The Fourth Annual Cruel Winter Fest Hits the Grog Shop With a Packed Lineup and a Softer Touch


Produced by Grog Shop talent booker Wallace Settles, Cruel Winter’s first three iterations have given a stage to a curated assortment of the city’s hottest hip-hop talent. From the Bone Thug’d stylings of Tae Miles to the Yo Gotti-signed drawls of 55Bagz, Settles has stitched together top-notch showcases each of the past three Decembers.

And while rap dominates much of the down bill acts, this year’s headliners come with a pop and R&B bent. The event takes place at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Joey A (pictured), a Cleveland-born, Nashville-bred singer-songwriter whose style has transitioned from guitar-heavy rock to shimmery dance-pop, gets top billing. His latest LP, ROCK CANDY, is cut from the same cloth as recent Bruno Mars and Liam Payne records, a winking project of bubblegum fun that doesn’t hurt to move to.

Further down, singer and Ohio Hip-Hop Award nominee J.Leshelle brings a powerful R&B and soul blend to the table. Her riff off Drake’s “Controlla,” ‘Whatever You Like,’ is a silky dancehall sensation that matches her live performance: in a recent show at the Grog, Leshelle split the audience with background dancers for a choreographed dance routine, a unique touch from an emerging artist.

Mikal Callow rounds out the featured acts with a textured, soulful voice that splays over vibey, synth-laden electronic production. His most recent release, “Aye,” is a smoky, laid-back offering with lush keys and a thumping bass, a more mellow, inward turn from Callow that still taps toes and shakes hips.

While these crooners dot the top of the lineup, the rest of the bill stands strong. Rappers Walker OG, Castle, Muamin Collective, Toobe Fresco and the Living Sound, Kent Archie, ALOOF Recs, Curly Chuck, and Freshy Ramone round out the festival. 107.9 DJ Corey Grand will man the decks between sets.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

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