The 8th annual Brite Winter music and art festival returns to the West Bank of the Flats this weekend, Saturday, February 18, from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Brite Winter is the brainchild of two CWRU grad students, Jimmy and Emily, both eager to embrace Cleveland’s often cruel winters. “They loved Cleveland summer,” says Brite Winter Executive Director Brain Horsburgh, “and they noticed a lack of exciting and engaging things to do in the winter, so they decided to throw a party.”
The party that started 8 years ago and welcomed nearly 800 visitors is now a full-on major Cleveland winter event, with over 20,000 attendees showing up to the 2016 show. “We’ve also grown in the number of local bands and artists we’re able to showcase,” says Horsburgh. “I’m proud to say as we’ve grown, we now pay all of our artists and bands, so we’ve been able to grow the budget to do that as well.”
This year’s artistic talent ranges from the Dayglo Experience featuring live painting and a dance area to Latino and Afro-Cuban art and music mash-ups. Cleveland’s dark winter days facilitate artistic expression with fire and light, which there will be plenty of at Brite Winter this year.
And since you can’t have any kind of Cleveland festival anymore without the inclusion of our ever-expanding food culture, edibles of all kinds will be available including food trucks from local favorites like Swensons, Slyman’s and Barrio, several warm-drink vendors, a S’more station, and of course, ice cream.
This year, 48 local bands and musical artists will share the spotlight between six separate outdoor stages and indoor venues. Local rapper Walker OG, (also of the Dorian Walker Experience) will headline the McCarthy’s Stage after attending Brite last year for the first time as a fan with friends. “We were so excited and thought the event was really dope,” says Walker. “We told one another we would love to be a part of it in the near future. And well, here we are closing the McCarthy’s stage this year.” Walker’s smooth, chill style will warm up the McCarthy’s crowd as the festival comes to an end.
Get to Brite Winter early to see The Punch Drunk Tagalongs on the Stage Under The Bridge at 4:25. Singer Alisha Stahnke’s versatile voice gives this grungy indie band an energy that ranges from punk to pop and everywhere in between. Stahnke is most looking forward to putting her songwriting skills on display at Brite Winter: “I really hope that people can hear and see the authenticity behind our music. I don’t just write and play these songs because they sound good. I write them because I have to. Music has been an emotional outlet for me since I was a youngster. I really hope that people can pick up on those emotions in my songs.”
The Tagalongs are looking forward to playing in the winter weather. They are energetic on stage, which Stahnke says will help keep them warm, but says, “Honestly, it wouldn’t be a winter festival in north east Ohio unless we had to bundle up!”
The shoegaze sound gets an uplift with Ex-Astronaut, who will play the DayGlo Experience At Mulberry’s Stage at 7:55. Elements of grunge-sounding highs and lows give them a unique sound that steers them clear of the stereotypical sound of either the grunge or shoegaze genres. Guitarist Pete Jennings once said in an interview, “We want the guitars to not sound like guitars.”
Jennings tells PressureLife about one of their signature songs, “Waves”: “This song best represents the different dimensions that comprise our sound. The verses are firmly rooted in our shoegaze and ambient sonic aesthetics, while the choruses feature heavier fuzzed out guitars with a healthy dose of reverb and phasing layered on top. Someone once told us we sound like the War on Drugs meets Nirvana. Our music has also been described as layered, textured, dreamy, and deafening.” Their album, No More Bad Dreams, was released last October and will be the main focus of their Brite Winter set.
Early indications are for a warmer day with temperatures in the 50s, obviously to be dropped a good ten degrees with the festival so close to the lake and later as the night hours creep in. Brite Winter staff encourage attendees to bundle up and make a donation to the festival to receive a Brite Winter official knit cap. There will be ten open-fire pits and over 10,000 feet of warming space inside the Artful Experience tents. Food and drink vendors, including the indoor venues, will have warm drinks for purchase. Most of the musical artists are playing less than an hour, keeping both the musicians and the crowds on the move.
Brite Winter is a free event, welcoming all Clevelanders to join in the fun. For more information including VIP options and a complete festival schedule, visit their website at britewinter.com.