Vasen brings spirit and noise to the Lotus Festival


Mikael Marin, a member of the Swedish music group Väsen, plays the viola at the Lotus kick-off concert Thursday evening in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This year is the group's ninth time playing at Lotus. Bobby Goddin

Väsen is a Swedish word with many meanings, including spirit and noise. Väsen is also the name of an instrumental Swedish trio who performed at the opening concert of the 24th annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, and the group brought both spirit and noise to Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Thursday night.

The band returned to Bloomington for the ninth time to kick off the festival with beautiful songs that demanded attention without the use of words. 

Audience members gathered in the theater lobby before the concert began, and the room filled with chatter as people made their way into the theater, holding various drinks and snacks. Ushers in yellow shirts guided audience members to their seats, and the stage’s blue and red lighting created a calm atmosphere for the first show of the weekend.

“There’s a lot of great music that is sometimes heard on some radio shows of world music, but it’s much better live,” Jak Doskow, an audience member, said. “It’s great just to hear the amazing variety of music that’s brought in.”

Väsen consists of three members playing acoustic instruments: Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa, Mikael Marin with the viola and Roger Tallroth on the 12-string guitar.

The trio began playing together in the early 1990s after Johansson and Marin met Tallroth at a musical gathering in Norway, according to its website.

“We’ve seen Väsen quite a few times and we love them,” audience member and Bloomington native Kandy Friedman said. “So we were really excited when we saw that they were the opening show.”

Sunni Fass, the festival's executive director, took the stage just past 7 p.m. to introduce the band. The trio then took the stage and opened the show with a song that started out quiet and serene, but later built to louder and more demanding melodies. Pink lights reflected off the faces of audience members as the music reverberated throughout the theater.

After playing a few songs, the band members paused to introduce themselves and briefly discuss their music.

“The summer in Sweden was dry and cold this year,” Tallroth said, talking about one of the songs. “I wrote this not during summer, but in the middle of the winter. I was in a condition of high fever so the heat came from within.”

Väsen's songs may have lacked lyrics, but they made up for it in meaning. One song was written for a former band member, André Ferrari, on his wedding day. Audience members burst into applause after every song.

The Lotus World Music and Arts Festival will continued through Sunday, with events taking place throughout downtown Bloomington, including several churches, the Bluebird Nightclub, various outdoor tents and Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

“The combination of the art and the community and the really fine music is what makes it so special,” Debra Erikson, a visitor from Urbana, Illinois, said. 

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