The Bright Light Social Hour at MOTR Tonight

Over the past few months there seemingly has been more news about concert venues in the Cincinnati area than concerts themselves. There was of course the drama that has temporarily shuttered The Southgate House in Newport which has plans to reopen the venue in some form or fashion elsewhere during 2012. Then came the news of the loss of The Mad Hatter in Covington which was a small room that hosted many up and coming acts.

Not all news has been bad though, as some of the larger venues in town have booked shows that generally pass by Cincinnati. The newly renovated Taft Theatre will be hosting Ryan Adams at the end of January, and The Black Keys have chosen US Bank Arena as a launching point for their 2012 North American tour with a show on March 3. Additionally, the historic Emery Theatre in Over the Rhine has shown signs of life with a successful fundraiser during November 2011.

While all of that drama has unfolded, MOTR Pub on Main Street has quietly been chugging along during their first 15 months of operation bringing local and national acts to the stage nightly, all the while helping to cultivate the music scene in Cincinnati. Dan McCabe, also known for his leadership with MidPoint Music Festival has breathed life into a bar and brought along with it a venue that showcases up and coming talent all without ever having a cover charge. MOTR also features a free jukebox to keep the music going even when the stage is empty.

Tonight, MOTR hosts a 2011 MPMF favorite, Austin Texas based The Bright Light Social Hour. To say that this band is a favorite of Austin is putting it lightly. They burst onto the scene with their self titled release in 2010 and managed to pick up six awards from the Austin Chronicle including band and album of the year. However high the acclaim was for the album release, their legend has truly grown since then because of their dynamic live show, and just recently The Austin Post recognized them as the best live act in Austin during 2011.

The Bright Light Social Hour brings along a sense of self-described “an unabashedly wide-screen rock group, melding fists-up rock and roll with muscular funk, soul, and psychedelia.” Add in heart, soul, and a ton of energy and you may have  a sense as to what their live show is like. You can stream their full length album and live EP here and decide for yourself. They will be taking the stage at MOTR around 10pm tonight, with of course no cover charge.

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!

Roeblingfest expands to include focus on food & music

Photo provided by Paul Collett

This weekend marks an annual celebration for one of Cincinnati’s most iconic landmarks, The John A Roebling Suspension Bridge. Roeblingfest, now in it’s seventh year, will take place this Saturday in the area just south of the bridge named Roebling Point. The festival which started as a midday celebration on a Sunday afternoon has now gown into a full day event on Saturday to be closed out by Rozzi Fireworks. As the festival has grown, so has the vision as it now features not only a focus on history, but also a focus on local food and local music among other things. It is a true mix brought forth by a collaborative effort of organizers from the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee (the CCSBC) as well as the businesses in the Roebling Point Entertainment District.

This well known landmark is featured everywhere from the backdrop of local newscasts to the logo of your favorite site that talks about all things in the urban core. The bridge was just painted for the first time in almost thirty-five years and new lights have begun the process of restoring the bridge to its true glory. The CCSBC is dedicated to doing even more to modernize the lighting and maintaining the flags on the bridge, and while memberships are available via the web on an ongoing basis, this festival marks one way for the group to raise money annually.

As the roots of the festival focused on the history of the Roebling Bridge, a prototype for New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, there will be walking tours given of the bridge, the floodwall murals, and other historical Covington landmarks for $5 per tour. The tours are scheduled to go off on an hourly basis from 1p through 4p. It should be noted that there are no tours of the bridge that will allow folks to go to the top, but there will be a silent auction for such a trip which includes dinner for four at Keystone Bar & Grill.

In addition to a historical focus, this year’s event features quite a food selection. Of course all the local establishments that are part of the Roebling Point Entertainment District will be out including Keystone, Blinkers, Sidebar, The Down Under and Molly Malone’s. This year too features a few less traditional vendors including Covington’s Amerasia as well as both the Dojo Gelato cart and (making their inaugural outdoor appearance) Pho Lang Thang from Findlay Market. Add in a Roebling Porter from Rivertown Brewing and a special small batch Moerlein Roebling Fest Lager and there are plenty of special drinks to go around too.

Additionally, this year’s festival also features quite a line-up of music that is scheduled to run from 1pm to 1015pm. With the focus being on local & original music, this is one area that Roeblingfest 2011 has really differentiated itself from years gone by. With the stage located in the heart of the square at Court Street and Park Place, it will be a definite focal point throughout the day featuring bands from all across the region and it will have a true mix of genres too.

1pm to 1:45p – Perfect Sequel
2pm to 2:45pm – The Crick Gypsies
3:15pm to 4:15pm – Supermassive
4:45pm to 6pm – The Spookfloaters
6:30pm to 7:15pm – The Chocolate Horse
7:45pm to 8:45pm – The Dukes
9:15pm to 10:15pm – The Lions Rampant

Add in an art show as well as the finish line for the 2011 Covington Quest and the 2011 Roeblingfest has a little something for everyone. As parking could be challenging, the use of public transportation is most definitely recommended and the TANK Southbank Shuttle will be more than sufficient. Taking the shuttle will allow festival goers to park in downtown Cincinnati, Newport, or other parts of Covington and get to and from the festival for only $1 each way.

Betts House features OTR exhibit

A while back we told you about the historic Betts House in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood and how this historic site had been converted to a rotating art gallery that has mainly featured work of Cincnnati by Cincinnatians. Their latest exhibit is no different, and is available for viewing through the end of the month, as it features artwork from Art Academy graduate and OTR resident Alan Grizell.

The Art of Alan Grizzel: Over the Rhine is a series of oil paintings that highlight some neighborhood gems from historic Over the Rhine, and also feature some buildings that unfortunatley are no longer standing in the transitional neighborhood. In having a chance to view the display a few weeks back, I’d have to say that most of the paintings show off the neighborhood in a way I have not seen before. While dark and mysterious, the use of light and color give off a sense of hope and renewal much like what is actually happening in the neighborhood today.

The Betts House does keep some funky hours as it is run almost entirely by a volunteer staff. It is open for viewing Tuesday to Thursday each week from 11a-2p, and it is open every other Saturday from 1230p-5p. The exhibit concludes officially on June 30, and remains on display for only two more Saturdays including this coming one as well as June 25 with admission a mere $2 donation to help The Betts House.


Historic Over-the-Rhine brewery tours expand offerings

Five years ago a group of people started to reveal a bit of Cincinnati’s history by offering the very first Prohibition Resistance Tours in the historic Over-the-Rhine Brewery District.

Since those first tours the reaction has been positive and overwhelming as they have continually sold out when offered, first at the annual Bockfest celebration and then starting during Oktoberfest weekend last year.

“When we started the Prohibition Resistance Tours in 2006, we were entering new territory.  We believed that there were a lot of other people out there like us who would be fascinated by Cincinnati’s brewing history and intrigued by our literal brewing underground,” says Michael D. Morgan, Brewery District CURC board member and author of Over-the-Rhine: When Beer was King.

The Prohibition Resistance Tours: The Lager Tour will be offered all summer long and commence at the Findlay Market Biergarten promptly at 1pm each Saturday and Sunday. These walking tours will run about ninety minutes long and include visits into the old Clyffside Brewery as well as a trip into the Clifton hillside lagering cellars at the historic Jackson Brewery building.

With a limit of 50 people per tour, it is highly recommended that reservations be made in advance through their website. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold go back to helping preserve the building stock that makes up Cincinnati’s brewing history in Over-the-Rhine.

The Lager Tour will be offered every weekend from now until mid September which leads right into Oktoberfest weekend when The Marzen Tours are scheduled to coincide with both Cincinnati’s famous Oktoberfest as well as the reincarnation of the Hudy 14k run.