Memories of MidPoint linger long after the music fades

Posted at 1:08 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 13:18:09-04

If you've ever gone to the MidPoint Music Festival, you have one, or half a dozen, crystalline moments where you saw or heard something amazing, had a weird encounter or just wore yourself out running from venue to venue trying to see as much music as possible.

From its humble beginnings as a scrappy startup in 2001 to its growth and vital role in helping to revitalize Over-the-Rhine, MidPoint traditionally has been a place where memories are made. That's why we reached out to a group of local luminaries, past and present stakeholders, musicians and fans to get some of their favorite MidPoint stories.

Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie singer, performed at MidPoint in 2013, 2014 and 2015

Low Cut Connie in 2014. Photo by Gil Kaufman

"We've had the great pleasure of playing MidPoint three times, including an absolutely wild show at MOTR and a very uplifting night playing with our pals Tune-Yards at an outdoor stage last year. But my favorite memory at MidPoint came from our first year (2013), when we played Japp's Annex. The place was absolutely teeming with humanity, filled to the rafters, but there was no stage and no lights, so it was very hard for the crowd to see us do our thing. 

"So I ran around the bar in front of the crowd grabbing light fixtures and lamps of all shapes and sizes. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts. I grabbed some chairs and pieces of furniture and pulled together a totally BoBo lighting set-up with halogen lights tied to chairs, etc. It made the space look like a junk pile but all of sudden the crowd could see us and they started cheering like crazy. I knew we were going to really go deep that night, and we did. Cincy lifted us up and we tried to do the same, and we have continued to come back to the city because of this. People in Cincinnati are lunatics and we f--kin love them."

Michael Wilson, world-renowned photographer whose work has graced the covers of albums by B.B. King, Over the Rhine, Lyle Lovett and Lucinda Williams

"I remember working with the ladies who were trying to save the Emery Theatre and doing a series of one-take music videos there. We did one with Ralph Stanley in 2012 where he did 'Train 45' and it was so great. He put in Cincinnati references [into the performance] and it was just a thrill to be there and work with him. He was definitely in good spirits and he's just sort of the boss. Even if he doesn't say much or emote much, he has created this music that has its own mass to it. He's just this presence when he stands there, even if his hands are folded in front and he's chewing gum. I shot him that day and later that night they performed [at MidPoint] and it was great."

Matt "Sledge" Waller, radio host on WNKU, former WOXY staffer

Matt "Sledge" Waller with Smithereens singer Pat DiNizio (right). (Provided)

"When MidPoint first started out they had panels during the day, and in one of those early years Pat DiNizio [singer of the Smithereens] was a speaker. We had played them on 97X and I was aware that people thought we looked exactly alike – the resemblance was insane – and I had met him in 2000 and taken a picture with him. And then a few years later we had this reunion and I wondered, 'Will Pat remember who I am?' And he did. Unfortunately we didn't get a beer together, though that would have been nice."

Sean Rhiney, MidPoint co-founder, director of community engaged learning at Xavier University

"I remember the first night walking down the street [in 2002] and seeing people back in Over-the-Rhine in clubs that either existed or were pop-ups -- that was fascinating. We opened up a number of vacant spaces to become venues because there weren't that many, and just seeing people on the street and everyone was saying 'hi' and 'this is amazing’ -- that was the sense that this was the right thing to do. It felt good because when you're part of the scene, all you want to do is elevate it.

"In 2006, the year of the great deluge that almost killed us when it rained two out of three nights, there were a couple outside venues that we had to relocate to indoor venues. The former Inktank space on Main Street became a stage for us. We knew it was raining, so we started calling bands that were coming from two hours away, thinking they probably weren't here yet, and saying, 'Look, if you don't want to do this, we'll go ahead and pay you, but we have to cancel the showcase. We just don't have the stage for it.' Out of five bands, only one didn't get the message, and the Buffalo Killers ended up on the same stage. I remember [Buffalo Killers bassist] Zach Gabbard looked at me and said, 'They can have our slot. They drove here.' The love that came out of that statement ... both the Buffalo Killers and that band ended up playing, and they were both great in that tiny space."

Chris Varias, co-owner of former MidPoint venues MOTR Pub and Woodward Theater

MOTR Pub in 2013. (Provided / Photo by Chris Varias)

"I remember going to see Booker T. Jones at the Cincinnati Club [in 2011] and struggling to get in there because it was absolutely packed. I got a text from a bartender at MOTR saying we were out of $1s, which is a big deal when you run a bar, which we had just recently opened. I was pretty far away and the show was just starting. He was sending out an SOS to any manager to go get singles, and I just blew it off because I wanted to watch Booker T. Jones, who was playing 'Born Under a Bad Sign,' which he wrote. I had never seen Booker, and I love Booker T. and the M.G.’s, so it was cool seeing people who might only come to Cincinnati once."

Dan McCabe, co-owner of Woodward Theater and MOTR Pub, MidPoint booker from 2008 to 2015

Tristen performs at MOTR Pub in 2010. (Provided / Photo by Dan McCabe)

"The first year I took over, I worked out a sponsorship idea to bring the streetcar to Cincinnati, because that was when people were getting excited about it and the plans were first being introduced. With the help of [car company] Scion, we worked out a faux streetcar and map on the proposed route. If you had a wristband, you could hop in a Scion "streetcar." The idea was to promote and get behind the idea of what the streetcar would look like. We built the festival along the initial streetcar route from Downtown through OTR. It was fun to flag one down and pretend it was a streetcar."

Tamara Harkavy, ArtWorks CEO and artistic director

"The second year that ArtWorks produced the MidPoint Midway they added a pretty major stage at 12th and Vine, and they had it sort of programmed but not really robustly. We had these box trucks on the midway with all that stuff going on, and it was the perfect use of that connecting street between the bands in Washington Park and the ones on Main Street. It was semi-successful the first year, but a lot of folks didn't spend a lot of time on the midway because it was a new idea. So the second year the folks from CityBeat set up a VIP room in an alley off Main Street, and the soundsystem got shut down by the fire department because too many people were in the VIP. And they had all these bands booked, the best of the best at MidPoint that year. So they didn't have any other choice but to divert the bands to the big main stage that they had put up but not really robustly programmed. All of a sudden we had all these rock stars of MidPoint playing free concerts on the midway, and the street was jammed! It was the best mistake ever! The whole crowd, the whole vibe that night during that fiasco, was exactly what should have happened on that street."