CINCINNATI -- This year's MidPoint Music Festival is all-new: new owners, new layout and a new attitude.
What remains the same is that you can't catch all the music, even if you get there early and stay late. However, if you have the time and stamina, you can see and hear a year's worth of rock ‘n’ roll in just over 21 hours. The four main stages have staggered start times that make it way easier to sprint from one to the other. And, well, we're here to help you sort it all out.
First, a caveat: There are a lot of good bands playing, so we had to make some tough choices. If you want to see these acts (and maybe a few others), you will have to settle for not watching a whole set.
With that said, here's a good place to start piecing your weekend together.
Click on the icons to see details of stage and vendor locations in the Google map below.
Friday, Sept. 23
3:45 p.m. Friday, Eli's BBQ Stage: You can ease into MidPoint or leap in with both feet thanks to the fuzzed-out noise pop buzz of Cincinnati's Smut. If you love the 1990s alt-rock sound of Sonic Youth and Liz Phair, Smut is the perfect way to kick off your weekend.
4:30 p.m. Friday, Elliot Stage: Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin claims Britney Spears as an early influence, but one listen to the twangy, angsty songs on her debut, “Don't Let the Kids Win,” makes it clear she has spent just as much headphone time with Gillian Welch and Fiona Apple.
5:15 p.m. Friday, WNKU Stage: Think of West Virginia's Ona as a down-home palate cleanser after the day's earlier grit, with a meandering, back-roads folk rock sound that will remind you of Wilco and Drive-By Truckers.
6:15 p.m. Friday, Skyline Stage: Don't miss a chance to see British soul revivalists The James Hunter Six. It makes perfect sense that the hard-touring group is now on Daptone Records, home to Sharon Jones, nearly 30 years after Hunter (born Neil James Huntsman) began his career under the stage name Howlin Wilf. He quickly graduated to singing backup for another R&B legend from across the pond: Van Morrison.
7:45 p.m. Friday, Skyline Stage: Speaking of Daptone, leave it to Brooklyn to birth one of the hottest modern Afrobeat ensembles, the 12-piece Antibalas. Fusing jazz, funk, soul, Latin rhythms and dub reggae, the group was modeled after Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti's famed Africa 70 band. The group also provided the music for the Broadway show “Fela!” and played horns on the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars smash "Uptown Funk."
8:15 p.m. Friday, WNKU Stage: Nashville's Langhorne Slim & the Law puts folk, blues, country and American gothic writing in a blender for a soulful sound that will touch your heart and make you think.
9:30 p.m. Friday, Skyline Stage: You may only know Baltimore's Future Islands from the trio’s hip-shaking breakthrough hit "Seasons," but there's way more to the group than that catchy tune. Its curious mix of new wave and dance pop is intermittently interrupted by singer Sam Herring's deathly punk howl, so be forewarned.
Saturday, Sept. 24
1 p.m. Saturday, Eli's BBQ Stage: Start Day 2 at the crack of midday with Brooklyn quartet Honduras' hazy, sneery, at-turns-trippy punk punch. The group’s live show has drawn comparisons to the Sex Pistols.
2:15 p.m. Saturday, WNKU Stage: Enjoy swirly, Lush-esque dream rock courtesy of ethereal singer Jenna Fournier for shoegaze-y rockers Nights.
3 p.m. Saturday, Skyline Stage: Dip in for some fun, brassy jazz takes on modern pop classics (Lady Gaga, Adele), iconic standards and funky instrumental originals from New York City brass blowers Lucky Chops.
4 p.m. Saturday, Skyline Stage: Hang around for some underground hip-hop fire from Nashville's Mike Floss, whose gritty anthems have landed him opening slots for stars such as Future and Wale.
4:30 p.m. Saturday, Elliot Stage: If you haven't caught dreamy Cincinnati band MULTIMAGIC yet, this is your shot. Their gauzy, Mazzy Star-like sound has turned lots of heads in town, and yours should be next.
5:30 p.m. Saturday, Elliot Stage: You would be a fool not to stay put for a set from former Hüsker Dü/Sugar punk icon Bob Mould. Touring behind his heartbreaking solo album “Patch the Sky,” Mould's intense live show is a must-see wonder.
6:15 p.m. Saturday, Skyline Stage: Jazz stardom is a tricky, elusive thing, but sax master Kamasi Washington has nailed mainstream success (playing Coachella, jamming with Kendrick Lamar), while blowing minds with his aptly named three-hour album, “The Epic.”
6:45 p.m. Saturday, WNKU Stage: One of this year's biggest buzz acts, Car Seat Headrest will bring emotional tornado Will Toledo to town for the first time. The 25-year-old has been remarkably prolific in just six years on the scene, releasing a series of acclaimed albums and singles that plumb the depths of depression, love and confusion, with a ragged, rocking indie vibe that will transport you to 1992 all over again.
7:45 p.m. Saturday, Skyline Stage: Buckle up, because polymath Reggie Watts is the funniest, oddest, most original stand-up comedian/rapper/funkmaster and all-around showman you've ever seen. Things will get super weird.
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Elliot Stage: With three great headliners to choose from, do what you can to see at least a bit of yearning Montreal indie stalwarts Wolf Parade, who stormed back in January from a five-year hiatus with the same urgency that marked their initial run.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, Skyline Stage: Jacksonville's J.J. Grey & Mofro have played their swampy soul/Southern rock/jam band funk on major festival stages around the world, so consider it a treat to see them this close up.
Sunday, Sept. 25
2:15 p.m. Sunday, Eli's BBQ Stage: Roll into the homestretch with some infectious hometown indie pop from Darlene.
3:15 p.m. Sunday, WNKU Stage: Another must-see local act is rustic six-piece folk/Americana group Young Heirlooms, whose haunting melodies might conjure Nickel Creek mixed with crackling Appalachian radio broadcast from the past.
4 p.m. Sunday, Skyline Stage: Make it worth the trip from the Netherlands for Amber Arcades, whose darkly tinged indie pop feels like a mixtape from the early 1990s.
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Elliot Stage: Get revved up with Phoenix's AJJ, whose punk folk aims for the heart but isn't afraid to visit the belly for a few dark laughs along the way.
5:15 p.m. Sunday, Eli's BBQ Stage: Nashville's Keeps ticks all the indie rock boxes: dreamy, intense, trippy and noisy. What's not to like?
6:15 p.m. Sunday, Skyline Stage: One of the country's most literate, melodically gifted bands, Nada Surf will make you sway, sing along and open your heart, thanks to singer/guitarist Matthew Caws' sugary sweet vocals and dreamy lyrics.
7 p.m. Sunday, Elliot Stage: Frank Turner has seamlessly made the transition from his post-hardcore band Million Dead to an acclaimed second act as a fervent, literate folk rager who has earned those comparisons to rabble rouser Billy Bragg.
7:45 p.m. Sunday, Skyline Stage: Houndmouth plays a seemingly mellow, dreamy ear-wormy folk rock that will grab you by the cowboy shirt when it bursts off the stage thanks to the group’s legendarily amped live shows.
8:30 p.m. Sunday, Elliot Stage: There's something about the grit and gravel in Lucero singer Ben Nichols' voice that feels like home, if home is the road, full of longing, late nights and punk attitude laced with a Southern rock heart.
9:30 p.m. Sunday, Skyline Stage: Band of Horses is, full stop, one of the best live bands you will see. BoH’s heart-tugging mixture of Neil Young swagger, country-fried rock and DGAF attitude is the perfect capper to an epic weekend.
If you go: MidPoint Music Festival
When: Friday-Sunday. Gates open at 12th and Sycamore streets at 3 p.m. Friday, 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The festival ends at 11 p.m. all three nights.
Stages: Wristbands are needed for the Skyline, Elliot and WNKU stages; the Eli's BBQ Stage will be free; the midway is also free.
Buying tickets: Single-day passes are $50 (plus fees) and can be redeemed for wristbands at the onsite box office near 12th and Sycamore. Purchase tickets at mpmf.com/tickets or Ticketmaster retailers (Kroger, Taft Theatre, Riverbend Music Center box office). Children ages 2 and under are free.