Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival returns
By Tim Anderl
Harnessing a hard-fought-and-won, 11-year tradition for bringing hundreds of national and international musical frontrunners to Southwestern Ohio for a days-long, annual event, MidPoint Music Festival returns to downtown Cincinnati this week. Unparalleled in this part of the country, and taking place in the city’s Over-the-Rhine district Thursday, Sept. 27-Saturday, Sept. 29, the festival hosts multiple stages within a walkable area, which encourages attendees to explore and discover the sights and sounds of the event’s programming (including 2012 participants Sleigh Bells, Grizzly Bear, The Walkmen, Dinosaur Jr., Andrew Bird and Ralph Stanley, to name a few).
Dayton City Paper caught up with Midpoint Music Festival Executive Producer Dan McCabe to discuss the pioneering acts included in this year’s event, the spirit of the festival and whether or not MPMF can be experienced via the Internet. Here’s what he told us …
How many bands have been confirmed for this year, and what are those bands like?
There are 190 acts this year. In booking this event, we try to showcase pioneering acts that are pushing their genres to the limits and really stretching the concept of music. We’ll give a nod each year to artists who aren’t necessarily new, like Ralph Stanley, for instance, but he was a pioneer in his own right with advancing bluegrass music. Dinosaur Jr. is another good example of a classic, pioneering act who is coming back and showing themselves off at MidPoint.
I imagine part of MidPoint’s mission and vision is making southwestern Ohio an appealing stop for national acts as well as showcasing Ohio acts that hold their own on a larger landscape …
Certainly. Cincinnati is a unique music town and there is something of a tradition of making music in Cincinnati, much as there is in Dayton, that has led to acts who were pioneers in their genres. There’s a very educated crowd base here who are used to going out and experiencing live music and they are pretty savvy. They understand what is authentic and what isn’t.
So, Cincinnati is a great city to make music in and it is my hope that these touring artists, from wherever they may live and make music, consider Cincinnati, not only as a must-play stop on their future tour schedules, but as a potential place to live, work and make their music. I think it is important for Cincinnati to reach out to creatives, just as they would reach out to young professionals to attract and retain people to build a city upon. What interests young professionals a lot of times is having a cool music scene. We have one! We are very, very lucky to have the scene that we have and the history that goes with it.
How does a band catch your attention? How do you choose the bands who participate?
I’ve been bringing music to Cincinnati for over 20 years. I started booking shows back in 1991 and it has always been my peers who have grabbed me by the collar and said, “Hey, listen to this.” That is typically how I get turned on to music. I work in a field where I’m in constant contact with artists’ management, artists’ labels, agencies and their job is to turn me on to a certain degree as well. They are interested in having me find out about new artists. Those are the two fronts that I’m most reliant on for MPMF.
What is the biggest challenge you face in organizing an event of this size and scope?
Probably trying to explain to the artist participants what they are coming to town to play. You say music festival and there is a perception that this is a field with a couple of stages on both ends. The way Cincinnati is laid out, and the way MPMF harnesses that setting, is pretty unique. We are in Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood, we have an artist clubhouse where they can get a bite to eat and there are 17 different venues where they’ll be playing. We want to encourage them to get out from the four walls of their venue to experience what is going on, to mingle and to see as much as they can see as well.
We have 300 to 400 volunteers each year that help to make this event run smoothly. Last year we had 22,000 attendees, and with this year’s addition of the brand-new main stage concept for this year in Washington Park, which is a 5,000-capacity civic lawn, we hope we will have the opportunity to accommodate even more people and to bring in the type of artist who will draw from the entire region.
For people who aren’t able to attend the event, is there a place online where they can see performances in real-time?
I don’t see the value in that. That is not the MidPoint experience. The MidPoint experience is about discovery, it is about the kinetic energy of being shoulder-to-shoulder with other people while you make the discovery of music. A one-dimensional broadcast is just not something I want to put MidPoint’s name on. So, no you aren’t going to be able to dial this up. This event is for the people who are standing there witnessing it.
MidPoint Music Festival takes place Thursday, Sept. 27-Saturday, Sept. 29 in downtown Cincinnati. To purchase tickets for the event, including a VIP option at $169 or advanced tickets at $69, go to: www.cincyticket.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=1170. To read the full schedule, go to mpmf.com/festival.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@daytoncitypaper.com