The annual MidPoint Music Festival returns to Cincinnati September 27-29. This year we've created a guide to bands playing the festival whose CD's we have in our collection. You'll find local favorites like Bad Veins and Pomegranates, big names like Sleigh Bells and Grizzly Bear, and some great bands you may not have heard of (yet)!
Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird
MPMF.12 headliner and brilliant multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Andrew Bird plays a distinctive style fusing New Orleans jazz, Gypsy, folk, and rock. A gifted lyricist, Bird weaves sparse, inventive arrangements around words of emotional clarity.
Cincinnati's flagship duo, Bad Veins channel the latest new wave tinged indie rock with diverse instrumentation held in place by Sebastian Schultz' kinetic percussion. Worth noting, Benjamin Davis' high energy vocals are almost indistinguishable from The Killers' Brandon Flowers.
Barely out of high school, female-fronted Belle Histoire are Cincinnati's youngest up-and-coming rockers. Impeccably crafted songs are stripped down to simple guitar/bass/drum formula to showcase Jane Smith's tightly wound vocals that fall somewhere between Taylor Swift and Regina Spektor.
"Drawing inspiration from '60s surf rock and girl groups, Best Coast's noisy lo-fi sound [nods] to contemporaneous acts like Hot Lava, the Vivian Girls, and Brilliant Colors." (All Music)
Two of Everything by Brian Olive
Cincinnati's own Greenhorns alum Brian Olive's two excellent solo albums (the latter co-produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach) are sultry and all-over-the-place, seamlessly weaving R&B, blues, jazz, and garage rock.
NME describes this Cleveland group as "The Replacements being elegantly savaged by The Jesus Lizard, [exhibiting] a precise mastery in crafting silkily threaded, post-hardcore rock songs that charm the birds from the trees before tearing the trees from their roots." That and Nirvana. (NME)
"Culture Queer is a pop quartet that blends sweet and melodic guy/girl harmonies and weirdo soundscapes. These Cincinnati natives embrace their midwest roots but also transcend it with a sound that is completely unique and without pretense." (Band website)
Canonical purveyors of grunge, Dinosaur Jr. probably influenced most of the bands you listen to now. "Along with their peers the Pixies, they injected late-'80s alternative rock with monumental levels of pure guitar noise." (All Music)
Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors
"One of the most fearlessly cerebral bands of the last ten years," the Dirty Projectors cultivate a restless, artfully fractured sound prone to fits of hardcore, gospel, and/or electronic beat programming, accentuated with medieval vocal polyphony. Their latest album Swing Lo Magellan "has both the handmade intimacy of a love letter and the widescreen grandeur of a blockbuster." (Band website)
Beloved Cincinnati pop/punk legends. Less abrasive than Sleater-Kinney with thicker vocal harmonies and more Farfisa organ.
Psychedelic folk with a touch of the symphonic, MPMF.12 headliners Grizzly Bear have produced some of the most challenging, innovative, and mind-expanding music of the past decade. NME says: "Classifying Grizzly Bear alongside American folksters Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver is a common error--it's like comparing the real-life Urus arctos horribilis (that's grizzly bear to you) with a runty park squirrel. [...] Guitars are secondary to vocal tics that burst into glorious chorus, like the appearance of the first cracks of sunrise over a distant ridgeline." (NME)
Hospitality by Hospitality
Hospitality sound like if Belle & Sebastian teamed up with Fiery Furnaces and Cowboy Junkies to make a delicious, bittersweet, slightly-hyperactive-but-somehow-still-delicate indie pop record with rich female vocal harmonies.
Imperial Teen sounds like ELO reborn with tight jeans and chunky glasses. Symphonic like "Mr. Blue Sky", approachable like the Polyphonic Spree, and kind of dorky like They Might Be Giants.
J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound
High energy neo-soul. No party is complete without J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound; their cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is something you have to hear to believe.
Josh Eagle & the Harvest City
A Cincinnati native, Josh Eagle's band is often compared to Wilco and Ray Lamontagne, though their clamorous doomsday folk is also reminiscent of Calexico's and Tom Waits.
Amid minimal soundscapes falling somewhere between Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and latter-day Radiohead, Jana Hunter's brilliant falsetto mingles effortlessly with understated guitars and electronics to create shifting sonic cathedrals inhabited equally by menace and beauty.
Town and Country by Magnolia Mountain
Cincinnati's own, Magnolia Mountain play their unique style of minor key anthemic bluegrass infused with country and rock.
Heavy. Dream-like. Cincinnati. Awesome.
Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys
Half of the Stanley Brothers and a legend in his own right, Ralph Stanley helped popularize the style of banjo picking central to what we know today as bluegrass music.
Shiny and the Spoon
It's impossible not to grin while listening to Cincinnati's happiest indie folk band. They made a music video featuring robots dancing on Fountain Square to a ukulele playing A-Ha's "Take On Me". What's not to love?
MPF.12 headliners Sleigh Bells sound like if Katy Perry started playing for the Art Damage set. Bombastic, over-the-top guitar provides a backdrop to Alexis Krauss' hyperactive, beatific top-40 style pop vocals. Abrasive. Absurd. Indie darlings of the moment.
Young and Old by Tennis
Fans of She & Him and Mates of State will love Tennis, a duo that takes as much inspiration from 1950s girl groups as they do aforementioned acts, recapitulating the sound in a warm haze of nostalgia and reverb.
Spaced out falsetto amid washes of delicate but expansive chamber pop, like Explosions in the Sky reigned back to Earth's surface for the exclusive purpose of playing an intimate set of songs in your best friend's living room. Or like a male fronted Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions.
Aptly named, Minneapolis' The Honeydogs play well-crafted, exquisitely arranged middle-of-the-road folk-rock uncannily reminiscent of Summerteeth era Wilco. What sets The Honeydogs apart are their knack for achingly beautiful twists and direct, evocative lyrics.
The Seedy Seeds
Banjos and drum machines have never coexisted so perfectly as in the hands of Cincinnati's own The Seedy Seeds.
Sultry, irreverent purveyors of swinging, bluesy Cincinnati punk.
You & Me by The Walkmen
Seemingly influenced by every rock band in history, The Walkmen's vibe falls somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, but more intimate than anthemic.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Extremely weird upbeat lo-fi rock with song titles like "Ffunny Ffrends," "Jello and Juggernauts," and "Nerve Damage!." Their debut album channels the backwoods-from-another-planet strangeness of Black Moth Super Rainbow or Neon Indian mixed with the furious guitar riffing of the Black Keys.
For more details about MPFM.12 and a complete list of bands, see the MidPoint website.