The community shapes the festival, just as the festival has shaped the community. Sparking a whole new level of curiosity, people come to Lotus not for big names and headliners — though there are those — but simply because they want to hear something new, and they know it will be good.
“The specialness of Bloomington and Lotus comes from our audience,” said Holladay. “Because of what people have access to, they are willing to try lots of new things. They are primed when they walk into a concert, to give an artist a try, to accept something for what it is, and really get into it.”
That’s how Hanggai, a folk-rock band from Inner Mongolia, wound up with a huge fan base in the Midwest. Or how quirky Swedish MCs Movits can get hundreds of screaming fans, from college students to grandparents, bouncing on the pavement. Or how Swedish roots virtuosi Väsen became hometown heroes — to such an extent, Bloomington’s mayor temporarily renamed a downtown street in their honor.
“We’re able to develop artists now,” Williams said. “They get a posse in Bloomington, and can build from here.”
Added Jayme Stone, a Canadian cross-cultural banjo player, “Lotus has the best of both worlds — the buzz of an outdoor festival atmosphere and the pristine ambiance of an indoor one, with beautiful venues and great sound.”
Väsen’s Olov Johansson notes Lotus is a great place to hear music you didn’t even know existed.
“It’s also a really friendly festival for meeting other musicians, as well as music lovers in the audience, since performers and audience walk the same streets in between the different venues,” Johansson said.
Added Mike McAfee, head of Visit Bloomington (visitbloomington.com) and long-time Lotus Festival fan, “I’ve never been in a community where people just love it, as much as people love Bloomington. I know so many people who just had to move back here, or who couldn’t help but stay after they finished school. They felt a powerful connection, thanks to our big-city amenities and events like Lotus.”
Visit the website LotusFest.org for more informati