I like to think that things got really awesome in Cincinnati this year to align perfectly with my return. (Sure, exciting things have been building here for years, but this is my blog.)
My experience at MidPoint Music Festival over the weekend – watching the streets of downtown and Over-the-Rhine fill up with diverse, music-loving crowds; taking in sets from a half dozen fantastic national acts; sampling gourmet food-truck fare; and watching art unfold before my eyes from stages constructed in the back of rental trucks lined up and down the central “Midway” – only made this feeling ring especially true.
In fact, it’s hard to consider the evolution of MidPoint without seeing it as intrinsically tied to the growth and revitalization of Over-the-Rhine itself. Just like MidPoint organizers, bands and volunteers, OTR is a neighborhood shaped by dreamers who are rolling up their sleeves and creating a Cincinnati in which they want to live and invest.
I had not been to MidPoint since I covered it as a reporter from 2004-2007 for CiN Weekly (the weekly mag that later became Metromix, and was published by The Cincinnati Enquirer), with the exception of a brief, one-venue stopover during a trip home in 2011. (Trip down memory lane: Back in 2007, I also worked with Joe Hansbauer and some others to put together the Washington Park Music Festival, an unofficial “day party” inspired by the packed daytime lineup held at small venues all over Austin for SXSW. The show raised funds for the School for Creative & Performing Arts. Interestingly, you can still see some pics from that day on the hidden CiN website. More on the day party idea later.*)
This year, I was looking forward to experiencing MidPoint with a fresh perspective and as a fan – not a reporter. And while I surely missed some incredible shows at MPMFs 2008-2011, based on my own observations and conversations with friends, it’s clear that 2012 was the best MidPoint yet.
Here are 5 things that took MidPoint over the top in 2012:
1. A killer music lineup that managed to balance the lure of hot national acts (Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Walkmen, Freelance Whales, Imperial Teen and Andrew Bird for starters) with the local passion for Cincinnati and Midwest bands that have been the foundation of this festival since day one.
2. Variety of venues. In one night, you could hop around town and see bands at the beautifully restored Washington Park; in the high-brow architectural surroundings of the Contemporary Arts Center; the majestic, on-the-rebound Emery Theatre; at the outdoor stage that provided free music to passerby; in a tent built outside Grammer’s; and at a handful of solid bars around OTR and downtown.
3. The collaborative spirit that engaged the neighborhood’s artists, businesses and residents. To make cool stuff happen – and stick- in Cincinnati, you need as many people on your side, and involved, as possible. MPMF does this smartly, partnering with local artists, comedians and groups like Powerhouse Factories, who set up areas to bring in fans around the Midway.
4. Unbelievable value. I paid, what, $70 for my three-day wristband? (If I had bought earlier, I could have paid just $50.) This got me into every venue, three nights in a row. I saw most of the above-mentioned national acts (who, when headlining their own gigs, can easily command $15-$30 per head) and sampled quite a few lesser known or local acts. I still can’t get over what a good deal this was.
5. The crowds. More people coming to MidPoint means livelier crowds and better shows from bands who feed off that energy.
I’m putting MidPoint in my “I’m glad to be back in Cincinnati” category. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.
*Let’s plan some day parties for MPMF next year, shall we? E-mail me if you want to brainstorm.