Tuesday, September 17, 2002

MidPoint puts music out front

        Well, here's something you see about once every three centuries in Cincinnati: A first-year event outgrows its venue before it even happens.

        That would be the Sept. 26-28 MidPoint Music Festival, brainchild of attorney Sean Rhiney and entrepreneur Bill Donabedian. It's an independent music festival designed to spotlight the local music scene, bring tons of Cincinnatians downtown and draw a national audience thanks to the inclusion of more than 100 out-of-town bands.

        “Originally it was to be all on Main Street. But we outgrew it months ago,” Rhiney says. “So now, it's 12 venues in Cincinnati, Newport and Covington.”

        Rhiney and Donabedian have been working on this puppy since January - but it took off bigtime early this summer when Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, came to town and talked about “brain drain” and how a city needs a vibrant, nighttime arts and music scene to attract hip young professionals to town.

        “That got the city involved in a big way,” Donabedian says. “Both (City Council members) John Cranley and Jim Tarbell signed on, and that helped us bridge the gap into the corporate world and the sponsors we needed. It really took off then.”

        And how. The festival has 150 artists from the United States, Canada and England performing. It now includes seminars for music types and three nights of music for people who like to hit the bar circuit.

        So why a music festival? Because, Donabedian says, “I love sports, even have Bengal season tickets, but sports aren't drawing new people to the city. As Florida said when he was here, you need other things to do that, and that's our arts scene.

        “Our "high' arts are already beyond belief, way beyond anything you'd expect in a city this size. But they can't go it alone. You need a nighttime music scene to do that.

        “And the funny thing is, we have it here. We have the quality out there playing in bars every weekend. What MidPoint hopes to do is let the million or so music lovers here who don't know about it find out about it.

        “Cincinnati right now is a Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 town. It's time to change our store hours.”

        Rhiney and Donabedian play together in Clabbergirl. In addition, Donabedian plays with the band Crosley and Rhiney with Pike 27. They know the scene here.

        You can see MidPoint in action all over the place: BarrelHouse, Cavern, Jefferson Hall, Kaldi's, Lab, Overflow, Plush and RBC in Cincinnati, Newport on the Levee, Southgate House and York Street Cafi in Newport, and Madison Theater in Covington. Three-day all-venue badges are $25; one-day all-venue badges are $10. Without a badge, it's $5 per venue, so the badge is a plenty good idea. More info: www.mpmf.com.

        E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/knip


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