KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Haven't you heard? Thursday the critically-acclaimed Big Ears Festival kicked off and the music continues in Downtown Knoxville through Sunday.
Before noon Thursday, fans formed a line that extended from the Knoxville Visitors Center to the TVA Towers for a chance to see the free WDVX Blue Plate Special concert. That's where Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi gave the standing-room crowd a free taste of the eclectic sounds the festival offers.
Giddens, well-known as a founding member of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, is doing her best to entertain all types of audiences through this weekend.
"I am in Knoxville doing several things," smiled Giddens. "I am here for the Knoxville debut of the ballet 'Lucy Negro Redux' with the Nashville Ballet at the Tennessee Theatre, which I co-composed the music and also perform on-stage with Francesco Turrisi. We're also here to do our own duo shows because we have a new record that comes out in May."
Giddens can entertain just about any audience. She can sing opera, compose music for ballets, play old-time fiddle and banjo, and belt out lyrics in several languages. She is just one of more than 120 musical acts performing through Sunday at Big Ears.
Giddens says you can hear the difference between Big Ears and a typical music festival.
"It's incredible. The nice thing about this festival is it is an indoor festival. It's a venue festival. So, it allows different kinds of music that wouldn't really work for an outdoor festival. I think it allows musicians to actually go see other musicians," said Giddens.
The lineup this year allows Giddens to both perform and be a fan.
"We're here the whole weekend. I specifically requested that we could be here through Sunday so that we could see some of the amazing folks that are lined up here," said Giddens.
This festival that now draws fans from around world to Knoxville only began 10 years ago. In 2009, it was the personal pet project of AC Entertainment founder Ashley Capps.
"Big Ears is a visionary festival. What Ashley has done is brought all these kinds of music together from all over the world. It brings a lot of things to Knoxville people would never see all together in one weekend," said Giddens.
"At last check, we had people from 23 countries and 48 states at the festival so far," said WDVX general manager Tony Lawson. "Just think about it economically, what it brings to East Tennessee. It brings a lot of money here. It also brings a lot of culture. It brings a lot of folks here to discover East Tennessee."
The musical feast has something for fans of all tastes to relish the art that resonates with everyone.
"What music does is it's the great leveler. It's the great 'bringer-together' of people. A music festival this diverse, I think is a beautiful thing," said Giddens.
The Big Ears Festival features more than 100 performances from local and regional artists and runs March 21-24, 2019. The festival also supports film, visual arts, and poetry.
General admission day-passes to the festival cost around $75. However, there are many free events throughout the next few days, including WDVX events at the Knoxville Visitors Center as well as Barley's.
Big Ears 2019 will include the second edition of its all-night, 12-hour drone concert and a series of panels and workshops.
The Big Ears film festival was recently dubbed one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the United States.
Knoxville native Yves Tumor is also someone to keep an eye out (or ear out) for at this year's festival.
The festival said "an experimental answer to SXSW” will return under the direction of Paul Harris and Darren Hughes of Knoxville’s Public Cinema.
In 2019, Big Ears presents more than 10 distinct special programs that are unique to the festival altogether or are in some of their earliest performances.
- ABSTRACT BLACK
- ABSÎNT (AURORA NEALAND, BILL FRISELL, TIM BERNE, DAVID TORN)
- ALIEN FLOWER SUTRA
- ALTERED STATESMAN
- ALVIN LUCIER
- AMIRTHA KIDAMBI’S ELDER ONES
- THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
- ARTIFACTS TRIO
- AVEY TARE
- AVISHAI COHEN QUARTET
- BÉLA FLECK
- BÉLA FLECK & EDMAR CASTAÑEDA
- BILL FRISELL & THOMAS MORGAN
- BILL FRISELL AND THE MESMERISTS FEATURING TONY SCHERR, KENNY WOLLESEN AND THE FILMS OF BILL MORRISON
- BILL FRISELL’S HARMONY FEATURING PETRA HADEN, HANK ROBERTS & LUKE BERGMAN
- BLACK DUCK
- BROOKLYN RIDER
- CARL STONE
- CARLA BLEY TRIOS WITH ANDY SHEPPARD AND STEVE SWALLOW
- CARLA KIHLSTEDT
- CARNIVAL OF SOULS WITH LIVE SCORE BY MERCURY REV'S CLEAR LIGHT ENSEMBLE FT. STEVE SHELLEY, TIM BERNE, BEN NEILL, MIMI GOESE, JIM SCLAVUNOS, JESSE CHANDLER, JONATHAN AND GRASSHOPPER
- CHRIS ELDRIDGE
- CLARICE JENSEN + JONATHAN TURNER: FOR THIS FROM THAT WILL BE FILLED
- COLUMBIA ICEFIELD
- THE COMET IS COMING
- DARK INSIDE THE SUN
- DAVID TORN
- DEJOHNETTE COLTRANE GARRISON
- DEREK GRIPPER
- DRAGNET GIRL WITH LIVE SCORE BY COUPLER
- EVAN PARKER / MATT WRIGHT TRANCE MAP+
- EVER PRESENT ORCHESTRA FEAT. STEPHEN O’MALLEY AND OREN AMBARCHI PERFORM THE WORKS OF ALVIN LUCIER
- GABRIEL KAHANE
- GIRI & UMA PETERS
- HAROLD BUDD
- IAN CHANG
- INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE
- IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS
- JACOB CLARK
- JERUSALEM IN MY HEART
- JOAN LA BARBARA PERFORMS WORKS BY ALVIN LUCIER
- JOAN LA BARBARA: VOICE IS THE ORIGINAL INSTRUMENT
- JOEP BEVING
- JON MUELLER
- KARA-LIS COVERDALE
- KAYHAN KALHOR
- KAYHAN KALHOR & BROOKLYN RIDER
- KIERAN KANE AND RAYNA GELLERT
- KIM KASHKASHIAN
- KIM KASHKASHIAN AND ROBERT LEVIN
- KRISTÍN ANNA VALTÝSDÓTTIR
- LARRY GRENADIER
- LONNIE HOLLEY WITH NELSON PATTON
- LONNIE HOLLEY AND THE MESSTHETICS
- MAKAYA MCCRAVEN
- MARY HALVORSON'S CODE GIRL
- MARY LATTIMORE
- MATHIAS EICK QUINTET
- MATT NELSON
- MATT WILSON'S HONEY & SALT
- MERCURY REV
- MEREDITH MONK & VOCAL ENSEMBLE CELLULAR SONGS CONCERT
- THE MESSTHETICS
- MIMI GOESE & BEN NEILL
- MOOR MOTHER
- MOSAIC INTERACTIVE
- MOUNTAIN MAN
- NASHVILLE BALLET: LUCY NEGRO REDUX CHOREOGRAPHY BY PAUL VASTERLING WITH MUSIC BY RHIANNON GIDDENS & FRANCESCO TURISI AND POETRY BY CAROLINE RANDALL WILLIAMS
- NATE WOOLEY
- NIK BÄRTSCH’S RONIN
- NILS FRAHM
- OREN AMBARCHI
- PARKER / SCHLIPPENBACH / LYTTON TRIO
- PETER ASKIM
- PETER GREGSON
- PUNCH BROTHERS
- RACHEL GRIMES: THE WAY FORTH
- RAFIQ BHATIA: BREAKING ENGLISH
- RALPH TOWNER
- RHIANNON GIDDENS AND FRANCESCO TURRISI
- RICHARD THOMPSON: KILLED IN ACTION
- ROBERT LUNDBERG
- ROOMFUL OF TEETH
- SETH HOPPER
- SHAI MAESTRO
- SHANE PARISH
- SIMA CUNNINGHAM
- SONS OF KEMET
- ST. JOHN’S CHOIR: ARVO PÄRT’S PASSIO
- SUN OF GOLDFINGER (DAVID TORN, TIM BERNE, CHES SMITH)
- TASHI DORJI & TYLER DAMON DUO
- TATSUYA NAKATANI
- THEO BLECKMANN: BERLIN - SONGS OF LOVE AND WAR, PEACE AND EXILE
- THEO BLECKMANN: HELLO EARTH! THE MUSIC OF KATE BUSH
- THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT
- THIRD MAN BOOKS PRESENTS CAROLINE RANDALL WILLIAMS, KENDRA DECOLO, CIONA ROUSE
- TIM BERNE’S SNAKEOIL
- TIM STORY PRESENTS THE ROEDELIUS CELLS
- TRIPTYCH (EYES OF ONE ON ANOTHER), FEATURING ROOMFUL OF TEETH, COMPOSED BY BRYCE DESSNER, LIBRETTO BY KORDE ARRINGTON TUTTLE, FEAT. THE WORK OF PATTI SMITH & ESSEX HEMPHILL, DIRECTED BY DANIEL FISH, PRODUCED BY ARKTYPE / THOMAS O. KRIEGSMANN
- UNCLE EARL
- VERY VERY HOT EVIL
- VIJAY IYER AND CRAIG TABORN
- WADADA LEO SMITH SOLO: REFLECTIONS AND MEDITATIONS ON MONK
- WADADA LEO SMITH’S NDA, PERFORMING “DIVINE LOVE” WITH BOBBY NAUGHTON AND DWIGHT ANDREWS
- YUNOHANA VARIATIONS WITH YOSHIMIO, SUSIE IBARRA, AND ROBERT AKI AUBREY LOWE
- YVES TUMOR
- 12-HOUR DRONE ALL NIGHT FLIGHT: DREAMS OF THE WHIRLWIND