Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood radiated with energy as the 10th annual Midpoint Music Festival hosted over 100 local and touring acts this past weekend. With 17 official stages and numerous unofficial events, the city experienced some amazing music and festivities over the 3-day occasion.

(above :: The Midpoint Midway, photo via

Among the shows also arose various non-musical events that added dimension to the festival. 12th Street between Vine & Walnut closed itself to traffic to welcome the Midpoint Midway. The strip provided local food vendors, a poster expo, the CAC singer/songwriter stage, and the Artworks Box Truck Carnival. With the addition of Midway this year, the transition from one venue to another became an experience in itself.

(left & center images :: The poster expo featured work from numerous talented artists, such as OTR’s Southpaw Prints. These guys do some amazing work—check out their posters for Midpoint bands Mates of State, The Album Leaf, and more on their website)
(right :: OTR Design collective Losantiville‘s addition to the Box Truck Carnival was visible to all of 12th St. :: photos via Such & Such)

Midpoint also saw a new venue this year in the VitaminWaterRoom pop-up lounge in the Hanke Building at 12th & Main, which hosted a week-long series of events leading up to the festival. The building provided a historic shell as a backdrop to contemporary fixtures and large-scale graphics executed by local Cincinnati artists. While VitaminWater’s habitation was only temporary, it exhibited the potential of the space to become a permanent addition to the ever-growing Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. I’m keeping my hopes high for this place.

(above :: The VitaminWater Room at the Hank Building, photos via VitaminWater Uncapped Live on flickr)

And then…the music. While anyone could easily ramble for hours about the slew of acts who graced us with their musical presence, it’s probably best to leave the reviews to the music bloggers (although to mention a few favorites: The Dodos, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Deerhoof, and Man or Astro-Man?…as well as Cincinnati favorites The Dukes Are Dead, The Seedy Seeds, and The Zachary Burns Band, to only name a few). However, Saturday’s performance by Man or Astro-Man? (that’s not a typo…the question mark is part of their name) was particularly memorable for both the music and “out of this world” presentation. Sci-fi sound clips, B-movie video projections, the band’s astro-man personas, stage theatrics (a flaming Theremin and a Tesla coil, for example) came together to reinforce the band’s unique interpretation of surf rock.


While not everyone seemed to have previous knowledge of the band’s music (the buzz surrounding the show seemed to draw a large portion of the attendees), Man or Astro-man’s energetic stage performance inevitably turned the crowd into a bunch of groovin’, surf-rockin’, vitaminwater-drinkin’ fiends. As a designer who works in environmental branding, I can’t help but draw connections between the two. Just like the goal of any branded environment, Man or Astro-Man? managed to create a unique, multifaceted experience that connected to the crowd on multiple sensory levels. Their cohesive musical message, reinforced by visuals, immersed show-goers in the band’s own reality. Most importantly, the crowd bought it because the message was, in fact, truly genuine (as in, not this). While I’m not advocating that all musicians turn their shows into glamorous productions, I will go as far as to say that brand executives could learn a thing or two from punk rock culture.