There are almost 400,000 people in Cleveland proper, and though I’m sure the crowd wasn’t THAT high, citizens of The Land showed up large and fast for the 2017 Brite Winter Fest on the West Bank of The Flats Saturday, many thanks in part to Ohio’s gorgeous temperatures.
Photography by Mark Krzysiak
Though Brite prides itself on being a break-up from the typical blahs of winter, this year’s festival took on a whole new atmosphere with the entrance of the sun and 60-plus temperatures. Areas of the festival designed for battling winter (tents, hot cocoa and s’more stands, fire pits) were less populated, though the main drag where the outdoor stages and artwork are on display were filled with so many people, it was often work just to walk down the roads.
The performing bands and outdoor art exhibits held the spotlight during the earlier, warmer hours as most of the crowd was content to stay outdoors, even one poor girl on crutches who braved the uneven turf to get a selfie with the giant #ThisIsCLE script sign.
Justin Carson, co-owner and –founder of Platform Brewery Co., told PressureLife he was thrilled to be a part of Brite, and was “stunned by this perfect weather.” Platform brought several different brews to serve the Brite crowd, including a new brew specially made for Brite Winter, the Fluri Tips Pale Ale, made with blue spruce tips from Colorado that give it a crisp, wintery aroma. Reviews of the brew on the Untappd app were overwhelmingly favourable.
Local indie-rock trio Bro Dylan opened the McCarthy’s Stage to a mostly-full house with a smattering of regular fans dancing and singing along at stage front. The band rolled through songs from their latest album, Crisis, revealing to new fans music that is far more crisp and clean than the gritty, fuzzy sound Ohio’s indie rock scene has become known for.
Multi-instrumentalist Istvan Medgyesi, who’s sound can range from old country & western to psychedelic rock, offered a summery musical backdrop to match Cleveland’s temperatures, maintaining the Ports Petroleum Stage at the Music Box Supper Club for the entire early evening.
Brite Winter revelers’ unwritten m.o. – families, artists and die-hard Brite-fans show up earlier in the day, with the families being switched out as the sun goes down with harder-partying hipsters, flamboyantly-fun artsy types, and lots of drunken bros. This year was no exception, though the sunny weather mixed many of these folks together earlier in the day than usual, and all with good spirits.
Though known mostly for its music and art, Brite Winter could easily be known as Cleveland’s own Light Festival. Even on a beautiful-weather-day like Saturday, the sun sets by 6 p.m. here and the illumination becomes not just art but necessity. Designers and artists contributing to Brite find ways to incorporate art into light; this year’s displays included a giant disco ball hung in the absolute centre of the festival space at Main and Elm Aves., bridge foundations and building facades became projector screens, tents and indoor spaces became full-on light shows. The surrounding area was in on the fun, with buildings from the Essroc Cement towers on the West Bank to Terminal Tower in Public Square displaying bold, Brite colours.
Not to be outdone, the outdoor stages boldly illuminated our local rock stars with light reaching up the driving lanes on the Main Avenue Bridge above them. The aptly-titled Stage Under The Bridge stayed heavily-populated all day, featuring headlining bands Signals Midwest and final act, The Modern Electric. Regular fans of The Modern Electric took to the front of the large stage and sang along. The majority of the audience not in the know with the band’s music let out a shout of recognition when the band launched into their song “Prowess is Power” via the solo bass-line of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. New and old fans alike called for an encore for which the band happily obliged.
Brite Winter’s themed tents change in context from exhibition areas for art vendors by day to DJ dance party by night. As the temperatures and outdoor stages tuned down, revelers moved in to the enclosed, heated tent areas to finish out the night. The Frozen Fiesta Tent featured the works and music of Latin artists, including an art installment of Frida Kahlo’s bed. The Luminous Winter Luau Tent featured a floor entirely covered in sand, various beach-style seats including inner tubes, and a fantastically-designed island stage complete with lit volcano and world music.
Despite the unusual weather’s attempt to make Cleveland winters look like some kind of fallacy, Brite did its job providing our city the opportunity to fend off the winter blues. When the next dump of snow and blistering winds take hold in the CLE, all of us who were there can recall what this day was like and be grateful for it – keep looking on the Brite side.