The thick, grey clouds that spell out winter hung in the western skies over the lake shore as the festival got under way around 5pm Friday. A hundred or so brave souls huddled together under tent walls and made the most of the coffee and alcohol offerings to keep warm. The largest crowd was in the VIP tent, around thirty people enjoying Brian McCoy with his hand-cranked electronic guitar and it’s ethereal sounds with the wind-whipped tent walls snapping as a rhythmic backdrop.
Despite the cold and only about ten people withstanding the wind to watch, local piano-popper Tim Moon and his band provided an energetic warm-up to the weekend’s festivities that would have certainly electrified an audience had it been there. The bouncy rhythms and catchy, off-beat verse melodies, a combination of a happy Ben Folds and the mature Justin Timberlake, would have been a stage-rocker if not for the weather, which the band made sure to make light of and quip about during song breaks.
By the night’s peak, about 400 Clevelanders in winter gear had made it down to Voinovich Park. Many of the technological exhibits (short films with social messages, visual arts created with program codes, the stuff Ingenuity is known for) are enclosed in roll-off industrial shipping containers and can be observed without also having to endure the outdoor elements despite being not very inviting. There were a large amount of digital projections, most of which did a great job of embracing the container spaces. Eclectic warm food choices, from the standard fair food funnel cakes to street-food paninis (tried the short rub beef braised in red wine with havarti cheese and brandied fig jam), helped ease our insides through the winter-like winds. A few craft beers never hurts, too.
Saturday’s turnout wasn’t much better as the harsh weather continued, but areas that were protected from the weather stayed packed. DJs rocked tracks from inside a portable igloo-shaped contraption and the crowds picked up a little later in the night thanks to the break in the rain.
Cleveland’s long-standing art/tech festival almost never fails to impress, though the challenges of what weather in October can bring to the city certainly played it’s role in the lackluster presence this year. As we often do in Cleveland, let’s turn our attention to creating bigger and better next year.