Big Ears Festival 2015 Preview

In 2009, Knoxville welcomed the first Big Ears Festival, which drew in highbrow artists from across the spectrum. While it returned in 2010, the festival seemingly disappeared after that...
Big Ears

Big Ears Festival 2015 Preview

In 2009, Knoxville welcomed the first Big Ears Festival, which drew in highbrow artists from across the spectrum. While it returned in 2010 (QRO photos), the festival seemingly disappeared after that – only to return in 2014, and now come back again, to stage across Knoxville Friday-to-Sunday, March 27th to 29th:


Kronos QuartetFRIDAY, MARCH 27th

Tennessee Theatre
Rachel Grimes, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Kronos Quartet, 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Kronos Quartet (QRO photos at a festival) presents The Music of Terry Riley (who’s also playing Big Ears himself – see below), featuring “The Cusp of Music” with Wu Man.

Demdike StareU.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre
The Bad Plus, 7:00 PM – 8:15 PM
The Bad Plus, 8:45 PM – 10:0 PM
Demdike Stare, 11:30 PM – 1:00 AM

The Bad Plus play “On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’” twice on U.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre. Meanwhile, Demdike Stare perform ‘HÄXAN: Witchcraft Through The Ages’ re-scored.

Steve GunnThe Square Room
Ryley Walker, 8:00 PM – 8:45 PM
SQÜRL, 9:15 PM – 10:15 PM
Steve Gunn, 10:45 PM – 12:00 AM

Acclaimed independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (he appeared in the episode of The Simpsons where they went to Sundance…) is no stranger to music, having curated All Tomorrow’s Parties New York in 2010 and is currently working on a documentary about The Stooges. He also released two albums with Dutch minimalist composer Jozef van Wissem (who’s also playing Big Ears solo – see below) – and now they make the team up official as SQÜRL.

Nosaj ThingAnn & Steve Bailey Hall at The KMA
Big Ears Kick Off, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM
Hildur Guðnadóttir, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Regal Entertainment Group Auditorium at The KMA
Decasie, 7:30 PM – 7:45 PM

The Standard
Rival Consoles, 6:00 PM – 6:45 PM
Nosaj Thing, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Tyondai Braxton, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Clark, 10:15 PM – 11:30 PM
Jamie xx, 12:00 AM – 1:30 AM

Jamie xxLos Angeles’ own Nosaj Thing (a.k.a. Jason Chung) has been getting serious attention with his mash-up of electronica and hip-hop.

Acclaimed experimental multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton (formerly of Battles – QRO live review with Braxton) plays ‘HIVE’ all three days of Big Ears at The Standard.

One-third of The xx (QRO live review), Jamie xx has also been making his own (first) name in DJing & production circles, especially at festivals (QRO photos at a festival).



Laurie AndersonSATURDAY, MARCH 28th

Tennessee Theatre
Kronos Quartet, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
tUnE-yArDs, 10:00 PM – 11:30 PM

First at Tennessee Theatre, Kronos Quartet do folk songs with Rhiannon Giddens & Sam Amidon. Then they team up with famed performance artist Laurie Anderson (QRO photos) for ‘Landfall’.

tUnE-yArDsOakland’s Merrill Garbus (QRO photos) got notice in the likes of Brooklyn (QRO photos) & Britain (QRO live review in London) as tUnE-yArDs (QRO photos outdoors), and then more and more fans behind her debut w h o k i l l (QRO review). She comes to Big Ears (QRO photos at a festival) after last spring’s release of follow-up Nikki Nack (QRO review).

SQÜRLU.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre
SQÜRL, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Tanya Taqaq, 4:15 PM – 5:30 PM
Max Richter, 8:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Sam Amidon, 10:45 PM – 12:00 AM
Ben Forst, 12:30 AM – 1:30 AM

SQÜRL do ‘Live Score with Man Ray Films’, while Max Richter (QRO album review) performs ‘The Blue Notebooks’ & ‘Infra’ with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

GrouperThe Square Room
Wu Man, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Jozef Van Wissem, 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM
William Tyler, 7:45 PM – 9:00 PM
Hildur Guðnadóttir, 9:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Grouper, 11:00 PM – 12:00 AM

William Tyler does “Corduroy Roads”. Later is Liz Harris’ ambient solo project Grouper (QRO photos at a festival); a prolific musician of avant-garde style and dreamy vocals.

Nels ClineAnn & Steve Bailey Hall at The KMA
Loscil, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
A Winged Victory For the Sullen, 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM
Nels Cline & Norton Wisdom, 4:45 PM – 6:00 PM
Bing & Ruth, 10:30 PM – 11:30 PM
Nels Cline, 12:00 AM – 1:00 AM

Nels Cline, guitarist for alt-country all-stars Wilco (QRO live review), first teams up with Norton Wisdom for ‘Stained Romance’, then plays solo (QRO photos).

Regal Entertainment Group Auditorium at The KMA
Spark of Being, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Bill Morrison Shorts, 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM
The Miners’ Hymns, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Beyond Zero: 1914-1918, 6:00 PM – 6:45 PM
Back to the Soil, 6:45 PM – 7:15 PM
Bill Morrison Shorts, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Omar SouleymanThe Standard
Coupler, 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM
Holly Herndon, 5:45 PM – 7:00 PM
Tyondai Braxton, 8:15 PM – 9:15 PM
Amen Dunes, 9:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Omar Souleyman, 11:45 PM – 12:45 AM
Tyondai Braxton (DJ set), 1:00 AM – 2:00 AM

Celebrate the Arab Awakening at Big Ears with Omar Souleyman! The Arab/Kurdish musician (QRO photos at a festival) hails from northeastern Syria, a hotbed of today’s brave resistance to both Bashir Assad and ISIS. Thankfully Souleyman’s traditional Middle Eastern music – much of it recorded live at local weddings – has already traveled the world.



Perfume GeniusSUNDAY, MARCH 29th

Tennessee Theatre
Perfume Genius, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Max Richter, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM

Seattle’s chamber-pop artist Mike Hadreas comes to Big Ears as Perfume Genius (QRO photos at a festival). Following is Max Richter (QRO album review): ‘Vivaldi: Recomposed’ & ‘The Leftovers’ with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra & the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

Bill FrisellU.S. Cellular Stage at The Bijou Theatre
Rhiannon Giddens, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Bill Frisell & Bill Morrison, 5:30 PM – 6:45 PM
Swans & Little Annie, 8:30 PM – 11:00 PM

One of the leading jazz guitarists in America for decades, Bill Frisell teams up with Bill Morrison for ‘The Great Flood’.

SwansAn influential act that’s been a regular at the recent Primavera Sounds on the Iberian Peninsula in both Barcelona (QRO photos at 2013 Barcelona Primavera Sound) and Oporto (QRO photos at 2013 Optimus Primavera Sound) is New York’s post-punk pioneers Swans (QRO live review). Fronted Michael Gira (QRO solo photos), Swans land in Knoxville behind last year’s To Be Kind and 2012’s The Seer (QRO review).

Ann & Steve Bailey Hall at The KMA
Bing & Ruth plus special guests, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Terry Riley with Gyan Riley & Tracy Silverman, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Terry Riley’s In C began the marriage of psychedelica and classical that preceded today’s indie-classical by half a century, inspiring everyone from Phillip Glass to The Who. And he comes back to Big Ears (QRO photos at Big Ears ‘10) with Tracy Silverman and his son, Gyan Riley.

Terry RileyRegal Entertainment Group Auditorium at The KMA
Panel: Technology’s Place in Creativity, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Decasia, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Regal Rivera Stadium 8
Eraserhead, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Nazoranai, 1:45 PM – 3:15 PM
The Music Room, 3:30 PM – 5:15 PM
La Vie de Bohéme, 5:30 PM – 7:15 PM
My Winnipeg, 7:30 PM – 9:15 PM

Films come to Big Ears, including David Lynch’s classic Eraserhead and the much more recent Nazoranai: A Film From Rock Fish Stew’s Ongoing Big Ears Documentary.

Tyondai BraxtonThe Standard
Tyondai Braxton, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Kronos Quartet, 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM
Zs, 5:15 PM – 6:15 PM
Silver Apples, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Kronos Quartet, 10:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Kronos Quartet closes out Big Ears ’15 with a trio of special team-ups, including ‘Tundra Songs’ with Tanya Tagaq, ‘40 Canons’ with Bryce Dessner (of The National – QRO photos together at a festival), and “Views from Here to the Heavens (for Scott Fraser)” with Nels Cline.



For festival website, go here:


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