Biting wind and cold temperatures didn’t keep people from venturing to Cleveland’s West Side last Saturday, Feb. 15, as the fifth annual Brite Winter Fest drew a crowd of thousands throughout the afternoon and evening.
Brite Winter, according to its Facebook page, is a wintertime “artist showcase and community celebration of fire, arts, music, games and snow.” As promised, all of these things were found along the intersection of West 25th and Lorain Avenue. Local businesses boomed. TownHall, a restaurant and bar, was so packed that customers had to fight their way through a mob of people just to get to the bathroom. Near the outside stages, steam rose off the boots of countless people trying to thaw their feet by fire pits. A hodge-podge of lamps, neon signs and nightlights brought by spectators formed the Great Wall of Light, a spot just begging for selfies. DonutLab, a mobile mini-kitchen, served freshly fried, sugary dough via conveyor belt. Cups of Great Lakes beer littered every surface imaginable. There was even a live-action game of Angry Birds.
Most of the crowd at Brite Winter was there for the music, and with 78 different artists performing on 10 stages scattered through the festival, it wasn’t difficult to see why. “This is my first year performing,” said Jenna Fournier, lead vocalist of Nights, a Cleveland indie-pop act that calls Ohio City home. Nights is preparing to tour Japan in April, where they have amassed a large popular following. Why the big Japanese following? “I have no idea,” Fournier said with a slight smile. She appeared as a solo act, accompanied only by her white Epiphone guitar. Her dainty falsetto and shimmery strumming enchanted a small audience in the Market Avenue Wine Bar.
Envoi was another first time performer at Brite this year, and filled Joy Machine Bike Shop with their rousing brand of Paramore-style pop-punk. Suspended bikes and tires adorned the crowded shop as the group launched into their final song, “What Happened in Wyoming.” Maddie Finn and Steve Perrino, Envoi’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist respectively, shared vocals as the crowd bobbed along.
Not all of the groups who performed this year had the good fortune of doing so inside. One of these groups, local favorites The Lighthouse and the Whaler, performed coatless, rubbing their hands together for warmth. The cold had a noticeable effect on the band’s instruments. Even with constant tuning almost all of their songs, including “This Is An Adventure,” were slightly flat.
Frigid or not, the crowds that swarmed Ohio City last Saturday were treated to a lively variety of local food, music and art. And for once, no one complained about Cleveland’s weather.