WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Brian Baker 10.01.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 3: Walking (Dry) After Midnight

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 fromaround 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.
 
 
by Brian Baker 09.29.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 2: The Storms are All Inside This Year

Another beautiful evening for MidPoint 2012 despite a dreary day as an opening act. Thursday night’s festivities were fantastic, but they turned out to be a mere warm-up for the grand mal WTF of Friday night. As it should be.First up on the agenda was a walk down to Grammer’s to once again bathe in the resplendent Blues chemical peel that is the Sundresses. My adoration of the band has now lasted longer than my relationship with my first wife, and it’s been worthwhile for a hell of lot longer. How do I love thee, Sundresses? Impossible to count the ways. The Sundresses are a 45-minute ride on an indoor roller coaster that cranks out a soundtrack of blistering Hard Rock murder ballads, spooky Garage Jazz Punk lust songs, gritty Indie Blues stompathons and otherworldly combinations of all of the above. The ’dresses began with Jeremy Springer’s howling mad interpretation of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit,” and the adrenalized trio didn’t let up for the duration of their set. It was classic Sundresses for MidPoint; for the intro to “My Name is Rock and Roll,” Jeremy noted that it’s “a song about why you shouldn’t date a musician,” then noticed a friend up front, motioned him over, took a huge swig of beer and spit it onto the exultant fan.“It wouldn’t be a Sundresses show,” Jeremy deadpanned, then exclaimed, “Hey Jessie, thanks for the Ritalin.” Brad Schnittger was killing it as always on the unhinged Swing Punk of “An American American” and the Garage Bluesheartpunch of “Zappado,” which they premiered at last year’s MidPoint, and bass dervish Makenzie Place spun to our heart’s content while creating a throb powerful enough to punch a hole in a bank vault. Please have a new album soon, please.After the filthy splendor of the Sundresses, I headed over to the Midway for another in a series of fabulous hot dogs from the equally fabulous Mr. Hanton’s, who also informed me that he’s getting ready to open a location on Calhoun across from the UC dorms, which I think he may be doing in a double decker bus, which will be amazing. Look for it next spring. En route to the Midway, I overheard talk on the street that the Hanke Building shows had all been moved to the Midway because the fire marshall had closed the place after Thursday night’s smoke alarm incident. Once at the Midway, I made a beeline for Mr. Hanton’s; one bite into my heavenly handwich and it occurred to me that I should be having a beer with this fine repast. Just as this spark of a thought jumped across the synapses that handle the alchol traffic (which seems like four of the six lanes in my brain’s highway), a beer suddenly appears in front of me as though I had willed into reality. It turned out to be CityBeat publisher/avenging angel Dan Bockrath, making good on his chiseled-in-stone promise to buy me a beer at every MidPoint or making a shameless bid to work his way into my annual narrative. Either way, I now had a beer and a dog. Dan confirmed that the Hanke shows were now all Midway shows, but the schedules had all been moved up to accommodate the outdoor noise ordinance. That unfortunate news pretty well blew up my schedule for the night; I had planned to run down to the Hanke after the Black Owls show to see the Kansas Bible Company, which Dan informed me was happening at this very moment. I bolted for the Midway stage with dog and brew to witness what little I could of the Indie Soul rapture of KBC. What do you get when you add a six Indie Rock guys with a grounding in Soul and a five piece horn section? Magic, that’s what. I could only stay for three songs but KBC more than lived up to the hype that I had written into their preview blurb; they were epic like early Genesis, brassy like early Chicago and earth- and ass-shaking like Oingo Boingo, with a Soul vibe as deep as the Marianas Trench and as rich as fine Corinthian leather.I would have loved to hang around for more of Kansas Bible Company, but I really wanted to see Culture Queer at the Cincinnati Club, seeing as how I’ll be interviewing them next week for an upcoming feature to advance the album release show for their excellent new disc, Nightmare Band. Assorted detours got me to the show about mid-set, and CQ was well into a scorching Electro-Pop dance groove at that point. It wasn’t the full-bore dancing girls-and-a-transvestite slut bride chorus line from last year’s roof-raising blow up at Artworks, but it was an astonishingly talented four piece (and their man-behind-the-curtain wizard controlling the screen projections behind the amps) cranking out a sonic blurt that suggested the B-52s with the campy novelty excised in favor of incendiary Indie Rock and New Order without the subtext of severe depression. CQ's Scott Fredette entertained up front (“So what do you want to do? I’ve got a doobie in my glove compartment...”), Sam Womelsdorf peeled off guitar runs that walked the line between Indie Rock power and Dance Rock slink, Jeremy Lesniak split his time between guitar and keyboard in the same pursuit, and Dana Hamblen pounded out the beat with the sadistic joy of an interrogator working over a Guantanamo detainee for information while harmonizing or singing lead. It was stripped down but it was standard Culture Queer weird brilliance or brilliant weirdness or both.After CQ‘s set I headed over to the Main Event to settle in for Mad Anthony and Black Owls. My original plan was to check out KBC at the Hanke, back to the Main Event for MA and the Owls, then back to the Hanke to check out the electrifying Soul revue of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. But with the switch to the Midway and the noise ordinance, JCBUS would be wrapping up at Mad Anthony’s start time and so I made the executive decision to hang at the Main Event. It turned out to be a wise choice on a couple of fronts; Kentucky Knife Fight blew the doors off the joint with a hillbilly Garage Rock vibe that was absolutely jaw-dropping, and Homer Bailey was pitching the last inning of his no-hitter against the Pirates. When I got to the Main Event, Ringo MF Jones was at the bar watching the game. I strolled over and got my man-hug from Ringo, who informed me of the drama at hand. The Reds didn’t get anything going in the top of the ninth, so it was down to Bailey in the bottom half, striking out one and getting a couple of pop outs. The last pop fly happened just as KKF was finishing a song, and everyone at the bar went bugnuts with the close out of the no hitter. I felt bad for the band, hoping they weren’t getting big pants over an ovation that was pointed in the opposite direction. The fact is they were killing it last night and they deserved more attention than they were getting, but they seemed to have a pretty good crowd in front of them, so it wasn’t a bad night for them.With the win, Ringo, Adam Flaig and Marc Sherlock tore themselves away from the post-game wrap-up to mount the stage, strap up and turn their amps up to “jet engine.” Is there a better and more ferocious Rock band than Mad Anthony in Cincinnati right now? I don’t bloody think so. The trio tore through their set with giddy abandon, as Ringo belted out lyrics of love and alienation (and love of alienation) with the energy of a spider monkey and the lung capacity of a lowland gorilla while abusing his six-string in a manner that could trigger an intervention from Guitar Protective Services, while Adam performed similar atrocities on his side of the stage and Marc banged out a double time Punk pulse that sounded like the beatkeeper on a Viking ship imploring his oarsmen to get their vessel up to water skiing speed. Sounding like a cross between Nirvana and Black Sabbath with 100,000 volts being pumped into Kurt Cobain and/or Tommy Iommi’s asscrack(s), “We Fucking Love This City” washed over the faithful like a tidal wave of sound and adoration and Mad Anthony proved once again that passion, unhinged energy and volume are the ingredients to the most powerful musical cocktail known to man; Punk with a twist of Hard Rock, shaken, stirred, slammed and reordered. Maybe we should call it a Madhatten.Next up on the bill was one of my most anticipated shows of MidPoint. I had been totally jacked to see Black Owls at this past summer’s Bunbury Festival after witnessing both of their MidPoint appearances in previous years, but the Sunday thunderstorm, complete with potentially deadly lightning, denied the Owls their chance to take the Alive One stage. So, like most of the patrons of the festival, they drank themselves into a stupor. Unlike most patrons, they were considering how they would storm back into Cincinnati and take revenge on Mother Nature for her pissing fit. Last night’s MidPoint show was the exquisite answer, as the Owls tore into their hour-plus set with the alcohol fueled bravado of Guided By Voices, the razor sharp choogle of T. Rex, the mutated Folk Metal of Mott the Hoople and the blazing Punk edge of everything good about the New York scene in the mid-’70s. Black Owls translate their influences into a tumult from the grimy floor of their glitter garage, a Glam-slam-thank-you-maam assjacking that is as familiar as it is fresh. Their new eponymous double album (available digitally at Bandcamp) is a marvel, and the Owls turned out hypercaffeinated versions of the new songs, including the visceral ballkick of “She Was There,” the Stonesy rumble of “Skynyrd” and the Bob Dylan-meets-Tom Verlaine Bowie tribute of “Octopus Flat,” as well as older classics like “Glorious in Black,” sounding like Marc Bolan fronting Steppenwolf and the cloudbursting joy of “Julius Morningstar.” Ed Shuttleworth and Brandon Losacker craft a solid wall of guitar squall (without a single solo, mind you, or one so subtle you’d never identify it as such), Alan Beavers attacks his bass with lead guitar precision and power and Brian Kitzmiller is still the most amazingly solid drummer on the scene and the absolute perfect foil for the Owls’ brand of contempo/retro Glam Punk. And at the front of it is David Butler, a lanky bundle of coiled energy with a voice that channels David Byrne’s tremulous warble and Ian Hunter’s power howl. For all these reasons and a few more, Black Owls have built a pretty sizable fan base here and they’re close enough (north of Columbus) to make regular visits to Cincinnati. If you have the slightest affinity for any of the artist noted here, a single exposure to Black Owls will have you on your knees and singing the praises of Granville’s favorite sons; if they were any better, they’d be banned as a controlled substance. Black Owls are your new favoriteband … do something about it.I almost hit the sidewalk to check out PUJOL at Below Zero, but chose to give my feet a break and stick at the Main Event to catch Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor out of Detroit. They had kind of a Doors sensibility, with a Gothic Pink Floyd undercurrent, and it was interesting and compelling in its volume and expanse, but it was a rather sonorous follow-up to Mad Anthony and Black Owls, so I used the Sisters as the backdrop for drinking, gig chat and celebrating the Reds’ no hitter.MidPoint 2012 Friday Night Notes:• I ran into several old pals at the Sundresses’ soiree, including the incomparable Kip Roe, who showed up with Purrs bassist/singer Jim Antonio and the always affable Paul Roberts, who showed up with his wrecking crew and put alovely Rivertown Ale into my inexplicably empty hand. Also in attendance was former design co-worker Lon Stewart, who I typically see at MidPoint because I don’t run in design circles anymore, literally or figuratively. We caught up, reminisced a bit about the old days at Optimum Group, and just generally shot the shit along with his lovely companion Paula (serious emphasis on the lovely; hey, I’m married, not dead). I also just caught a glimpse of someone who looked suspiciously like Greg Gaston, but he was finishing a beer and motoring for the gate and I couldn’t have run him down from my position.• Day two, still no Matthew Fenton sightings. I have to think that maybe he bailed on this year for whatever reasons. I typically catch up with him and Kelly on the first night, but barring that, always by Friday. Maybe third night's the charm this year.• Stopped by the Segway store and talked to Black Owls' Brian Kitzmiller, who was working a promotion there. The rest of the Owls were there as well, and Brian re-introduced me to Sean, owner of the Segway franchise here and a super nice guy. While we chatted, the Ready Stance’s Wes Pence and Chase Johnston and a couple of buddies rode up on bikes on their way to Washington Park. I slammed about half of one of Brian’s giant Hudepohls before taking to the sidewalk again.• If you want to take a truly extravagant piss, don’t miss the restrooms at the Cincinnati Club. Holy crap on a communion cracker, after the standard bar toilet atmosphere, this set-up looked like the lobby of the Netherland Plaza outfitted with urinals and stalls. In fairness, every place has been clean and not disgusting in the least, but certainly none have exhibited quite this much class. I don’t have anything on my Saturday schedule at the Club, but I may rethink that after last night’s luxury.• The evening at the Main Event was a solid parade of old friends and new acquaintances. Naturally, it was old home week to catch up with Mad Anthony and the Owls, and their respective entourages, including Ringo‘s ultracool girlfriend Carrie, Brian’s lovely wife Sarah (Post-It free for the third year in a row), Generals bassist Sammy Wulfeck and his glowingly expectant girlfriend Jenny, and Brandon Losacker’s stepbrother Andrew, an incredibly nice guy who even helped Brandon at load out; that’s real brother shit right there. Chuck Madden showed up to take some shots of the Owls; brilliant sound man that he is, he pointed out that my vantage point was the worst sound in the room, so we moved to the other side, where it was excellent. Also chatted for a bit with Brian Pennick, now doing business as the Counter Rhythm Group, but our first meeting was four years ago when he was drumming for the Turnbull AC’s and we met at his house for the interview. Beer flowed constantly, as offered most generously by Ringo Jones, Ed Shuttleworth and Brandon Losacker, who also threw in a shot of Jameson. The beer gods welcome you into the Pantheon of Hoppiness.
 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 09.28.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 1: Fear, Loathing and Vicodin

MidPoint Night 1 through the eyes of pain-killers

I’ve sprained my neck.* I’m taking Vicodin and Thursday night is the first night of MidPoint Music Festival. When my editor told me my review should be first-person and to “think, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” I snorted at just how closely it might come given my current intake of prescription drugs. No longer stoked for the experience but realizing it’s far too late to get out of going, I texted my friend, Rachel, on Wednesday night. Was she going? Could I tag along with her? The buddy system seemed like a good idea this time around.  She immediately told me sure and that she had planned to see Andrew Bird, Best Coast & Dirty Projectors on Thursday. Thursday evening, I stroll toward Washington Park. There aren’t tons of people out at 7:45, but it’s still early in the week and early in the night.  There are still enough people that it’s easy to walk mindlessly at the heels of a group of scarf-donning 20-somethings and end up where I need to be to meet my friends. I glance around, but I don’t try too hard to find Rachel.  She’s one of those people you hear before you see. Instead, I find a spot near the sound booth between two relatively attractive and seemingly girlfriend-less guys, pull out my phone and begin to send texts and emails.  By 8:10, I’m bitching, though. She knows I’m jacked up on painkillers.  If I wander off with some heavily bearded rapist in skinny jeans, thinking he’s Rach, it’s all her fault. Mostly importantly, I’m absolutely distraught that I shaved my legs yesterday.  I’ve always had this strange idea that if I’m about to get raped, I’ll just say, “You don’t want me. It’s a hot mess down there.” I think he’ll be disgusted by my lack of feminine upkeep leave me alone. Now I’ll never know if that line works! Has anyone already tried it?  I’ll have to Google it later. It's 8:20 and I still don’t see Rachel. I do, however, see a tall, lanky shadow near the ATMs and he’s laughing. It’s Dan. I text Rach for confirmation and then head over to find him with a few other people I know. (They have names, too, but they’re really irrelevant for tonight.)We make a few bad jokes and then Andrew Bird starts with zero fanfare.  He just launches into his music, people applaud in surprise, and he carries on  It’s a beautiful view.  Andrew Bird has these slowly spinning art-installations that look like plumes of smoke and a very cool rotating double-Vitrolla-like thing. Above the roof of the stage glows the pretty, white flora-inspired window of Music Hall. Last time I went to Music Hall for the Opera, I was probably parked just about where my friends and I currently stood. He’s good. His whistles have me staring at him in expectation. Where are the little animated birds fluttering toward him with ribbons for his hair and water for his face? It’s all just so pretty. I’m mesmerized. Until my foot lands on something hard and round. Is it a sprinkler head? Yes. I know this without having to look at it. And yet, drop my head and try to find the small black circle as it hides out in the grass and my shadow. I don’t see it. But I feel it, right under my foot. It finally occurs to me that I should lift my foot and I immediately stumbled into Rachel and Dan, who shrug off my apologies. Figuring out how long I’ve known Dan requires higher math than I’m capable of, but he’s used to my stumbling into him. The stumbling and bumping calls my attention to the fact that Andrew Bird is playing not only an entirely new song but also he’s in an entirely different spot. He’s near an upright bass, hovering over an old microphone and making music I love oh-so-much. Still, when it’s back to the usual stuff, I’m not the only one feeling the weight of his mellow music. It’s decided that we need caffeine. Fast. As half our group strides through back alleys and around clusters of people, Rachel tries, to no avail, to tell us that Yelp says Coffee Emporium closes at 8 p.m.  She’s like one of Andrew Bird’s birds, she sounds nice in all the chaos, but she’s having a hard time rising above it. In the end, it takes standing in front of Coffee Emporium’s darkened doors for Dan and I to admit defeat. Ira’s (Iris? I can never remember) is closed, too.  So, we do what any sensible, caffeine depraved people would do: We send Dan to his apartment to make us some while we go stand on Clay and watch Best Coast through a fence. No one will ever convince me this isn’t the best view for their show.  Sure, you can’t see their faces.  But, you can still pick up on all their energy and hear things perfectly.  Mostly, though, you also get to see the rest of the crowd dancing like crazy fools, singing along and having an awesome time.  Standing outside that fence, I think I enjoyed the energy far more than I would if I were amidst those flying elbows and twitching hips. Dan and, our friend, Erik are back.  They brought camp chairs and no coffee. We utilize the chairs and this awesome see-saw for a hot minute before Dan gets a text about Bluegrass at Mr. Pitiful’s and then we’re off, again.  I’m still not entirely sure what our friends were talking about at this point.  They came out giddy over the .5 seconds of music they heard that sounded Bluegrass and Irish.  (Despite knowing Dan for at least half my life, I’m still surprised by how absolutely stoked he is about this.)  They mentioned a name that I don’t see anywhere on Mr. Pitiful’s Thursday line-up.  However, on Friday we’re all meeting up at the Midway at 5p, where they are, apparently, playing again. Despite multiple pleas of, “Are you sure we shouldn’t support our friend?” and “We could at least peak in and say ‘Hi,’” we don’t make it into Mr. Pitiful’s to say reassuring things to Young Heirloom’s Chris Rob.**  For a brief second I contemplate making a stand.  I’ll stand like Superman and demand we give this musician-man our dues! Except they’re talking about caffeine, again, and if they go too far, I’ll never find them.  Even not on my best of days, OTR is like that tricked out maze in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.  Except Lord Voldemort is played by a skinny, African American guy who comes up to Dan while we’re still on Main Street. “Hey man, have you ever been tazed?” he asks my friend. A bright light flashes and I’m terrified for my one-time best friend.  What’s that disarmament spell?  But it’s just a watch or a flash light or something and Dan, who I think I’ve only ever seen mad once (at me, of course), just shakes his head and tell the guy it’s not cool, he doesn’t even know him. And then we’re just not there anymore.  We’re in 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab. But, I don’t actually like either of those things. All I’ve wanted all this time was a pop or a chai. They have chai, though.  And they’ll ice it!  And, you know what else? It doesn’t taste like my coveted goodness from Fido, in Nashville, but I think it’s better than Starbucks. Holy Shit. This place needs a drive-thru. I’m talked out of seconds by Rachel, who is bound and determined we make it to The Emery for Dirty Projector. I’m ready to give up the ghost.  I just want another chai…or 10. There’s a cheese plate that looks good, too. Mm, Cheese. But, I remind myself that I’m supposed to be writing about the music. Also, I have no idea which direction I’d go to get back to my car once I’ve been properly filled with dairy products.  So, off we go, to the Emery. It’s packed. Thank goodness Cincinnati is filled with some seriously sweet people.  A bit of rearranging and the seven of us are in one long row in the balcony.  We’re only forced to sit and hide yawns for a few minutes before the music starts. I like Dirty Projectors and their quirky, disjointed Pop Rock. It makes me want to dance. Except no one in the balcony dances.  I can see hints of movement and excitement below. But the people around me, the ones near the rafters, are zombie-like. No one moves, except to yawn or to leave. It’s hot, too, and I swear on anything that it smells like Skyline up there.  They should have played at Washington Park. Out in the cool air and in the open field, where there aren’t seats to lull the tired, drunken masses to sleep. That would have been better for everyone. When I find myself trying to calculate the likelihood of my death if the balcony collapses, I know it’s time to go.  It’s been a short night, but I’m done. If I stay much longer, I’ll fall asleep. Or I’ll throw up. I pop a Tums for the trip back to my car and duck out. Once outside, I’m far less concerned than I should be about the fact that I have only a vague idea how to get to my car.  There is one thing I know for certain, though: I’m stopping for Skyline on the way home and I want extra cheese. *Who knew that was even possible? Not me. **That’s his name with us, whether he likes it or not.
 
 
by Blake Hammond 09.29.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 2: MidPoint Cherry, Popped

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. Click here for oodles of photos from Night 2 of MPMF.12.
 
 
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 Mike Breen 09.28.2012
 
 
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MPMF.12 Day 1: Kick-Off Run Back For Touchdown

Opening night of the MidPoint Music Festial makes for best Thursday yet

Night 1 of the 2012 MidPoint Music Festival is in the books, a fantastic Thursday that has to be by far the best attended, best booked Thursday in the festival's 11-year history. It was a rockin' night, and also a weird one. In a good way. I caught great sets by some top-notch Rock & Roll bands, like the excellently named Shark? — which the singer/guitarist kept alternately calling "Shark?" (as a question) and SharkWithAQuestionMark. It's the sound of a great Rock band raised on equal doses of Black Flag and The Beach Boys. I can't take credit for that wise observation — the singer/guitarist's ax had a Black Flag "four bars logo" sticker doctored to read "Beach Boys." I think. My eyes are shot. It could have said Bleck Flog. And I don't know who that is. Great songs, ’90s Indie guitars-meets-the-Ramones-grind-and-shine, all peppered with some great low-key humor. Deadpan Alley Indie Rock Punk Pop? Definitely a strong if fairly under-attended set at Cincinnati Club's basement venue. It was early. Still, by this point, I'd been going for about four hours, catching a nice opening performance on the Washington Park stage by Bonesetters, whose music fits perfectly between Pomegranates and Andrew Bird — which works out great because they performed on the same lineup as Cincinnati's Poms and genuine "Indie Star" Andrew Bird. The Washington Park stage was one of the best aesthetically. The back drop of Music Hall right behind the big MPMF-trucked-in stage was majestic. The buildings and rich surroundings of Over-the-Rhine made the whole scene perfect — I especially dug the helix stage props hovering above the performers from the stage-top, which lit up as the sun dropped and provided a great visual with the giant glowing Music Hall art-glass window right behind it like the moon looking on in approval. Bird drew a solid crow to the Washington Park field, some hypnotized by his unique and diverse sound — he had a band but sometimes it seemed like Bird was multi-tasking his brains out, playing violin, singing, playing with effects, hitting the xylophone, whistling like a Classically-trained bird, crooning all charming-like. It was lilting and mesmerizing at times, but there was also about 75% of the crowd that decided to talk throughout Bird's entire set. I guess it's somewhat fair — they were just multi-tasking, too. But this was slightly annoying because, although Bird's music rises to an Indie Pop strut at times, mostly his music is about spaciousness — sparse percussion, airy violin, ethereally noisy guitar cloud-bursts, pure Americana moments, those whistles and that swoony croon. I got a great dose of classic "Indie Rock" from a pair of groups that were playing the local original music scene before "Indie Rock" ever entered our lexicon. Filament opened up festivities at MOTR Pub and sounded amazing — not just like the members hadn't stopped playing about 14 years ago (this was one of their first shows back), but like they hadn't stopped playing and got even tighter and better. The trio looked comfortable on stage together and mind-melded in their interplay. Sometimes certain people are just meant to play together. Looking forward to hearing more of Filament's angled, muscular, anxious Post Punk sound soon. The great Fairmount Girls are 11 for 11 in MidPoint plays — the Cincy greats have played every MPMF. And every time I've seen them it's a highlight. The Fairmounts' sound is always such of colorful explosion of melodies and grooves (talk about two people meant to perform together — keyboardist Melissa Fairmount and drummer Dana Hamblen are the Everly Brothers of Indie Pop, their creative rapport seemingly so effortless and perfectly natural). Pat Hennessy (also of The Tigerlilies) and Randy Cheek (also of The Ready Stance) add greatly to the colorwheel, also giving the songs shadows and corners with their creative guitar parts (and, in Cheek's case, effected-out, Xmas-light-decorated trumpet backing).  At one point in my Thursday adventures, I started to drag and found myself feeling like I needed something "weird" to snap me out of it. Or some crack. Luckily, I opted to — at that very moment — walk into Below Zero where I was greeted with what appeared to be a giant table-cloth monster with lights, dancing as a giant mass towards me. I SWEAR I didn't choose option "crack." Turned out to be the last few songs from The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. I spent last night and this morning trying to wrap my head around the whole experience of TPDR and the following performer, Canada's Richard Aucoin. I'm still not sure I can explain. There are a few artists finding increased success in Electronic/Dance music circles (and, due to the power/entertainment value of the performance, with people beyond that scene as well) who are putting the "show" back in "Hey, let's go check out a show." TPDR and Aucoin, as well as Dan Deacon and Girl Talk to an extent, are the most interactive artists in music right now, not only erasing the line between audience and performer, but disintegrating it to the point where the audience is part of the performance and the performer is part of the audience. Both TPDR and Aucoin performed amongst the audience at Below Zero, constantly encouraging everyone to participate, move closer, squeeze in, huddle up, jump, chant. Aucoin worked with — and actually interacted with — synched-up video that included some hilarious clips ("previews") and funny shout-outs to Cincinnati, some of the other participating artists, MidPoint and other weird, funny shit. Aucoin sang the Electro anthems (from the floor to the top of the bar) over driving programmed backing and a propulsive live drummer. It was like a strange performance art/comedy/film/dance party, with Andrew W.K's. energy and party-starting-abilities and Flaming Lips-like carnival action — made all the more amazing taking place in a pretty small club space (made smaller by his constant insistence that everyone mush in around him as tight as possible). The audience was enthralled and sucked in. (The above photo by Jesse Fox and the reactions on the people's faces are the perfect description of the show.)I got a little more "weird" next door at the Emery Theatre, the restored historic theater just off Central Parkwkay that is shaping up to be — along with Washington Park — a crown jewel venue and a perfect fit for MidPoint. Though familiar with their music, I wasn't sure what to expect from Dirty Projectors, but it was a truly unique performance of Beefheart-ian R&B Folk Jazz Pop …  yeah, they're wonderfully hard to explain.The show was likewise. The Emery was packed for the Projectors's avant-garde outerspace jams, a glorious sight, the perfect site for it and a vision of the theater's promising future. (The National next week is even more must-see because it's at The Emery.)The MidPoint Midway was fairly hopping once the sun went down. The Box Truck Carnival is fittingly bonkers this year. Trucks have been turned into an improv comedy club, magnet crafts station, old-school video game arcade and a Soul Train dance-off/silhouette peek-a-boo truck, which got funnier and drunker as the night went on. Check out those and the other trucks even if you don't have a ticket to the festival. There's also good food options (Washington Park had solid vendors as well) and a large stage that will feature "second play" surprise sets by artists playing elsewhere during the fest. I ended my night perfectly, coming full circle and back to "The Rock." Turbo Fruits were firebombs of no bullshit Rock & Roll, intense and heavy, but also very melodic and engaging, especially on some of the off-the-path Psych Pop songs they slip into the grinding gears. Turbo Fruits were a reminder that Rock bands can put on a show — they were thoroughly entertaining without confetti canons and surper-groovy light shows. Not that there isn't place for both. And that place, apparently, is MidPoint. Night 2, here we come. Check out oodles of photos from Day 1 of MPMF.12 here.
 
 

MidPoint Pop Quiz

Think you know everything about the MidPoint Music Festival? Pop quiz, hotshot

3 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Think you know everything about the MidPoint Music Festival? Pop quiz, hotshot  

Let Them Clear Their Throats

Cincinnati’s Young Heirlooms have gratitude in their hearts and some stuff to get off their chests

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
There’s a very thin line between knowing what you want and being thankful for what you have. A few inches to one side could see you constantly unhappy with what you earn. An inch on the other side and you’re bound to never earn anything new. Cincinnati’s on-the-rise Indie Folk duo Young Heirlooms walk that line. They’re overwhelmingly thankful for the support from Cincinnati and respect from their fans. Their gratefulness is conveyed nearly constantly, onstage and off. But, just under the surface, they’re itching for more.   

MidPoint is Here and The National Are Coming Soon

Latest updates for this week's MidPoint Music Festival and news on The National's upcoming concert

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Get the latest updates for this week's MidPoint Music Festival and news on The National's upcoming concert at the Emery Theatre on a mini-tour for Barack Obama.   

Creative Expansion

MidPoint celebrates the arts with carnival and film fest components

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
As the MidPoint Music Festival continues to grow, festival organizers are finding new ways to give audiences opportunities to interact with independent creatives in various fields. This year, not only will ArtWorks’ Box Truck Carnival be returning, but for the first time ever MPMF will also include a film festival.  

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