Big Ears Festival 2015 Lineup Announced
Since its inception in 2009, the Big Ears Festival, held in Knoxville, TN, has sought to bring together some of the most talented acts in classical, jazz, electronic, and indie music. After taking a break for several years, Big Ears returned in 2014 to resounding acclaim. This year, Big Ears is living up to–and even exceeding–its reputation as “the classiest, most diverse festival in the country” (Rolling Stone). A quick glance at the lineup confirms that both superlatives fit. From the minimalist pioneer Terry Riley to the quirky explosiveness of tUnE-yArDs and the gravelly singer-songwriter aesthetic of Steve Gunn, the scope of Big Ears is large not only in terms of the artists, but also in regards to the vision behind the event.
Big Ears is notable not only for the eclectic acts it serves up, but also for its artist-in-residency program. This year, artists-in-residence Kronos Quartet are on the schedule with three shows. The one getting the most buzz is with with Laurie Anderson, who will join the group to perform their collaborative piece, Landfall, a haunting combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation and vocals that is a memorial to the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, as well as a comment on its causes and its far-reaching impacts. Other guest artists who will be playing with Kronos Quartet include Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer and the recipient of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, and Nels Cline of Wilco.
Fully embracing the avant-garde, this festival cuts across genres, establishing itself at the innovative edge of music. Also on the lineup: SQÜRL, the Jim Jarmusch-fronted rock band whose music was most recently featured on the soundtrack of the fantastic Only Lovers Left Alive (2014); lutenist Jozef Van Wissem (also featured on that soundtrack); Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir; virtuosic guitarist Bill Frisell; folksinger/songwriter Rhiannon Giddens; and eerie electronic duo Demdike Stare, who will be performing their score for the silent film Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), a visually stunning and surreal exploration of the folklore and superstition surrounding the European witch craze.
The festival extends beyond the stage and into the wider community, with events ranging from discussions to film screenings and visual arts exhibits happening in town. Many of these events are free to the public. This music festival model has proven highly successful and is a nice alternative to events that completely separate the general public from the creative energy generated through the collaboration of so many artists and visionaries. Big Ears is also an urban festival, akin to SXSW and Moogfest, and utilizes public and community spaces like galleries for its special events and shows. The Knoxville Art Museum, for example, will host a film series to coincide with the festival, and will also put on several free shows for “patrons and passers-by alike.” Ticketed shows will be held in the Tennessee Theatre, a palatial 1920’s-era movie theater, the Bijou Theatre, which was finished in 1909 and has an equally rich history, the more intimate Square Room, and other venues yet to be announced.
Big Ears is happening March 27-29 in downtown Knoxville. Check out the full lineup, and get your tickets soon–Tier 1 passes are already sold out (other ticket options available here). Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Knoxville’s Joy of Music School and Community School of the Arts, two organizations devoted to bringing the arts to underserved populations in the area.