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Midpoint Music Festival Fails To Deliver

Filed in Cincinnati and Music News 22 comments

This year marks the 6th year that the Midpoint Music Festival had hit the Cincinnati area and this will be the second time I have written about the festival here on Each Note Secure. I get myself very excited for Midpoint each year in anticipation of an amazing lineup of bands and culture to call our own right here in Cincinnati. To me, the idea of Midpoint is brilliant. A long weekend dedicated to local and regional music with some other bands mixed in to the stew to draw in more folks.

The music takes over downtown and people from Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Louisville, Lexington and Cincy share in the promotion of great music.

Unfortunately, I have not seen those results out of the Midpoint Music Festival. I have attended in the past but will not attend this year, and here are the reasons why.

Negatives Midpoint and the organizers have no control over…..

- Downtown - This was pretty bad last year as certain bars had to be re-opened to accommodate the festival. I am not certain but it could be the case again this time around. The plain fact of the matter is that downtown Cincinnati, as much as I wish it was, it not an ideal spot for a music festival. It should and could be, but it is not.

- Funding - I know that it cannot be easy to put on an event of this size every year, and the time and energy alone is probably never worth it from a monetary standpoint, but with limited funding you get limited resources, and that leads to a lesser overall event.

Negatives I place on the shoulders of Midpoint…..

- Overall Lineup - The lineup for this years Midpoint is one of the worst I have ever seen for a festival like this. The fact that a band like Superdrag are the headliners says alot about the overall quality of the booking. While I am sure some people are excited about this, to make a band that has not released a relevant album in 7 years. Local favorites Forget Cassettes will sell a few tickets, but lets be honest, these guys hit the area at least 2-3 times a year, so there is not much urgency to get to Midpoint just for them.

And while I am happy to see some of my favorite locals on the bill like The Seedy Seeds, Wussy, Turnbull ACs and The Times (and there are more), these are bands that all of us here in the area get a chance to see multiple times a year, sometimes a month. Once again, not much to get me excited about heading downtown in late September. And I will not play the “I never heard of most of these bands” card here, I actually have heard of loads of them, I just don’t care about them much, honestly. Nor do I think many of them will ever emerge outside of our fair queen city. I wish this was the only year this happened, but it really has been for awhile now, just check out the alumni if you do not trust me.

- Exposure – I don’t see Midpoint aligning themselves with many people and I hate to say that it sorta smells of arrogance on their part. This is only speculation of course but there are so many resources out there, (even in Cincinnati) that would be willing to get behind an event like this on our own turf but are simply not associated.

Now, I am not one to whine and not at least offer some type of solution or idea for improvement. So, here is one thing I can say right off the top that makes sense. Be more like the Midwest Music Summit! As someone who has attended both I can honestly say that our neighbors in Indy have this down so much better than Midpoint. Not only does MMS embrace label showcases and book strong upcoming bands from all over the region, but they do the event in a rather vibrant fun area of town in Broad Ripple. I know, I know, MMS is not happening this year right? Well, I do not know all the reasons for that but I do know that if Midpoint would have taken a year off, (last year or this year) and focused on improving the event as a whole, it could have made the return of the event much much stronger. Not to mention that the organizers of MMS are doing a massive national festival this summer out at Red Rocks in Monolith.

For those in strong disagreement, and I know some of you will be, let me just say that I am passionate about music here in Cincinnati and seeing it move forward. That is the reason for this piece. I want nothing more for Midpoint to become the top emerging artist event in the midwest. I do however, welcome your comments, in agreement or otherwise.

 Midpoint Music Festival Fails To Deliver

About

Joe started ENS in 2003 after most people he wanted to talk to about music were worn thin by his ramblings. The outlet this site provided helped out, and somehow is still going 9 years later. After a four year stint as a WOXY DJ, Joe returned to Cincinnati and continues to pioneer ENS. In addition to the overall look and feel of the site, Joe provides regular reviews, and kinda makes sure this whole thing stays afloat.

Posted by Joe Long   @   27 August 2007 22 comments

22 Comments

Comments
Aug 27, 2007
12:57 pm
#1 J-love :

Those are some very interesting thoughts. I agree with a lot of it, particularly the problem with venues. The past few years have not been kind to Main Street.
In the interest of discussion, I wonder if a few “headliners” might generate more excitement and make the festival more marketable. I know that may go against the strict heart of the festival, but that would get more casual music lovers interested and excited. I’m sure the vast majority of people do not know most of the bands on the list (myself included, and I think I follow local/national music more than the average bear). And it’s hard to get excited just on the prospect of discovering new bands.

Aug 27, 2007
1:09 pm
#2 Kevin :

Joe, I hear you loud and clear on a lot of your points. I was very underwhelmed when seeing the lineup this year. Now I don’t really mind that it takes place downtown, we need more things like this down there. Which is also why I’ll probably attend a little bit of the weekend, is to mainly show some support for an event that is at least trying to do something here, whether or not I like/love/hate aspects about it.

I’m glad you wrote the post because a lot of it needs to be said, but I’d hate to see the event dissolve into nothing when it has so much potential.

Aug 27, 2007
1:30 pm
#3 Euro60 :

Let me also echo much of the same feelings expressed by Joe and the previous commenters. I too am passionate about live music in Cincinnati and when I look at the Midpoint schedule, I simply cannot find a reason to get excited. The motto again this year seems to be “quantity must mean quality”.

Let me suggest that Midpoint go beyond the “no label” bands and open it up a bit. And the downtown location is a turn-off for many people. The Midpoint organizers oughta rethink their strategy, slim down a bit, maybe move up the event to the weekend after Labor Day, and move to Sawyer Point. (Wait, does this sound like the doomed Desdemona model? Well yes, yes it does. Desdemona had a LOT going for it, and it’s a shame that it was a one year event for reasons that had nothing top do with the musical contents of the event.)

Aug 27, 2007
5:17 pm
#4 Joe :

Good points guys. Keep em coming….

Aug 28, 2007
9:43 am
#5 Sandy :

I agree Desdemona was fantastic, but it lost money and this has a different purpose. This event is run by all volunteers with very little funding. I agree, everything is not perfect, but they are trying to put something together to help Cincinnati and the music scene. Instead of complaining, why not get involved and help make it better.

Author Aug 28, 2007
9:56 am
#6 Administrator :

Sandy, I would love to be involved with the booking or choices of bands for this. But it seems the organizers already have an agenda for that.

Aug 29, 2007
9:53 am
#7 Breen :

Some good points, Joe, things I’ve heard a lot from various people.

The most common complaint seems to be about the quality of music, the lack of “national’ headliners, anchor bands, label showcases. I’d just like to say that the reasons the organizers haven’t played that card are very noble (albeit perhaps stubborn). The event was started for unsigned bands (from the showcases to the panels) — how can that be such a horrible thing?

I’m not sure about the “agenda” thing. I’ve been a “judge” for MidPoint in the past (though not this year) and that basically entails listening to MP3s by a stack of bands and rating them. Then bands are chosen mathematically by who gets the highest score. It seems pretty fair, though, of course, different judges will have different agendas. I don’t know what you do about that though. From the Grammys to the Shortlist, that’s unavoidable.

Personally, I can’t say that I’m familiar with all of these bands either, but I’m weird — the thrill of finding something new IS enough for me to get excited about the event. But in the big picture, most people aren’t up for that kind of exploration. Ultimately, though, it’s a big party and I’m sure this year will be fun.

My suggestion for MidPoint would be to do some outreach (something they’ve slightly resisted in the name of appearing fair). Go to the “important” people in the punk, indie, metal, hip hop, jazz communities in Greater Cincinnati and ask them to spread the word and push more people to apply. Though maybe more diversity would actually lessen the appeal of the event.

You are dead-on about downtown/Main St. It’s a shame that they are locked into that area. I know the idea of moving it has been tossed around. Not sure why they didn’t move on it instead of riding a dead horse into the ground.

And lay off Superdrag!!! :)

Author Aug 29, 2007
11:33 am
#8 Administrator :

Hey Mike, thanks for your thoughts, they are appreciated. Quick response though.

I am not even interested in big national headliners, (however if you are gonna get one, cant we do better than Superdrag? sorry mike) I am all for the unsigned or small label acts to be well represented.

I also think that trotting out the same bands every year is an exercise in futility. There are several bands that have been both unsigned and on the Midpoint bill for several years (some every year). Lets be honest, these bands are never leaving town! Lets at least get some more diversity here!

I stand by my point about outreach as you mentioned, and also about the stubborn attitude the organizers appear to have.

I think they have been riding that dead horse into the ground in more ways than just the location.

Thanks again everyone!

Author Aug 29, 2007
11:36 am
#9 Administrator :

One last thing mike, you said this…

“I’d just like to say that the reasons the organizers haven’t played that card are very noble (albeit perhaps stubborn). The event was started for unsigned bands (from the showcases to the panels) — how can that be such a horrible thing?”

This is not a horrible thing at all. However, when you are running a business, as I know the organizers are, at some point you have to decide how well that model is working for you and what options you have to change it.

Aug 30, 2007
1:33 pm
#10 zippy :

these concerns have been raised since year one. guess they just wanna run it their way..

Sep 10, 2007
3:58 pm
#11 :

I agree with your points, Joe. It seems that Midpoint could reach out to unsigned bands and get them to play the festival. All they would have to do is look at WOXY’s playlist to find bands that are unsigned or self released.

They could still have the same judging procedure for most acts and keep the Sonicbids partnership alive. But by adding 10-25 popular or well-known independent artists to the bill would entice a number of people to attend and support MMF.

It seems that the bands that play are broken into three categories: bands you know from the Cincinnati area, bands you don’t know from the Cincinnati area, and bands you don’t know from outside the area. So people are going to go to this festival to support the bands they know from the area (and can see pretty regularly throughout the year), or to find new bands they don’t know.

Also, if “the event was started for unsigned bands (from the showcases to the panels)” having these same independent artists on panels would entice the acts playing the festivals and all the musicians in the area. Independent and self-released artists that are getting some radio play, touring, and making careers as musicians would be extremely beneficial. Looking at the panelists for this year, more than half of them are from Cincinnati or KY. Personally, I would be more inclined to go to the panels if I felt the viewpoints came from outside of Cincinnati.

The main problem I hear from all of the complaints about Midpoint is that it seems to have reached a plateau. It definitely increased in bands, venues, support, and press coverage with each of the first few years. The last year or two, it seems to be at a stand still. Maybe that’s what Midpoint will be. But I think most people expect the festival to continue to grow and have been frustrated when it hasn’t.

Sep 11, 2007
10:31 pm
#12 drewchowen :

Wow, way to under-whelm me Cincy citizens! As a member of an unsigned band from outside of your area who will be playing at Mid Point, I’m left wondering if it’s going to be worth making the trip by the reading here…

Sep 12, 2007
9:56 am

Hello Joe and all! Thanks for your comments. While our mission has been consistent over the lifespan of the festival, MPMF is refined and improved each year by the incorporation of feedback from our showcasing bands and passionate supporters like you. My name is Brian. I’m in my second year as the Marketing Leader for MPMF, after starting as a fan in Year 1 and a Marketing volunteer (and occasional stage manager) in Years 2 through 5. And I’ve been listening to WOXY since ’89. I’d like to share my thoughts today, but I’m not here to speak on behalf of the MPMF founders.

We’re excited by the emergence of newcomers and the continued presence of the pioneering businesses of Downtown’s Main Street area. New bars including Jardin (formerly Neon’s), Below Zero (formerly Alchemize), Cue (formerly RBC’s), and Speakeasy (formerly Japp’s) are leading the smoke-free entertainment renaissance while emerging arts organizations like Ink Tank and the New Stage Collective ensure that the area’s cultural roots are maintained. You can find more details about some of these organizations and other MPMF host venues on the MPMF Bar Cards being distributed by our Street Team.

The grass-roots Street Team was formed to give the festival greater exposure among all facets of our community; they’ve recently been sighted at the bars of Northside, the BrewHaHa at Sawyer Point, and the Mt Adams Music Festival, among other events. Keep an eye out for these gospel-spreading volunteers: the Bar Cards that they’re distributing include a $5 off discount on your 3-day all venue wristband!

Thanks for noticing some of the great locals on this year’s bill. Additionally, I see that at least five of our showcasing bands have also performed one of your WOXY Lounge Acts: Wussy, The Turnbull ACs, Miranda Sound, Hotpipes, and The Teenage Prayers. Furthermore, I see that you’ll be hosting The Teenage Prayers and our pre-party band Superdrag (led by John Davis, our Artist Keynote Speaker) for Lounge Acts during the week of MPMF. It seems that we’ve independently arrived at some common bookings!

Our independent judges also seem to share tastes with the CityBeat staff, CEA nominators (i.e. the voting public), and the CEA nominating committee; this year, we’ve highlighted past CityBeat picks and CEA nominees with icons on our Bands page (http://www.mpmf.com/bands.php). Clearly, we’ve got an esteemed group of locals performing alongside some great regional acts and an ever-growing group of national and international acts.

It would be very difficult to see this many great local bands over the course of three days outside of this festival and downright impossible to see such a collection of non-local bands. When you add in the almost palpable energy and comradery that comes with walking from one buzzing venue to the next alongside other music fans from across the city and across the globe, we believe that you’ll find that our volunteers put on a pretty compelling event…and our loyal audience—whose loyalty we continually strive to earn—seems to agree.

As you can imagine, things are pretty hectic this time of year and I don’t have much extra time for my painfully slow typing. I can always find some time to talk, however, and I’d like to invite you and whoever else might like to share their input directly to join me and a handful of our other volunteers as we drink a beer before our annual poster hanging event on Main Street. We’ll be meeting at Courtyard, Thursday September 13th, 6pm. The first Moerlein or Hudy is on me! Cheers.

MidPoint Music Festival (http://www.mpmf.com)
Cincinnati, OH
September 26-29, 2007

Author Sep 12, 2007
10:23 am
#14 Administrator :

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your comments, I respect what you are doing. However, lets get a few things straight. No matter how much you try and shine the turd that is downtown Cincinnati, it is still a turd, and it pains me to say that. Simply changing the names of bars and kicking out smoking does not make people want to be there.

Second, there are some quality bands playing Midpoint, I said that from the start, but the percentage that make people interested in the event does not make up for the huge amount of acts that sadly, are not worth lots of folks time. As for the WOXY connection you mentioned, (which is also minimal) I wrote this piece without that in mind, so lets keep it separate.

And Brian, I know you care about what you do, and I respect that, but lets be honest, the majority of that long winded comment looked like a press release itself.

As for meeting for input, I would love to, this is actually the first time I have heard of the meeting, however, I have to be at work at that time, would love to hear how things turn out though!

Sep 13, 2007
4:36 pm
#15 Brian :

Hi Joe, I’m popping back in to restate my offer to your readers to meet me at Courtyard Café 6pm tonight for an input session…I’m sorry that you won’t be able to join us.

A few points of clarification while I’m here…

Indeed, some downtown business owners are merely shining turds…but others are installing new 6-figure sound systems in their turds…building new kitchens, erecting new stages, and adding billiard tables…all in an effort to transform their turds into something more palatable to the urban-inclined entertainment-seeking public.

One of our hopes in booking such a large and diverse festival is that we appeal to large and diverse audience. (Recall that we have 230 showcasing bands—80% of whom did not showcase last year—representing more than a dozen genres.) Admittedly, only a select group of performers will be on everyone’s list of “interesting” bands, but we believe that every band will be interesting to somebody…even if it’s not me or you. We think that everyone will find enough personally interesting bands to make the festival well worth their time. Remember: with 230 bands on the bill, it doesn’t take a very large percentage of bands to make for an interesting 3-day personal itinerary!

I’ve started a thread on the WOXY boards where folks can share the bands that they’ve found to be interesting in their pre-MPMF “research.” I’d love to see you participate—as someone heavily involved in independent music—to recommend some of the “quality” bands that you referred to in your post.

Respectfully,
Brian

Author Sep 13, 2007
5:16 pm
#16 Administrator :

Thanks again Brian,

So, which bars are installing the huge sound systems for Midpoint? Just curious.

Also, do they plan to book a full schedule of local, regional and national acts after Midpoint to try and regain their investment?

And to be fair, my shining turd comment was aimed at downtown overall, some of the blame falls on the bars, but it is the overall enviroment that has folks turned off, “urban inclined, or suburban”…

As for your lineup comments, in the end, it comes down to whatever works for Midpoint as a whole. If what you have is working great, then keep at it, for sure. I am still of the opinion though that this is not an isolated complaint and lots can be done to improve the lineup.

Thanks again for stopping by and engaging in the discussion Brian, I really wish I could be at the meeting today, stop back and give us a full report…..

Sep 18, 2007
11:01 pm
#17 dale :

Interesting points, Joe.

Like Brian, I volunteer on the MPMF staff. Remember that lack of funding you mentioned? The entire staff of MPMF is unpaid- volunteering their time to bring some great indie artists (local, regional, national, and international) to downtown Cincinnati. Our so-called arrogance is not arrogance- it’s pride of ownership. We make this happen with very little money, very little support from the community and very few accolades.

Thanks for your speculation on whether we should form an alliance. If you think of anyone who we can align ourselves with, call me.

Your suggestion that we should take a page from MMS baffles me. We should take a year off, and our founders should leave their jobs and the city they love so they can organize a music festival thousands of miles away (South by Southwest, maybe?). I would rather have MPMF here- where I can go to it. I’m sure the people of Indy are thrilled that they only have to pop over to Denver to see a great music festival.

The overall lineup- the only comment I’ll make here is that music’s greatness is subjective. Feel free to not go, but don’t degrade the bands that will be coming to MPMF by saying the standard has been lowered.

I won’t comment on funding- you MUST realize how difficult it is to fund something like this.

The downtown location is the best part of this festival. When everyone else in the city is giving up on downtown and over-the-rhine, MPMF is devoted to making sure people come down there that one weekend they have control over. Would you recommend we have it at the Levee and let OTR disintegrate? Or should people take a note from MPMF and Second Sundays on Main and bring people to OTR and let them experience the struggling small businesses that are surviving the harshest of climates?

Joe, I blog myself- I know all too well how easy it is to criticize from behind a computer. If you wanted to get involved with MPMF, you could. Instead of finding every negative aspect of MPMF 2007, why not celebrate the fact that someone in Cincinnati is trying to make it more fun, more lively, and sound just a bit better?

Author Sep 19, 2007
9:08 am
#18 Administrator :

Hi Dale,

Thanks for stopping by, appreciate your comment, truly I do. I respect what you do as a volunteer for this and your commitment to it, I really do, so don’t hear my arguments about Midpoint directed at those who work to make it happen.

It’s one of those things that if I did not care, I would not write about. So, do know that what I want, and what I said from the start, was I wanted Midpoint to be all that it can be.

Funding Issues – Total agreement

Downtown issues – Already stated (not an easy solution here)

Lineup Issues – Already stated, stand firm in my stance here that a “better” lineup, not just for me but as a whole, would improve the overall digestion of the festival.

MMS vs. Midpoint- I stand firm on this one too. My argument was not based on the fact that MMS took the year off and its organizer did a different festival. But rather that when MMS is going it is head and shoulders a better event than Midpoint and Midpoint should aspire to be like that. I know you don’t agree with this, and may even look down on MMS, but as a person working in the music industry, I can honestly say that I am not alone in my opinion here.

Finally Dale, as for hiding behind a computer? Well, I have never been one to do that. I am more than willing to discuss these issues and opinions with Midpoint and its organizers if approached. And I am not one to criticize without at least giving some alternative ideas, which I have done.

Sep 27, 2007
11:40 pm
#19 myshitstinks :

Let’s all be honest (and smarmy), I don’t read this blog but I did read this post. It’s a “turd” and your constant responses to comments are your attempt to “shine a turd”. Jee whiz, I really wish I had more time to prove my point but I’ve already wasted too much time on this as it is.

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