Music: On 'Point

The best, worst and weirdest of the MidPoint Music Festival

Andy Houston

Locals Johnnytwentythree jam with visuals.

Organizers estimate that around 40,000 people attended this year's MidPoint Music Festival, which had the streets of the once-robust Main Street Entertainment District bustling as much as it ever has.

The independent-musician-focused fest caused quite a reaction from CityBeat's music writers, who were out in full force all weekend, covering every aspect of the night-time showcases, from the overall feel and scene to the actual music to the unavoidable weirdness that always seems to come with throwing thousands of live, original music fans into the strip's usual mix of neighborhood residents and dance-club patrons.

For all of the full MPMF reports, be sure to check out There you will also find links to our extensive photo and multimedia coverage, which features hundreds of photos from the event. You can get there directly by going here.

Below are some high-, low- and weird-lights from the three-day event.

Best Performer Who Didn't Play an Instrument

Johnnytwentythree's film operator/visual artiste Stephen Imwalle was singled out by more than one member of our review team for his perfect visual backdropping, which is vital to j23's mood-driven performance. "Imwalle was going absolutely apeshit with the visuals," writes Ezra Waller. "He has one high-tech laptop-driven projector and two reel-to-reels that he uses in combination, but instead of just letting them run, he is constantly switching and fiddling with the films, almost like a turntablist at work."

Best Contradictory Stage Setting

Albany, N.Y., Hip Hop quartet Broadcast Live put on a seriously intense show of positive-minded, beat-driven poetry at new club Ocho Rios (which looks like something out of Scarface, with its pristine white decor).

But as the foursome (which featured live instrumentation) sang and rhymed about genocide and slavery, the two big screen TVs flanking the stage showed jiggling booty videos by the very Rap artists Broadcast Live probably feels are killing their art form. Whoops.

Worst No-Show That Actually Showed

After an enthusiastic "Critic's Pick" by Waller in CityBeat's MidPoint guide, The Unbearables decided Cincinnati wasn't worth the trip, so they sent one member to do a weak solo set. Waller spoke with the bandmember, who informed him that the 12-member group had another fest to play next month in Montreal and decided to do that one as a full-band, due to financial reasons.

Best Music Event During the Weekend Not Affiliated With MidPoint (Though It Kinda, Sorta Looked Like It Could Have Been)

Washington Park Music Festival offered free admission for MPMF wristband buyers and their logo was a parody of MidPoint's (easy to do — just flip the "M"). But it wasn't affiliated directly with the fest. Regardless, the event — which raised money for the School for Creative and Performing Arts — provided local music fans a relaxing day in the park featuring four of the city's finest musical acts (Pearlene, The Sundresses, 500 Miles to Memphis and Bad Veins).

Best Love Connections

CityBeat's blog team. Our writers really got into some of the performers this year. Like, really, really. Our Ezra Waller developed not one but three "MidPoint crushes" on performers (Ann Driscoll, Leerone and Kaitee Page), while C.A. MacConnell confessed the same feelings for "one-man musical octopus" Levi Weaver.

Best Reason to Make the MidPoint Pre-Parties After-Parties

Superdrag and Forget Cassettes were hired to play at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, respectively, in an effort to get revelers downtown early, so the 9 p.m. showcases weren't as empty as they have been in years past. It didn't work. Both shows were fairly well attended, but far from capacity (each band on their own would have attracted double the audience). How about 1 a.m. "afterparties" with national headliners next year? There were a lot of open 1 a.m. slots anyway.

Best Street Team

Chicago's Beastie-Boys-reminiscent Ferdinand Fox were out front of Cue (old RBC's), rapping and dancing up a storm (clad in white jumpsuits) to get some more folks into their show. They indeed drew attention. Daniele Pfarr reported, "A group of little girls were standing on the corner, heard them start rapping and bolted over to start dancing like crazy maniacs with them."

Worst MPMF Bar Policy

According to Pfarr, MidPointers had to spend a minimum of $15 to use their credit cards at Cue. With an event that requires a lot of quick exits and sprints to the next venue, it seems to be a policy completely out of touch with MPMF's intent.

Best Reason to Kick Yourself for Not Making the Trek to the Poison Room

Nudity! Amazing Cincinnati Garage Pop trio The Lions Rampant rocked the Poison Room's upstairs stage without wearing their traditional lion costumes. Or anything else by the end of their set. The Poison Room is a great venue for MidPoint, the only actual "Rock club" involved, but the 20-minute walk from Main to the club made for some hard choices — to walk seven or eight blocks or stay on Main and squeeze in even more showcases?

Worst Excuse for Not Going to MidPoint

Besides the invalid and inaccurate excuse that "all of the bands suck," the worst excuse is parking. If you got downtown for the pre-party shows, you could have found a spot right on Main Street. If you got down later, a block south of Main Street was littered with open parking spaces.

Best Excuse for Not Going to MidPoint

Panhandlers! OK, it really is no excuse (really, you can just say "No") but, damn, it can get frustrating not being able to walk 10 feet without being confronted (I used to live on Main Street and that contributed to my leaving). I've been saying this the past few years, but, seriously, wasn't their something passed requiring panhandlers to have licenses and making it illegal to panhandle after dark? If the city were smart and actually interested in making downtown a viable entertainment destination, there would have been more police presence to tone down the more aggressive panhandlers and other troublemakers.

Worst Musical Ambassador for the City's Music Scene

A bouncer at The Exchange was talking to another bouncer while fastening Waller's wristband on Saturday night. He didn't seem thrilled to be working during MidPoint. According to Waller, the bouncer said to his co-worker, "This is a terrible place to grow up for music. Cincinnati's music scene sucks." It was indicative of the attitude of some of the workers at more than a few MPMF venues this year.

Best Abs

Local Pop/Rock master Swarthy led his self-titled band through a set full of songs from their forthcoming album, How We Watch the Skies, due next month. And he must've been burning up under The Exchange's stage lights, because he took off his shirt during his set. But it wasn't to show off his buffness (well, maybe a little) — our Jason Gargano says Swarthy told the audience it was a tribute to a Post Punk legend. "I watched the Jesus Lizard DVD the other night," Swarthy said. "If David Yow can take off his shirt, so can I."

Best Band With an Ill-Fitting Name

With their rascally moniker, Boston's Girls, Guns and Glory (who said their Cincy stop was the furthest west they've ever toured) might seem to be a Psychobilly or '80s Hair Metal band. In fact, they had a smooth, authentic Honky Tonk/early Rock & Roll vibe that was incredibly endearing. The group won over the packed house at Mr. Pitiful's "in less than half a verse, no lie," reports our Hannah Roberts.

Best Promotional Item

Excellent local rockers Goose fashioned one of those big foam "No. 1!" hands from sporting events with the phrase, "Goose Is Crunk ... I Think." Goose's Paul Cavins was seen sporting my favorite T-shirt of the weekend Saturday night as well. The shirt — made by satirical rag/Web site The Onion — simply read, "I Am In A Promising Local Band." A&R guys, take note!

Worst Thing About Makeshift or Brand New Venues

Several new venues opened their doors for the first time during MidPoint, and a few clubs had to be re-opened just for the event. It was great that there were less "temporary" venues this year. But next time it might be a good idea to put something like "(the club formerly known as ...)" next to the new venue name in the MPMF guide. Questions like "What the hell is Speakeasy" could be heard throughout the event.

Worst Name for an MPMF Venue

Below Zero isn't a bad name for a club per se. It's perfectly fine, in fact, for the old Cavern/alchemize space, a swanky new martini club which C.A. MacConnell perfectly summed up as a "metrosexual's dream" (mints at the door!). But MacConnell felt something like "Upper 90s" would be more appropriate, writing, "I found it ironic that it was sauna-hot-as-fuck in a bar called Below Zero."

Best Misinterpreted Warning

Our Hannah Roberts left an unnamed band's show at The Exchange because she was creeped out by the singer's resemblance to Journey's Steve Perry and the band's musical resemblance to Bon Jovi. As she left, some women at the door asked what the band sounded like. Roberts told them, "Bon Jovi," to which they answered, "Awesome!"

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