I know I am a weirdo. This always means that when something I love wants to chase after a wider audience they will stop doing the things I enjoy and start doing things I don’t. And it’s happened with my two favorite music festivals.
I hate most TV. I don’t watch many movies. I don’t follow many popular bands. I am aggravated by almost all media and find the weirdest person in the room to talk to. When TV programmers salivate over all the partially brain dead people they can suck into Kim Kardashian’s latest shenanigans, they are not thinking of me.
And for the most part, I am ok with this. There’s just one thing. I love music. I love indie music specifically. I love walking into a a craft beer soaked 60’s nautical themed venue and seeing a group of people finding themselves onstage. I love seeing them watch the crowd and formulate who they will be as performers. Once a band reaches the arena they are done being a person on stage and are a persona. I am seeing a crafted performance. While this has its place, I don’t have passion for it.
And music at the most micro sense is miles away from the Kardashians. But all of its roads lead there to some degree. The process of a band making it big is to transform their music and themselves into a product. And because I like to see them before they are a product this has me constantly chasing the new.
I have been lucky in the last few years in that I have had not one but two festivals in Cincinnati that have aided my search. Bunbury and MPMF were started and run by people who love music. They loved money less.
And it showed. Prices were low and the music was abundant. Their booking was stacked with new bands or established artists who deserved a better following. Without any huge national acts these fests weren’t plagued by long lines or enormous impersonal stages.
These fests made excellent experinces for people like me. MBAs know that catering to us weirdos won’t bring the army of salmon-shorted bros. I knew when it would come to making money the things I loved would change.
Bunbury was sold to Promowest last year. MPMF was sold to MEMI this spring. They have cut the number and acts and stages. They put up big names. The net result is that I will be a football field away from any of the bands, wait in long lines to pee or eat, and have no place to chill out for a bit between sets because it’s so packed. (Side note: this is part of the reason I skipped Bunbury this year.)
MPMF is changing even more dramatically in that rather than have local music venues host bands all four stages are parking lots. So, rather than give fest goers a little taste of Cincinnati by sending them into our unique bars that serve our own craft beer we are sending people into parking lots to drink bud light.
Had an outside company done this is wouldn’t feel surprised. But the company is a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony. They have a stranglehold on Cincinnati’s large venues, Riverbend, PNC Pavillion, and The Taft. And given that they just killed Promowest’s attempt to get a small venue in The Banks, it follows that MEMI would want to take on Promowest (new owners of Bunbury) head to head in the music festival business.
For an organization the is based in OTR, I cannot fathom how tone deaf moving out of the local venues was. They state that they want to support OTR, but in what way exactly? By showing off our parking lots and a wealth of InBev products? All cities can provide those things.
I used to think The Symphony had some difficulty engaging the community because they weren’t quite getting their potential audience. But now I am thinking they struggle because they simply don’t know us. The board members are disconnected from the most vibrant aspects of the city and fail to program accordingly.
I can accept the festival changing. Everything changes. What I cannot accept is to create a completely standard music festival out of something unique. Something that started in 2001 when no one would go to OTR and supported CBD and OTR businesses when they most needed it. This festival brought people back downtown after the riots. I cannot accept substituting this cookie cutter format and still calling it Midpoint Music Festival. Call it anything you want. Just not MPMF.
What a wonderful time it’s been, these fourteen years of priceless experiences and incredible music. I am so grateful to have been a part of it. I have more memories than I can share, but I will put links up to my past reviews below as well as a couple pics.
I will go to this new festival to check it out. But that is exactly how I think of it, as something new. MPMF is over. The words continue but the spirit is gone. Thank you, thank you, thank you for fourteen amazing years.