It's Lotus Fest time 

Poyser previews the 2009 edition

We'll just assume you know all about Indiana's finest annual music event of the year: Lotus World Music and Arts Festival. We'll also assume that those of you who are already planning on going, Sept. 24-27, are just going through the motions for the next few days. Your friends and family and co-workers think you're there, but you're already in Bloomington in your mind, wandering through the shut-down streets, strolling among crowds of friends, sampling music in various venues - music literally from around the world.

You don't need to read this, because it doesn't really matter who is playing ... you are already there. And you also know that this story could be 10,000 words long and it still would need more room.

So this is for the other "you"s out there, who maybe have not been to Lotus for years, or keep meaning to go but something always gets in the way. This is your year to follow through.

If you're looking for the familiar, you can find Indy's beloved storyteller Deborah Asante, bringing to life the story of Ruby Walker, coming of age in the 1940s on Indiana Avenue. There's the beguiling Phyllis Chen, recently of Central Indiana, now touring with her toy piano - are her roadies from the cast of Toy Story? Want to get real local? Rocky Ripple's Andra Faye is still on that farewell tour with Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women.

But you go to Lotus to sample wares from around the world, and my top picks this year include: * Watcha Clan. From Marseilles, this combo features heavy drum and bass beats in an electro-party groove: including dub, reggae, Balkin... * Parno Graszt: crazy fast gypsy music... from Hungary and Romania - music for wedding receptions and community gatherings. And speaking of: * Little Cow is back - a Lotus favorite. Their mix of gypsy, ska, funk and rock pleases all. * Kinobe & Soul Beat Band's sweet rhythms and sounds will have you swaying if not dancing.

* BLK JKS (black jacks), recently signed by Secretly Canadian. In January, this young quartet came to B-town and recorded their first full-length CD, After Robots. Born in Johannesburg, the group has been described by NPR's World Cafe in this way: "An avant-garde group in the best sense of the word, BLK JKS crafts a chaotic sound that's impossible to pin to one genre: psychedelic rock, jazz, blues, metal or reggae. The group crams it all into an undeniably catchy African dub-rock mix that spins out of control, but never quite spills over the edge."

Neither Mucca Pazza nor March Fourth are coming to Lotus this year, but somehow Lotus Director Lee Williams just keeps finding more marching bands to torque the revelry. This year it's EE: Magic Circus Band out of Chicago, an instant street party with acrobats and circus goofiness.

But you know, if you're a Lotus veteran, that you make your plan, sketch out your itinerary, then leave it at the city limits. Last year, my favorite performance was by Lo Cor de la Plana. I hadn't even meant to attend the show by this five person a cappella group: I was hunting for dance parties. They filled the Buskirk-Chumley with complex layers of sound - in a word, spellbinding.

Saturday is your special Lotus day. There are scads of free events, most of it starting at noon in Third Street Park in Bloomington, where Lotus bands play for free, until the arrival of one or both of the aforementioned marching bands, who draw you inexorably to the downtown center, where you can experience all sorts of fun and wildness and music for not one red cent.

Thursday night features a couple of concerts (Vasen at Buskirk-Chumley and Little Cow and Parno Graszt at the Blue Bird), then Friday and Saturday are the full showcases, starting at six and going 'til... the wee hours. Sunday features the World Spirit Concert at the Buskirk, with Srinivas Krishnan & Madras Broadcast, Hanggai and Vishten - and aren't those performers' names delicious?

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Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.

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