Article and photos by: Tony Vasquez
KNOXVILLE, TN (March 26, 2017) -This year’s Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, with its expanded four-day schedule was an adventurous weekend of music and collaborations. The festival founded in 2009 by Ashley Capps, founder of AC Entertainment, is also known for producing Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The event was spread out over multiple venues throughout Knoxville. The historic Tennessee Theatre and Bijou Theatre with their ornate interiors and history were contrasted by the smaller venues such as The Mill & Mine, The Standard, and The Square Room. With music performances being held at the Church Street United Methodist Church, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Knoxville’s Museum of Art, and surprise collaboration taking place at the Jackson Terminal, it displayed how the charming city of Knoxville was the perfect setting for such a festival.
The lineup was a fusion of folk, electronic, jazz, classical, with a hint of art-centric rock bands. Thursday included a performance from avant-garde pianist Lisa Moore in the St. John’s Cathedral. Legendary jazz composer, Carla Baley lead The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra in her five-part composition “The National Anthem” in the Tennessee Theatre. While over at the Bijou Theatre, My Brightest Diamond, captivated the audience.
The Saturday’s lineup included performances by guitarist Shane Parish, cellist Oliver Coates, and flutist Claire Chase at the Standard. Wilco played a two-hour set at the Tennessee Theatre, with the group showcasing material that expanded over their 20-year history.
The Wilco boys would be busy all weekend performing solo and collaborative sets. Their lead singer, Jeff Tweedy, collaborated with Chkamorachi drummer, Chirs Corsano and bassist, Darin Gray. Guitarist, Nels Cline had a few appearances including a performance with his wife as well as multi-instrumentalist Yuka C. Honda. Mikael Jorgensen joined forces with art historian and curator James Merle Thomas as Quinidar. The experimental music was accompanied by projections from archival footage from the early days of NASA. The most active member was drummer Glenn Kotche. He performed a solo set on Saturday and a with Darin Gray, On Fillmore, on Sunday. Glenn also took the drums with cellists Maya Beiser and bassist Gyan Riley on Beiser’s Uncovered material, which included covers of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana. It was a memorable experience to witness the powerful renditions of the classic rock tunes.
The weekend provided more than something for everyone to experience. Several films were presented along with live poetry readings, interactive artists discussions, and various secret shows. There’s no doubt everyone missed some amazing moments. However, what audiences did witness will not be forgotten. We are looking forward to seeing next year’s Big Ears Festival on March 22-25, 2018.