Cincy music festival showcases up-and-coming artists

By: Katie Christoff – A&E Editor

Cincinnati, Ohio. Home of the Bengals, Skyline Chili and… a major music festival headlined by OK Go, Chromeo and Cincy’s own Afghan Wigs?

It’s not too good to be true. The 13th annual MidPoint Music Festival will be held Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 25-27, at 12 venues throughout downtown Cincinnati, just a 45-minute drive from campus. Venues include Memorial Hall, Taft Ballroom, Washington Park and a selection of bars located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

“We’ve got more venues than we’ve ever had before,” festival owner Daniel Bockrath said. “Our six largest venues are open to all ages. In the past, a lot of venues were 21-and-up only, but we’ve made an effort to make the festival more accessible.”

Bockrath said the festival is very walkable, and a bike share program will be running so festival-goers can easily move from venue to venue.

“It’s about the exploration,” he said. “If it’s not your thing, you can be at another show in minutes.” He said this accessibility adds to the value of the festival and makes patrons feel they really get their money’s worth at MidPoint.

Bockrath said these venues are what makes the festival uniquely Cincy and called it “Cincinnati’s version of South by Southwest.”

“You can find open space and fields at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, but you lose that intimacy,” he said. “Emerging bands play afternoon slots. At MidPoint, the emerging bands are getting that 10 p.m. spot. We take a lot of pride in that authenticity. It really is something that is not that easy to recreate in other cities.”

Giving those coveted late-night time slots to emerging bands has hailed MidPoint as “the music festival to find the next big thing and your new favorite band,” as it’s referred to on the festival website.

“We have a number of bands that played the last few years that are popping up at Bonnarroo,” Bockrath said. “Midpoint is an opportunity to see them before no one knew about them. It’s about discovery.”

MidPoint’s artistic director Daniel McCabe is the man behind this notoriously pioneering lineup. He assumed his position in 2008, when he was charged with the task of turning around a festival that wasn’t doing too well at the time.

“When you’re out there looking for genre-bending pioneers, you’re going to come across ‘next big things,’” McCabe said. “With this reputation, agencies are interested in us and introducing the artists in the region. The reputation helps feed the programming.” He said this gives the festival a spirit of adventure for both the artist and the consumer.

All of the bands in the lineup are listed on the festival website, along with their hometown. This year’s lineup includes a bluegrass band from Australia, another from Korea and bands from various states throughout the country.

The volume and variety of up-and-coming bands may sound daunting, but Bockrath pointed out that they provide plenty of resources so that festival-goers can do their homework in advance. These resources include a 10.5-hour Spotify playlist featuring all of the bands and an official 36-page guide, so guests can plan out which venues they want to attend and when.

“But we also encourage people to take your life in your own hands and get out and explore,” Bockrath said.

The headliners will all perform on the main stage at Washington Park with Chromeo on Thursday, the Afghan Wigs on Friday and OK Go on Saturday.

Bockrath, coincidentally a UD graduate, said he’d love to see some Flyers in Cincinnati for MidPoint Music Festival.

Tickets can be purchased individually at venues or as day passes. For more information on tickets, venues and bands, visit the festival’s website at

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