MPMF 2015 Review

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The trip home from any festival is never the most fun (unless you attended TomorrowWorld recently) but I spent the majority of the drive back to Nashville basking in the glow of my weekend at Midpoint in Cincinnati. Sure, the festival underwent some seemingly big changes this year between shifting their dates, changing a number of venues, and underlying feeling that the focus had shifted away from “discovery” and more towards big-budget headliners. By Sunday, crowds had dwindled and just about everyone looked exhausted — maybe that’s just a sign that people had a little too much fun. Changes aside, I was there to have a good time. After all, this was my third year at the festival and I finally could navigate Over-the-Rhine without a GPS.

Thursday started with a few songs from HANA, the solo electronic act currently opening Purity Ring’s US tour. HANA’s stage presence and songs were on-point, but the energy from the audience wasn’t there, presumedly because they were saving it up for Purity Ring.

I opted out on Purity Ring and made my way to Mr. Pitiful’s for sets from Good Graeff and Roadkill Ghost Choir, two Florida-based bands that have been on my radar for a while. Despite the massive crowd gathered at Washington Park for Purity Ring, Good Graeff played to a near-full room with a few faithful fans singing along to each song and making the occasional request.

Roadkill Ghost Choir, who may collectively have more hair than the Allman Brothers, followed and treated guests that piled in after Purity Ring to a rowdy set. The room had a small stage and they’re a big band, so pedal steel played Kiffy Myers found himself stuck on the floor side stage behind a speaker for the duration of the show.

A high (or low?) point of the evening came early on, as mid-set I walked in on a guy in the bathroom washing vomit out of his mouth with a fresh beer. Definite Boy Scout technique, I’d say.

Longtime Queen City champs Heartless Bastards were taking the stage outside Christian Moerlein Brewing Co., so I made my way for a few songs. The band still has plenty of love for Cincinnati and their fans gave it right back.

A line stretched out the door of MOTR to see Bully, one of the last bands of the night and a definite stand-out of the festival, so the group I was with was hesitant to wait it out. Saturday promised to be a full day, so we packed it up and made our way home to get some sleep and do it all over again.

Throughout Friday night, I overheard at least a dozen conversations about two acts; Sylvan Esso and Patrick Watson. This year marked the Midpoint debut for both acts — Watson playing in support of his album Love Songs for Robots, released earlier this year, and Sylvan Esso still riding strong on their stunning 2014  debut (oddly enough, released exactly one year before Watson’s).

A little late to the game, I made EZTV the first set of my night. I only managed a few songs because Ryley Walker was starting across the street at the Woodward Theatre, but the band had no trouble winning over a near-capacity crowd at MOTR. Between his sometimes ten-minute-plus songs, Walker made goofy banter with the audience with stories of previous shows in Cincinnati and which pizza place was the best. He and his band had a large audience, though it was clear most people were unfamiliar with his material (myself included). On my way out, I overheard a girl exclaim to the bartender, “What the fuck was THAT?! Cincinnati is SO much different than it was the last time I was here!” (which turned out to be 10 years ago).

Sylvan Esso came onstage at Christian Moerlein to a thunderous applause and could hardly contain their excitement to be at the Festival. Between songs, and even during, the duo grinned from ear-to-ear and bounced around the stage. The majority of the audience sang along to every word of the set and was easily the most energetic crowd I saw over the weekend.

A short stop at an at-capacity Maudie’s to hear, not see, half of a song from Diet Cig and I was on my way back to the Woodward for Patrick Watson. Watson and company made their way onto a stage packed with instruments and light globes and sailed through songs from their new release and a number of long-time crowd favorites, ultimately resulting in a beautiful encore for the packed theater.

Sunday came quickly and I arrived at Washington Park just in time for Great Peacock’s set. The Nashville-based four-piece seemed more energetic than the few hundred people that had gathered to watch them, but by the tail end of their set a few small groups were dancing around . As I headed to grab a quick bite to eat the park was well on its way to filling up for Pokey LaFarge and Iron & Wine, who would both provide the perfect accompaniment to a lazy evening. One of the most unexpected surprises of the festival came from watching Andrew Combs perform to a mere 50 people at the Woodward. I figured some folks would roll in after Iron & Wine, though it seemed like a large portion of the festival-goers out for the last day had called it an evening. Beneath an eclipsed moon, tUnE-yArDs rivaled the energy of Sylvan Esso for what became the last set of the festival and a perfect way to end a weekend in Cincinnati.

Sure, some changes occurred at Midpoint this year that might take some getting used to but there was no lack of talent and variety through the lineup. The festival has been a major factor for drawing awareness to the rapidly improving OTR neighborhood and I’m already making plans for next year.

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