Big Ears Festival Preview

Big Ears Festival bills itself as “a dynamic, interactive experience that explores connections between musicians and artists, crossing all musical genres while interfacing with film, performance and the visual arts.” In other words, it is one of the more experimental festivals on the circuit and its lineup is appropriately eclectic.

Launched in 2009, Big Ears has made a name for itself as an “avant garde throwdown,” according to Rolling Stone. Headlining this year, March 22-25, are: Medeski Martin & Wood, The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Anoushka Shankar, Roscoe Mitchell Trios, Bang on a Can All Stars, and Nels Cline to name a few. Also on tap are: Kid Koala, Meshell Ndegeocello, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jaga Jazzist, GAS (Wolfgang Voigt),  Diamanda Galás, Arto Lindsay, The Thing, Laurel Halo (DJ), Kelly Lee Owens, and Four Tet. 

Additionally, the festival will also be focusing on the folk culture of its Tennessee roots. “Perhaps most importantly is a very dynamic interaction between the global – the internationally acclaimed artists – and the local – our own indigenous culture and sense of place and community. That’s especially exciting to me,” said Ashley Capps, Big Ears founder, in a statement. Speaking to the festival’s inclusive approach, Capps also said, “Here, we want to put things in a different type of juxtaposition. I think Béla Fleck fans should listen to Roscoe Mitchell and Roscoe Mitchell fans should listen to Béla Fleck.”

Thursday, March 22

Nels Cline: ‘Lovers’ with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and Guests

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

David Hidalgo & Marc Ribot

Anna Thorvaldsdottir: ‘In the Light of Air’ Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble

Kid Koala’s ‘Satellite’ Turntable Orchestra

Jaga Jazzist Featuring Ståle Storløkken & Jon Balke

Meshell Ndegeocello


Brooklyn Rider

Jenny Hval

Kid Koala (DJ)

Duet for Theremin & Pedal Steel

Susan Alcorn

Friday, March 23

Medeski Martin & Wood

Bang on a Can All Stars: Field Recordings

GAS (Wolfgang Voigt)

Milford Graves

Jason Moran presents ‘Fats Waller Dance Party’

Béla Fleck & Brooklyn Rider

Jon Gibson’s ‘Visitations’

Susanna feat. Giovanni Pessi, Frode Haltli & Cheyenne Mize

Trio Five feat. Roscoe Mitchell, Junius Paul, & Vincent Davis

International Contemporary Ensemble

nief norf & Wordless Music: Brimstone & Glory Live Score

Arto Lindsay

Rocket Science (Evan Parker, Peter Evans, Craig Taborn, Sam Pluta)

Kid Koala’s ‘Satellite’ Turntable Orchestra

Cyro Baptista Presents ‘Vira Loucos’

Evan Parker

Rova: The ‘Sound in Space’ Project

The Thing

Tal National

Steve Gunn


Jenny Scheinman ‘Mischief & Mayhem’ with Nels Cline and Scott Amendola

Aine O’Dwyer

Jaga Jazzist

Innov Gnawa

The Black Twig Pickers

Okkyung Lee

Ned Rothenberg

Yuka C. Honda ‘Eucademix’

Ikue Mori

Laurel Halo (DJ)

Jon Balke

Saturday, March 24

Anoushka Shankar ‘Land of Gold’

Roscoe Mitchell Trios

Bang on a Can All-Stars: Julia Wolfe’s ‘Anthracite Fields’

Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda: The Ashram Experience

Diamanda Galás

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Rova Channeling Coltrane: ‘Electric Ascension’

Four Tet

Jon Gibson

Aine O’Dwyer Performs William Eggleston’s ‘Musik’

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

Laurel Halo Live with Eli Keszler

The Jerry Douglas Band

Jason Moran & Milford Graves

Cyro Baptista and Banquet of the Spirits

Jenny Scheinman Presents ‘Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait’

Kid Koala’s ‘Satellite’ Turntable Orchestra

Arto Lindsay & Paal Nilssen-Love

Steve Gunn & the Black Twig Pickers

Kelly Lee Owens

John Medeski

Wu Fei & Friends: Improv Game

Peter Evans

Billy Martin

Cleek Schrey & David Behrman

Johnny Gandelsman plays Bach

Anna & Elizabeth

Sunday, March 25

Bang on a Can All Stars: 30 Years

Bangs (Jason Moran, Mary Halvorson, and Ron Miles)

Craig Taborn Daylight Ghosts

Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda: The Ashram Experience

Lightning Bolt

Knoxville Symphony Strings Performs ‘Were You There’ with Baritone Davóne Tines

Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei

Tyshawn Sorey Trio

Peter Evans Ensemble


Mats Gustafsson & Kieran Hebden



Julie Byrne

Cleek Schrey

St. John’s Passion: A Meditation on Suffering