2011 MidPoint Music Festival Arrives

The 10th annual MidPoint Music Festival kicks off today in downtown Cincinnati posting arguably the most ambitious yet refined line-up since it started. Over the course of time MidPoint has changed dramatically. In its humble beginnings, when founder Bill Donabedian got the music started, MPMF was focused on unsigned bands and had more of a conference format. Back then, even the most ardent music fan could be intimidated by the line-up of unknown acts from all over the country. As Mr. Donabedian has turned his focus to commitments with 3CDC, Cincinnati’s CityBeatand more specifically Dan McCabe, the direction of the festival, and the MPMF brand itself, have gone through changes.

The 2011 version of MPMF features 180 bands (down from 220 the last few years) with a laser like focus on bringing quality acts in instead of going for quantity. With national and international acts including Cut Copy, Okkervil River, The Dodos, and even acclaimed soul artist Booker T, MPMF is no longer just about musicians that are unsigned and unknown.

Additionally, the MidPoint brand has been used to promote the indie concert series on Fountain Square the last two summers bringing in both national & established local acts each and every Friday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Add in the fact that there was even a MidPoint stage at the Western & Southern Tennis Masters Series , it is clear that the brand has been utilized to capture nearly all things indie rock featured in Cincinnati.

Brand awareness and changes to the format itself have meant more ticket sales for the festival the last few years, with box office receipts up 27% from 2008-2010. It has also been reported this week that sales of the 3-day wristbands are up 75% from last year. It is not too late to pick one up still, but today is the last day and the only place they are available is on the the MidPoint Midway.

One of the most impactful changes for 2011’s MPMF is the renewed focus on historic Over-the-Rhine. During the last few years, MPMF reached as far south as Newport using the region’s premeire mid-sized concert venue, the Southgate House, as a destination. This year, MPMF has included the new performance areas at the School of Creative and Performing Arts located on Central Parkway for some of its larger acts, replacing Southgate.

Additionally, past venues have included performance spaces on 5th and 6th street, including Fountain Square, but this year the furthest south the festival will be is 8th Street with both Arnold’s and The Blue Wisp. Overall, including the venues along Central Parkway, 13 of the 17 venues will be in Over-the-Rhine. In having such a condensed space, MPMF will not feature modes of transportation like it has the last few years, but as we have already reported here at UrbanCincy, it will feature amenities made for bicyclists throughout the weekend.

While OTR has always been a major piece of MPMF, the addition of the MidPoint Midway this year on 12th Street is a new idea MPMF has incorporated OTR in a brand new way. The Midway will feature the closure of 12th Street between Vine and Walnut to include food vendors including Tom + Chee and Vinnie’s Gourmet Pretzels performance spaces via Artworks Box Truck Carnival, and a music stage. This incorporation of a public space in the neighborhood really speaks to the partnership between MidPoint and Over the Rhine.

If you haven’t picked up your tickets yet, the 3-day wristbands are available today only on 12th Street on the MidPoint Midway. There are also 1-day passes, and you are able to pay cover charges at individual establishments as well. Most venues are 21+, though there are a few including the SCPA and the stage on the Midway that are all ages, so make sure to double check if age is a concern. And while the weather looks dicey for the weekend, dodging raindrops is a MPMF tradition, so come out and enjoy live music in historic Over the Rhine all weekend long. Hope to see you in the neighborhood this weekend!

  • Aaron Watkins

    I really hope that this festival someday evolves to the point that they just shut down a few streets in OTR and have some of the more accessible venues connected by tiny side stages and other stuff going on. Essentially like the Midpoint Midway but like, a size-able chunk of Main and Vine and some connector streets. I don’t know if this would work or not, since I actually haven’t been in town to go to Midpoint, so if anyone has a say as to why this would either work well, or is a bad idea, I would like to know why, and how it may effect the festival. In my mind it sounds kind of detached as it is, although all in the same neighborhood, I just don’t know what the vibe is. Are the streets alive with people? I hope so, that’s how I imagine it.

  • Dave

    The Midway has already been a big hit, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them expand it. As for attendance, last night was hopping. Easily the busiest Thursday night for MPMF since I started attending. Tons of folks out & about enjoying OTR.