Three nights. Eighteen stages. Two neighborhoods. As MidPoint Music Festival
turns 10, producer Dan McCabe describes a stronger, tighter mix of indie music and fresh artistic offerings. With performances downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, the festival showcases more than musicians -- it is a celebration of the Queen City as a cool, welcoming musical hotbed.
"It's gotten a lot easier," says McCabe. He remembers when local alt weekly CityBeat took the festival reins in 2008, morphing from indoor concerts to this year's 145 acts expected to draw more than 20,000 fans. "[The festival] now has its own
head of steam where its reputation and identity's known."
And the core of that identity?
"It's the talent," McCabe says. "Cincinnati is a savvy city. They know new music and embrace the good stuff."
He explains that by engaging with the indie music community to spot rising, quality acts year after year, his team has been able to increase both fan draw and the quality of acts that submit their demos to be part of each year's festival. "Investing in talent has meant everything," he says.
That investment pays off beyond the stages, too. The 201 MPMF includes big-name sponsors such as Procter & Gamble, KAO Brands' Biore
line of cosmetics and even Busken Bakery. These sponsors join long-time supporter Dewey's Pizza, in an evolution McCabe says he's glad to see.
"It's been a struggle to get sponsors on board and get Cincinnati to understand how important [the festival] is for attracting young talent," he says. "I'm really proud of the local business community for embracing this local festival."
The sponsorships are more than just in-name additions. Busken plans to provide free donuts throughout the festival, as part of its '10,000 Donut Deployment.' And KAO's support comes in the form of a blocked-off 12th Street, where venues will highlight female acts. McCabe says 'The Biore Strip,' as the venue will be called, is more than just PR; it highlights a theme at MPMF that often has flown under the festival's radar. Female acts have typically been the largest draws at the festival.
"That's a story I've been telling for a while now," McCabe says. "Biore came on board and gave us the opportunity to really tell that story."
Another significant change attendees will see at this year's MPMF has little to do with financial sponsors, and everything to do with connecting the city's diverse arts scenes in one massive celebration. SpringBoard
is a new initiative by arts support organization Artworks
, aimed at fostering creative enterprise in Cincinnati. SpringBoard is partnering with MPMF this year to host the MidPoint Midway. The event, modeled after similar festivals in other cities, will turn a series of 16- to 24-foot long box trucks into an eclectic community of performance spaces and pop-up art galleries along 12th Street east of Vine Street and west of Walnut Street in Over-the-Rhine.
McCabe, for his part, says he's thrilled about the additions to the event.
"That bodes well for [festival] numbers 11, 12 and into the future," he says. "We finally have a local landscape looking to MidPoint to promote our culture."