Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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MPMF16: The Mountain Goats

I am going to stick you in the eye with a foreign object. – The Mountain Goats “Foreign Objects”

This is the year for lyrics. Frank Turner is in my list because of his words. Reggie Watts is in my list because of his snark. The Mountain Goats are in my list because I think my friends have said many of these things about themselves or me.

But The Mountain Goats also muster the same satisfied grin from me that is reserved to They Might Be Giants. Only John Darnielle, writer in all senses, is more personal in his lyrical subject matter. “Istanbul” is a rollicking good time, but it doesn’t express the unreasonable optimism that strikes just after losing your job and your girlfriend.

There’s no real point to cynicism.  The whoomp whoomp baritone saxophone says we all know we’re horrible, but let’s try to have a party anyway. “Ba, ba da da, ba ba ba da, foreign object.”

The Mountain Goats play Saturday Sept. 24th at 815pm at the WNKU stage. I will be there. I will sing like I’m seventeen and will poke you in the eye.


MPMF16: Bob Mould

I found Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade in the late 80’s and thought what the f*ck is this? Like most moody teens I was listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and The Pixies with a little splash of what was happening on pop radio. “Never Gonna Give You Up” was in the top ten for 1998. That should tell you all you need to know. In this context, I ran across this.

Because it sounded like little else at the time Hüsker Dü stuck with me. I followed Bob Mould when he formed Sugar in the early 90’s. FUEL became one of my most listed to cassette tapes. It dropped the year I graduated high school and carried me into my first couple years of college. Listening to it now still gives me the nostalgia warm fuzzies.

And this is mostly why I will be watching Bob Mould at MPMF. The first listens I have given his new stuff have been good. But my inner eighteen year old wants to see the shows I didn’t make more than twenty years ago.

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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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MPMF15 – Perspective

In recent years I have taken lots of pictures at MPMF and written detailed reviews of the acts. This year I am doing differently. I have my reasons.

I covered Bunbury in June and had obligations to deliver reviews and pictures. And while this sort of work is fun and challenging, it is still work. The headspace I inhabit to shoot and write is different from the headspace I inhabit to listen and watch. I wanted the experience of listening and watching.

And then there’s the fact that I am technically a tourist at MPMF15. Moving to Seattle at the end of August, makes this MPMF a homecoming of sorts. I am seeing people that I don’t get to see on the regular anymore, and I want to savor those interactions.

Finally, I made the tactical error of leaving some critical items in Seattle. I left the USB cord and my external hard drive in Pioneer Square. These items do me no favors from Washington state.

So here’s what will happen. I will write a summary of my favorite MPMF experiences next week. And a couple of weeks after that I might have a few pictures up. Until then I can say that the first two day of the fest have been great. And being back home? Splendid!

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MPMF15 Must See – Zola Jesus

Shimmering, rich vocals backed by dark expansive synth beats and lyrics to burn; this is what Zola Jesus brings. The kid in me that was captivated by Bauhaus, Souxie and the Banshees, and Kate Bush is crushing hard on this music. The fact that I still return to these artists more than twenty years later speaks to the void that they left.

Put on your black eyeliner and black boots. Moody goth dancing is going to happen at 1215 in the Taft Ballroom on Sept 26 at Midpoint Music Festival. See you there.

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MPMF15 Must See – Strand of Oaks

I climbed a mountain today. On the way down the mountain I saw a woman carrying what appeared to be a swaddled baby in her arms. The climb was strenuous. My first thought was – what the hell is happening here?

That was also my thought when I listened to TImothy Showalter’s, the dude behind Strand of Oaks, top four songs on Spotify. “Goshen 97” gives “Summer of ’69” a run in terms of a nostalgic anthem for all things about making music and being young. “Shut In” is dripping with big Bruce Springsteen feels. “JM” is all Iron and Wine goes electric that morphs into dark, pulsing rock. “HEAL” is a synthed-out Orgy/Bauhaus baby. See for yourself.

You will have to go to Spotify for the others. But that should be enough for you to pick up what I’m throwing down. So, back to my thought, what the hell is going on here? I don’t have an answer to that question. But I do know that I want to see this guy. I’m curious to see how the show holds together with music that is running across the board. Plus, Showalter’s lyrics are punching me right in the feels.

I do know what the hell was going on with the woman headed up the mountain with a baby. She wasn’t holding a baby. She had her jacket wrapped up in her arms and was cradling it, which killed my curiosity immediately. Maybe I never what to know what the hell is going on with Strand of Oaks and just enjoy it.

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Midpoint Music Festival 2015

This is always the sequence of emotions I experience with the MPMF line-up. Every. Year. EVERY. STINKING. YEAR. SINCE 2005.

  1. I am disappointed because I am thinking of all the indie acts that are on tour that weren’t booked.
  2. I am slightly disturbed by how few of the bands I recognize considering how much indie rock I listen to.
  3. I wonder if the fest has gotten smaller. (This has been true some years. At some point the fest had close to 300 bands. Last year the fest had just under 150. This year it’s just over 100. Net, this is a year where the fest got smaller.)
  4. I start listening.
  5. I notice a few things I like.
  6. I listen A LOT.
  7. I realize that I like most of the acts.
  8. I listen even more.
  9. I start to get excited to see a lot of this live.
  10. I literally listen to the MPMF playlist for weeks on end
  11. I notice the variety of music represented in the line-up.
  12. I start to love a bunch of the acts.
  13. I can’t wait for the fest.
  14. I am certain the fest will be spectacular. (This typically happens in early September.)

I am on step 14, and I haven’t written a single blog entry about what I am going to see. In my defense, I did just move across the country. So, it’s not like I was just playing video games and time got away from me.

I have a little less than three weeks until MPMF15 kicks off. My goal is to blog daily from now until then about what I’m pumped about seeing. And go!

Here’s the Spotify playlist that I made for MPMF15. Have a listen if you wish.

You wanna see past MPMF pictures and such? I have you covered.
MPMF14 – Saturday
MPMF14 – Friday
MPMF14 – Thursday
MPMF13 – Saturday
MPMF13 – Friday
MPMF13 – Thursday