MPMF: Top band picks for Thursday night

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CINCINNATI - If this is your first time attending the MidPoint Music Festival (and we hope that it's not), the schedule and lineup can be overwhelming at times. More likely than not, some of your favorite bands will be playing at the same time, or you might find yourself at a venue checking out bands you've never heard of before.

From Sept. 27-29, more than 180 musical acts from around the world, and some from our own backyard, will perform at MPMF for the festival's 11th year.

Whether you're a novice or a pro, having a plan is crucial to enjoying your MPMF experience. If you're not sure who to check out, we've compiled a list of nine must-see bands for Thursday night.

1. The Brown James: Formed in the summer of 2010, Faba and Johnny DuJour quickly gelled together as a duo. Their live hip hop set can feature anything from Johnny switching between instruments within one song to mini DJ sets by Faba. The Brown James EP found them experimenting with a wide range of influences and sounds. With styles varying from traditional hip hop, indie rock and funk, they delivered an undeniably solid debut effort. Now, the guys look to take the music world by storm as they continue to hone their unique hip hop sound.

They perform at the Blue Wisp on Thursday at 10 p.m.

2. Shiny and the Spoon: In their first two years as Shiny and the Spoon, Jordan Neff and Amber Nash turned their stripped down, low-key live appearances into a high profile local presence. The past year has been S&S's most significant period to date, with the addition of upright bassist Pete Brown, an exponential increase in the number and size of gigs and amount of acclaim, and the release of their brilliantly written and beautifully executed full-length Ferris Wheel. (Brian Baker, CityBeat)

Sounds like: Gillian Welch, Ingrid Michaelson, John Prine, Norah Jones, Tom Waits, Alison Kraus. They perform at 10:30 p.m. at Arnold's.

3. Darlene: A three piece 90's retro band with more girls than boys. Melodic harmonic and noisy. The band is  influenced by Yo La Tengo, Wolverton Brothers, Sonic Youth, nursery rhymes, Sudsy Malones, Velvet Underground, Lou Barlow, Radiolaria, Arcade Fire, Ditchweed, GBV. Darlene plays at Know Theatre at 8:30 p.m.

4. Andrew Bird: A Suzuki-trained violinist from age 4, Andrew Bird self-released a Folk violin solo album at 23, joined the Squirrel Nut Zippers for two years, then started his own band, Bowl of Fire, exploring Swing, Jazz and traditional Folk before branching into other musical directions. Bird's genius is that whatever he puts in the stew pot comes out tasting like Andrew Bird, and that always tastes amazing. (BB, CityBeat).

Sounds like: Exactly like The Smiths and Carl Newman doing Klezmer/Chamber/Indie Rock versions of Woody Guthrie songs. Or nothing like that.

5. Best Coast: The best part about bands that record lo-fi is that you know almost exactly what to expect from a concert. In the case of California's love-child Best Coast, that means you can expect a light-hearted, almost breezy good time. Everything about their music has a summer feel to it, making them the perfect fit for an end-of-summer festival. The group plays at Grammer's at 9:30 p.m. (CityBeat).

Sounds like: Making summertime mixtapes, pretending you don't live in Ohio.

6. The Ridges: This Athens, Ohio-based Orchestral Indie Folk troupe has built a solid following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated show dates in town, including providing highlights at a few part MPMFs. The Ridges -- who perform in different configurations depending on which members are available -- return to play MPMF.12 and are currently prepping a full-length album, so fans may even get a few new songs. (Mike Breen, CityBeat).

Sounds like: Acoustic folk rock that builds into emotive orchestral swells.

7 . Jody Stapleton and the Generals: Jody Stapleton has always had an ear for the past and finger on today's pulse. With the Stapletons a decade ago, Stapleton made Psych-fueled Garage Rock that sounded vaguely phase shifted from another time and yet completely fresh, a talent that earned them CEA awards. With his new outfit, Jody Stapleton and the Generals, Stapleton is similarly tapped into bygone days, this time the sunshine-on-your-shoulder days of 70s AM radio, combined with a modern sensibility and approach. The group plays at 11 p.m. at the Main Event. (BB, CityBeat)

Sounds like: Paul Westerberg listening to a transistor radio tuned permanently to 1973.

8. Rich Aucoin: On his enthralling 2011 full-length, We're All Dying to Live, Canadian musician Richard Aucoin decided he'd invite Canada to record with him. As a result, the album features over 500 musicians, whose teaming on Aucoin's dynamic, funky, craftily constructed tracks makes Dying to Live sound like the Electro Disco party of the century. But it's not just a mindless exercise in dancefloor stereotypes - there's depth and nuance to Aucoin's songwriting and layering that might not be noticeable initially. Unlike a lot of Dance acts, Aucoin's music isn't disposable fun - it's essential and commands repeated listens. (MB, CityBeat).

Sounds like: 80s Synth Pop, 70s Disco, of Montreal, Duran, Duran. He performs at 11 p.m. at the Below Zero Lounge.

9. Pomegranates: Pomegranates are one of those bands that sounded perfect by the time they ever hit the stage for the first time -- and sound better with each passing album. The band's infectious, versatile Pop has developed more depth and confidence over the past few years, culminating this year's stunner, the full-length Heaven, the Pomegranates first for the Modern Outsider label.  The group plays at 6 p.m. at Washington Park. (MB, CityBeat).

Sounds like: Sonic waterfalls, musical rainbows.

Content used from CityBeat.com and MPMF.com. For more information on the festival or to purchase tickets click here.

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