Dogs, children, college students, townies and Charlie Bird of Bloomington — perched on a bike — gathered on the night of the autumn equinox.
Donning blankets and sweatshirts, the 29th Annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festivals opening night brought an array of people to Dunn Meadow. The 50-degree temperatures and breezy air didn’t stop attendees from exploring the event, though, like Bloomington resident Diego Aca and IU sophomore Araceli Cuazitl.
It was the hot air balloon ride — which was organized by IU Union Board — that caught their attention. But Aca and Cuazitl soon noticed a mass of people and made their way toward the stage, following the sounds of unfamiliar music.
“This is definitely experimental,” Aca said, regarding the music by Thursday’s headliner Matixando, a Latin fusion group. “Something different.”
Amid a sea of swaying concertgoers, IU sophomores Kate Mindak and Lauryn Adamski provided a visual juxtaposition, jumping up and down to music that they — just like Aca and Cuazitl — had never heard before.
“I listen to pop,” Mindak said. “I listen to a lot of, like, Taylor Swift.”
Mindak and Adamski said they were having a stressful night, so they were out on a walk — and they just happened to stumble upon the hot air balloon. Even though they deemed the wait for the balloon too long, they decided to continue through the meadow to the glowing stage, which improved their mood.
“We were not having a good night before this,” Adamski said.
“This has been really helping,” Mindak added on.
While Mindak and Adamski danced the night away in the heart of the concert, Bloomington native Macaulay Ward sat under the darkness of the trees lining Dunn Meadow’s sidewalk, as she took in the concert.
Ward isn’t new to Lotus. She said she’s been to Lotus approximately 75% of the 28 years she’s been alive, and that she was “slowly exposed” to other cultural values her whole life because of it. Being from the Midwest, she said it’s something that opened her eyes up.
“There are other things out there,” Ward said. “And I’ve never traveled abroad, so it’s been a source of culture and information for me.”
The music itself is something Ward has grown to appreciate. She loves hearing her friends play music, such as the members of Matixando, who she’s heard in clubs around town and has gotten to know. She said she wants to understand people and cultures.
“Even if you can’t understand the words at first, you can feel the beat, right? And the rhythm?” Ward said. “And eventually — if you’re interested enough — you’ll start learning some of the language.”
Ward actively looks into music from other countries, using apps like Spotify to explore music from outside the U.S., she said.
“Like, I don’t know much about Latvian culture at all,” Ward said, providing an example. “But I’ve found their music on Spotify, and it’s cool, right? I’m enjoying something that’s part of somebody else’s culture that they cherish.”
Working at Player’s Pub, attending Lotus and becoming friends with performers have all contributed to music becoming an important part of Ward’s life — and her love of it comes down to a simple reason.
“It connects people,” Ward said.
A packed program of both free and ticketed events for the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival will continue through Sunday. The closing concert will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater with a performance featuring Fedderson, Gourley and Miller — on twin fiddles and guitar — and Amaan and Ayaan Bangash on the classical Indian sarod.