Monday, September 24, 2012
Fall is best time for area’s dedicated music fans to catch quality festivals closer to home
By Matt Jordan
Summer gets all the attention for being the biggest time for big music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, but dedicated music fans know that early fall is the best time to catch festivals nearer to home. At the end of this month Kentuckians will have their pick of three great opportunities to catch quality midsize music festivals within an hour or two of their doorstep: MidPoint Music Festival (Cincinnati, Sept. 27-29), Starry Nights (Bowling Green, Sept. 28 and 29) and Cropped Out (Louisville, Sept. 28-30).
The unfortunate part of this news is that, yes, those dates all fall on the same weekend. With the exception of last week’s Boomslang, the best festivals in the area force you to choose how to spend your last weekend of September. The good news is that there is no bad choice.
MidPoint Music Festival is by far the most developed — and the one most deserving of the title “festival” — of these choices. Think of this one as Cincinnati’s version of the South-By Southwest conference/festival in Austin, Texas. Like SXSW, MidPoint has slowly grown over the years into a well-formed experience. This year the 11th annual event will feature the fest’s
biggest acts yet: Grizzly Bear, Dinosaur Jr, Dirty Projectors, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells and Andrew Bird. Some great touring bands and some of the finest regional talent will round out the three-day event.
If you’re thinking of heading to MPMF (and I highly recommend that you do), be sure to plan some extra time to explore downtown Cincinnati and do a bit of venue-hopping. Last year they closed down portions of the streets to set up art fairs, food vendors and exhibits. As for can’t-miss shows, my day-by-day choices would be Washington Park (Andrew Bird, Here We Go Magic) and Cincinnati Club (Henry Clay People, Shark?) for Thursday, Washington Park (Grizzly Bear, Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and Below Zero Lounge (PUJOL, Motel Beds) for Friday, and either Emery Theater (Ralph Stanley) or Grammer’s Dewey’s Pizza (Walkmen, Woods) for Sunday.
Justin Townes Earl
Bowling Green’s Starry Nights is organized by Cage the Elephant, the city’s greatest contribution to the world of rock. In this, its second year, the festival tightens up a bit and is essentially just a one-day event. Four out of five of the bands playing Friday are chosen through their local band or DJ competitions. Saturday things get serious with a bunch of great bands hand-picked by Cage the Elephant.
The big plus for the festival is since it’s a highly curated small affair, you can see just about every act you want. None of the bands overlap and they’re all worth watching. However, I should point out that skipping out on headliners Portugal. The Man and Cage the Elephant would be a poor, poor decision. While you’re there, I suggest catching Bowling Green’s next big thing, Sleeper Agent, and Indy’s Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s. If you’ve only got one day to dedicate to music on this weekend, this might be the best use of it.
R Stevie Moore
Lastly, Louisville’s Cropped Out festival provides a fun look at the weirder side of contemporary music. It’s full of acts that are famous to a small subsection of weirdos, but worthy of exploration by those who don’t know them yet. This year’s fest has pulled together a diverse lineup that’s united only by the fact that these aren’t acts you’ll be hearing on the radio any time soon. Notable names include rapper Lil B, anti-comedian Neil Hamburger, and lo-fi godfather R Stevie Moore.
This festival isn’t for everybody, but it’s going to be a godsend for those who love it.
(Photos by Matt Jordan)