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by Ric Hickey 07.20.2009
Posted In: Reviews, MidPoint Music Festival at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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My Time in NAMM

CityBeat Advertising Director Brian Kitzmiller and I went to Nashville for the weekend to cover this year’s Summer NAMM show. NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants and they actually host two big conventions each year. Generally, the Winter NAMM fest is a bigger event held in California, but this year’s Summer NAMM show in Nashville is no small event. The premier music industry trade show, most in the business consider participation in NAMM to be crucial to the development and sales of their wares and services.

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by 09.26.2009
Posted In: MidPoint Music Festival at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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MPMF: Friday Photopalooza, Saturday Fun

What a night for music and for Cincinnati last night at the MidPoint Music Festival. As expected, the Heartless Bastards packed the huge Topic Design Tent at Grammer's and played a fantastic set. Erika and the boys were clearly blown away by the quantity and quality of support from their friends and ex-neighbors.

Look for reports later today on this blog from Mike Breen, Brian Baker and C.A. MacConnell, but for now enjoy 235 photos from 12 CityBeat photographers who were prowling the streets last night, plus Cameron Knight's multimedia show set to Pomegranates music (they drew a huge crowd at Know Theatre).

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by Mike Breen 07.12.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Washington Park Schedule Taking Shape

Individual tickets for new venue's MPMF headliner concerts on sale now

The newly remodeled, freshly reopened Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine is shaping up to be one of the hottest music venues in the city. Last evening, the every-Wednesday "Bandstand Bluegrass" series kicked off with Jake Speed and the Freddies; tonight is the debut of the park's every-Thursday "Jazz in the Park" series (7 p.m., with Chris Comer and Napoleon Maddox of IsWhat?!); and tomorrow marks the debut of the R&B/Soul "Friday Flow" concerts, which will take place each Friday and begin with an appearance by fantastic Neo Soul singer Dwele (Selectas Choice DJs Rare Groove, Apryl Reign and DJ Pillo, as well as Under New Orders and Darris Sneed & The Pulse also perform at the 7 p.m. event).

And today it was announced that three of the biggest acts announced for September's MidPoint Music Festival will perform at Washington Park's new MPMF stage. A total of four acts will perform each night at the Park stage. The Washington Park shows will be accessible to those with MPMF All Music Access Passes or VIP Passes, or with "a la carte" individual tickets, which are on sale now.

Andrew Bird headlines the Washington Park stage on Thursday, Sept. 27. Tickets for that show only are $25. Grizzly Bear is the main MPMF act on the stage for Friday, Sept. 28 (single tickets: $30) and Sleigh Bells headlines the stage Saturday, Sept. 29 ($30). Click here for your ticketing options. Early Bird All Music Access and Loyalty Presale tickets are sold out. A limited number of All Music Access Passes ($69) and VIP Passes presented by CVG ($169) are still available.

 
 
by Leyla Shokoohe 09.27.2013
 
 
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MPMF Day 1: Box Trucks and Missing Kurt

Ahhhh, MidPoint! I look forward to it every year. September, for this lady, holds promise, romance, intrigue and MPMF. I started my MPMF.13 off right: grabbed a baller parking spot right after work in front of Coffee Emporium, grabbed a baller iced Americano and grabbed my (you thought I was going to say baller? How presumptuous) press pass. I think I did say out loud to myself: Let's GOOOO.

The first band I wanted to see was my pal Molly Sullivan at 8:15 p.m. at Japp's Annex. I had some time to kill, so I hung out on the Midway. Sidewalk Chalk was still grooving; they've got a rocking brass section, shimmery drums and soulful singers. I previously saw them on Fountain Square last year as part of the Indie Summer Series, and really enjoyed everything they had to offer. Great fun way to kick off MPMF.

I wandered around the Midway for a bit, checking out the numerous box trucks that comprise the Box Truck Carnival presented by ArtWorks. The Midway itself is pretty awesome, easily accessible and kind of reminds me of a corral for progressively more intoxicated adults. I don't mean that in a derogatory way; I, too, enjoy consuming beer freely in the open on 12th Street. The Box Trucks this year held a lot of potential  — I wrote about the Midway for the MPMF Guide in CityBeat a few weeks back, so I was well-briefed on what to expect. Well, kind of.

The first truck I checked out was the Glam Rock Box Truck. Anyone who knows me is aware of the siren call the word "karaoke" holds, so of course I went in.The premise was great (for karaoke nerds like me), but box trucks just don't do karaoke justice, honestly. There are a number of songs to pick from, but not as many karaoke staples as one might expect. And for being called the Glam Rock truck, I didn't really see any Glam Rock hits on the list. The ladies running the truck seemed to be having a good time, though, so I did my best version of "Semi-Charmed Life" and went off to continue leading mine.

I wandered around the Midway some more, stopping in the Short Order Poetry Box Truck, which was 19 kinds of adorable. You step inside the truck, get paired with a stranger who asks you random questions (hi Adam!) and then they'll create a poem, on a typewriter no less, just for you, ready in just about 10 minutes. Mine had a lot of death and blood and dream imagery, just how I like 'em.

I listened to a few minutes of stand-up in the comedy Box Truck before heading to Lucy Blue's. I notoriously put off eating until I'm ravenous, so I decided to carb-up on pizza in preparation for the long night ahead. I met up with friends at Japp's and we ordered drinks and chatted before wandering to the Annex to hear Molly Sullivan.

Every time I see Molly perform, I'm more and more impressed. She's really fleshed her sound out (the addition of friends on the drums and bass is the perfect complement to her singer/guitarist combo), and lots of people are noticing — she recently won the Last Soloist Standing contest at FBs, grand prize being a large cash sum. Molly's a charming vocalist; her voice is flexible and searching, and she's always been good at melancholy intonation. I heard a fresh version of "So It Goes" from the No No Knots days, and some of her newer material had an almost Jewel-when-she-still-had-a-snaggle-tooth quality to it. I really, really dug it. So did a number of other people — quite a dedicated following was there. I'd say Molly Sullivan's first solo show at MPMF was a great success.

I had been planning all week to see Kurt Vile at Grammer's, but there was about half an hour before he was supposed to go on and I ran into my pal Caitlin, who told me the mythical history of Shuggie Otis. I was intrigued, so I walked with her to Washington Park. I still don't know how I feel about the fact that they've moved the stage to the permanent pavilion instead of in front of Music Hall; there's such a grandiosity to playing in front of that gorgeous building that just isn't matched by the pavilion — and I know there are lots of sad Instagram accounts crying right now — but I understand the convenience. We'll see how I feel about it tonight.

Anyway. Shuggie Otis. Skyrocketed to fame by age 21 and receded into the abyss of obscurity? And then he joins David Byrne's label and comes back? Tell me more. Shuggie had a groovy Soul/Funk sound brought to life by a huge backing band, complete with a stellar saxophonist. Glad I caught a few minutes, but I was on a Kurt Vile MISSION, so I started the trek to Liberty Street and Grammer's.

Well, by way of my car. I grabbed a jacket and was headed north, but as I walked by Below Zero Lounge, I heard a voice too great not to stop. If Ryan Adams and Adam Levine and the bearded lead singer from Maps & Atlases had an Asian baby, it would be St. Lenox. He was just plain awesome. I wanted to hang out with him, I wanted him to sing an album of lullabies, I wanted to stay for his whole set, but I'll be damned if I wasn't going to see Kurt Vile.

I didn't see Kurt Vile. Whoever guessed that two paragraphs ago knows that my ominous overtone was poorly done. I got stopped again walking by MOTR, this time by Fort Shame from Columbus, Ohio. I feel like so many times when a woman is a lead singer of a rock outfit, the instinct is to compare her to another female vocalist, but it has to be one who's personality is somehow perceived as similar, or stylistically akin (and I do mean clothes, not just shredding), so I'm not going to compare Fort Shame's Sue Harshe to anyone, because I don't think that's fair and, honestly, it's a little reductive. I'm just going to say that she does credit to anyone singing Rock. And the band had a star saxophonist, which was super fun.

I did hear via Twitter that Kurt Vile sang the word "yeah" for like fifteen minutes at the beginning of his set, so I said it a bunch to myself as I walked back to the Midway to hear Ha Ha Tonka and didn't feel too bad about it.

The first time I saw Ha Ha Tonka was two (or three? who knows) Midpoints ago at The Drinkery. These guys have all gotten hair cuts since then, but they sound even better. They sound like what folky Rock cut with a raucous night of varying emotions that ends with hanging out with friends and beer staring at the river would sound like. You know the kind of night I'm talking about. They're just the tops. Tight and talented musicality and great stage presence is only topped by their impeccable four-part harmony. Just magnetic. Second or third time's the charm, gentlemen.

I finished my night seeing Bleached at the Know Theatre, which last year held all the buzz bands I wished I'd been able to get inside and see (something about being "at capacity"), and I wasn't disappointed. Punk Rock girls with a guy drummer. Ramones cover. Misfits cover. I thoroughly enjoyed my attempt at head-banging AND the fact that these girls didn't try too hard. I feel like a lot of Punk-esque bands nowadays are all like "I AM PUNK! LOOK, SEE, I AM!" but Bleached was more like, "Fuck Punk. We're just Bleached." Own it, dudes.

And then I walked back to my car and went home and passed right the heck out. I'll see ya at MPMF for round two tonight.

 
 
by Brian Baker 09.27.2014
 
 
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MPMF 2014 Day 1: The First Night of the Rest of the Weekend

The first night of MidPoint is like a lot of firsts; first date, first kiss, first sex, first beer, first rectal exam by a hot proctologist. Hey, you have your firsts, I have mine. Anyway, MidPoint Thursday is always a magical time of reconnecting with old friends, making a few new ones along the way and experiencing an almost breathtaking amount of incredible music of every conceivable variety. 2014's version of that particular passion play lived up to and exceeded every expectation.

First up was a trip to the MidPoint Midway to witness the return of the mighty Pike 27. The band's late '90s/early '00s run included at least one EP and a great full-length in Falling Down Hard, but frontman Dave Purcell's shift into academia on the teaching side signaled the band's demise. Although Purcell's professorship at Kent State precluded him from actual band activities, he never stopped writing songs, and when he fortuitously returned to Cincinnati last year, he had an ass-pocket full of new material that suggested new horizons and possibilities. Purcell and original bassist Sean Rhiney (veteran and current member of any number of high profile bands and the co-founder of our MidPoint feast) resurrected Pike 27 with guitarist/local hero Mike Fair and drummer-and-more Dave Killen. 


This new iteration of Pike 27 is a powerhouse of scorching guitar, earthmoving bass and jackhammer drumming, and while there are vestiges of the band's Roots Rock history, everyone's balls are definitely within the vicinity of some wall or other and medal is being pedalled with controlled abandon. Start to stop, Pike 27 careened from song to song with the visceral intensity of The Old 97s and dashes of Alejandro Escovedo and Grant Lee Buffalo at their delicately nuanced and head-kicked obvious best. This seems to be a fertile period for long dormant bands to renew themselves and that can always be a problematic situation, but Pike 27 is clear evidence that having the right motivation to return can evolve into a stunning and most welcomed result.


On the heels of Pike 27's energetic and fabulous opening set at the Midway came the return of our beloved Black Owls, a well-documented force of nature in their own right. Pre-show, frontman David Butler promised that the Owls' set would be populated with nothing but new material with very few exceptions, and he was good to his word. Other than their recently installed cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire" and set closer "Glorious in Black," from their 2010 sophomore album June '71, the oldest songs in the Owls' incendiary set were "Rook" and "Gasoline," the two songs from their most recent single. Everything else that followed an invocation from the inimitable King Slice was brand new and largely untested Owls material, perhaps all of which will be taken into Ultrasuede at the end of November in anticipation of a new album. It made for a set that crackled with energy and a certain ramshackle giddiness as the band roared through material that hasn't quite solidified. Butler is quick to credit the rise of guitarist Brandon Losacker's songwriting profile as the reason for the Black Owls' straightforward Rock shift and sudden prolific streak, but I'd be just as quick to point out the gelling of new (and perpetually fabulous) bassist Kip Roe, the malleable thunder of drummer Brian Kitzmiller and the continually developing chemical bond between Butler and longtime musical cohort Ed Shuttleworth as equal parts of the Owls' new equation. The band is clearly having an absolute blast with the new songs, and their joy is translating to performances that are pegging the needle past the insane levels the Owls had already established. Cincinnati's Black Owls, as Butler likes to refer to the band, is in the midst of a fertile and potentially explosive period of evolution.


After the Owls' incendiary set, it was a quick stroll over to the Know Theatre to catch the last half of the set from Cincinnati’s Darlene. The trio was firing on all badass cylinders to be sure, blasting out sheets of guitar squall with plenty of melodic counterpoint. A tweet from someone at the show asked the musical question, "Is Darlene the new Sonic Youth?" The answer provided by perpetual smartest-guy-I-know Matthew Fenton was a logical and correct "No." Darlene is a blistering Rock band, and guitarist Janey O'Laney is always teetering on the brink of a shred-fueled fit, with bassist Cuddly D (the infinitely busy Dana Hamblen) and drummer Robby D providing the slinky yet sturdy undercarriage. But the fact is that the trio, at its heart, is a melodic Pop unit. They probably hew closer to Yo La Tengo in their ability to go from pretty to visceral in a half a heartbeat, but Darlene isn't the new anything; they are Darlene, and that's an astonishing accomplishment. Besides, as Matthew rightly pointed out, Darlene may be the best-dressed band on any given night anywhere. Sonic Youth were never known for their sartorial splendor. So there.


After Darlene, it was time to cruise on down to Mr. Pitiful's to check out Steelism, an instrumental quartet from Nashville. If guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and no vocals sounds like a crashing bore, you'd be half right. There was plenty of crashing; cymbals, sounds and gates, as a human stampede of MidPoint patrons made their way into Mr. Pitiful's to sample Steelism's wares. I know from experience that if a relative unknown doesn't grab a festival crowd in the first couple of songs, the crowd in question will leave fast enough to create a head-exploding vacuum in the area. If anyone left during Steelism's mind-melting set, they were more than offset by the several dozen who drifted in after the start.


Steelism is comprised of British pedal steeler Spencer Cullum Jr., Ohio guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, and a bassist and drummer whose introductions were lost in a crowd frenzy and a muffled mic (well, they weren't mixing for vocals, now were they?), who threw down a mighty and wordless racket, unless you count Cullum's talkbox vocals on the band's spin through The Beatles' "Something." You could call Steelism Surfabilly/Soulicana/Spaghetti Southern or you could just call it bloody good music; after running through a handful of originals from their new full length, 615 to Fame, and their cracking good 7-inch, The Intoxicating Sounds of Pedal Steel and Guitar, and covers of classics by The Ventures and Booker T. and the MGs, Steelism had the packed house at Mr. Pitiful's in the palm of their sweaty hands. At one point, Cullum indicated that the band was going to slow things down, and then offered the crowd a choice between a gentler vibe or "plowing on through." The overwhelming vote was for the latter, with Cullum noting, "No sensitive people here tonight." He certainly got a taste of what plowing through will get you in Cincinnati. Steelism finished up with a roaring take on the James Bond theme, which nearly pushed the frenzied multitude into religious conversion. I don't know what that church would be called, but they wouldn't have a choir; no words necessary when Steelism kicks open the doors of the sanctuary.


Then it was a quick jaunt down to The Drinkery to witness the Motor City madness of Flint Eastwood, a quartet of musical insaniacs from my home state to the north. In the studio, Flint Eastwood exhibits a certain heavy fisted subtlety that is charming and dancable in a visceral way. All of the relative nuance that is present on the band's EP, Late Nights in Bolo Ties, is tossed onto a bed of nails and jumped on until it experiences head-to-toe acupuncture in its live presentation. On stage, Flint Eastwood buries every needle in the red, thrashes about like lunatics after a napalm shower and entertains their audience at metaphorical knife point. Frontwoman Jax Anderson cajoled the crowd at The Drinkery to get involved in the show and when she got what she felt was a half-hearted response, she shrieked, "Nobody's too cool to have fun!" and put us through our paces like a Marine drill instructor on meth. She had us shouting then whispering "na na na"s, got us kneeling on The Drinkery's dance floor and then lifted us up like a demented preacher speaking in Rock & Roll tongues. All the while, the band was grinding out a gritty groove that sounded (and resembled) a full arena assault by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was draining and glorious and probably just another full-throttle 20-mile Rock & Roll hike for Flint Eastwood; it's pretty obvious these guys have one gear and it's "hellbent for bent hell." That's the Detroit method, bitches. Get used to it, get over it, get on it.


I reluctantly ducked out of Flint Eastwood's last two songs to hotfoot it down to MOTR for the remainder of Nikki Lane's set. Lane is a Country shitkicker with a decidedly different take on the genre, opting for a certain songwriting traditionalism while soundtracking it with a band that sparks and smokes with Roots Rock intensity and abandon and adopting a persona that suggests Wanda Jackson's pot-smoking, foul-mouthed twat of a granddaughter. Lane and the Thunder (she admitted the jury was still out on the name) roared through their MOTR set with equal parts ferocity and humor, as Lane used the space between songs to candidly muse about the intention of each one. "This is a love song," she noted appropriately prior to "Want My Heart Back," extending the title to, "I want my fucking heart back," and later opened "Sleep with a Stranger" with "This is a song about tonight, when you'll sleep with someone you don't know." Later, she dropped this indelicate observation: "This one's about my best friend. Sometimes she's a cunt, and I don't like that word, but she is. And when you're a cunt and your best friend is a songwriter, well, you get the short end of the stick."


Taylor Swift has written a lot of songs about the people in her life and I'm guessing she hasn't gotten around to any of her cunt friends yet.


Towards the end of her blistering and profanely hilarious set, Lane said, "We've got a couple more, then we'll pretend to go away, and come back for a couple more." She loves her covers as well; she hauled out a great take on The Byrds' "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," a loping yet intense version of Waylon Jennings' "Waymore Blues," and finished her encore with a blazing spin through a Tom Petty cover, not an old catalog chestnut but "Saving Grace" from the new album, a song that blends Petty's classicism with his well-earned experience. Lane clearly identifies with that stance, as she channels all of her Country influences through a blazing Rock filter, creating a sound that identifies with the past but erupts with white hot emotion in the here and now.


THURSDAY NOTES:


• To begin, a clarification for anyone who may attempt to buy me a brewski during MidPoint: For largely legal reasons, the Beer Buying Hall of Foam has been forced into a strike shortened year in 2014. I salute all who have so generously provided the nectar of the gods to a poverty stricken scribe on an annual basis and I promise that the commissioner will reinstate all practices and records next year, but for now, the Hall is strangely dark and quiet.


• In stark contrast to the Midway, which was lit up like a Kansas City whorehouse. Not that there were whores, but lots of lights. Boy, writing was easier with the Hall of Foam open. At any rate, within moments of arrival, I crossed paths with singer/songwriter par excellence Mark Utley and pianist to the stars Ricky Nye, who is in the throes of planning the upcoming Blues & Boogie Piano Summit, coming to the Southgate House Revival on November 7 and 8. After a quick chat, I headed to Mr. Hanton's for a heartstopping dog (not for health reasons but because it's so good … man, 2015 can't get here fast enough), choosing the Smokin' Hot Chick; my bill was cheerfully picked up by the always incredible Wes Pence of The Ready Stance, who joined me with a Smokehouse of his own. Can a Hot Dog Buying Hall of Fame be far behind?


• From there, the Midway was a blur of humanity. CityBeat photographer and local music denizen Jesse Fox took a shot of me and Class X Radio host/local music aficionado/empresario Eddy Mullet, which apparently didn't damage her equipment in any significant way. In sort order, I was greeted by King Slice, his pal Justin, the always ebullient and sometimes menacing Venomous Valdez, the entire Broadway cast of the Black Owls, Paul Roberts, Big Jim and Stu (sans his I'm Stu hat, apparently confident in my recognition skills at this juncture), and Jet Lab guitarist Nick Barrows and his wife Robin. At some point in the Midway proceedings, I spotted the elusive and long-absent Matthew Fenton, along with Eric Appleby and Tricia Suit, motoring out of the Midway zone. They were gone before I could track them down (they must have see me coming, damn them), but when I mentioned the sighting to Nick, he said they were headed to the Chromeo set and would be back for the Black Owls.


• In the meantime, Owls guitarist Brandon Losacker took a mob of us (Owls frontman David Butler, Venomous, Slice, Justin and myself) to see his new conversion van, a behemoth from a bygone era. Cooler in the console, heated/cooled cupholders, TV, retractable bed, wood grain dash panel and a hundred other crazy features that makes it essentially a Swiss Army van. Incredible doesn't begin to describe it.


• Back at the Midway — a brilliant set up that, as the astute and ever fabulous Venomous Valdez noted, will have to undergo some changes next year with the advent of the rapidly progressing streetcar system — Sean Rhiney, Dave Purcell and Dave's wife Amy were hanging around to watch the Black Owls tear shit up. My Class X compatriot Eddy was back to witness the Owls' splendor, and at some point in the proceedings, my boss Mike Breen appeared like a magician's assistant. Breen sightings at MidPoint are like spotting nearly extinct species in the wild, so it's always great to know that he's an actual warm human being and not some weird holographic editorbot. (Editor’s note: I am both.)


• Over at the Darlene show, I caught up with the always effusive and entertaining Mr. Fenton, along with Eric and Tricia. They were planning a trip down to the Taft to catch the Ghost Wolves and Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, both of which I dearly wanted to see but my recently bum left leg, the long walk and the chance that the St. Paul and the Broken Bones show would sell out the venue kept me from tagging along. On the way to Steelism, three guys on the sidewalk ahead of me confirmed that the show had gone clean and there was little chance of entry. The gimp makes a good decision every now and again.


• Also at the Darlene show was Leyla Shokoohe, former CityBeat intern, current CityBeat freelancer and now Marketing Manager for the Cincinnati Symphony & Pops Orchestra. You couldn't script a lovelier or more personable human being than Leyla, and yet she is savvy beyond her lack of calendars. She's a marvel and the CSO should count themselves lucky to be the recipient of her passion and skill.


• Over at Steelism, I ran into fellow scribes Steve Rosen and Chris Varias. I've known Steve for quite awhile through CityBeat and we've talked music at many a holiday party/CityBeat event, and I've read Chris' excellent work in The Enquirer for many years but had never had the pleasure of meeting him until Steve's introduction at Mr. Pitiful's. I had interviewed Matthew and Eleanor Freidberger for a Fiery Furnaces story several years back and when they found out I was in Cincinnati, they asked if I knew Chris, which I did simply by reputation. It turned out that they had grown up together in a Chicago suburb. An unpaintable small world, indeed.


• Paul Roberts was digging the confrontational magnificence and sonic head blast of Flint Eastwood; he stuck around for the end, while I headed to the Nikki Lane gig, where Big Jim and Stu were ensconced at the bar. Paul was right behind as soon as Flint Eastwood dismissed him for the evening. Head CityBeat honcho and perpetual suds buyer Dan Bockrath had bought me an invisible beer at Steelism, which I downed with dry gusto, but he showed up at Nikki Lane and put a real tonic water and lime in my hand, which was much appreciated. I could pretend there was gin in there, and that somehow made everything okay.


• As we left MOTR, Sir Bockrath and squire Dan McCabe, the architect of our annual MidPoint joy, were out front and the boss upbraided me with a casual, "You'll have your blog copy in by 7 a.m., right?" Yeah, let's say that, I answered, muttering to Paul and Stu, it'll be 7 a.m. somewhere. The lateness of this posting will tell you that deadline came and went and came and went again. I have a theory that I'm better at writing when I'm slightly hungover because I just want to get it done so I can take an aspirin and lay down. Not happening this year. I guess I could still take the aspirin, for old times sake.


 
 
by mbreen 05.14.2010
Posted In: MidPoint Music Festival at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

MidPoint Submissions Deadline TODAY

If you are a musician interested in performing at the upcoming MidPoint Music Festival (Sept. 23-25), today is the last day to get your submissions in. If you're not a musician but know any that might be interested, be sure to spread the word. Submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. tonight.

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by Brian Baker 09.24.2011
 
 
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MPMF.11 Day 2: Fried, Eh? Friday!

The news reports all called for possible rain and low temps in the evening, but that Babylonian weather deity we blew last year apparently threw in a freebie as a tenth anniversary present because the nastiness stayed away for at least one more night. And what a night.

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by Brian Baker 09.28.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 1: Sky is Dry, Beer is Wet, Music is Fantastic

The first night of MidPoint almost looked like it would be a typical rain-soaked affair, but the clouds relented and the festival’s kick-off was gorgeous and every bit as big as promised.

My first stop on the musical pub crawl that is MidPoint was not a band but a party...well, the whole bloody thing is a party, but this was an actual event thrown by the towering presence known as Brian Kitzmiller to celebrate the one year anniversary of his marketing company, Reveal Concepts. En route to Japp’s, I ran into bassist to the stars Sammy Wulfeck and guitarist/keyboardist extraordinaire Brandon Losacker, who were jimmying their bank accounts at an ATM for a little walking around green. Sammy dropped two bombshells; he’s going to be a father in less than two months, and Ric Hickey has returned from his soul-searching California sojourn. Birth and rebirth. I love synergy.

Brian’s party was a blast (any party with free OTRs is bound to be), populated by a wide variety of great people (detailed later), with incomparable Rock and Soul sides providing a brilliant soundtrack courtesy of DJ Bryan Dilsizian, the hardest rocking platter daddy in town. Now that’s a party.

I had intended to make my way to Grammer’s for Dressy Bessy but I was making rather merry at Japp’s and, to quote the legendary Shel Silverstein, I got stoned and I missed it. So I headed over to Mr. Pitiful’s for my first band of the evening, the Demos out of Rochester, New York. Head honcho/zen master Mike Breen yardsticked these guys against the likes of Wondermints, the Shins and Big Star, and I would be inclined to agree; the sextet’s facility for melancholy Pop melodicism, hooky jangle and stellar vocal harmonies is the equal to any of those lofty references. Naturally enough, in the live setting, some of the Pop subtlety of The Demos’ debut full length, last year’s Lovely, is jettisoned in favor of a more bracing sonic presentation, like the amped up Strokes-like storm kicked up on “Nervous.” This was The Demos’ Cincinnati debut, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as they were being enjoyed, hopefully a sign that they’ll be coming back our way soon.

After a stop at Mr. Hanton’s for the most delicious hot dog on the planet (no snouts, hooves or ass jelly in these bad boys...it’s a meal on a bun), and a quick chat with MidPoint co-architect/bon vivant Sean Rhiney, my intention was to head down to the Blue Wisp to catch Black Taxi (which I heard was incredible) but, having gotten little sleep the night before, decided to conserve energy and drop in at the Main Event to catch Saturn Batteries and stick around for Sohio, one of my longtime local faves.

Saturn Batteries is the brainchild of Brad Gibson, who’s done bass stints in Walk the Moon, Young Heirlooms and Charlie Hustle, and is now trying his hand in the frontman role. If last night’s performance is the standard, Gibson should have made the leap a long time ago; Saturn Batteries taps into classic melodic Beatlesque Pop with a sugary Pixies icing, resulting in a sonic confection that is powerfully energetic without being jittery or pointlessly arty. The quartet churned out a good set and provided plenty of evidence that time and fine tuning could gain them a large and loyal following, locally and well beyond.

Next up at the Main Event was Sohio, a band whose studio efforts I’ve reviewed positively and often but have somehow managed to miss consistently in a live context. Sporting a new bass player, Sohio tore shit up good and proper and proved why they’ve been a fixture at MidPoint for a good many years. It’s a rare band that can direct traffic at the intersection of Americana, Rock both rootsy and garagey, Blues, Punk, Pop and Country without having an eight-genre pile-up. Sohio is that rare band, deftly balancing the noise that rattles rafters and the subtlety that breaks hearts. Their relative obscurity may be a product of their own design, but Sohio can and should be the next big thing.

I ducked out of Sohio’s gig a little early to hit Below Zero for a taste of the Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, but the duo was still setting up when I arrived, so I witnessed a good deal more than I anticipated. TPDR is a wild rhythm ride, a gene splice of They Might Be Giants and Ween that’s been mutated into an Indie Rock mash-up of American Bandstand and Burning Man. The music is performed by a rotating cast of characters and programmed by Neil Fridd, and with the music safely stored on a hard drive, Fridd and his lovely partner (presumably Haley Riddering, but that’s a guess based on limited research done on deadline) are free to roam the crowd, form a conga line, fall into a suggestive pile on the dance floor, snake string lights into the pogoing audience and deploy a giant gray parachute for everyone to dance under like a silky umbrella. TPDR is a glittery interactive Indie Rock dance slam and if they should venture away from the Brooklyn, New York base and into our cozy confines again in the near or distant future, you would be well advised to get in line.

After TPDR, I headed back to the Main Event for the finish of Jody Stapleton and the Generals’ set. Sparrow Bellows big bass master Sammy Wulfeck is providing the pulse for the Generals these days, and the Black Owls’ Brandon Losacker is doing double duty on guitar and keys so I was curious to hear this new iteration of Jody’s sound. I was always a fan of the Stapletons back in the day, and the Generals are yet another fine example of Jody’s consummate ability to translate influence and inspiration into his own singular sound. The Generals’ frame of reference is the sunny Pop of ’70s AM radio and the roar of Classic Rock, dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Jody’s hushed singer/songwriter vocals are a subtle counterpoint to the frenzy kicked up by Sammy, Brandon and drummer Nick Mavridoglou (spell check is obviously doing me no good here), kind of like Ray Davies recording a tribute to Wilco’s Summerteeth.

Finally, it was time for the last show of the first night of the 11th edition of MidPoint (that sounded a little more biblical than I’d intended), which for me was the inspired garage tumult of Nashville’s Turbo Fruits. From the opening stomp to the last ringing chord, Turbo Fruits (at one time, a side project for the late, lamented Be Your Own Pet) were alternately mesmerizing and pulverizing, whipping the assembled multitude at the Drinkery into a writhing mass of humanity, baptized in sweat, sanctified by volume and praising the gods of Rock for allowing them access to the forbidden Turbo Fruits.

At one point, frontman Jonas Stein gave a mighty Rock kick move and lost his shoe in the crowd, which someone was kind enough to return to the stage. Stein thanked the shoe samaritan verily, because, as he noted, he’d only brought two shoes with him. It was unclear whether he meant two pairs of shoes or just two shoes, but his gratitude was commensurate with that of a guy who was looking at going barefoot for the remainder of the tour. At any rate, Turbo Fruits kept their feet (with or without shoes) firmly on the necks of the MidPoint crowd for the duration of their hour-plus set, leaving everyone wanting for more at the conclusion and perfectly teeing up expectations for Friday night.

MidPoint 2012 Thursday Night Notes:

• Brian Kitzmiller’s one-year soiree for his new marketing outfit, Reveal Concepts, was, as noted, a blast. Mere moments after hearing Sammy’s news about Ric Hickey’s triumphant return, I walked into Japp’s and was greeted by the prodigal son himself. His relocation to California was a journey of self-discovery, an attempt to reconcile his past, present and future and come to grips with what he truly wants and how to get it. Sometimes you have to go a long way from home to realize what home means. And for Ric, this is home. Welcome back, old friend.

• Also was introduced to longtime photographer and soundman Chuck Madden, a guy that I saw running the board at every Raisins show I ever attended but never actually met. We traded a few stories over Brian’s free OTRs, and he gave me his card; I hope that we can trade more stories and quaff more brewage in the very near future.

• I ran into the Generals’ Brandon Losacker and Nick Mavridoglou at the Demos’ show, which they were digging but Mr. Pitiful’s $7.50 Jack and Coke sent them down to MOTR for the Filament. On my way out, I spotted Magnolia Mountain’s Mark Utley at the bar, who was anticipating the Space Capone show at the Blue Wisp.

• Ran into my Kroger pal and Faint Signal keyboardist/guitarist Paul Roberts on my way to the Midway. If you lament the days when bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Yes were relevant, you owe it to yourself to check out the band’s self-titled debut. They’ve got a serious Prog vibe, but not in a wizardy, disappear-up-their-own-ass way.

• As previously noted, just before hitting Mr. Hanton’s for another brilliant hot dog (they call them handwiches, I call them awesome), I crossed paths with Sean Rhiney at the Midway. His lovely friend Susan offered to buy me a beer, but Sean wound up paying for the trio of Goose Islands and I got the tip. Susan observed that it must be her feminine wiles, to which I responded, “I wish I had boobs. Wait, I do. I just don’t know how to work them.” Perhaps having another beer at this point was not a sound idea. At any rate, we had a nice chat about the old days (Susan could actually claim some ownership in MidPoint; she was dating Bill Donabedian and introduced him to Sean, and the rest is history) and the new days and kids (Susan was trying to recruit Sean into the wild world of parenting; he didn’t seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid), then we hit the night in opposing directions.

• Sohio’s Mark Houk bought me not one but two beers at the Main Event. I believed him to be a prince among men, but a two beer evening is proof beyond proof. I raise my hangover cure to you, my friend.

• No Matthew Fenton sightings on the first night. I tried to e-mail him this week but the message bounced. And I saw his name on the Twitter feed at Below Zero, but it wound up being a message from last year. Classic tweets from MidPoints past? As Mike Breen noted, that is retro at its most contemporary.

• Had a long talk with Sammy Wulfeck about the trials and tribulations of parenting. There is nothing more rewarding or more likely to make you want to stick your hand in the garbage disposal than having children. You can’t intellectualize it, you just jump. No one is ever ready to have kids. You can’t get old enough to be ready. You just do it. And it’s great, and it’s not, which is a capsule description of life. Sammy assured me he’d give me a call if he needed any advice … I fully expect the phone to ring right after they cut the cord.

• As I was walking by the line to get into the Dirty Projectors, I heard what appeared to be an able-bodied Indie Rock man say to his companions, “There’s going to be chairs in there, right?” Really? (In fact, they did.) Look, if you’ve got some physical disability not plainly apparent to the naked (or beer-clouded) eye, then by all means chair up. But you looked hale and hearty to me, so come on, dude, I’m 55 and I manage to stand my fat ass up for about 75% of the MidPoint experience. When I told this story later to CityBeat publisher Dan Bockrath, he smartassedly noted that I was seated while telling this tale. It’s not nice to pimp slap your elders, Dan. It is nice to buy them a beer … I’ll see you tonight.

• Ran into Mike Breen, Fairmount Girl/Culture Queer’s amazing Dana Hamblen, former Mad Anthony bassist Dave Markey and MA’s inimitable Ringo Jones at the Drinkery. Ringo, as he is want to do, put an enormous beer in my hand, which ultimately led me to regale Mike with the strange circumstances of my bygone days of chemical ingestion. He wisely slipped away when I went to the bathroom. That or I hallucinated him into being there in the first place. I’m never quite sure, and it’s happened before.
 
 
by Brian Penick 08.12.2013
 
 
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Guest Blog: Musicians’ Desk Reference Content Completed

Interactive musicians' guide eBook moves towards beta-testing phase

Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference. Click here for his previous blog entries.

Aaaaaaaaaaand we are done! Well, kind of …

After nearly two years of content creation, testing, editing, restructuring and discussion, I am very proud to announce that the content for Musicians’ Desk Reference is finally complete! There is still much work to be done ahead of the release — completion of web development, beta testing, marketing, promotions and more — but we are at least moving ahead, right on schedule.

It sounds cliché, but it is amazing to take a step back and realize how far this project has really come, in addition to considering how much it has forced me to grow as an individual. It all started with an idea that I simply could not let go of, despite my initial thoughts that The Counter Rhythm Group just could not handle taking on a project of this (theoretical) scale. I tried working around this notion from every angle, discussing it with an array of employees that have helped in our growth, and at the end of each reflection period I knew that we had to still move forward with the idea, any way we could.

Those that know me know that I am a planner. I like making lists — and especially checking things off of that list. I try to find structure in everything when at all possible, and more often than not I find myself asking, “Why?” I have no idea where this mentality came from and my immediate family has reaffirmed that statement over the course of the last few months. It is this mentality, combined with my passion for helping musicians that has provided the fuel for this journey.

I am so excited to share this vision with the world. While it sounds cheesy, I can promise you that every page has my heart and soul poured into it, and that it has been painstakingly been picked apart by myself and a dedicated group of contributors. We are truly aiming to provide the best information possible to be used for many generations to come. I have stated before in these blogs that this is by far the most involved I have ever been in a project — I never considered leaving a legacy, but I am starting to think that this could be it.

So what does this mean for the user? I can say with confidence that there is way more to this project than I ever could have imagined, and the fact that it still consistently “wows” me should be a testament to those who have been patiently waiting for the final product over the past several months.

While the eBook is completely customizable to each individual and scenario, I can honestly say (to those who are interested) to get ready to spend some time reading and considering the subject matter. We have meticulously worked to build the documentation so that it touches base on certain generalities and specifics, offering clarity and understanding on the matter without requiring several days’ worth of reading. I am not a big fan of lengthy reading materials and our generation tends to be intimidated by large batches of text — the sole reason we have invested so much time and resources into a digital platform. To state it conservatively, it will take an artist some time to work through the entire project, which is meant to serve the user through several areas of their career as they develop and grow.

We are so close to being able to put Musicians’ Desk Reference in your hands that I honestly have a hard time sleeping at night. Looking ahead, we will be receiving a beta version of the eBook within the next week and we have many users lined up to participate. If you are interested in being considered for a beta trial, please send an email to contact@musiciansdeskreference.com.

September is when things start getting really exciting, as we are pulling out all of the stops for this release. Without going into too much detail, I can say that we will have an established presence at the Midpoint Music Festival this year, and that this will be the first time the eBook will be available for purchase (acting as our “soft” release, exclusively to those physically at the festival). Pre-orders will be available in early September and are expected to ship the week after MPMF. This will all build up to our national release in October at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, where we will be also have a significant presence. There are many more things in the works; I promise that it will all be worth the wait.

I would like to close by thanking all of those that have shown support throughout this process, to The Counter Rhythm Group and to myself. While this is not the time to name anyone individually (that comes later), I want you all to know how much it means to us. Your continued support will help us through the coming months and we hope you will join us in spreading the word about Musicians’ Desk Reference. We have literally put everything we can into this project, and we are proud to say that we were able to build it while living in this great city, utilizing most outsourced services to companies and individuals located in the Queen City. We want to make a significant impact in the music industry, and I look forward to proudly telling anyone and everyone where it all started — right here in Cincinnati.

 
 
by mbreen 05.02.2011
Posted In: MidPoint Music Festival at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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MidPoint's One Day Bargain for Submissions

Bands and solo performers interested in being considered for a performance slot at this year’s MidPoint Music Festival will have a chance to do so at a discounted rate this Thursday. If you can get your entry in sometime within Thursday’s 24 hours, MidPoint and Sonicbids are offering a one-time return to the cheaper “early-bird” fees available briefly when submissions opened. Instead of the usual $25, registration will be only $15.

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