Mar 19 2019
06:08 pm

AC's internationally acclaimed Big Ears music festival is back in town this week. Here are the details. Bonus: Ashley's picks after the break....

This IS the week, and we have visitors coming to Knoxville from 48 states (not sure what’s up in Idaho and Nebraska…) and at least 21 countries – including Australia, Japan, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Serbia. They are coming to the Big Ears Festival, to experience over 120 events over 4 days (March 21 – 24) at a dozen of our wonderful venues throughout the heart of downtown Knoxville.

If you aren’t already, I hope you’ll join them – for a show or two anyway. It’s a blast!

Quite a few have asked me for a list of “top” or “must see” shows – so I decided to compile a quick list of 10 shows that I think almost anyone with a pulse would love. Whether you only have the time or inclination to see one or two concerts – or you are looking for an entry point into the whole, admittedly somewhat overwhelming experience - I hope this might be useful.


LUCY NEGRO REDUX at the Tennessee Theatre Thursday, March 21 at 8:00pm (also on Wednesday, March 20, in a separately ticketed show) Just do it! I think you’ll be completely mesmerized by “Lucy Negro Redux,” the Nashville Ballet’s remarkable collaboration with poet Caroline Randall Williams and musician Rhiannon Giddens. As The New York Times wrote: “A Nashville miracle... a beautifully choreographed ballet, but it was more than a ballet: It was also a spoken-word incantation and a showcase for the musical genius of Rhiannon Giddens.”

HELLO EARTH! THEO BLECKMANN sings KATE BUSH at the Bijou Theatre Thursday, March 21 at 8:30pm. A brilliant singer covers a rock icon. It’s really wonderful!

KIM KASHKASHIAN plays Bach and Kurtág at St. John’s Cathedral Friday, March 22 at 7:15pm. One of the most gifted classical virtuosos in the world, seeing Kashkashian’s performance of Bach’s Cello Suites at St. John’s Cathedral will be amazing.

RHIANNON GIDDENS & FRANCESCO TURRISI at Church Street United Methodist Church on Friday, March 22 at 8:00pm. Rhiannon and Francesco have some special treats up their sleeves for this one. Just sayin’.

HAROLD BUDD has created some of the most beautiful and evocative musical dreamscapes that I’ve ever heard. His collaborations with Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins – and his work for string quartet – has been part of my life for decades. At age 82, he rarely performs live and he will be presenting new work and revisiting old, with special guests, over three days of concerts: Church Street Methodist Friday, March 22 at 3:00pm; St John’s Cathedral Saturday, March 23 at 9:00pm; and Bijou Theatre Sunday, March 24 at 8:00pm

KAYHAN KAHLOR is – to my ears – simply one of the greatest musicians on the planet. You may have heard him with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. He is a master of the Iranian kamancheh – a bowed string instrument. There are two opportunities to hear him: Solo at St John’s Cathedral Saturday, March 23 6:00pm and with Brooklyn Rider at the Bijou Sunday, March 24 5:00pm

JACK DEJOHNETTE with RAVI COLTRANE & MATT GARRISON at the Tennessee Theatre Saturday, March 23 at 7:30pm. One of the master jazz drummers of all time, DeJohnette is known for his work with Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett as well as his own bands. Expect pure mastery.

NILS FRAHM’s one man show – sitting at a spaceship console of pianos and multiple electric keyboards – encompasses classical romanticism with pulsing electronic grooves, creating a musical soundscape that is symphonic in scope. Watching and hearing him do it is a wonder. See him at the Tennessee Theatre Saturday, March 23 at 10pm

SONS OF KEMET – two drummers, a tuba, and the saxophone of Shabaka Hutchings, one of the shining lights of London’s Jazz Renaissance. Irresistible. The Mill & Mine Saturday, March 23 12:00 midnight

RICHARD THOMPSON with The Knoxville Symphony Strings at the Bijou Theatre Sunday, March 24 at 1:30pm. The British master songwriter – and one of Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitar players of all time – will be heard here as never before, presenting his powerful World War I song cycle, commissioned by the WWI Centanary. Part two will include some of his classic songs and newly arranged covers, like the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

UNCLE EARL into THE PUNCH BROTHERS The Mill & Mine Sunday March 24 6:30pm and 8:15pm The bluegrass fueled Big Ears hoedown of your wildest dreams.

Oh…that was 11…sorry! There’s over a hundred more so… head to bigearsfestival.org to dig in further.

I hope to see you out and about!



AC's picture

Thank you for sharing this,

Thank you for sharing this, Randy.

I put that list together for friends who ask as well as to encourage people to dip into the Big Ears experience, if only for a day and a show or two (a single day ticket is less that the cost of many shows these days). There's so much to enjoy.

We're certainly thrilled to have people traveling hundreds and even thousands of miles to attend, but my dream is to have more in our community embrace the experience as well.

I hope to see some of you downtown this weekend!


R. Neal's picture

AC, thank YOU for all you do!

AC, thank YOU for all you do!

AC's picture

Thanks, Randy. I should

Thanks, Randy.

I should probably note that there's a fair amount of activity that is free without a festival pass:

Knoxville Museum of Art is free all weekend - it does include some of the more avant-garde music but also Jack White's Third Man Records book publishing arm is hosting a poetry reading with some special musical guests...among many other cool things.

The Pilot Light and Jig & Reel are also free all weekend, with surprise shows (alerts via app shortly before) and some pretty cool late night bluegrass jam sessions at the latter that can have some surprise guests.

And the Blue Plate special tomorrow with Rhiannon.

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