Walking through Over the Rhine, cracked pavement beneath my Vans-clad feet, a crackling sound permeated through the area, making me aware I was close to my destination: Midpoint Music Festival.
Rooftops and horizons, spilt craft beer and crumbled Skyline coneys at my feet, I found myself enveloped into the festival. Music poured from four stages, and those in attendance were just as colorful and diverse in style and attitude as the lineup.
MPMF served the Cincinnati area another musical entree over the past weekend, September 23-25. This year, however, they’ve switched up the recipe. Moving from several venues scattered around the Queen City to containing the event within four stages, one of which was free.
Bob Mould playing, I lingered in the back of the crowd at the Skyline and Central Parkway YMCA stages. Reggie Watts, who would perform later on in the night, fielded my sight. His afro bobbing in the breeze, socks emblazoned with marijuana leaves, and black suspenders matching his black t-shirt and pants, Watts felt at home. The humor-laced beat boxer, an over-caffeinated coffee drink spiked with wit, Watts was exactly how I had imagined him to be, fleeting past.
Admittedly, when I looked over the lineup, Car Seat Headrest was the band I was psyched to see. Fronted by Will Toledo, they delivered.
The sun peeked below the tangle of streets and buildings, the sky a pale blue swelled with lilac and the color of blush. A man in a DIY jean jacket that read “Power to the Poor” stood in front of me. At another point, a middle-aged couple stood before me, their arms wrapped along one another’s backs, complete with a matching set of normcore sneakers.
Toldeo’s wavering voice, sometimes impassioned and sometimes a whisper, coiled around the congregation of attendees, hands in the air and shoulders swaying. Behind the lot, bordered by a wire fence, people took to the trees for a view. Perched and hidden, they sat among leaves that would soon be tinged with autumn, breeze rustling the branches.
Car Seat Headrest has always had a quiet angst raging within Toldeo’s wry frame. His new album Teens of Denial captures this restlessness, mingled with a sense of melancholy.
Sitting in the back of the lot at one point, legs crossed, my friends flanked by my side, I felt calm. Calm as the air was infused with music and chatter, calm as I watched a boy and his father skateboard through the back of lot, and calm against the backdrop of an OTR cityscape.
Weaving through the crowd on Sunday, I stayed stationed at Eli’s BBQ stage, only leaving to grab a coca-cola from Lucy Blue’s. My two friends bought Jamaican jerk chicken from a street vendor, spicy, authentic and tender, as they reported.
“Gentrification can be measured in macarons,” I said, weaving through OTR passing by a string of businesses, as we made our way back to witness Joan of Arc, who had already begun their set.
Starting near the back, we gravitated forward in the crowd as their sound became progressively more aware, slathered with experimental whimsy, the avant-garde band from Chicago felt like sitting beneath the bare branches of a birch tree: exposed, odd, and strangely comforting.
As if in some coming-of-age indie film, I trailed back through the city, friends by side, before sliding into a buick and heading home. Fists pumping in the air, the streets slathered with neon lights, music still enveloping the city, bodies bent with laughter, the stressors of the past week slid off me.
The festival was cathartic, layered in an array of genres, and it felt like a breathing community within two blocks pulsating with music, food trucks, and life.
All photos taken by Mackenzie Manley