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City of Blinding Lights

City of Blinding Lights

Gennifer Harding-Gosnell

Dance music has long stayed under the radar in Cleveland, a music city built heavily on classic rock and R&B. But as Cleveland’s tourism industry continues growing and younger generations and hip empty nesters continue moving into rejuvenated urban areas downtown, dance music culture is earning more attention and drawing larger, more diverse crowds than ever.     

‘Radiate’ is an indoor music festival and multi-faceted light show that seeks to draw the fun and unique among us to the Agora for a final send-off to the dark hours of winter and last bit of “light therapy.” The event runs from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday, March 9.

“We have one room that’s all DJs and one room that’s all bands,” explains Shaun Malone, the president and operations manager of Cumulus Entertainment, which is putting on the event. “We do our best to have a very eclectic mix of music.”

The massive black-light party taking over the main ballroom is the main visual prop, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own glow-in-the-dark materials. Elaborately-costumed performers known as “flow artists” will be out in the event rooms. These individuals will use a wide range of illuminated tools way more sophisticated than just glo-sticks and flags to create images with light through movement. Face and body painting gets taken to a whole new level with airbrush experts spraying artwork and designs on attendees’ skin. The audience tends to get quite clever with their outfits. For people-watchers, it’s endless stimulation.

“We book a pretty wide range of artists that all tend to attract their own unique crowds,” Malone says. “People at our shows are very open-minded, welcoming, and are typically far more concerned about having a good time or conversation than anything else. That leaves a lot of room for diversity, which is exactly what we hope to see.”

This year’s event will include trap artists Botnek and LOUDPVCK, Canadian EDM star ill.GATES, and multi-instrumentalist Kill Paris. Local and regional DJs and bands are all over the line up as well.   

Though the music and crowd vary, dance music is the prevailing soundtrack of the event. “We’re very lucky to have such a strong grassroots dance culture here in Cleveland,” Malone says. “From warehouse parties to Jacobs Pavilion, there is almost always something going on, and often multiple events to choose from on the same night.”

Malone credits the current camaraderie between different musical genres for keeping the whole Cleveland music scene alive and says we should be cultivating those relationships even more. “I think if we all made a point to support local independent musicians, artists, and promoters who operate in a credible manner, whether or not their musical taste aligns with ours, we will quickly see an even more prosperous community of independent and alternative lifestyles grow around us.”

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