Big Ears 2016 Already A Winner

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Well, they pulled me in last year, and this year, the lineup included another must-see. Knoxville’s “Big Ears” festival has attracted a lot of firepower in the last few years. The kinds of acts that pull a lot of weight with me. Artists like Laurie Anderson. Harold Budd. John Cale. The big guns. The festival skews towards art and away from rock, and that’s fine with me. Rock festivals are a dime a dozen. This festival was built with different aims in mind. New classical and jazz [and musics that take their cues from the same] are the primary thrust here.

I’d seen this festival in my peripheral vision for several years, but when the 2015 festival had Harold Budd and Laurie Anderson with The Kronos Quarter on a single night, then we bought tickets! Alas, Mr. Budd fell and hurt himself two days before the show date, so he was unable to come. We only found this out when sussing that that band setting up in the Knoxville Art Museum at midnight was not in fact Harold Budd but a hastily penciled in replacement just minutes before the mooted performance. Fortunately, Ms. Anderson and the Kronos Quartet were still performing, and their show was an utter delight. We loved the performance of “Landfall” and the Tennessee Theatre where it was held was a real vintage palace. I’d seen King Crimson there in 2001 and knew what to expect. The “Landfall” show was interesting because the participation of The Kronos Quartet really pushed the show more into the music zone than the art zone, though the multimedia software was impressive. This was the least we’d heard of Laurie performing spoken word during a show. Huge chunks of the show were the music talking, which hasn’t previously happened to this degree.  Enough fond memories… what of the 2016 event?

Anderson + Glass = bliss!

Anderson + Glass = bliss!

In a shock [!] move, the promoters have asked Laurie Anderson back again next year, and this time she’s tag teamed with the Philip Glass Ensemble! Art meltdown time! I’ve not seen PGE live since their tour in 1985 actually brought them to the Enzian Theatre in fashionable Winter Park, Florida. This was like, maybe the 10th music concert I ever saw and even 30 years later, by far the best sounding concert event my ears have ever heard. The promoters contacted Ms. Anderson and hot on the heels of her performance with Glass last summer at the Ravello Festival in Italy in July, she was eager for a rematch. So was Mr. Glass. The rest will unfold on April 2nd in the Tennessee Theatre, and I’ll be there. In fact, so will my Laurie Anderson fan wife and friends. We don’t want to spend a whole weekend in Knoxville, but we can certainly budget for a day pass.

The festival promoters are trying an interesting pricing tier approach that is refreshing for a music festival. Weekend passes are $135 + for March 31st-April 2nd, 2016 and will remain that price until the event or a sell-out occurs.They also offer a $450+ “VIP” pass for those with too much money. Each evening’s “A-list” show [in monk’s blood red] in the Tennessee Theatre with be a premium ticket costing an extra $30+ will only be sold to those with Weekend or Day passes. Day passes are $49.50+. That seems fair. Buy your tickets here. They just went on sale two hours ago. It keeps the weekend pass prices lower than last year for those who don’t want the “big show.” I like the granularity of that.  Who’s on the lineup? A few names I’m big on amid those I’ve “heard of” and a cast of many I have not heard of:

John Luther Adams: Composer-in-Residence


  • Knoxville Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Steven Schick performing the Music of John Luther Adams, Bryce Dessner and Philip Glass with guest cellist Maya Beiser 
  • The Gloaming
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Andy Stott
  • Tony Conrad
  • Wolf Eyes
  • Marc Ribot
  • Xylouris White
  • Zeena Parkins + Tony Buck
  • Olivia Chaney
  • Mamiffer


  • Andrew Bird
  • Anthony Braxton Tentet
  • Tony Conrad + Faust [Outside The Dream Syndicate performance]
  • Nicolas Jarr [DJ set]
  • Vijay Iyer + Wadada Leo Smith
  • Eighth Blackbird + Bonnie Prince Billy + Bryce Dessner
  • Yo La Tengo + Lambchop
  • Shabazz Places
  • Steven Schick
  • Bombino
  • Joe Henry + Marc Ribot
  • Phantom Orchard
  • Chris Abrahams
  • Molly Nilsson


  • Laurie Anderson + Philip Glass
  • Sunn O)))
  • Bedroom Community 10th Anniversary [Nico Muhly, Ben Frost, Sam Amidon + Valgeir Sigurøsson]
  • The Necks
  • Kiasmos [Olafur Aranalds + Janus Rasmussen]
  • Angel Olsen
  • Lampchop
  • Anthony Braxton Trio
  • Faust
  • Kamasi Washington
  • Mary Halvorson
  • Hieroglyphic Being
  • Circuit Des Yeux
  • Ikue Mori
  • nief-norf

mollynilssonI am excited to see Krautrock legends Faust appearing on the night I am buying tickets for. Hopefully, there will not be a conflict with the Anderson/Glass performance. I’m guessing  Faust will be after midnight. The other name I was excited to see here is possibly one that only I am familiar with, but I’ve really enjoyed both of the Molly Nilsson shows I’ve seen in Asheville in 2012 and 2013. She’s too big for this city now, and she’s making inroads into the festival circuit. Good for her. I only wish she was performing on Saturday instead of Friday, but there you are.  Sunn O))) are legendary for their extreme volume so we will definitely not attending that show, ha ha! No, Faust will be a must and maybe Kiasmos mught be interesting. If I can see one other performance after the Anderson/Glass ticket it will be a bonus. The tickets were worth it just for that show, in my opinion.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Big Ears 2016 Already A Winner

  1. Echorich says:

    Excellent line up! Were I to attend – and my birthday plans in Vegas will preclude that happening – I would be up for Anderson/Glass, Faust, Marc Ribot and, with enough hydration and Here Active Listening earbuds, even Sunn O)))). I would hate the idea of missing the infinitesimal chance that Scott Walker ambled on stage just for one spine tingling piece.


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