Cleveland’s Brite Winter outdoor music festival returns to the Flats

For 12 years, brit winter brought music, creativity and entertainment to Cleveland to mark the end of winter and the onset of spring.

After taking a year off from in-person programming in 2021, the festival returns to the West Bank of the Flats on Saturday.

In a good year, Brite Winter draws around 12,000 attendees, despite chilly temperatures.

For the first time, tickets will be required for this year’s event to compensate participating artists and alleviate some of the financial burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event will also take place entirely outdoors with warm-up stations and fire pits dotted throughout.

Attendees can expect four stages, 30 musical acts, food vendors and art workshops set up throughout the event.

Brite Winter co-founder Emily Hornack said the goal was to create a complete experience for the community.

“Especially in the winter, it’s necessary,” said Hornack. “To focus not just on putting on a band, but what does it look like? What does it do? What does it taste like? What kind of food and drink do you have available? What does it smell like? Because we have bonfires and that kind of thing.

Planning winter programming in Cleveland

The annual Brite Winter festival has gone virtual in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event returns this year with 30 musical acts, art installations, food and drink vendors and more.

Brite Winter began in 2010 when Hornack and his friends attended Case Western Reserve University as graduate students.

They noticed a lack of winter programming in Cleveland and wanted to create a festival during the often quiet time of year.

“At one point, [I] I thought we were just going to have a band in my backyard in February and that would be it,” Hornack said. “But we ended up bringing in 600 to 800 people for our very first festival in the Flats. At that time, we thought: “This idea has feet and people liked it”. Let’s do it again.'”

Brite Winter has not only increased its attendance over the years, but also the way the festival identifies itself through visual arts and other programs.

A board of directors, staff, music liaisons, committee members, volunteers and music critics help plan and run the festival.

The team partnered with Cleveland Ingenuity to animate art workshops this year and to work with several food trucks, Beer Co platform. and Tito’s Vodka to provide food and drink for the event.

When it comes to music, the performance range selection is very specific and competitive.

Three years ago, the team at Brite Winter decided to hire musicians to help recruit new talent to play the event.

“It’s not just one person or a small group of people, it’s actually a group of 50 people who listen to and rate each group that applies to Brite, which is about 400 groups every year,” Hornack said. “

Recruiters are looking for artists from all genres and regions and are specifically looking for musicians who can perform on the go.

Although there are repeated names in the lineup, no artist or group performs more than three years in a row.

Hornack said they wanted to donate “new to us” bands this year, including a national touring band Colony House from Nashville, which will headline this year’s festival.


In 2020, the Brite Winter Festival featured over 40 bands on indoor and outdoor stages at The Flats. Akron’s Take off Charlie performed at the event, which took place just before the widespread shutdowns at the start of the pandemic.

The groups prepare to go on stage

One band returning to the Brite Winter scene is The Buffalo Rydersa three-piece rock band from Akron, which formed in 2009.

The band performed at Brite Winter in February 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced show closures and cancellations across the performing arts industries and beyond.

“We were one of the last events to happen before the pandemic hit, and one of the first to come out of this last wave, and hopefully one of the last waves of this pandemic,” said Hornack.

Buffalo Ryders played nearly 50 shows from May to December last year and will mark Brite Winter as their first gig of 2022.

“It could be a nice release for people and a nice way to get back to our old ways, to that thing that we all love.”

Kevin McManus

During the pandemic, the band released their album, “Where do the liars goand recruits a new bassist, Kevin McManus.

McManus has played with other bands throughout northeast Ohio, including The Outside Voices and Nick Wilkinson and featured players.

“I was in a band that went out [the pandemic] in a not-so-great place on the other side,” McManus said. “The Buffalo Ryders came into the pandemic with a totally different look and staff and came out of it with me.”

McManus joined the band after playing Brite Winter 2020, so this will be his first year attending and playing the Cleveland festival.

“It could be a nice exit for people and a nice way to get back to our old ways, to that thing that we all love,” he said.

He said they’ve been “lucky” during the pandemic because they’ve stayed active not just writing and recording songs, but also performing as much as they can.

The Buffalo Ryders

The Buffalo Ryders perform at Stage in the Lot at 7:50 p.m. Saturday. The 2022 festival marks the band’s second time playing Brite Winter.

“We happened to be playing the night the state lifted the mask mandate. And the moment we released ‘Where the Liars Go’ in July 2021, that’s when we felt like our little corner of the world had come back,” McManus said. “It was quite moving to see and have people in a room listening to music and having fun again.”

McManus said he and bandmates Joe Risdon and Mike Lupica have recorded new material and plan to debut unreleased songs at Brite Winter.

These new songs were recorded when COVID cases started to climb again in late 2021. McManus said the pandemic had changed the local music scene a lot.

“I think every artist, every band, had some sort of altered experience because of that,” he said. “I don’t know of any band that came out of it in exactly the same way and said ‘business as usual’.”

Experience music in person

Brite Winter went virtual in 2021, hosting all four parts”TwiBrite area» streaming series.

Each episode included performances by local musical artists and filmed vignettes that paid homage to “The Twilight Zone”.

Hornack said they were able to stretch their legs creatively after taking a year off from the large-scale in-person festival.

But returning to the Flats this year is exciting for artists who have been through a lot of bumps, she said.

“Over the past two years, it’s really shown me how much we miss those experiences as humans,” Hornack said. “You’re all listening and shaking your head to the same music at the same time. You stand next to strangers around a bonfire and just talk about the weather or whatever.

Some adjustments have been made to the in-person gathering this year as organizers and performers shift gears during the pandemic. One indoor stage was replaced with four outdoor stages, and some regular indoor performance spots were removed from the schedule. The festival art tents will be replaced with interactive art exhibits throughout the event.

While the headlining group, Colony House, is based in Tennessee, the rest of the artists are local and regional, spanning genres and performance styles.

The full range of performance

Brite Winter’s live music will begin at 3 p.m. and the festival will continue until midnight.

Bands will perform simultaneously on all stages throughout the event.

The full music lineup is below.

3 p.m. School of Rock Headliners – The scene under the bridge

3:20 p.m. Liz Bullock – Port oil stadium

3:50 p.m. Brazilian band Moises Borges – Stage on Elm Avenue

3:50 p.m. Angela Perley – The Scene in the Lot

4:20 p.m. Ben Gage Band – The scene under the bridge

4:20 p.m. Exchange meeting – Port oil stadium

4:50 p.m. taylor lamborn – Stage on Elm Avenue

4:50 p.m. The Super Babes – The Scene in the Lot

5:20 p.m. Crazy8TheGreat – The scene under the bridge

5:20 p.m. The whiskey daredevils – Port oil stadium

5:50 p.m. grumpy plum – Stage on Elm Avenue

5:50 p.m. Indre – The Scene in the Lot

6:20 p.m. Free Black! – The scene under the bridge

6:20 p.m. Hallie – Port oil stadium

6:50 p.m. Louis Parker – Stage on Elm Avenue

6:50 p.m. Corry Michaels – The Scene in the Lot

7:20 p.m. The cordial sins – The scene under the bridge

7:20 p.m. who saved who – Port oil stadium

7:50 p.m. Chanelle Kazadi – Stage on Elm Avenue

7:50 p.m. The Buffalo Ryders – The Scene in the Lot

8:20 p.m. Roses – The scene under the bridge

8:20 p.m. Wave Magnetik and Rowanne Atallah – Port oil stadium

8:50 p.m. Oregon Space Trail of Doom – Stage on Elm Avenue

8:50 p.m. Lilieae – The Scene in the Lot

9:20 p.m. Okra dance party – The scene under the bridge

9:20 p.m. R The Tsar – Port oil stadium

9:50 p.m. King Buu – The Scene in the Lot

10 p.m. Colony House – Stage on Elm Avenue

10:20 p.m. Heart & Lung – Port oil stadium

10:50 p.m. MC Tae – The Scene in the Lot

Brite Winter tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at EventBrite.

Gerald R. Schneider