Brite Winter celebrates unusual Cleveland winter warmth

February 26, 2016

Two years ago, attendees huddled around coveted space near the fire pits. Last year, the sidewalks and roads were covered in ice.

The weather during Brite Winter music festival is always a mixed bag: It’s never certain what the day’s temperature will be until the day arrives, and usually, it’s pretty cold. However, this year stood in stark contrast to every previous Brite Winter.

It was warm.

That is, it was warm for a late February day in Cleveland, Ohio. This year, the day-long festival stayed at a steady 60 degrees, although a late-night chill occurred after sunset.

The warm weather welcomed thousands of Clevelanders to the Flats West Bank for a day of music and art. Heated art tents, a new attraction this year, featured funk music and snowflakes, in addition to local pop-up shops at small booths.

Outside, hanging above the pedestrians, was a disco ball that shimmered across the dancing space below.

Brite Winter started as a music festival, and music remained central to the event. Throughout the day, local and national bands alike performed to the largest crowd Brite Winter has seen in its seven years of existence.

Nonaphoenix performs vibrant sunset show at Brite Winter main stage

Alt-rock band Nonaphoenix took the main stage at Brite Winter just as the stage lights replaced the last rays of sunlight, reflecting off singer Jakub Andrew’s floral shirt.

Although it was relatively early in the night, the crowd for Nonaphoenix lined up down the street in front of them, scattered and dancing in loose groups. From the stage, Andrew smiled at the audience.

“It’s difficult to replicate that sense of awe and excitement, yet Brite Winter effortlessly manages to do that year after year,” Andrew said the day after the festival. “We’re proud to call Cleveland home.”

Andrew said he was happy to be performing at Brite Winter at its scenic new location in the Flats West Bank. “A number of times during our set, I caught myself looking out at the bridges and Cleveland skyline with a goofy grin,” he said. “That feeling of being surrounded by thousands of folks all enjoying the same moment—amazing.”

Nonaphoenix played a cover of U2’s “With Or Without You” in addition to original content off of their 2015 album “Alive / Alive.” During their set, a line of Brite Winter staff members hustled towards the back of the audience carrying trash cans.

Despite those few last-minute tasks by the staff during Nonaphoenix’s set, their show didn’t feel rushed. As the sun put a golden hue to the wall behind the stage, the lyrics to the band’s song “Alive / Alive” flowed out from speakers: “My eyes are wide and hoping / I can feel it in my bones / I am alive / I am golden.”

Maura Rogers & The Bellows play family-friendly show at Music Box Supper Club

When Maura Rogers & The Bellows performed at the Music Box Supper Club, their crowd consisted of packed-in older adults seated in the back with drinks in hand, and a sparse group of their children seated on the floor in front of the stage.

Hours later, this same floor would be crowded with dancing feet during loud concerts, but during their show, the folky, soft music drifted through the dark room. The kids bounced around on wobbly feet in time to the music, or sat attentively to stare at the band.

“It was our first time playing Brite Winter and I was in awe of the  number of people and families celebrating the festival,” said singer Maura Rogers. “There was a definite magic in the air; the mix of warm weather, live music and love for Cleveland made it one of the most memorable festival experiences we’ve had as a band.”


Anne Nickoloff

Nick D’ & the Believers break out gold outfits

“We pretty highly value entertainment in a show,” says Nick D’Andrea, the singer of Nick D’ & the Believers. “We definitely like to make it a communal type of experience. We try to get everyone involved.”

For his band, it starts with the clothes. The entire band matched with gold outfits, whether it was D’Andrea’s gold jacket or drummer Joseph Barker’s gold shirt.  D’Andrea himself was energetic on stage, shredding his portable keyboard as though it was a guitar. At one point, a band member jumped into the audience to hype everyone up, dancing with different groups of people.

“If we were to go onstage with street clothes, it wouldn’t feel like anything was changing,” said guitarist Kerry Henderson. “We really let it rip.”

Nick D’ & the Believers played their most well-known track, “Wanted,” and noted that it will appear in an episode of “Pretty Little Liars.” In the past few years, they’ve grown as a band, but still returned to perform at Brite Winter, returning the favor for a fanbase that continued from a show two years ago. “We put in a lot of work the past couple years to play bigger and bigger shows,” D’Andrea said.

“In Cleveland, it’s probably the only city where you can have that kind of fest,” Henderson said.

Marcus Alan Ward blends hip hop, indie music in concert

Local alternative act Marcus Alan Ward performed at a small stage at Brite Winter for a crowd that gathered after the sunset.

A chilly breeze blew through the audience. Ward asked everyone to start a slow clap to warm their hands up before he started performing. Unfortunately, the building clapping led to mumbling as it took another 10 minutes before sound engineers and the drummer solved technical problems.

Ward and his backing band launched into their eclectic mix of hip-hop, electronic and indie music, exemplified by their performance of their synth-heavy song “Dog Days.” At times, Ward strummed wildly at a guitar; other times, he tapped at a synth. “Performing and making magic with my fellow Clevelanders at Brite Winter was amazing,” he said the day after the show. “Glad to be a part of an awesome event!”

During the show, his black, sequined jacket glimmered in blue stage lights. “Go Browns!” he yelled, smiling.

The audience laughed weakly. “We’re the best at streets though,” he said, then threw his arms up in the air in feigned victory. “Potholes!”

His joking was in good fun: Here at the West Bank of the Flats, the attendees weren’t commemorating a sports game or pushing for better streets. They were celebrating Cleveland’s ever-growing music scene.

Seafair channels their inner summer at winter show

Before Seafair officially started their set at Brite Winter music festival, singer Chayla Hope looked disappointed as members of the band carried a pair of inflatable palm trees off the stage. The staff of Brite Winter didn’t allow the large props to be used during their performance.

“We actually forgot to ask if it was okay to put up the palm trees and the confetti cannons, but it turns out we didn’t need props to have a party,” she said.

Despite their lack of beachy decorations, members of Seafair entered the stage while “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys played over the speakers. Their Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts seemed more appropriate than coats for the weather this year.

Before they started performing, Seafair band members threw bundles of vibrant plastic lei necklaces into the audience. Everyone within 20 feet of the stage put on one or two to get in the summer mood.

By then the crowd stretched down the entire street as the band played their most well-known material, including “Helm & Anchor” and “Ohio.” The crowd was a mix of people there to see Seafair’s set, and those arriving early for Brite Winter’s headlining act: California band The Mowgli’s.

The opening slot was rewarding after playing last year, when the band assembled at the last minute to perform for a band which was unable to show up due to a snowstorm.

“This is what we work so hard for every day,” Hope said after the show. “Things like this keep us going, and make us push even farther. We won’t be coming down from this for quite a while, and I know Brite Winter 2016 is a memory that will never fade.”


Anne Nickoloff

Cities & Coasts see packed crowd

Cities & Coasts took the stage at Music Box Supper Club at the same time national headliner The Mowgli’s strummed their first chords on the main stage outside.

That said, it would have been incorrect to think they’d have a small audience.

While most of Brite Winter’s attendees were at The Mowgli’s show, crowds still packed the Music Box for Cities & Coasts’ throwback 60’s feel; the line just to get into the building was out the door and down the parking lot, regulated by a security guard at the entrance.

Once inside at the Music Box Supper Club’s upstairs Concert Hall, the audience sat at tables or stood in front of the band, bobbing slowly to the tunes.

Cities & Coasts ambled through songs “Postcards from the Great Lakes” and “Summer Is Over,” as fans standing near the back wall whistled loudly. It felt like springtime already as their summery rock overtook the heated room.

Last year, Cities & Coasts performed to a packed-in audience in a venue that was too small to accommodate its fan base. Singer and guitarist Nathan Hedges voiced excitement about Brite Winter’s changes and movement forward this year, but was even more excited about concertgoers’ excitement.

“The best part for me is how far Cleveland has come as a community that supports music and art,” said Hedges. “We have all been playing music a long time in Cleveland and the energy that the people have right now embracing the scene and the city is amazing; we have never seen it before.”

Thaddeus Anna Greene break out heavy-hitting blues

Blues rock band Thaddeus Anna Greene played a long set at the Music Box Supper Club in front of an excited, throbbing crowd of dancing audience members. However their attitude on stage was relaxed and laid-back.

The band has performed at Brite Winter several times in the past, so they knew what to expect from the winter festival. Still, that doesn’t mean they didn’t put on an engaging concert.

Drummer Anthony Foti went nuts at the drums with complex patterns, while whipping his hair around wildly. Singer TJ Maclin praised Foti at points by bowing down to him, astonished at his skill.

“It’s always nice getting to play in front of some new faces, and knowing that you made a connection or an impact on them,” said Foti. “We’ve played a ton of shows, but this one was especially refreshing for us.”

Thaddeus Anna Greene knew how to entertain the crowd even while they weren’t playing a song. At one point, Maclin had to tune his guitar, and asked bassist Matt DeRubertis to play a bass riff. Maclin said, under his breath,  “Sexy time! Sexy time!” in response to the sleek tune.

Each song Thaddeus Anna Greene performed was stretched out with additional solos and jam sessions. When they were ready to leave the stage, they took pictures with audience members and gave high fives, connecting with their fans.


Anne Nickoloff

The Mowgli’s headline Brite Winter 2016

The Mowgli’s are on a self-declared mission to change the world by spreading kindness and love, and listeners won’t forget it after taking part in the pure fun of their dynamic concerts. On Feb. 20, as the headliners of Cleveland’s free Brite Winter festival, The Mowgli’s had the privilege of playing to presumably the biggest crowd of the day. The seven-piece group kicked off their set with the infectious and popular “Say It, Just Say It,” as crowd members downed their beers to dance and sing along.

Although the night was getting chilly, the Southern Californians embraced the relatively warm Cleveland weather with songs like “Summertime” and “Whatever Forever.” The band connected with the crowd despite it numbering in the thousands: The Mowgli’s friendly banter and individual audience interactions permeated the set, as lead singer Colin Louis Dieden held homemade signs and even gave one hyped fan a lighter after seeing his burn out.

Of note was vocalist Katie Jayne Earl’s comment that in all their years performing, the group had never had their name projected on a silo beforethe bright light displays in the Flats West Bank neighborhood featured the Mowgli’s name.

The Mowgli’s set mostly featured songs from 2013’s “Waiting for the Dawn” and their latest release, 2015’s “Kids in Love,” though at one point the group broke into an unconventional 4 Non Blondes and Bruno Mars mashup of “What’s Up” and ”Marry You.” The Mowgli’s finished the set with their most well-known jam, “San Francisco,” and an encore featuring “Leave It Up to Me.”

The Mowgli’s will embark on a national tour in April supported by up-and-coming group The Rebel Light and singer Julia Nunes.

Honeybucket performs late-night bluegrass to finish Brite Winter

It was after midnight when Honeybucket took the stage for the latest concert at Brite Winter 2016. A large crowd filled the Music Box Supper Club, and bobbed to their unique bluegrass songs.

Before their show, members of Honeybucket explored the festival grounds during the day, watching Seafair and By Light We Loom, and enjoying the wide selection of food, which included Barrio tacos, Brewnuts donuts, Swenson’s burgers and grilled cheese.

They started their show with a folky cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” and flowed into more edgy bluegrass tunes like “Honey For My Baby.” At the beginning of their set, Honeybucket enjoyed a packed audience, but not so packed that people weren’t able to get into the venue. This was in contrast to some of their past Brite Winter shows, which were so full that many fans were turned away.

However, the band stayed at Music Box to party with dedicated fans until 2 a.m., when the restaurant kicked them out. Cleanup went quickly, as opposed to the more extensive cleaning that happened outside in the main festival area.

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