in these musings and it’s not here, don’t feel left out. There are events that, even just hours old, are vague and unstable memories to me now. It’s a lot to expect for an aging and beer-sodden brain, so bear with me.
• Day 3, no Matthew Fenton. It cannot be that we didn’t cross paths even once over the course of the three days here, so I have to believe that he skipped this year’s soiree. He and Kelly were here for Bunbury in July so maybe that was the reason he bailed this year. A MidPoint without Matthew is like a MidPoint without sunshine, and while I get that the vast majority of it happens at night, you know what I mean (or refer to the preceding paragraph for clarification).
• Ran into MPMF stalwart/stage manager/former Buckra guitarist Jacob Heintz, his niece and pal Brome (the spelling of which I’m guessing at). It was the first time I’d spotted Jacob all weekend … I was beginning to think maybe I should take a shower, the way I was being avoided. Then I decided that was a rash decision. Or maybe just a rash. Either way, it was great to see Jacob.
• Crossed paths with Paul Roberts and his sister at Japp’s during the New World Ancients. It was the first of many crossings with Paul and his merry band of Rock rangers, including Faint Signal guitarist Randy Campbell, big Jim and the little guy whose name always eludes me (see the opening paragraph for clarification).
• I love that local singer/songwriter Ric Hickey is back in town after a stint on the west coast. And more importantly, Ric Hickey loves that Ric Hickey is back in town. Time to strap up and Rock on, my brother. Welcome home.
• The Ready Stance gig was a stacked deck of musical luminaria; The Purrs’ Jim Antonio, drummer to the stars Dana Hamblen, Black Owls’ Brian Kitzmiller and Brandon Losacker (who repeatedly supplied me with Kentucky Bourbon Ales, which I may have developed a dependence on), the above noted Ric Hickey and CityBeat head man Dan Bockrath, who repeatedly bought the beer at every possible opportunity. I’m thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction and upkeep of the Brian Baker Beer Buying Hall of Fame. I smell a plaque with Dan’s name inscribed on it. Or maybe I just missed the urinal. Again.
• A couple of Sean Rhiney (musician and co-founder/operator of MidPoint before CityBeat took over) sightings, first at Washington Park as I was departing Freelance Whales, and again at the Imperial Teen show. Sean is a prince among men, and even has a princely look. If royalty ever comes back to America, Sean should be in line for some kind of dukedom or earlship or lordiness. Really.
• I happened upon former Host vocalist Chris Charlton, who was handing out free copies of the debut issue of his new comic book, Sleepless. His written all the stories and worked with a variety of artists to bring them to life in Sleepless, which is being published by Assailant Comics; there will definitely be a #2. Chris says he may get back to music at some point, but right now he’s concentrating on the comic. The first story is a zombie love story, but my fave was “Artificial Unintelligence”; pick one up and enjoy at your leisure.
• Randy Cheek (member of The Ready Stance and Fairmount Girls and former bassist for Ass Ponys) needs to write a book. After the Stance gig, his stories in the alley next to the dumpsters beside Below Zero were all incredible, ranging from stepping in human waste after a gig (the phrase “slightly melted poopsicle” was used) to seeing a bedbug on an amputee’s stump in his daytime role as an exterminator, all of which was punctuated by a guy pissing on the other side of the dumpster. Randy really needs to write a book. Really.
• The old saxophone player who was blowing on 12th Street just down from the Midway segued from the theme song for Sanford and Son to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” which, in my state at that moment, was a sure sign that a portal to another dimension had been accessed, or that alien beings had just been contacted, like with that weird note sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I’m still not sure it didn’t.
• I stumbled into Mark Messerly, Eric Appleby and his lovely wife Trish on the way to Bella Clava. I should have asked Eric about Matthew. There were exchanges, a bad vaudevillian punch line (mine, naturally) and gales of laughter (a drunk is never not funny), as well an introduction to some lovely people whose names were obliterated by the first stormtrooping guitar chord that hit me at The Drinkery. I pulled out my pad to write them down on my big notepad titled "Don’t Forget, Dumbass," and they were gone. Regardless, it was nice to meet you. The second introduction usually sticks.
• There were so many people at the Bella Clava and The Dukes Are Dead shows that my memories are kind of bubbly around the edges, like a burnt photograph. The Mad Anthony guys were all there, Jeremy Constantinople from Banderas, Paul Roberts and the gang (which sounds like they’re the Cosby Kids or something, but they’re not, I’d bet), and Beth, who I met at the Black Owls show, and a guy named Chad who has a band in Newport and wanted to hire Randy after the last Dukes show (he told me the name of his band, but the opening paragraph should be referenced for clarification) and Dan Bockrath who bought me a Red Stripe because it was the only beer the Drinkery had left, and you were there, and you and you. And it was a beautiful, beautiful night filled with amazing people and fabulous music and love. Or at least really intense like. And it stoned me. Or the opening paragraph did. Either way, blissed out at MidPoint again and again and again.
• As always, thanks to the great (and nearly jailed) Dan McCabe for his grace under fire and his dedication to making MidPoint one of the best things that happens in Cincinnati. He is a king in the new royalty, a king I tell you. Thanks also to the tireless volunteers who make this run like a well-oiled machine (I use beer to oil my machine, and it’s a good thing the volunteers don’t take that approach or nothing would get done), the fans who spend their hard earned money on wristbands and venue tickets and food and gallons of goof juice and souvenirs, and of course the bands who come from
around the corner, across the state, around the country and the globe to entertain us and bring a little musical sunshine into our spongey consciousnesses. Or is it consciousnessi? I don’t have time to look it up. MidPoint 2012 is a lovely memory, and I’m drooling like Pavlov’s dogs for next year’s lineup, whatever it may be. Matthew Fenton, your place is saved. Next year, for sure.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have the MidPoint Music Festival. Well, none of it was bad; I mean, if I have to bitch about something, it’d be that there weren’t enough bathrooms. Just kidding. Who do you think I am, some writer from The Enquirer or something?
It was my first trip to Cincinnati’s annual music event, so it was my MPMF deflowering, if you will. And just like every teenage girl’s dream, Midpoint popped my cherry by easing me in slowly and sweetly, but ended up giving it to me hard enough to have me worn out by the end of the night. Also, since almost all the shows were at bars, they even got me a little tipsy before they ravaged my mind with their delightful musical fuck-fest (what gentlemen!)
I started my night at Washington Park, where New Zealand’s Psychedelic Indie Pop rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage. When they finished, I didn’t know how I felt about it. The songs were catchy and the music was very beat-driven, with intermittent fetching riffs and wailing solos from the lead man and mastermind of UMO, Ruban Nielson, but there was still something off about it. To me, it sounded like the vocals were turned down too low, almost becoming a backdrop for the Pop-induced musical acid trip blowing through the amplifiers. Then again, it also may be the fact that I didn’t know many of the lyrics. Either way, it ended up being like meeting a cute girl at a bar that ends up just having an OK personality. She sparks your interest for a while and you may even take her on a couple dates, but there’s only so much you can hear about how cute her cat is or why The Vampire Diaries is such a great show before you realize she’s just not for you.
After UMO ended, I decided to finish my brew, skip out on Grizzly Bear (mainly because someone else had to be covering it, right guys?) and headed down to The Drinkery to see Boston duo You Won’t. It may have been the best decision of the night.
On my way there, I had to force myself to walk by the Third Man Records rolling record shop (because I’m broke) and contemplated going to the free advice booth/box truck to see if somebody can tell me why my life is always falling apart, but decided to get a drink instead (maybe I just answered my own question).
When I arrived at The Drinkery around 8 p.m., it was a ghost town. That sounds stupid and cliché but, including the bar staff and the two other people I brought with me, there were approximately 15 people in attendance.
By the time You Won’t actually started (around 8:30 p.m.) there were about eight people watching. The rest were sitting at the bar either enraptured by the masterful pitching performance Homer Bailey was putting on against the Pirates (who can blame them), off in their own conversations or at Washington Park seeing Grizzly Bear. After the end of You Won’t’s first two songs, however, I was already impressed.
Lead singer, Josh Arnoudse, who in addition to being a really cool guy (I spoke with him briefly after the show) had one of the most distinct voices I’ve heard in a long while. At first, I thought it to be like a higher pitched, better toned Bob Dylan, but as the set progressed, Arnoudse hit his falsetto with ease (on numerous occasions) and showcased a wide vocal range during the 40 minute show. The other half of You Won’t, Raky Sastri, was quite the musician, as well, manning the drums, keyboard, accordion, harmonica, tambourine, organ, xylophone, and, oh yeah, he did back-up vocals, too.
Yet, the best part of their performance was about halfway through, when Arnoudse decided that if people weren’t going to come to his show, he was going to bring his show to the people.
He then proceeded to run out into the “crowd” with his acoustic guitar and play by the pool table because "the vibing" better. Oddly enough, he was right. People started to come around, circling Arnoudse and Sastri, while Arnoudse played to their cell phone cameras as if they were on national TV (look out for those on YouTube later.)
When You Won’t ended, I basked in all my fan-boy glory, praising Arnoudse for his set and buying their LP, Skeptic Goodbye. Then, the unthinkable happened. The Dark Knight (Bailey) rose as he achieved the Red’s first no-hitter since Tom Browning did it against the Dodgers back in ’88 (I wasn’t even born yet) and celebration ensued. People were going nuts, drinks were bought and high-fives were given as the general mood of the bar had done a 180-degree turn in less than an hour.
After partying it up with those patrons, I headed down to Mr. Pitfiuls (what an awesome name) to check out old school Country band The Tammy Whynots and I was not disappointed. Although I had to leave about six songs into their set, these guys (and gal) really captured that classic Honky Tonk Nashville sound that was so revered in the ’60s and early ’70s. With their bedazzled rhinestone jackets, Kelly Thomas’ vintage Loretta Lynn-style dress and throwback hair-do, The Tammy Whynots not only hit the sound right on point, but the image, too. I don’t want this to sound like they are purely a tribute act, paying homage to Country legends like Johnny, June, Tammy and George, because if they had come along earlier (like a lot earlier) they could have easily fit right in right along side those legends.
The final band I saw Friday, were the high-octane, high-energy, in-your-face Rock & Roll band The KillTones back at The Drinkery. It was the thing I had been waiting for all night; finally, a band with some fucking attitude. This was not only the four-piece Blues-infused band’s first time at MidPoint, but also their album release party. They knocked their really tight set out of the park. No no-hitter here.
The guitarist, Josh Pilot, was like a combination between Tony Iommi and Chuck Berry if they hung around Jack White a lot. The lead singer, Clinton Vearil, was about one of the most enigmatic frontmen you'll find, contorting and gyrating all over the tiny stage at The Drinkery. My favorite part of their set was a slow, bluesy song that really let Vearil’s vocal abilities shine, as he went from a mesmerizing high-pitched scream to a really soulful and sultry sound in the verses.
Although, this was definitely the best festival experience I have ever had, I only have two regrets. The first was that I was too tired to go see F. Stokes at the end of the night at the Blue Wisp. I know, I’m an idiot, but you can blame The KillTones for that; they wore me out. The second is that I didn’t have the money to buy The KillTones CD, which is consequently all I want to listen to at this moment.
Anyways, I couldn’t have asked for a better night. Good bands, good beer, my first Reds no-no and a new-found respect for the Cincinnati music scene. Thanks, Midpoint for taking it easy on me for my first time; you really know how to treat a girl right.