2014 MidPoint Music Festival Recap [Concert Review]

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midpoint recap 2014
Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival was once again a success this year with another solid lineup. I will be the first to admit that when I initially scanned the 150 plus bands I didn’t think the offerings were quite as good as last year but after attending, I would say MPMF did alright!

From better venues, better logistics and tons of energy from the bands, The Fire Note had a great time running around MidPoint and trying to soak up as much rock as we could endure. Below we picked out some of the highlights of this years’ experience. Till 2015 – enjoy!

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The Afghan Whigs
Cincinnati, Ohio
Friday: Washington Park

For me, The Afghan Whigs were the big stage draw this year and they delivered a great show to the home crowd. Greg and the guys always seem so excited to play the hometown and Friday night was no exception.

Some of my favorite parts of their set was how they slid Drake’s “Over My Dead Body” into Gentlemen’s “When We Two Parted” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” emerged during the track, “Lost In The Woods” from their new record Do To The Beast. It was also nice to hear Greenhornes/Raconteurs skin man Patrick Keeler on the drums as he has joined the band for their North American tour.

The best was saved for last as they squeezed in two more songs before the 10 PM curfew. After asking the crowd if they would like to hear something fast or slow (of course the answer was FAST) the band cranked out 1965’s “Something Hot” and rolled right into “Going To Town.” It was a great finish as The Afghan Whigs completely delivered.

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Sun Kil Moon
San Francisco, California
Thursday: Memorial Hall

With all the “Hillbillies” and War on Drugs rants coming lately from Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek nobody really could predict the mood. If fact, the big no pictures screen before the show told me right away not to push and just put the camera away (so sorry – no pics of Mark). Basically don’t poke the bear!

The good news was that Kozelek was in a great mood and the acoustics in Memorial Hall were a perfect fit for the set list. Kozelek even commented that they should have recorded a live tour record because it sounded so good.

Coming from Canton, he definitely liked being back in Ohio and chuckled a bit about all the songs in his arsenal that are tied to the state. Although he considered it he still didn’t play the most known track, “Carry Me Ohio” but we all survived as his set was note perfect.

Expectations that there would be more rants were exaggerated as he joked several times, even when someone yelled out “War on Drugs.” He simply said “talk to me in 23 years and see where they are,” basically pointing out that this music thing is not his first rodeo. He also chatted with the crowd up asking how we were doing and that he was trying to make more eye contact after receiving some flak for being impersonal at several previous shows. After an hour and half set I think everyone walked away pleased that they stayed out late as Sun Kil Moon was easily one of the highlights from the festival.

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Ex Hex
Washington, DC
Saturday: Know Theatre

Straight up rock n roll fun! Ex Hex took the stage like they owned it and never turned down the amps or the harmonics. You could see the trios chemistry as they cranked through songs of their debut full length Rips. You would have never guessed Ex Hex were a “new” band because they ruled the night and were completely in sync. I only wish they could have played longer!

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Speedy Ortiz
Northampton, Massachusetts
Saturday: Know Theatre

Speedy Ortiz continue to have tons of hype and after seeing their set you will know why. The band never rests as Sadie Dupuis steps in behind the mic to make their alternative rock come to life. Speedy Ortiz look like they are having fun on stage which is infectious to the crowd. It was great getting to see them at this smaller venue because they are only moving upwards as their popularity grows.

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Wussy
Cincinnati, Ohio
Friday: Washington Park

Opening up for the Afghan Whigs was the perfect setup for Cincinnati band Wussy. The band lead by co-lead vocalists/songwriters Chuck Weaver (Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker were very gracious of the time slot and showed why they have been at it since 2005. I have seen Wussy before on the smallest of small stages so it was nice to see them on this large setting. The better part was that they took over the crowd with an energized set and I guarantee made plenty of new fans once they finished.

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Deafheaven
San Francisco, California
Saturday: Taft Ballroom

I knew that Deafheaven’s set was going to be intense. I was right, as all the metal kids came out to celebrate the midnight performance. Lead singer George Clarke consistently interacted with the frenzied crowd and I swear they were singing (yelling) along with every line. It was loud, hot and one of the most blistering shows I have seen in quite some time. Deafheaven is not my everyday listen but I was impressed with everything they brought to the Ballroom.

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Steelism
Nashville, Tennessee
Thursday: Mr. Pitful’s

Steelism was new to me as I discovered them right from the MPMF website. The Nashville band featured guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal steel player Spencer Cullum, which played off each other through the entire set. What I really liked about the group was how musically tight they were. It would be easy to only show up in the smaller venue and just play by routine but they not only filled the stage they brought in people from the street with their vintage sounding surf/soul rock Steelism was putting out.

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Alex G
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Saturday: MidPoint Midway

Alex G played on the free stage this year and packed the street. I would guess that he was mostly unknown to the majority of the crowd but if you are a fan of the Captured Tracks label sound or saw him opening for Mac DeMarco this year, Alex G was on your radar. For the newbies to Alex G I think he shocked a few spectators how he takes songs from a more acoustic singer/songwriter style to an all-out rock track in a second. His band put on a great show and was one of the better shows at the MidPoint Midway.

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Shivering Timbers
Akron, Ohio
Friday: Mr. Pitful’s

I was not planning on seeing Akron’s Shivering Timbers but I was glad I fell into Mr. Pitful’s at the right time. Jayson and Sarah Benn are front and center for the band as Sarah’s soaring vocals play perfectly with Jayson’s scorching guitar work. You add in drummer Daniel Kshywonis, who always looked like he was having a blast, and the Shivering Timbers are a forceful act live.

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Real Estate
Brooklyn, New York
Friday: MidPoint Midway

Real Estate was as smooth live as they are on record. The band was note perfect with their set that was filled with new songs off their current record Atlas. I really like the breeziness of Real Estate and it played out perfectly on this excellent fall evening.

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The Raveonettes
Los Angeles, California
Saturday: Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.

I didn’t know what to expect from The Raveonettes set. I didn’t know if they would come off more pop live or fuzzed up like some of their earlier work. To my surprise, they turned up the reverb and lights and hit the large crowd with a wall of noise. You could see and hear their veteran status on stage which just made their set that much better as they were the constant professionals on stage.

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Jessica Lea Mayfield
Kent, Ohio
Friday: Memorial Hall

Jessica Lea Mayfield is very shy and you could tell from her performance at Memorial Hall. Don’t get me wrong, as she was still engaged but you are not going to get tons of crowd connection with her performance. She sounded great once the sound crew fixed some mic issues and overall was very gracious in her performance. I remember seeing her four years ago opening for the Avett Brothers and her just rolling through her set. At MidPoint, she took her time and gave a solid performance.

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Joseph Arthur
New York City, New York
Friday: Washington Park

I have liked Joseph Arthur since his 2000 sophomore record Come To Where I’m From and it was great to finally see him live. I will admit that his song selection was just ok for a longtime fan but he did play the older “In The Sun” which sounded great and is a favorite. The best movement of Arthur’s set came at its conclusion, during “I Miss The Zoo,” when he began drawing with a black paint marker on a white canvas. While Arthur sang he then added color with a brush and finished the painting. The mixed media was a cool ending.

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OK Go
Los Angeles, California
Saturday: Washington Park

OK Go was fun. I know the treadmill song (“Here It Goes Again”) and everyone waited for it but the band debuted several new tracks off their forthcoming fall record which was great for fans. Although sometimes too long for me, OK Go loved to talk with and involve the audience, which if you are a true fan is probably why you would love them live. They also shot countless amounts of confetti out of two cannons which easily made for some the best visuals at the music festival.

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Panda Bear
Lisbon, Portugal
Thursday: Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.

If you like Animal Collective then you were all hyped to see founding member Noah Benjamin Lennox project Panda Bear. A much more electronic fair; his visual image screen behind him and sonic landscapes took over the night air. I think if electronic music and beats is your thing, Panda Bear was the place to be. Even if it was your first experience, I believe you walked away surprised of Lennox’s talent. We also caught The National’s drummer, Bryan Devendorf, checking out Panda Bear’s set as well, so that highlighted why we were there.

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-Feature by Christopher Anthony

Fire Note Staff
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