Inspiration 'Point

With some of the best signed and unsigned musical around, the MidPoint Music Festival enters a new era

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Quick link: Thursday 9/25 band previews & critics' picks

Quick link: Friday 9/26 band previews & critics' picks

Quick link: Saturday 9/27 band previews & critics' picks

Quick link: Wristband/ticket details

Quick link: Scion Streetcar Shuttle details

Now entering its seventh year, lots of things about this year's MidPoint Music Festival (running Sept. 25-27 in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Newport) will feel familiar. But even more will feel different.

CityBeat has taken over the fest, which has brought thousands of musicians and music industry heavies to Cincinnati over the years and provided a great three-day party in the urban center for local and regional music lovers.

Though we were always in awe of the hard work fest co-founders Sean Rhiney and Bill Donabedian put into MidPoint, this year we've developed a new appreciation. From booking the artists to procuring venues, publicizing the event to making sure the beer and sound systems are flowing, MidPoint is a massive undertaking. But I think we all agree — and you will, too — that it's going to be worth it.

MidPoint began as an alternative to bigger fests such as South By Southwest, which started with the same mission — supporting new, undernoticed artists — but for the most part has turned into a promotional tool for labels hawking their latest finds.

Rhiney and Donabedian, empathetic to independent musicians thanks to their years of performing in local bands, wanted to give the musicians without major backing a fest all their own, limiting showcases exclusively to unsigned artists. MPMF's industry panels and keynote addresses throughout the years helped unsigned acts navigate the biz and come away with new networking opportunities.

This year, the panels have been put on hold (they'll likely return in the future) so MidPoint can reintroduce itself as an event for both unsigned acts as well as some more widely-known artists who already have a record deal. Still, MidPoint continues to focus on music fans.

Exploration is still an essential element of the MidPoint experience. Every year, I'd look forward to the event as a chance to see a lot of my favorite or soon-to-be-favorite local bands, but, as importantly, it also became an adventure to discover great artists hardly anyone has ever heard of.

This year, unsigned acts (chosen from hundreds of submissions from around the world) are still the fest's bread and butter, and Greater Cincinnati has the largest representation of artists. But you'll also be able to check out bands like Why?, Mates of State, Backyard Tire Fire, Spectrum and The Sadies, acts you might have heard on the radio or Internet and read about in magazines and on music blogs.

The ultimate goal is use higher profile artists to attract more people to the fest in the hope that they'll stick around and enjoy the high-quality but lesser-known collection of other artists in a similar realm as the bigger names.

We're ready. Are you?

Frequently Asked Questions About MidPoint

Q: Why would Cincinnati, of all places, host a big music festival like this?
Because Greater Cincinnati's original music scene is one of the best in the country right now, as strong as it's ever been. Spin magazine has written about the scene in general, VH-1 recently visited the Queen City and several local acts are getting major national attention.

Historically, Cincinnati has produced major musical acts over the years — from Bootsy Collins to The Afghan Whigs, Over the Rhine to Wussy. And Terry Stewart from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame says this: "There are three cities that have a rightful claim to be the birthplace of Rock: Memphis, New Orleans and Cincinnati." Why wouldn't Cincinnati host an event like this?

Q: I liked the MidPoint CD sampler each year. Don't suppose you have any this year?
Why, yes, in fact, we do. This year's MidPoint compilation CD features such MPMF artists as Ruckus Roboticus, The Purrs, Wake the Bear, Eclipse and Israel's Flow. The disc is being placed in the MidPoint goodie bags for attendees and can be purchased at various locations throughout MidPoint weekend. You can also pick up MPMF matchbooks, T-shirts, fridge magnets and other groovy schwag.

Q: My band didn't get invited to play and all the other bands suck. Are your submission judges deaf?

Only partly. Hearing aides help. Due to the limited number of venues and time slots, some really good bands didn't get invites this year. Next year there will likely be more slots available, so keep trying. Oh, and all the other bands don't suck — you're just angry and bitter.

Q: Why isn't (insert favorite local band) playing?

We did our best to reach out to a large number of high-quality local artists who haven't played MidPoint in the past. We landed several through submissions, and we also invited artists nominated in the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards critical achievement categories. Chances are, if it's a big local band, they were invited but couldn't make it this time around. Perfect time to find a new favorite local band!

Q: Thursday nights in the past have been kind of dead. Why don't you limit the Thursday night performances and throw a big dance party at midnight to bring more people out?
Great idea! Consider it done. Thursday night showcases will end by midnight (with an average of three acts per venue). Then, at the Lodge Bar, Columbus' Ruckus Roboticus (who's remixed the likes of Vampire Weekend and Bloc Party) will perform a set of his intriguing, mashy Dance/Hip Hop music.

Q: I have to get from Below Zero Lounge in OTR to Cadillac Ranch at Sixth and Walnut to see my favorite band. It would be nice if you guys had a shuttle.
Not really a question, but ... Scion, a main MPMF sponsor, is helping out with constant car service between venues in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown throughout the festival's three days. See "Ride the Scion Streetcar Shuttle" here.

Q: Does this look infected?
Mildly. Just pour some Jack on it and keep rockin'.

Q: Who is playing the "Secret Show" at Know Theater to close out the fest Saturday night?
Well, if I told you it wouldn't be a secret, would it? First hint: It's not the reunited Led Zeppelin. The midnight show at Know Theater in Over-the-Rhine is a special Scion/Dewey's Pizza-sponsored event featuring a well-known national band from the Indie Rock world. It's open only to attendees who purchase the full three-day wristband for $29. This show alone would normally cost you at least half of that.

Q: Whoa, you guys have the Aronoff Center as a venue this year? That place is kinda nice.
Yeah, the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater is one of several new venues participating in the event this year. The Aronoff's black box theater space will host several headliners, and all of those shows are all-ages and sponsored by

Q: It says this thing starts at 8 p.m. each night. That really means 10 p.m. Rock & Roll Standard Time, right?
No! MidPoint showcases really are starting promptly at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7. And lineups at each venue aren't toploaded with more popular acts performing late; several of the critics' picks for MidPoint are in the 8 p.m. time slot. At most venues, the final acts each night will be allowed to extend their sets beyond the MPMF standard 40 minutes.

Q: I can't make every night. My uncle's co-worker's best friend's daughter's Girl Scout leader is getting married. How can I keep up with the MidPoint action?
Have fun at the wedding (and bring me some Thin Mints). As with the past few years of MidPoint, CityBeat will have extensive review coverage of the festival on our music blog all weekend long.

Q: OK, you convinced me to go. Where can I get tickets?

Three-day wristbands are available for advance purchase. See "Ticket to Ride" here for all the details on wristbands, tickets and cover charges.

Q: You didn't answer my question and I've asked it frequently. Please, for the love of all that's good and decent, help me.
Everything you need to know about MidPoint is either in this issue or at And look in the Sept. 24 issue of CityBeat for band interviews, an updated showcase lineup and breaking news.

Q: Can I have a free wristband?

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