On nearly any afternoon, walking through Dunn Meadow on the IU Bloomington campus your ears may be filled with the relentless off-kilter rhythm of an amateur drum circle, your eyes glazed over with flying with patchwork clothing and swinging dreadlocks while waves of pot smoke and patchouli perforate your nostrils.
My dad's world music consisted of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass along with his famous album cover for Whipped Cream & Other Delights
So, when our friend Jon invited us to the Lotus Festival I sheepishly agreed.
While living in Bloomington, I had heard of the Lotus festival, but never had enough interest in world music to take advantage the festival. The basics: A small daytime show in one of the local parks, which is free to the public, and at least 6 venues that hold ticketed shows from 7-12 PM. The tickets are pretty reasonable for the sheer volume of music - ours were $34 for Saturday evening.
The best act of the daytime was Hanggai, a band from Beijing that blends Traditional Mongolian Music with rock and punk influences:
Between acts at the day stage they had some pretty talented carnies walking on stilts with a crazy bird-like thing that you have to see to believe. Luckily - I have video:
At this point I should explain that Jon has a healthy love for Lotus. Especially because he's one of the volunteers that works to pull it off. This year, he coordinated all of the electrical service for the evening stages. We were dining at Upland (mighty tasty BTW), when Jon got a call on his cell phone that one of the tents where they had been having electrical issues all day was completely dark and that the contractor in charge had to call the electric company out. Needless to say, since this was just a few minutes before showtime, we flew back to the tent and dropped Jon off. Luckily, the electric company was on the ball and was already there when we arrived. It turns out that one of the wires on the transformer had blown and they had it repaired in under an hour, allowing the show to start on time.
What a show it was. We got to see: Rupa and the April Fishes, which has been described as "global agit-pop". Rupa was full of energy, and the drummer for the group was the best for the night. One odd thing from this show - Rupa is from San Francisco, and like so many other San Franciscans seemed to believe that none of us had ever been to California and couldn't appreciate it's majesty.
Next up was an amazing band called Los de Abajo which was described in the program as salsa, punk and rock from Mexico. These folks definitely did not disappoint. They had a horn section that was wicked tight (see clip), and had an infectious energy that lit the crowd on fire.
Finally was one of the biggest acts of the festival - Bajo Fondo a group from Argentina that blended traditional tango, electronica, and hip-hop. The group included:
- Keyboard/Turntable artist
- Two folks pumping Macbook Pros
- Acoustic bass
- One wicked accordion player
- And a random dude/roadie who was more like a cheerleader
Jon had told us beforehand that Bajofondo had requested specific computer-controlled light arrays, and a digital projector. Neither of which had ever been used at the festival before. I'm glad that the festival was able to pull together the expensive gear together because Bajofondo's show was definitely worth the price of the entire ticket. It was a multimedia light show with a spectacular sound track. Definitely not your dad's world music.
Big thanks to Jon for showing us such a good time.