Midpoint Music Festival celebrated its ten-year anniversary last weekend. This is Cincinnati’s ode to culture where the fringe era dimly shines through one of the Midwest’s most conservative towns. The festival provides Cincy the opportunity to return to its boomtown days. The subculture shined on Friday night. Cincinnati, OH was booming once again as people, bands and cultures united. Over-the-Rhine we all went.
I only spent one night blooming with the boom, but it was enough time for me to recognize the impact. My Friday night was occupied by three fantastic live performances by up and coming musical explorers.
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra: The New Zealand born, Portland placed trio has made a name for themselves with their debut release. Their style falls into many of the indie rock subdivisions (troublegum, experimental noise rock, neo-punk, etc.). This was my second time seeing these guys and it was worth the return. Lead singer/guitarist Ruban Nelson is extremely impressive and commands attention. Listening to their record does not give his shredding ability justice. When you see UMO live you earn many key takeaways. First, Nelson is an extremely talented guitarist. If you read nothing about UMO and just listened to their record it would be difficult to decipher where the sounds were actually coming from. After seeing UMO live, you will discover that there are only three mates on stage and Nelson is the one created the ruckus. Second, drummer Julien Ehrich is an extremely talented tween that could be mistaken for a member of Smith Westerns. Third, “Ffunny Ffriends” is on the short list for jams of the year.
- Toro y Moi is without question the king of the Chillwave movement. Chazwick Bundick has the best voice, best band, best beats, and most potential. His looping synths demand dance and his ambient electropop melodies require engagement. Counterparts, Washed Out and Neon Indian have all released follow ups this year, however, neither did so with as much effort as Toro y Moi. Bundick proves to be hungry enough to continue to progress his sound and vision. His follow up LP Underneath the Pine was released in February while Freaking Out EP was distributed a few weeks ago. To me, Bundick is not just the catalyst to keep the Chillwave movement alive, but also is the controller of its destiny. Bundick has too much talent to fade. It will interesting to see if Bundick continues to cycle through the Chillwave or head in a different direction. I think he is about to hit the crest and new direction will form. All I know is that the trough is the last place we will see Toro y Moi.
- The MOTR Pub was the venue that brought in the midnight show of Portland band Starfucker. This band has gone from their current name to PYRAMID, then to Pyramiddd, back to Starfucker, and now STRFKR when touring. Confusion and naming purposes aside, the identity is built and these guys are a party to see live. The capacity of the MOTR Pub had to be 200 and 300 sweating Hipsters were in attendance. I left the venue a few too many drinks deep with the appearance of just getting out of the pool, but what a fun evening.
Although the shows were above par, a certain comment stuck with me on my drive home. Before Toro y Moi’s set, I overheard a man sitting next to me say, “I can’t believe this many people like this live here, it is like they are all coming out of the woodwork.” Neglecting to engage I absorbed his comments and realized that independent music has power. It possesses the type of influence to connect like-minded people. The perfect formula you need to resurrect a town that has been missing a boom for decades. Thank you Cincinnati.
Written by Brett McGrath
Back within the confines of Indianapolis, I find myself reflecting on how fantastic it would be to teleport. I spent the bulk of my 200-mile trek home from Chicago attempting to frame up all that was Pitchfork Festival 2011. Tons of bands, hundreds of hipsters, sticky hot heat and a big, old city to bring it all together. I love P4KFest for two simple reasons:
Year in and year out, P4KFest is able to grab all of the bands that are buzzworthy and surround their energy with a core group of headliners. Union Park proved optimal for catching every act that I desired, because of it’s small size. With plenty of opportunity for shade, attendees were able thrive amidst the heat. I felt excited after each day, not drained like my unfortunate experience at many other festivals.
In order to appropriately capture all that I enjoyed at P4KFest I will make this write-up extremely structured. I will cover my Top 10 acts, food, fashion, misc., and after shows. Please feel free to reach out @IndyMcGrath
10. Yuck (London, England)
The self-titled debut LP from this collection of 20 year olds is one of my favorite albums of 2011. Their ability to play loud or soft while embracing the roots of their forefathers (Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth) is extremely impressive. Their performance was great and exactly what I had expected. Unfortunately, I have to ding them a bit for the guitar malfunction during fan favorite “Operation.” The band battled through a rough minute of the song was before quitting completely. This moment brought me down to earth and reminded me that this is still a group of children. There are always bumps along the road. As long as you look cool while dealing with those bumps, then success remains. These guys looked cool.
9. tUnE-YarDs (Connecticut)
The mind of Merrill Garbus is something I extremely admire and I was honored to see it come to life. Tune-yards opened up the entire festival for me by playing on the secluded Blue Stage on Friday afternoon. To answer your questions: Yes, that voice is real and yes, it sounds like that throughout the entire performance. Her stage presence, endurance and energy are the items that stood out to me. Out of nowhere, the band’s rendition of “POWA” caused my excitement to spill over. It rocked me like a lullaby and kicked me in the butt. P4Kfest had arrived.
8. Toro y Moi (Columbia, South Carolina)
What started as a college musical project to pass the time has transformed the indie scene and given birth to the sub-genre we now know as Chillwave. Chazwick Bundick is the mind and creator for what we know as Toro y Moi. Chaz completely won me over with the tight sound his band was able to produce. They opened with “New Beat” off of their sophomore release Underneath the Pine and took Chillwave Nation for a spin. The strength of Chaz’s vocals impressed me more than any other aspect of their performance. I will officially tag him as the Sinatra of Chillwave.
7. Gang Gang Dance (NYC)
This served as the old catch a band while I solidify my spot for the next show routine. I am glad I hit the jackpot with Gang Gang Dance. I was familiar with them heading into P4KFest, but they were not on my to-do list. I had listened to their latest release Eye Contact a few times, but never thought much about them. Do not to miss this act if they come to your area. Front chick, Lizzi Bougatsos might be one of the hottest ALT chicks I have ever seen. She commanded the attention of the crowd and got everyone moving with her stellar looks. I will make sure to purchase their entire catalog and love it forever.
6. The Radio Dept. (Lund, Sweden)
Everyone was excited for these indie Swedish Sensations. A group that rarely tours the U.S. and continues to produce classics that everyone loves has earned this band a significant cult following. Whether you call their sound Dream Pop or Shoegaze, it does not matter because they delivered a relaxed sound that you can tap your toes to. The crowd exploded for songs like “Heaven’s on Fire” and “David.” Elin Almered gave off extremely good vibes and seemed quite bashful in front of the U.S. crowd. The vulnerability of The Radio Dept. made me understand them better and appreciate all that they do.
5. OFWGKTA (Los Angeles, California)
They were Pitchfork. They were the buzz. They were the most talked about band. You could not move around Union Park without hearing the words “Odd Future”. I do not care what they rap about, what kind of music they put out, or even if it is good or not. If you are being talked about by everyone—all of the time—then you are doing something right. Tyler, the Creator was brilliant. He transmitted his Twitter persona to life. He controlled the crowd like a maestro. He is a nut. It is not an act. I was convinced after I survived Odd Future. He jumped into the crowd TWICE, despite a broken leg. The highlight for me was when the crowd screamed the line “I’m stabbing any blogging faggot hipster with a Pitchfork” during “Yonkers.” Although the line is heinous, the correlation with Pitchfork was brilliant. I left their set thinking two things: 1. I am glad I was not hurt because there were bodies everywhere and 2. I think Hodgy Beats might be a bigger nut than Tyler.
4. Fleet Foxes (Seattle, Washington)
Fleet Foxes are indie-rock icons known for their folk freakouts. This was the impression I had both before and after their set. Robin Pecknold’s song selections sent the crowd on a sensational roller coaster of highs and lows. “Sim Sala Bim” from recent release Helplessness Blues got the crowd jiving. “Mykonos,” “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and “Lorelai” all touched a sweet spot in my heart. The crowd was huge and our folky friends delivered. I will also go as far to say that Mr. Pecknold currently has the best beard in music. Cheers Fleet Foxes.
3. Cold Cave (NYC)
I was fortunate enough to see Cold Cove a few months ago at a tiny bar in Cincinnati and was wowed by their performance. I consider these guys the modern day Joy Divison. They get your blood pumping with their dark synth pops and cool all black wardrobe. They look like a dark team from the 80’s rocking our socks off one synth blast at a time. This was the band I was telling everyone at the festival that they had to see and they did not disappoint. I was literally jumping throughout the entire performance. The highlight for me was when they rocked out to the song “Confetti.” I think everyone who saw them gained a new-found respect for Cold Cave. For me, they went from a band that I liked a lot to one of my current favorites.
2. Guided By Voices (Dayton, Ohio)
This show was a long time coming. Growing up a little bit outside of their era, I was introduced to GBV by author John Sellers after reading his book Perfect From Now On. Robert Pollard’s openness and blue-collar indie rock lifestyle immediately drew me in. Transforming from a band of drinking buddies to one of the most influential bands that the indie scene has ever seen is remarkable. I heard Franz Ferdinand, LCD Soundsystem and Times New Viking as I gushed over their set. Mixing it up perfectly while drinking Tequila in the 90 degree heat Robert Pollard was just a cool old dude. Toe touches were prevalent throughout the set. I was legitimately concerned that he was going to tear a hamstring until he busted out “Gold Star for Robot Boy”. Balancing their set list betweenAlien Lanes and Bee Thousand while mixing in some old favorites was a great move. When I am their age I can only hope I to be half as cool as GBV – though I can do without the drinking problem.
1. Cut Copy (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
The Aussie Dance Party closed out my entire P4KFest experience. I wonder whether these guys are #1 because it was the last show that I saw or if their performance was really that good. I slept on it. I thought about it my entire drive from Chicago to Indianapolis. I continued to reflect while writing. My feelings were confirmed as I thought about how much fun I was actually having during their set in comparison to all others. Cut Copy wins. “Lights and Music” involved the crowd more than any other song of the festival. The crowd was yelling it out and bouncing to Dan Whitford’s every command. “Take Me Over” was also a bloody good time. I was honored to have been sent off in such a thrilling fashion. The excitement I had as I left P4KFest had lasted throughout the festival’s three days. I can not believe it is over. I guess time flies when you are having fun. Thanks Pitchfork.
FOOD, FASHION, ETC:
I want to thank whoever was responsible for organizing all the details for this festival. The crowd was able to overcome the extraordinary heat only because of the volunteers’ dedication to hydrating fans. Everywhere you turned a new face was offered a free, frosty bottle of Ice Mountain. I would not have survived the weekend without it.
Not much of a choice here. Heineken or Heineken Light. They serve as the festival’s primary sponsor, so I understand it. New Castle’s Summer Ale was available in small doses. I do not hate Heineken, but I drank so much of it that I will not touch it until next year.
I made sure to balance my food consumption with the heat and the beer intake. I ate at the same stand twice and will be sure to return. Thanks Wishbone for offering fantastic festival food. I ate their North Carolina-Style hot dog, pulled pork sandwhich, and Hoppin’ John’s Salad. ALL FANTASTIC!
No people watching quite compares to that of P4KFest. Everyone is giving off good vibes and dressed to the nines. Here are some items I noticed that were prevalent amongst our Hipster community.
- Retro Champion NBA Jerseys – Saw a ton of Rodman (Pistons/Bulls). I think the best one I saw was a Scottie Pippen Trail-Blazers jersey. It was fantastic.
- Crop Tops with Fringe
- High Wasted Shorts
- Flat Bill Hats
- Bandeau Tops
- Leg Tattoos
I am a big fan of Smith Westerns and enjoyed their work on Dye It Blonde. They show an amazing amount of maturity and technical savvy, despite their age. They rocked out and have come a long way since I saw them last year. I was surprised that they ended up opening for Das Racist. My guess is that the promoter worried that DR may arrive late from their Pitchfork performance. DR was what I expected, a tamer Odd Future but extremely clever with their delivery.
UMO is a brand new project and they are one of those bands that I had liked everything that I had heard prior to their initial release. Frontman Roban Nielson (Former Mint Chicks guitarist) was born to lead a band. He transmitted loads of energy to a 200-person capacity crowd. I can honestly say that he is the best guitarist that I have seen in a long time. “FFunny FFrends,” “Strangers Are Strange” and “How Can U Luv Me” brought down the house. I ran into their drummer (teenage prodigy) Julien Ehrich after their set. I told him how great I thought his band was and told him that that I considered UMO a cooler version of Tame Impala.
Yuck was awesome and a lot better indoors. Their sound boomed off of the walls and fans were digging it. Cullen Omori from Smith Westerns was at the show and got several shout outs. I believe Yuck played a reverse order of their set list from earlier in the day, which I thought was cool. “Get Away” and “Georgia” were my highlights. It was a fantastically exhausting and fun idea. I am thrilled I attended.
This was the best weekend of music that I have ever experienced. The best part of the weekend was that I did not have a single problem with the format of the festival or the way that it was operated. It seems like Pitchfork improves with every year that I return. Shelling out $160 for three days of music is completely justified when the host is evolving each year. Thank you bands, friends I made along the way, organizers and the sun for being so bright. See you next year Pitchfork.
Written and experienced by Brett McGrath