Whether it was experimental folk music drifting from a church, a live guitar performance in the window of a business or a jazzy version of “Havanna” being played on a street corner, downtown Bloomington was filled with new noise Friday night.
“Can you hear that?” Lee-Ann Wesley, a local resident and long-time Lotus attendee, said. “All those foreign sounds. They’re all fighting for your attention. Wanting you to listen to them. You can’t walk five feet without hearing something you’ve never heard before.”
The Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, celebrating 25 years of bringing the world’s music to Indiana, had over 20 concerts performing in seven different venues. Saturday night will feature just as many performances, along with this year’s Festival parade.
For those not wanting to purchase a pass to the concerts, many interactive activities are outside for free. Children can color with chalk on the blocked-off street, while students and adults swing their hips inside a hula-hoop. Visitors can also eat food from a vendor while enjoying music escaping from the churches and theaters.
Paige Venturi attended the festival as a chaperone for a group of high schoolers from Signature School in Evansville, Indiana. A former student of the same high school and a current junior at IU, she said she hopes to enjoy the festival leisurely on Saturday.
“I like the weird, obscure acts, Israeli rock bands, that kind of stuff,” Venturi said. “There’s just so many diverse acts.”
One of the high school students, junior Jonathan Rysche, said his favorite part of the night was Rio Mira, a Marimba music group. He said he is hoping to pursue medicine and is considering attending IU when he graduates.
“I’ve always heard good things about the culture here,” Rysche said. “It’s things you don’t usually get to see in Indiana.”
One of the most soothing acts of the night was a performance by the American string music group, Hawktail, in the First Christian Church on Kirkwood. The church pews were crammed with people as they played.
Leonard Pritchett traveled all the way from Lavallette, West Virginia, for the festival. As he listened to the mellow strumming of their mandolin and guitar, a smile came across his face and tears filled his eyes.
“I don’t know if I was crying, I wasn’t sobbing or nothing, just a few tears,” he said, laughing.
Pritchett said the string music has a special place in his heart because of his grandfather, who died many, many years ago.
“I still remember my granddad sitting at our kitchen table, picking away at his guitar and just singing with that old rough voice,” he said. “Now, I’m not some grumpy old man who dislikes new music. I’m old, but I’m not grumpy. Today’s music and all that is fine, I don’t mind it, but it just isn’t the same.”