As Over-the-Rhine Evolves, So Does MidPoint Music Festival

MidPoint Music Festival, known to music fans as MPMF, returns to Cincinnati’s city center this week. Starting on Thursday, September 25, the three-day festival will take over local venues and bars with 150 acts from seven countries and 57 cities, including a great lineup of Cincinnati bands.

Unlike music festivals that take place in empty fields, like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, MPMF lives and breathes within Cincinnati’s urban core. This year, the festival will host 14 stages among 12 venues in bars, restaurants, concert halls, and nightclubs throughout Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.

The 2014 festival footprint will look slightly different than in years’ past, featuring the addition of numerous new venues and the elimination of several familiar stages. Since the festival relies on small businesses to host its live performances, the increasing popularity of Over-the-Rhine has, ironically, proven bittersweet for MidPoint’s festival organizers.

Dan Bockrath, CityBeat publisher and de facto executive producer of MidPoint Music Festival, explained that as Over-the-Rhine evolves, the festival has to change with it.

“When [CityBeat] first took over MidPoint [in 2008], there were a lot of empty storefronts that we could put to work, and there were a lot of rooms that served other functions typically that we could repurpose for MidPoint weekend. Now it’s getting a little more challenging to do that because Over-the-Rhine’s filled out,” Bockrath told UrbanCincy.

Bockrath reflects back to a few years ago. “We took a venue like Grammer’s and people thought we were crazy having our main stage, pre-dating Washington Park, at the corner of Liberty and Walnut.”

Now with Grammer’s under construction, MPMF had to find a new outdoor venue to host their bigger acts. This year the festival inched north of Liberty Street to Moerlein Brewing Company where they’ll have two stages: a larger outdoor stage that can hold roughly 1,500 people, and a secondary indoor stage for more intimate shows.

Other long-time MPMF venues have opted out of the festival as to not alienate the loyal customer bases they’ve built over the years. This will be the first year, for example, that Below Zero Lounge is not participating as a venue since 2007. “Businesses don’t want to abandon their successful business models now that they’ve built a loyal following,” Bockrath explained.

But as some opportunities go away, others seem to be coming online almost equally. One example organizers give is the Cincinnati Streetcar, which will allow for all kinds of new possibilities once it opens in advance of Midpoint’s 2016 festival.

“There are a lot of possibilities for the future. As the streetcar comes online I can see ourselves going further up into Over-the-Rhine.”

While the streetcar has not significantly impacted the layout of this year’s festival, the same can’t be said for 2015. For instance, the MidPoint Midway on 12th Street between Vine and Walnut sits right on the streetcar line. The free programming area which, since 2011, has hosted the ArtWorks Box Truck Carnival, the Powerhouse Poster Expo, and this year’s ArtWorks programming around the theme “Ink Your Love,” may need to find a new home next year or, perhaps, this may be its last year. Either way, Bockrath remains optimistic.

The festival is open to reinventing itself, he said. “It’s not a Bonnaroo plopped in some big field somewhere. Those kinds of festivals can happen in any city. We really think what we have is uniquely Cincinnati.”

Tickets for MPMF are available online at mpmf.com/tickets, and a comprehensive review of each artist can be found on CityBeat’s website.

DID YOU KNOW THAT MPMF…

  • Was almost called Mid by Midwest? Founders Sean Rhiney and Bill Donabedian eventually landed on MidPoint Music Festival.
  • Launched with only 12 venues, but across three cities? In 2002, the inaugural festival hosted 12 venues in Newport, Covington and Cincinnati, including Newport’s Southgate House (not to be confused with Southgate House Revival) and York Street Cafe, Madison Theater in Covington, and now defunct OTR spots Kaldi’s, BarrelHouse, Crush, The Cavern (now Below Zero Lounge) and Jefferson Hall (on Main Street, before it moved across the river and back across again).
  • Used to coincide with a music industry conference? Much like South by Southwest, the industry conference featured panel discussions, artist and industry keynotes and a trade show. Past keynote speakers included Big Star drummer Jody Stephens (2003), Everclear frontman Art Alexakis (2004), Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli (2005), CD Baby founder Derek Sivers (2006), Superdrag vocalist and songwriter, John Davis (2007) and Minor Threat guitarist, Lyle Preslar (2007).
  • Used to be four days long? The festival spanned across four days of live music and panels, but was condensed into three days when CityBeat acquired the festival in 2008.
  • Once hosted 25 stages, the most venues MPMF has ever had in one year? In 2010 MPMF expanded to empty storefronts and spaces like the Hanke Building and non-music venues like the Tax Place, ArtWorks, the Segway Room, and the Inner Peace Center.

HOW TO GET AROUND AT MPMF

Bike: BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) – the festival has partnered with the City of Cincinnati to provide temporary bike racks adjacent to nearly every venue. You could also get around by using Cincy Red Bike for just $8/day for unlimited trips of 60 minutes or less. There are 19 Cincy Red Bike stations between OTR and Downtown, including at Washington Park, near the Midway at 12th & Vine, and by the Taft Theater at Broadway.
Car: Uber is offering first-time Uber users a discount during MPMF. Just use the promo code MPMF14 to receive a discount of up to $20 off.
Foot: The distance from MPMF’s northernmost venue (Moerlein Brewing Co.) to its southermost venue (Mainstay Rock Bar) is a little over a mile, so it’s totally doable to hoof it, though it’s bit of a trek if you’ve got a tight schedule.
Transit: Most of the venues for this year’s festival are located on Metro bus routes, but many are within a short walk of a number of bus lines. You can check out which routes and stops are most convenient for you by using Google Map’s transit feature or Metro’s Trip Planner.

On top of all the official MPMF activities, there are a number of complimentary events that will be taking place. On September 24, Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. will be hosting a preview party with a free show by THE PASS and Machines Are People Too. The event will run from 8pm to 11pm and also include a ceremonial keg tapping of Moerlein’s seasonal Helltown Rye.

On Friday and Saturday, FRCH Design Worldwide will host Framed at MidPoint at the Frameshop (1317 Main Street). The pop-up event will include a photo booth, postcard gallery, sculptures made of instruments and a missed-connections space titled You’ve Been Framed. Donations benefit Music Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps provide youth with musical resources. Open Thursday through Saturday from 7pm to 12am.

In addition to all of that, MPMF.FM will feature free daytime performances by MPMF bands at Findlay Market all weekend.

Art to Inspire at September’s SSOM Event this Sunday

SSOM Music LineupNine years ago the organizers of Second Sunday on Main (SSOM) envisioned an event that would act as an economic development tool but was disguised as a street festival.  Today, that vision has more than come to fruition, as it is now a hub for local goods, food and entertainment.  This month will be no exception, with a full lineup of performers, artists, musicians, dancers and vendors.

Caitlin Behle, SSOM organizer and UrbanCincy contributor, explained that each month’s event has a distinctive theme.

“Last month was very game-oriented and playful, whereas this month will be more arts-driven,” Behle told UrbanCincy.

This month’s event on September 14 will also serve to honor “Dance on Main” which has been a notable theme for past SSOM events after Frank Hibrandt, a long-time Main Street resident, developed Dance on Main as an annual staple of SSOM where dancers of varying styles would perform at multiple stages weaved throughout the event.

Those searching for food and drink will not be disappointed as the event hosts a bustling beer garden and some food trucks for sustenance.  The featured food vendors this month are Red Sesame Korean Barbecue, Dojo Gelato, Urban Kitch’n, and Roll With it Café.

As is usual, there will be plenty of opportunities to view and participate in art activities this Sunday. Art pieces will be created by the Art Academy of Cincinnati mARTket and the group ArtWalks will be painting the crosswalk at Main and Woodward Streets. Attendees will also have the opportunity to create art of their own at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s Postal pARTners postcard creation station, kids’ craft table (Higher Branches), and at the Art Beyond Boundaries’ “ArtSpire” artist workshop at 2pm.

Enjoy the Arts has teamed up with SSOM to weave performing art into this month’s event that will include the following:

12:00-3:15 Mini concerts featuring Elementz, Know Theatre, Young Professional Choral Collective, Cincinnati Ballet’s CBII dancers, DANCEFIX at HBDC, Baba Charles and the Samba Parade Drummers, and more, MOTR Stage
12:00-5:00 Live music in front of Rock Paper Scissors featuring local acts Kate Wakefield, Brianna Kelly, Edison, and ADM. From 3-5 audience members can “take the stage” with ADM to create their own music and have it looped and incorporated into the live set. 1301 Main St.
1:45 Zvedza (experimental jazz), MOTR Stage
2:30 Celebrity Chef Series – Sous Chef Jimi Dean (The Rookwood), Beverage Wizard Rom Wells (The Rookwood, Cheapside Cafe), Mr. Pitiful’s
3:30 Folk Soul Revival (Americana), MOTR Stage

Second Sunday on Main is located on Main Street between Thirteenth and Liberty Streets in Over-the-Rhine. It is conveniently located along the #17, #19, #24 and #16 Metro bus lines. There is also ample free bike parking available immediately surrounding and within the event area.

PHOTOS: LumenoCity Showcases Music Hall’s Splendor for Second Consecutive Year

The wildly popular LumenoCity returned to Washington Park two weekends ago, and once again highlighted the splendor of Music Hall with a dazzling display of light, music and dance.

Each night included capacity crowds of anywhere between 12,000 to 20,000 people depending on reports. Each night had 12,000 official ticketed spots on the Washington Park lawn, but thousands of additional spectators lined up on nearby streets, balconies and rooftops. Additionally, the event was streamed live on the Internet and on local television.

The event also served as a critical campaign tool for those looking to put a sales tax on the November ballot to pay to renovate Union Terminal and Music Hall. However, it came as a huge surprise to most everyone involved and watching that Hamilton County Commissioners voted 2-1 to not approve the proposal as it was written, and moved forward instead with a plan that eliminated the spectacular Music Hall.

UrbanCincy contributing photographer, Brian Spitzig, was there on multiple nights shooting the event. The following video and 21 photos were taken over the course of that weekend.

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Award-Winning Filmmaker’s Latest Project Highlights Lower Price Hill’s Oyler School

Lower Price Hill is a neighborhood that has seen better days, but recent and ongoing efforts to turn things around in the largely Appalachian and Hispanic community have begun to prove successful.

Some of those efforts include the more recent co-op approach being employed by the Lower Price Hill Community School to help deliver services and offerings that are not currently available to residents of the historic neighborhood. But it is the $21 million renovation of Oyler School that is seen as the spark for the recent improvements.

“Roughly half of the children in U.S. public schools today come from low-income families, and a debate is raging over how to help more of them succeed,” write filmmakers for the new documentary entitled Oyler. “Oyler School’s approach—combining academic, health, and social services under one roof—is catching on around the country.”

Amy Scott, an independent documentary filmmaker and correspondent for public radio’s Marketplace show, says that she has spent a year reporting from Oyler, and believes the documentary tells a story that has become commonplace throughout America.

Oyler tells a gripping story of individuals fighting for change in a unique American community, but it also takes on one of our country’s most pressing challenges – the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers,” wrote Scott on the project’s Kickstarter page.

The major underlying theme is about how Lower Price Hill is using its public school to transform itself and the lives of those who call it home. In a more direct message, the film also speaks to the nationally acclaimed community learning centers being employed by Cincinnati Public Schools.

While Scott’s team has already been successful at raising just over their initial goal of $25,000 for the film through Kickstarter, the campaign will remain open for one more week. The team says that the funds will be used to cover the costs associated with producing an original music score, sound mix and color correction, rights for commercial music and archival footage, and a professional website.

After the campaign closes next week, the team will get to work on finishing up the documentary and doing the requisite post-production work for a film of this nature. They say that there will be film screenings in Cincinnati and Baltimore next fall, at a minimum, and at other locations depending on those who provided more than $5,000 to the campaign.

Second Sunday on Main Will Get Its ‘Game On’ at This Month’s Street Festival

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, now that there isn’t a three-day light/live music/live dancing spectacular scheduled for Washington Park, you can head to the other side of Over-the-Rhine for this month’s Second Sunday on Main event.

Once again Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic, between Thirteenth and Liberty Streets, from 1pm to 4pm.

As is par for the course, Main Street merchants will be offering in-store discounts and there will be more than 100 vendors setup outside on the street selling everything art, sweets, clothing, jewelry and a slew of other handmade and local stuff.

Organizers also say that Ragg Addict will be celebrating its one-year anniversary with a fashion show, giveaways and entertainment. Meanwhile, Park+Vine will be hosting a cloth diapering workshop and book signing, for 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, inside their store.

The theme for this month’s SSOM event is ‘Game On’ and is being sponsored by Cincinnati Sports League, which also sponsors the biergarten at Second Sunday on Main each month. In tune with the theme, there will be a game zone setup at Fourteenth and Main Streets that will feature cornhole, flick football, a soccer goal challenge and a football toss station.

On top of all that, there will be live music, cooking demonstrations, crosswalk painting from Art on the Streets, live screen printing of a limited-edition SSOM logo, and make-your-own postcard swap.

SSOM will take place this Sunday, August 10 from 1pm to 4pm on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The open streets event is free and open to the public.

EDITORIAL NOTE: UrbanCincy is an official media partner of Second Sunday on Main; and is proud to support the city’s oldest open streets festival.