Okay, the weekend was exhausting, and yesterday was a production day for this week’s issue, so I’m a little late with the last recap of Big Ears 2015.
It was a long and exhausting weekend—every year, it seems like the choices get more and more difficult, and you have to commit to seeing what you can and give up on the idea of seeing everything. Sunday began with one of the few scheduling kerfuffles of the festival, when Tanya Tagaq and Bryce Dessner’s appearances with Kronos Quartet at the Standard were apparently switched up. So I missed Tagaq’s second set in favor of Terry and Gyan Riley and Tracy Silverman at the Knoxville Museum of Art, a sedate and frankly kind of smooth-jazzy/New Age-y performance of piano, guitar, and electric violin. Perhaps not the best way to see Riley, but a nice relaxed start to the final day, which would quickly take on some intensity.
That came with a set back at the Standard by Zs, a ferocious hour of guitar/sax/drums/electronics featuring experimental-rock all star Greg Fox, followed by a powerful head-trip of electronic rock with Silver Apples, also at the Standard. If you ever wanted to hear Tangerine Dream cover Hawkweed songs, it would sound about like that. Max Richter’s lovely reimagining of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Knoxvilel Symphony Orchestra, and soloist Yuki Numata Resnick at the Tennessee Theatre offered a shimmering Baroque respite—Numata Resnick may have been the single most accomplished and impressive solo performer at the entire fest, technically impeccable and charismatic. I’d be happy to see her back next year to perform with as many collaborators as possible.
Then, of course, Swans, with a paint-peeling two-hour endurance test at the Bijou Theatre. I’m not sure if Michael Gira’s reformed band is a refutation of mainstream rock or the culmination of it—for all the descriptions that position them as an apocalyptic, quasi-religious phenomenon, they still rely on condensed versions of the basic gestures of classic rock, like volume, double-time drums, and doubled power chords, for impact. Nevertheless, it was a powerful, incantatory coda to the weekend.
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