Sunday, September 28, 2003

MOTH attracts Midpoint's bright lights

Estimated 30,000 enjoy music festival

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The crowds came back to Main Street, as the Saturday lineup of the MidPoint Music Festival filled 13 clubs with five hours of live local and regional rock, folk, soul and blues music, drawing a crowd estimated at around 15,000.

"We did more business (Friday) night than we did all of last year," said MidPoint co-founder Bill Donabedian, who predicted that Saturday would be half again as big as Friday for a three-night total of 25,000-30,000 for the second year of the festival.

The festival atmosphere could be seen all over the street, as several generations of music fans, various members of the music industry and hundreds of musicians filled the sidewalks, moving from club to club.

The big show of the night belonged to the local band MOTH, which closed out the main stage at the Cavern. A Who's Who of MidPoint could be seen packed into the club, including organizers Donabedian and Sean Rhiney, City Councilman John Cranley and members of Buckra, Pike 27, Messerly & Ewing, the Stapletons and other groups. MOTH didn't disappoint, as frontman Brad Stenz, wearing this year's rock 'n' roll fashion accessory, the trucker's cap, led MOTH though a tight set of punk-edged rock.

But one of the fest's best shows was delivered with much less fanfare. Cincinnati singer/songwriter Kim Taylor played a midnight set at Neon's, backed by two of the city's finest musicians and most sensitive accompanists to singers - guitarist Ric Hordinski and drummer Josh Seurkamp. With the narrow bar packed shoulder-to-shoulder, Taylor and company delivered a luminous set of artful folk-pop.

There were outstanding performances in a wide variety of genres and venues Saturday. Marvin Hawkins did a set of funky, contemporary R&B at Shaker's In Town; Canadian power trio Chris Colepaugh & the Cosmic Crew rocked the blues at Mr. Pitiful's, its bearded leader wielding his red Gibson 335 with old-fashioned guitar heroics.

Messerly & Ewing played a tight set of country rock at the BarrelHouse; the Autumn Blackouts delivered a set of Oasis-influenced rock at the Cavern; Knoxville's WestSide Daredevils did a fine set of British new-wave inflected power pop at Jefferson Hall. Cincinnati's Worldwide hit RBC with a funk-rock tornado that had the wooden floors undulating under the weight of the dancing crowd. At the other end of the spectrum, singer/songwriter Clare Muldaur delivered a delicate performance at Kaldi's that blended her high, sweet voice with a quirky collection of songs to create a unique folk-cabaret fusion unlike anything any other singer/songwriter produced. MidPoint co-founder Rhiney led his band Clabbergirl through a strong set of high-energy pop-rock.

"This is great," said Amy Rice, 36, of Blue Ash, who came down to Main Street Saturday for her first taste of MidPoint. "This has really brought the business back around. It's great to come down here and see so many different bands and so many people all over the streets." She said she planned to return more often.

Many of the bands she saw this weekend will be back more often as well. The Middle Men, a roots-rock quartet out of Louisville, has several more local dates booked, sharing the bill with local MidPoint groups. said singer/guitarist John Whitaker, 25. "People are so friendly and everything's been run so well. Every stage I've been to has run so smoothly."

"It's amazing," said Mike Cromer, owner of the BarrelHouse Brewing Co., as he walked up Main checking on how the other MidPoint clubs were doing. "All the bars are packed. This has just been great for the Main Street district. We've got so many people back downtown for the first time in years."

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