Each and every year I attend MidPoint Music Festival, it gets bigger and better. This year’s festival is continuing the tradition of upping the stakes, with even bigger bands and even better fanfare. There are superheroes on rooftops, a gigantic poster expo, art installations, food trucks, and more. Much of this is jammed in a two block-long Midway of lights, tents, trailers, and people that has basically taken over 12th Street.
The venue setups are great as well. It must have been a little sad for festival organizers to have to cut the Southgate House out of this year’s festivities, but the whole festival feels much more centralized and accessible for it. The new addition of SCPA’s Mayerson Theater was extremely successful; seeing Kaki King’s intricate acoustic guitar melodies in the subdued, full-seating auditorium was a delight. The acoustics were amazing and, judging from the attendees, may have given some music fans who may have been otherwise reluctant to commit to an evening of an Over-the-Rhine bar crawl a reason to commit to MidPoint.
Just like last year, the sound inside the outdoor tent at Grammars amazing, with the Joy Formidable absolutely destroying their set of intense psych rock. They’ll probably be remembered best for their noisy, climatic finale with the song “Whirring,” where they unleashed dual giant inflatable panther heads which grinned and yawned as the band erupted into a cacophony of double-pedal bass drums and guitar feedback.
The Vitamin Water Room at the Hanke Building is perhaps the stylistic heart of the festival – a previously-unused space transformed into a hip performance area and makeshift bar with the power of graffiti and Vitamin Water sponsorship (their product, by the way, was a perfect solution for washing down the delicious donuts Busken Bakery was giving out on street corners). I went there to watch the Dodos and at first I thought the quickly assembled sound system was acting as a hamper on their sound – they were overdriven, loud, and a little chaotic. But then it dawned on me that the Dodos are a hard band to mix properly – Meric Long plays his electric guitar like an acoustic guitar and his acoustic guitar like a drum. They’re prone to bursts of screaming and dissonance. However, they have a bewitching flipside as well. By the end of the set, they were blending French horn with acoustic fingerpicking and the whole room was dancing along.