Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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MPMF17 Sunday In Pictures

Lightening thoughts. Flint Eastwood dresses and talks like the little girl in True Grit, except for all the cursing. She commands the stage like the most epic arena rock god. That show was a whole bowl of stuff that makes no sense together. That’s what made it something I will never forget. Go. Go see her crazy ass.

Charly Bliss was super stinking fun. Also, go, go see them. Urban Renewal Project has an army of horn players, and a rapper who will improvise a rap about whatever flotsam and jetsam you have in your pockets or purse. Familiar refrain. Go. Go see them.

It was fun to shoot, although I am terribly out of practice. I forgot how to format my memory cards, that’s how long its been since I’ve done any shooting.

It was great to see so many different acts. This location is no MPMF of old, but it’s a massive improvement over the parking lot. The line-up was great. My only suggested improvement for next year is to get more food trucks. They had some, but considering how limited the options for quick evening eats are around The Taft, I think a wider variety of trucks would help.

See you next year!

MPMF17 Saturday in Pics

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MPMF17 Sunday Schedule

First thing. Moving from the roasty toasty parking lot to The Taft and The Masonic Center is a big improvement. Second thing, It was a little weird to be in a daytime music fest inside. But, like I said this is hugely better than the parking lot.

Second thing. Good god Broken Social Scene is great. You know how talented musicians who play prog-rock-like stuff tend to have like thirty instrument changes and many minutes between songs to tune? THEY DIDN’T DO THAT THING. They literally passed 2 bass guitars around between members as they all switched out playing different stuff. They passed around a Fender Jazzmaster too. And! They clumped together the songs in which they were each on a particular instrument. OMG. Thank you for thinking of your audience, who doesn’t really want to watch you tune fifty times. THANK YOU.

Really, I enjoyed almost everything I saw yesterday. So, good on you whoever negotiated the line-up.

Here’s what I want to see today:

2:10 Coastal Club
2:45 Moonbeau – Taft
3:55 Sphynx – Taft
6:00 Automagik – Taft
6:50 Charly Bliss – Taft
8 Urban Renewal Project – Taft Ballroom
8:25 Flint Eastwood – Taft
8:30 Noname – Masonic Cathedral
10 BADBADNOTGOOD – Masonic Cathedral
10 Walk The Moon – Masonic Cathedral

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MPMF17 Saturday Schedule

How is it that The New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene overlap? HOW? After a run through of the bands this morning I have to say, this is probably the most diverse mix of music they’ve had in recent memory. Cheers to that.

One observation, sounding like The Breeders, aka woman led 90’s guitar rock, must be a thing. So many bands in that neighborhood. Literally ran by Filthy Friends in my listen fest and thought HEEEYYYY Corin Tucker inspired vocals. HEEEEYYYYY.

2:45 Blossom Hall – Skyline Chili Stage
3:20 Even Tiles- Taft Ballroom
430 Kid Stardust- Taft Ballroom
5:05 DYAN – Skyline Chili Stage
6 Preoccupations – Masonic Cathedral
6:30 The Cactus Blossoms – Masonic Ballroom
8:25 Frightened Rabbit- The Taft
9 The New Pornographers – The Taft
10 Broken Social Scene – The Taft
1130 Citizen – Taft Ballroom

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MPMF17 What I Will See

Alrighty, into the depths with this year’s line-up. Frightened Rabbit is spectacular. I’ve seen them several times across the years, and I have never been disappointed. Local acts DYAN and Kid Stardust will give you a worthy hour of great music. Automagic put up a rousing show at MOTR a few years back, that featured some rocking out in underwear. Sphinx, when I last saw them, was so kind as to honor my request for “What Is Love” and sent The Drinkery into a 90’s dance party. All your troubles will float away on The Young Heirlooms vocal harmonies. That about rounds out everything I’ve seen before and know and love.

Valerie June, Noname, Bedouine, and Mad Anthony (I know they play out here all the time, how have I not seen them?) are on my most anticipated list. My super human ability to listen to recordings and know how it will translate to a live show is pinging off the charts on BADBADNOTGOOD. I’ve not seen them, but I bet their live show will entrance me. Unfortunately, this will probably make me split my time between these folks and Walk The Moon.

Now then. I’m off to try and remember how to work my camera, and write up my schedule.


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MPMF17 What I Wanna See

I’ve been hoping to see Broken Social Scene and The New Pornographers for years. After what I felt was a less than stellar Bunbury line-up this summer, I was ratcheting down my expectations for MPMF. The MPMF announcement of the fest shrinking to two days and significantly less acts was counterbalanced by The New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene as headliners.

Walk The Moon is headlining too. Don’t interpret my lack of excitement to mean they aren’t a great live show. It’s just that I’ve seen them at least 10 times now. BSS and TNP are just all aglitter with the unknown.

I literally have today and tomorrow to talk about what I am pumped to see, so tomorrow I am going to dig deeper into the line-up. Big picture, I think this line-up has packed in a ton of diversity in terms of sound and tone.

The format is changing this year too. Last year we all baked in a parking lot, so moving to some indoor and some outdoor stages is welcome. The fest will be relocated to 5th street using, MEMI’s own, The Taft and The Taft Ballroom as venues. I’m happy, as I thought it a reasonable risk that MEMI would relocate to one of the other venues in their stable, Riverbend. God, I hate that venue. It’s massive, soulless, and very far away from my home.

A niggling thing I cannot do without mentioning:

MEMI, yes you, I know and accept the fest has changed. Fine. Please rename it. I think you can leave behind the disappointment you’ve faced from long-time MPMF fans by just wiping the slate clean with a new name. Let us have the name as part of our nostalgia for the fest as it was years past. And I bet most of us will move with you into the present and future.

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Bigger and Better = More Expensive and More Crowded

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.

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Seattle, That Rent Tho

When the clouds part and the sun streams through there isn’t a more beautiful city than Seattle. The salty air is bracing, but the tender warmth of the sun is comfort alive and breathing. The sea gulls register their complaints for insufficient food, but the city with its wealth promises a bounty.

As long as you have money. Without it there is a shanty town under I5. Some make-shift enclosures and tattered tents can keep out the insistent rain, but they provide little protection from the smell.

This dichotomy is part of why this place isn’t my home.

I discovered The Butcher and The Baker some weeks ago with Jeannine. I had a reuben so good that I will suffer comparing every future reuben with it and find them lacking. The experience was only partially remarkable because the food was excellent. I also saw three black men in the same vicinity for what I believe to be the first time since moving here.

It’s not just that the city is lacking in brown people, but it’s lacking in many types of people. The working poor, although clearly in the city as who else cleans all those hotels, are completely invisible as are any restaurants or bars that cater to anyone without a wad of cash in their pocket. And along with their absence they’ve taken with them corner bodegas, liquor stores, and greasy spoon ethnic places where English is the second language.

Although hipsters have gotten a bad rap, I enjoy the quirks that they bring. I enjoy the uncomfortably high-waisted pants paired with a crop-top Def Leopard tee and vintage glasses. They have all hopped on their double-decker bicycles and ridden off, perhaps to Portland.

Not just a stab in the dark, this is verbatim a conversation I overheard in Portland following an inquiry of the shop owner’s friend. “Oh, yeah, she doesn’t make it into the city, because she’s taking care of her old cat. I guess she’s living in a yurt on a commune, and she doesn’t trust her fellow commune members to look after it.” And although I personally don’t need to live in a commune, I knew I was getting a little closer to my people, the weirdos.

It’s not just what Seattle has, homogeneity in spades, but also what it lacks. Local music venues here have steadily closed as land value has shot through the roof. Running a venue is tough work, and when a developer makes it rain, venue owners gratefully retire. Although many acts stop here, the years of acts being born here are probably in the past.

The apex of my reasons to leave is the cost of living. My 500 sqf apartment, although nicely outfitted, is $2300 a month. I have a view of The Sound, and a number of other lovely amenities. But for reference, my apartment in Cincinnati, with a view of the less than glorious Ohio River, had similar amenities and was twice the size for $1100 a month.

Twelve hundred dollars a month buys lots of stuff. Namely it buys flights out here for visits. It also buys vacations in Europe–every year. It buys new camera lenses, concert tickets, and road trips. I think visiting here will do just fine, especially when 3 months later I can visit Spain.

I only scratched the surface of the cost of living here, as there are other aspects. This is more thorough. Although this was written about Vancouver, you can simply sub Seattle in there to the same effect.

Even so, I have loved my time here. This dream needed to be explored for me to move beyond it. I lived my twenty years in Cincinnati with one foot in and one foot out, always considering an escape. From a distance, I see it for what it really is. It’s a city in flux. It’s a city with big problems but also big opportunities. It’s a city with rich history and stunning architecture. It’s a city where some of the best people on this planet live–my friends. It’s a city with artists, musicians, and start-ups. It’s a city that I put my sweat into. My hands cleared out those lagering tunnels that people will stroll through at Bockfest this year. My feet carried petitions to finish the work to complete the streetcar that will start operations this fall.

I did that work years back because I believed the city could be so much more than what it was. I was right. And now I want to come back home.

Seattle and Mt. Rainier

Wide angle view of Eliot Bay, Seattle and Mt. Rainier

Downtown with a good view of Mt. Rainier.

Downtown with a good view of Mt. Rainier.

Safeco Field and Century One Stadium, home of the Mariners and The Seahawks

Safeco Field and Century One Stadium, home of the Mariners and The Seahawks

Downtown with Mt. Rainier.

Downtown with Mt. Rainier.

Seattle Late Washington, from the I-90 bridge

Seattle, Lake Washington, from the I-90 Bridge

Seattle Sunset over looking Eliot Bay

Sunset over looking Eliot Bay

Seattle with Mt. Ranier

Seattle at night, you can just barely see Mt. Rainier beyond the buildings.

Seattle sunset over Eliot Bay from the Space Needle

Sunset over Eliot Bay

Seattle, Eliot Bay from Space Needle

Looking over Eliot Bay at sunset.


Seattle Thoughts: Round Two

I wrote that book in November, and like the guy that clears out the all-you can-eat buffet, the book drained me of my words. More to the point, I have been rearranging a lot of things in my life, and I don’t have much to say about it right now. Or perhaps a better choice of words is that I lack coherent things to write about it. This will change on some sunny morning when I have the rear-view mirror vantage point.

In the meantime, I do have words and pictures of Seattle. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is ringing true for my relationship to Cincinnati.

  • I miss the random warm, sunny days that can appear like manna from heaven in the winter.
  • I miss Cincinnati’s food scene–turns out, it’s burning the house down with calorie-filled goodness.
  • I miss Findlay Market, OH GOD SO MUCH.
  • I miss Midwest craft beer.
  • I miss my friends.
  • I miss the bounty of old, gorgeous buildings.
  • I miss seeing the sun–it is dark by 4:15 pm here, and the cloud cover isn’t just overcast it’s mortifying in its bleak darkness. Every goddam day.
  • I miss not having to consider traffic as a serious barrier to almost everything. Want to go ten miles during rush hour? I hope you have MREs in your glove box; you will need them. Geography has the all the traffic in and out of the city narrowing down to two bridges. Poor city planning has all the traffic around downtown at a near standstill during rush hour. The result is traveling 3 miles in rush hour can take up to an hour.
  • I miss seeing brown people–Seattle is ~75% white were as Cincinnati is ~52% albeit segregated like Plessy vs Ferguson.

These observations require further discussion below.

  • I miss our boss as all hell music scene. Seattle’s scene is missing small venues that incubate new acts.
  • I miss Midwest nice.
  • I really cannot believe I am saying this, but I miss the aggressive drivers.
  • Wait… I’m choking on this a little, let me just get it out… I miss republicans.

Construction is booming in Seattle. Real estate prices have risen dramatically in the last several years. This has made it more lucrative for small venue owners to sell their buildings to developers than continue running their venues. It’s no longer financially viable for a free indie venue to exist. This has eradicated small venues that incubate new bands, and left the city with venues that ticket for each and every show they host. If a band cannot promise ticket sales they, can’t book. The net effect is that local acts have no place to grow and mature. It’s as though the bottom rung of the music food chain has disappeared leaving those at the higher rungs to die out.

The barriers to indie art in expensive cities is referenced in an article about Walk the Moon, Cincinnati band that made it big. Michael McDonald talks about the financial barriers that bands face in this article in Cincinnati Magazine about Walk the Moon’s ascent. McDonald says:

It’s places like Cincinnati where you have time to develop and mature. In larger cities and more expensive cities, you can’t afford to put a band together and pay for the rehearsal space and pay to rent a van and park the van. There are a lot of obstacles, and some of those are just financial.

I thought I understood Midwest nice prior to my West Coast experience, and like a Maury Povich lie detector test result this has been determined as a lie. I thought Midwest nice was essentially an synonym for polite with geographical reference. Seattle natives are extremely polite–see discussion about traffic. Midwesterners are polite and talkative. We ask questions of each other. We ask stuff like where are you from? Did you grow up here? Is that your tractor? The people of Seattle simply don’t do this. It’s a mystery how people make friends when no questions are asked.

The drivers here are very passive. Did a pedestrian just make a slight modification in their gait to indicate they want to cross the street with nary a crosswalk in sight? Seattle drivers: STOP IMMEDIATELY AND WAIT TO SEE IF THE PEDESTRIAN CROSSES THE STREET. For those of us who aren’t attuned to every minute change in gait of each and every pedestrian still on the sidewalk, this results in a litany of cursing and near collisions.

Cincinnati drivers are careless, and as a cyclist and pedestrian I have nearly been run over a number of times. I am all for avoiding situations in which a person could bounce across the hood of a car. BUT THIS IS WHAT CROSSWALKS ARE FOR.

But the proliferation of bike lanes, bike trails that lead to useful places, and protected bike lanes is spectacular. I am hoping to advocate for more of this in Cincinnati when I return. Aside from reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the physical fitness benefits cycling delivers, it also enables people to put more of their paychecks in the hands of local Cincinnati businesses as opposed to funneling dollars away into a Honda exec’s bonus.

How can one miss republicans? Seattle as two dominant political groups, liberals and more liberal liberals. I thought I would enjoy being with like-minded people. There’s two unexpected negative side effects to having a city full of liberals. First, it seems because infrastructure projects, including those in service of additional public transit, face little to no resistance, they are beset by budget overruns and missed deadlines. The caption to one of my pics below describes the tale of Big Bertha. Long story short, there’s a billion dollar drilling machine burrowed under Puget Sound. It broke, and this event seemed to have no risk mitigation plan against it, because the only way to restore the billion dollar carcass to working order was to dig all the way down to it. Through The Sound. Because Cincinnati has to fight for every infrastructure dollar we get, our projects hew closer to their budgets and timelines, because project cancellation is a very real possibility if more money or time is required.

Secondly, the political knife fights that we engage in in The Queen City drive a sense of community and connection. The lack of resistance has made the liberals of Seattle lazy and disorganized. These two unexpected negative side-effects have me missing some good old COAST shenanigans or that flaming pile of poo, article twelve. Where are you Simon Leis, you bigoted ass-hat? Liberals need you so they can coalesce around a common enemy.

All of this seems to imply that I am not having a good time. But I am. The exploration necessary to develop these observations has been loads of fun. The city encourages me approach every day and every new errand with curiosity. On the surface, Seattle is revealing what I don’t want in a city, but deeper in, the city is cultivating a persistent attitude of humility, creativity, and flexibility in me that bears no price.