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MidPoint Music Festival is back in Cincy

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Folk legend Sam Beam, known as Iron & Wine, will perform Sunday, Sept. 27 in Washington Park at MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati

A lot of music fans tend to think that nothing “big” ever happens in Ohio these days—especially in Southwest Ohio, and certainly in the realm of a rock festival featuring popular and nationally renowned alternative and indie artists.

Well, some of our good friends just an hour south of the Gem City decided to do something about that. Enter the MidPoint Music Festival.

Originally the brainchild of Cincinnati musicians Bill Donabedian and Sean Rhiney back in 2001, the festival has since been in the care of the Cincinnati CityBeat alt weekly and has remained a fall fixture in the Queen City each year.

“CityBeat was given the opportunity to save the festival in 2008,” explains MidPoint Music Festival Artistic Director Dan McCabe, who worked previously as the booker at legendary Cincinnati venue Sudsy Malone’s. “I was working there and encouraged them to make the effort. Wrote up a plan and was declared MPMF Executive Producer.”

Whereas the original MidPoint Music Festival was an event dedicated to showcasing quality bands from Cincinnati, Dayton and surrounding areas, McCabe and company decided to expand its spotlight in order for the festival to grow. Under the guidance of McCabe, MidPoint has seen its attendance grow over the past several years—up to an estimated 30,000 attendees.

“MidPoint has grown significantly in profile and presentation,” says Alex Breyer, MPMF PR and Promotions Manager. “Dan has a national reputation as a promoter and he has his radar seeking out emerging national talent every year. The festival now features more nationally and internationally known artists. There is a bigger investment in sound and production. Whereas before it wasn’t given much national attention due to a lack of signed artists, it strikes a great balance today showcasing music pioneers and music of tomorrow.”

McCabe says another one of his missions in producing MPMF each year is both grand and simple: Introduce music fans to new artists while showing off Cincinnati.”

While over the years MidPoint has shown off a handful of neighborhoods in Cincinnati, this year’s festival is mostly happening at venues in and around the scenic, centrally located downtown Over-The-Rhine vicinity, an area that McCabe claims is both “more walkable” and “uniquely Cincinnati.”

“That area is the heart of the city and has an energy that makes Cincinnati what it is, both historically and artistically,” Breyer adds.

This year, 120 artists will grace a dozen of that neighborhood’s theatres, bars and outdoor stages such as the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, the Taft Ballroom and the Woodward Theater over the course of three days. The music featured across those 100+ acts displays a great deal of variety: the proverbial “something for everyone.” Festival highlights include performances by British shoegaze legends Ride, 4AD Records’ hot indie dance pop duo Purity Ring, modern alt-folk pioneer Iron & Wine, San Franciscan dream pop duo Cathedrals, bluesy psychedelic rockers All Them Witches, the genre-defying sounds of Sylvan Esso, the world music and pop experimentations of Tune-Yards, alt-country singer/songwriter Lydia Loveless, the arty and theatrical Zola Jesus, and the return of former Daytonian Erika Wennerstrom’s band, Heartless Bastards. This will be the Bastards’ second appearance at Midpoint, this time as one of the featured acts. For Wennerstrom, the prospect of headlining a major music festival so close to her former home and friends is like a dream come true.

“It feels great,” Wennerstrom beams. “I never thought of the band as being that big, and then over the last year or so I’ve realized we’ve grown our audience a lot more than I thought. I had some moments recently where I really needed to stop and smell the roses and look back on how far we’ve come. I hope some Daytonians make the trek. It’s always nice seeing faces from home.”

Seeing faces from Dayton at MidPoint is becoming more common each year, as music fans from all over the region flock to the festival to check out their favorites and new music.

MPMF organizers expect more of the same this year with another stellar lineup of bands as well as the inclusion of the MidPoint Indie Craft Village, a non-ticketed area featuring local craft beer and visual art. According to Breyer, this element of discovery is what he believes keeps bringing patrons back year after year.

“People often come out to MidPoint for one artist or another, but they always leave having discovered something completely new. That spirit of adventure is really what makes this festival so much fun.”

MidPoint Music Festival takes place Sept. 25-27, at various venues in downtown Cincinnati. Ticket prices range from $40 for a single day ticket, $79 for a weekend pass, and $179 for the VIP experience. For tickets and more information, please visit mpmf.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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