music festival turns 10, bringing about 40 bands to five indoor and outdoor stages. Taking place Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight on the West Bank of the Flats, the event also includes food vendors, warming tents, ice carving presentations and even fire dancers.
The annual winter music and arts festival began back in the Flats near what is now Merwin's Wharf. Organizers had to learn a few hard lessons — the event took place in the midst of a blizzard in year one — before they were able to turn into the well-oiled machine it has become.
For the next four years, Brite Winter took place in Ohio City before moving in 2016 to its current location, where it's been hugely successful.
Admission is free, but Brite Winter also offers VIP packages
which include enhanced viewing near the outdoor stages, heated tent access, private restroom trailers and refreshments and snacks (but no free booze). As weather for the event has been anywhere from 8 degrees to nearly 70, please dress accordingly for the mostly-outdoor festival.
There are a slew of local favorites on the lineup, and here are a few bands worth checking out at this year's event.
Who Hit Me
CLE Clothing Co. Stage
Who Hit Me isn't a question but rather a statement. This is a four-piece alt-rock act that's prepared to hit you, and everyone else in the vicinity, hard with its in-your-face tunes. Playing in and around Cleveland for nearing five years, the four-piece group's last serious release came in late 2017, with the catchy, rockin' single "All I Wanna Be” and its coinciding music video (complete with a bald eagle-masked star). The crew is more than overdue to release a new album with which to better assault listeners' earholes. (Laura Morrison)
Ottawa, a Cleveland-based group that formed after the dissolution of another local band, the Royaltons, may claim to be “more Manchester than Midwest,” but their Northwest Ohio influences are clear in their earnest tracks. Their latest single “Friends” was released last year and is a bleak take on a codependent relationship. “We’re better off dead than being friends,” croons lead singer Dale DeLong, backed by glossy guitar and drums. It's the type of nostalgic despair coupled with edgy chords that has become their specialty. They recorded new music in Tennessee early this year so keep an eye out for some new tracks. (Preeya Shankar)
Mourning [A] BLKstar
A local self-described DIY Afrofuturist soul group that's received some national attention and widespread critical acclaim, Mourning [A] BLKstar first performed publicly at a memorial service for a friend of the band who was murdered. The band has been going strong ever since and recently released a powerful collection of tunes about police brutality and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The band has also just announced that another new set of songs will come out in April. (Jeff Niesel)
The K&D Group Stage Under the Bridge
Homegrown in Akron in 2014, the indie quartet Ledges came to prominence in 2017 with the release of their first album Homecoming
. By combining synth instrumentation with a light indie sound, the band possesses an engrossing ability to tell stories through song. Its most recent single, “Geometry,” hones in all the emotion of its indie roots. This weekend's Brite Winter performance is just the start of planned shows for the spring and summer months throughout Ohio and surrounding states. (Alana Whelan)
Me Like Bees
Since forming in Joplin, Missouri, in 2013, the four men of Me Like Bees have become a formidable group, touring and releasing new music frequently, including a stint at Vans Warped Tour (RIP), and opening for Never Shout Never. Their 2018 EP Songs From the Realm
perfectly encapsulates their rock style with heavy guitar layered over synth, and lyrics that range from angry to melancholia. Brite Winter will be their third stop on their current six-stop tour. (Shankar)
It's easy to write off Smallpools as just another synth-heavy alternative crew out of Los Angeles. But their fresh EP So Social
offers up quite a few curve balls. The three-piece may be writing for the bright young things of Coachella, but it's also not afraid to let a song breathe and weave through beautiful harmonies and orchestration. Also surprising are lyrics that involve actually saying no to drugs/parties in order to follow one's passions. The group's biggest hit to date, "Dreaming," which currently sits at 50 million on Spotify and was remixed by the Chainsmokers, is sure to bring down the house during its headlining Brite Winter set this weekend. (Laura Morrison)
Cleveland Clothing Stage
Created in Texas out of the musical passion of lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Boles, No Alarms is defined by its electric alt-pop and new wave sound. The now Detroit-based group is five musicians strong, and released their debut EP of the same name last March. The band has received many accolades over the last few years, including the appearance of its single, “Right is What’s Left” on ABC’s Kevin Probably Saves the World
. Recently, they dropped a new fast-paced single, “Marble Bars,” which ties dynamic vocals together with inventive guitar parts. (Alana Whelan)
Check out all the photos from last year's event right here.