brite winter is bigger & brighter than ever with 60-band lineup

Frozen grey January in Cleveland is the season where it’s easy to feel like the city has slipped into hibernation. But if you can’t change it, then embrace it. That’s the mantra of Brite Winter Festival, at least.

Bundle up, hold a beer in your mitten and it’s really not so bad. Brite Winter is dedicated to embracing the winter season with 60 bands and a strong focus on local music. The fest will take place on Saturday, Feb. 21st beginning at 4 p.m. on eight stages throughout Ohio City, two of which are outdoors. It will also feature outdoor art installations.

Headliners include Chicago-based Maps & Atlases, Baltimore’s Sun Club and Cleveland’s Welshy Arms. The diverse lineup also includes acoustic lyricism by Philadelphia’s Roses (new project by Matt Scheuermann of American War), dancable Cleveland pop band Sammy Slims, hip hop acts Muamin Collective and Archie Green, indie rock band The Modern Electric, garage rock band Banging Fragiles, and Uno Lady, known for her beautiful and eccentric vocal loops.

“I think we need to give music fans and participants a little bit more credit because most music fans listen to more than one type of music,” says Justin Markert, Brite program director.

The focus of this year’s lineup was to stay true to the festival’s character by highlighting and talent of Cleveland’s music community and to expand its musical diversity.

“Obviously there is tons of musical talent in Cleveland and tons of small pockets of talent. It’s good to pull together bands that haven’t necessarily played together,” says Markert.

Markert owns record label/online magazine Cellar Door Cleveland and has a long history of booking bands, promoting and evangelizing local music. Last year’s event attracted over 20,000 people and he is excited that the event will also serve as an introduction to the local music community.

“Brite Winter is an escape from the winter blues and it’s a free way to take a look at tons and tons of local musicians and artists. You can digest a lot in a small amount of time and truly get an idea of the arts community,” says Markert.

Emily Hornack, a speech pathologist for MetroHealth and her friend Jimmy Harris, a biomedical engineer, founded Brite Winter six years ago while attending Case Western for grad school together.

“We had noticed that the time between New Year's and St. Patrick's Day was sort of dead on the cultural calendar.  People stay inside and hibernate, barely tolerating our long winter,” Hornack says. “We were inspired by the amazing art and music scene in this area, which is alive and well year round, and we were also inspired by other northern cities, who manage to celebrate their four seasons, including winter.” 

The first year, Brite Winter took place at Hart Crane Memorial Park with three bands and 800 attendees. With the help of previous program manager Thomas Fox, the music lineup expanded to over 60 bands in the years that followed.

Currently, the festival has gained nonprofit status that has allowed more people than ever before to get involved with this year’s Brite. The festival has received funding from Art Works, National Endowment For The Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts & Cuture and many others.

“Get a program. Mark down what you like, and check it out online so you can see those artists and musicians another time,” Hornack recommends. “Grab a coffee or beer, stand by the bonfire, and talk to random people. Clevelanders are notoriously friendly. We hope that first time attendees come away with a new view of winter, a couple new friends, and an arsenal of bands and artists to enjoy year round.”

The schedule will be posted closer to the date of the festival. For more details and exclusive interviews with the bands visit the Brite website.

Jacqueline Bon
Jacqueline Bon

About the Author: Jacqueline Bon

Jacqueline Bon is a freelance writer that has been contributing to Fresh Water Cleveland since 2014. As a journalist by trade and self-taught photographer, she has a lot of curiosity in people and their stories. She is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and has pursued film and digital photography for a decade. She is likely to be the first person on the dance floor, especially if you put on Prince.