Friday, May 27, 2011

Downtown Cincinnati: All About the Festivals

I'm feeling antsy hearing Eric and Neil talking about all the festivities about to happen.  I wonder if I need a new party hat?

      Cincinnati is known for its festivals – both in the city itself, in its suburbs, and in various communities in northern Kentucky.  Two biggies are coming up quickly.  

Taste of Cincinnati on Fifth Street
      The first is the 32nd Annual Taste of Cincinnati running May 28 – May 30.  It’s held on Fifth Street between Race and Broadway and, to be honest, it’s about moderate food and lots of beer.  The music’s pretty good, depending when you go, with dancer and singer Mark Ballas of Dancing with the Stars performing at 5:30 on Saturday.  The food adds up when you begin thinking about what you’ve just eaten for between $1 and $5.  Most of the restaurants are middlebrow, though locally owned.  P&G has become the sponsor with over 40 restaurants serving.  A lot of them are new to the scene, so if you haven't been there for a few years it won't seem like the same old same old.

      The second festival is the Cincy Fringe Fest.  This is in its 8th year and has been pretty much run by Know Theatre.  (This would be a great time to support Know Theatre for bringing this type of experimental performance to our city).  It runs at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and downtown from May 31 – June 12.  There are some great performances during this as well as interesting stuff and then things that shouldn’t be allowed in front of a paying audience, but somehow get on anyway.  A number of interesting performers are returning, though it also feels like a Fringe tour – some of the acts go from festival to festival so it doesn’t seem too attuned to the local talent.  And, honestly, the local talent has been the better to best in the past.  I will not, however, sit through one more coming-of-age-and-coming-out monologue because they’re pretty stale at this point.

      Hold the date for the weekend of September 22 – 24 for Midpoint Music Festival, the second largest in the nation after SXSW (South by Southwest in Austin).  There are always amazing musical groups – unsigned by major labels.  Last year, organizers decided to guarantee more attendance by going after some pretty legendary names.  Tom Tom Club was awesome, performing both their own songs and a couple of Talking Heads classics.  We also saw local country stalwarts Magnolia Mountain perform a beautiful set and Mojoflo from Columbus, who were like Parliament/Funkadelic crossed with Average White Band and led by the heir to Gladys Knight.  That set about blew the roof off.  Everyone can tell stories about the talent and what shoulda, coulda happened to them.
If you can't wait until September, MPMF presents emerging artists every Friday from June 3 - September 2 on Fountain Square.

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