10 Bands to Catch at the Brite Winter Festival

Concert Preview


Returning to the arts festival's roots, the upcoming iteration of Brite Winter, which takes place on 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, will move to the west bank of the Flats. The festival was based in Ohio City for the past four years, where its visual arts offerings and music lineups expanded each year. Brite organizers say that, simply put, they need more space. West 25th Street worked really well for the festival, they say — blending indoor and outdoor venues in a blossoming neighborhood — and the Flats location will allow them to stretch their creative legs that much more. The event will be located beneath the Main Avenue Bridge. Indoor venues will include McCarthy's Downtown, the Harbor Inn and Music Box Supper Club. Here’s a few bands we think you should check out. Check the Brite Winter website for a complete schedule.

Common Ave.
9:45 p.m. McCarthy’s Stage

Three producers who met in high school in Cleveland Heights, Common Ave. is a dynamic hip-hop group comprising Phrazes, Stoke and Jordan M. They’ve dropped a handful of releases over the years, including a really incredible album last year. If you’ve been seeking old-school, immersive hip-hop, you’re going to want to cue this up. The title track off Aurora Borealis is a real lounge-funk trip, as the guys spin inventive rhymes around a guitar-driven beat. It’s swanky stuff. And it’s smart, too: Common Ave. dishes up the sort of thinking man’s hip-hop that’s so hard to find in the mainstream these days. To those who dig — and those who check out CMMN’s set at Brite Winter, say — the reward is great. "We're not going down the normal hip-hop trail to get a deal and get a bunch of change," band manager Wallace Settles told us recently. "We want to enhance hip-hop. You don't have to listen to 107.9 FM and try to imitate what you hear there." (Eric Sandy)

8:30 p.m. McCarthy's Stage

It was Christmas night in 2014 when DJ Red-I (Brittany Benton) and Playne Jayne (Samantha Flowers) joined forces to form the hip-hop duo,FreshProduce. What originally began as a few impromptu ciphers soon became the full-length album, We Are FreshProduce. The album is a blend of thought-provoking lyrics paired with lush, soulful beats. In 2015, they released their first single, “More Like You" and they soon thereafter released a video for "The Stroll." Playne Jayne cites Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill as two of her earliest influences on her decision to become an emcee. "At 11 years old, I went to the Lauryn Hill Miseducation concert and it felt like Lauryn spoke directly to me," she says. "What she talked about made so much sense, she looked like me and was so talented. After the concert I got a T- shirt and a notebook and that's where I started as a MC." DJ Red-1 attributes her sound to the diverse genres of music she effortlessly spins on a regular basis. "Most of my experience comes from years of DJing and collecting different styles of music," she says. "I grew up listening to reggae, soul, jazz and hip-hop. The base of my production style comes from constantly blending these styles for the dance floor and making people move to the music." Last year, the ladies rocked stages at Grog Shop, Mahall's and the Bop Stop. This year, FreshProduce has plans to embark upon a 20-date European tour and release their second project, Duce. (Emanuel Wallace)

Archie Green
7:15 p.m. McCarthy’s Stage

Archie Green wants to resurrect old school class through rap. Modern rap, fixated on drugs, violence and sex, is not representative of the lives many of its fans lead, he says. Although the music would say otherwise, growing up in a nurturing family with the tools for success provided to you is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, it’s what Green calls “blessed” in the song “40 Acres” from 2013’s The Greatest Pretender. He challenges listeners to embrace the blessed lives they lead as testament to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who fought for equality. Raised in Chagrin Falls, Green started rapping at 13. He debuted as SoulKlap before owning his given name. Back in Cleveland after time away for school and music, Green has developed an entire brand around the idea of class built on respect, humility, education, self-confidence and, of course, dapper dress. His next project, The Black Pharaoh EP, drops on March 7. Archie Green brings the positivity that Cleveland needs. And did I mention that the beats beneath his pep talks are jam-worthy? (Bethany Kaufman)
10:30 p.m. Harbor Inn Stage

What do you get when you sprinkle a little Robert Plant sass on Bob Dylan’s throaty croon? Matt Sikon, the vocalist for Cleveland blues-rock outfit Jivviden. Getting their start at Negative Space Gallery open mic nights in 2012, the blues-rock band now appears on bills at the Beachland Tavern, Grog Shop and Happy Dog. It recently released Rough Brew Demos, an EP of six killer tracks which features Delta blues-inspired slide guitar on “Always Bleeding” and groove-inducing bass lines on “Love (at 70mph)” and “Dead on the Vine.” The tracks are early hints at a follow-up to the band’s first full-length, Slow Commotion, released in 2014. The band records in an old warehouse space, and the songs succumb to a billowing echo. Fans of Heartless Bastards and the Black Keys will approve, but don’t expect an exact replication of any existing group: Jivviden is a breed of its own. (Kaufman)

Istvan Medgyesi
8:10 p.m. Music Box Super Club

Just like his name, Istvan Medgyesi’s music evokes the sounds of distant lands. Even more impressive than his ability to play world instruments like the sitar is the wide range of sounds he can produce using nothing more than an acoustic guitar. On “The Lost Regions,” a track from his only release, Friendly Experiments, Medgyesi’s guitar becomes, for a moment, a didgeridoo. Medgyesi doesn’t simply revel in traditionalism: he’s intent on evolving these ancient sounds in light of modern trends. Just as George Harrison used effects to blur the lines between psychedelic rock and Indian music in the ’60s, Medgyesi pairs synths with a Tibetan singing bowl to create drone sounds that enhance his guitar playing. Aside from his experimental work, Medgyesi is also an expert singer-songwriter, performing heartfelt, poetic ballads like “I Knew This Girl” and “Close Your Eyes Katy.” Even those who aren’t fans of acoustic music should look twice at Medgyesi; his work has a forceful undercurrent even if its power doesn’t come from rock’s volume or speed. When not performing as a solo artist, he can be heard backing up local folk rock outfit Maura Rogers and the Bellows, another Brite Winter act. (Kaufman)

Nick D’ & the Believers
7:15 p.m. Covermymeds Stage

This Columbus-based band started last year after drummer Joseph Barker moved to Ohio from Minneapolis and worked with guitarist Kerry Henderson on a music video he was producing for singer-keyboardist Nick D'Andrea. In 2013, the group put out its first EP; things have slowly snowballed since and now the group is part of a burgeoning Columbus indie rock scene that includes acts such as Twenty One Pilots and the Floorwalkers. A song such as "Bang Bang" features falsetto vocals and percolating synthesizers, making it sound a bit like a cross between MGMT and Foster the People. Recently, TV programs such as Pretty Little Liars and Chasing Life have featured the band’s music. (Jeff Niesel)

Ohio Sky
9:15 p.m. The Stage Under the Bridge

Ohio Sky released The Big Distraction about a year ago, garnering some much-deserved acclaim in various corners of the Cleveland music community. It was, to our ears, one of the biggest releases of the year, and Ohio Sky held up the energy onstage for the next 12 months, which is where we find ourselves now. Their music is progressive songcraft, layered and heavy as all hell. “Slow Down Stay Alive,” the opening cut on the album, starts off as an ethereal, quieter number before exploding in every direction. From there, the musicians build dense patterns of melody. (The band had two guitarists in the past, but found that their shift to a one-guitar setup actually allowed them to open up their sound even more.) With singer-guitarist Vinny DiFranco belting emotional lyrics — absolutely soaring in tone, throughout the album — Ohio Sky is able to flip the typical prog-rock templates on their heads and inject some real personality into the already-enticingly complex music. (Sandy)

6:35 p.m. The Stage Under the Bridge

Garnering a nice rep for their high-energy shows around Cleveland, Ottawa has certainly given us plenty of reasons to look forward to their Brite Winter set. Toeing the line between the poppier edges of indie rock and the grittier side of American garage rock, Ottawa lends a pretty great distillation of some of the best parts of the Cleveland music scene these days. Their 2014 EP, Random Lights, reels in the whole Ottawa spectrum of sound; it’s a fun, rocking album. The opening title track hugs a central melody, buoyed by excellent drums and vivacious keys and strings work around nearly every twist in the song. Elsewhere on the album, “Tarantino” toys with soft-loud dynamics before opening up to a desert-rock soundscape, where Dale DeLong’s vocals can really flourish. As we’ve seen many times over the past few years, that creative spirit and energy translates well to the stage. Check them out. (Sandy)

Playing to Vapors
5:15 p.m. The Stage Under the Bridge

Two strangely similar and equally poignant falsettos belong coincidentally to two ginger-haired singers: hard rock god Josh Homme and Lucas Harris of Columbus’s Playing to Vapors. Playing to Vapors claims to offer audiences “a unique style of groove-based alternative rock.” Unique is a bold assertion in this oversaturated business, but it’s hard to disagree. The bands’ music combines “First It Giveth”-style Queens of the Stone Age with the sounds of experimental act Battles, producing electronic-infused rock that is heavily dependent on a driving percussive rhythm. Harris is the real deal: his live performances are spot-on, proving that his organic talent isn’t just a studio-engineered hoax. Listen to “You Never Seem Sorry When You’re Gone” or “Whisper” to be carried away by his levitating vocalizations. The band has released two EPs, 2012’s Identities and 2015’s A Glitch in a Void, and premiered at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon last year. If they keep the momentum going by releasing a full-length formal debut in 2016, there’s no telling where these fellas are headed. (Kaufman)

So Long, Albatross
9:15 p.m. Harbor Inn Stage

We’ve been excited about So Long, Albatross for a while now. With a stellar 2015 that saw two terrific releases from the band (Keith Vance, Eric Baum, Adam Horwatt), now’s the perfect time to catch the live show. The band released its latest EP back in November, and it’s a heavy trip. “Something in the Way” kicks things off, with pronounced vocal emotions behind every syllable and pulsing drums guiding the song into port. It’s both extremely heavy and danceable as all get-out, making for a nice take on the riff-heavy blues-rock that populates much of the local music scene here. Later, “Off to the Races” sees Vance demonstrating the power of voice as instrument. Here, the power trio sounds way more powerful than their numbers might suggest. This band is not to be trifled with. Check them out, and rage onward. (Sandy)

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