BIG EARS 2017: The Minds of Big Ears

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Big Ears is back. AC Entertainment’s swank homegrown festival of forward-thinking international contemporary music and film takes place for the sixth time this weekend, with the largest lineup yet—more than 100 performances by dozens of artists in 11 different venues around downtown, including Gay Street’s grand historic theaters and two majestic downtown churches.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for Big Ears updates, news, recaps, photos, and more. 

Read our 2015 and 2016 Big Ears coverage.

It’s also one of the most diverse rosters in Big Ears history, with big-name indie and alternative rock headliners (Wilco, Magnetic Fields, Blonde Redhead, Robyn Hitchcock), jazz legends and legends in the making (Carla Bley, Henry Grimes, Henry Threadgill, Matthew Shipp, Matana Roberts), the vanguard of Scandinavian progressive music (Supersilent, Nils Økland, Jóhann Jóhannsson), titans of the avant-garde underground (Meredith Monk, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Musica Elettronica Viva, Philip Jeck, Sir Richard Bishop), and composers and performers from the cutting edge of contemporary classical music (Gavin Bryars, Claire Chase, the Crossing, Lisa Moore, Theatre of Voices).

And there’s more: distinguished electronic, folk, and experimental artists from around the world; a star-studded film program, which includes a Jonathan Demme retrospective and five movies from the offbeat documentary filmmaker Jem Cohen; local ensembles, including nief-norf, the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra; a marathon public reading of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree; and the revival of the Agee Amble literary tour, led by the Knoxville History Project’s Jack Neely.

Since the first Big Ears, in 2009, the festival has attracted an international audience; more than 12,000 people attended last year, most of them from outside Knoxville, some from as far away as Australia and Japan.

Big Ears also generates effusive reviews: Critics from The New Yorker (“might be the most open-minded music gathering in the country”), The New York Times (“It has a rare, intuitive and ultimately anti-commercial vision, presented with purpose and first-rate sound on a thoughtful scale”), The Guardian, and Rolling Stone have praised previous editions of Big Ears. And there’s every reason to think this year’s festival will measure up.

In our preview of Big Ears 2017, we’ve got interviews with:

• Big Ears guru Ashley Capps

• Knoxville Symphony Orchestra music director Aram Demirjian

• Big Ears film maestros Paul Harrill and Darren Hughes (and a look at their short film programming)

Plus profiles of:


Anna Meredith

Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt

Check out the official guide insert in this week’s print edition for the complete schedule and all the information you need to get through the weekend.

And follow our daily recaps: 

Thursday, March 23: Eric Dawson, Matthew Everett, Carey Hodges, and Nick Huinker

Friday, March 24: Eric Dawson, Carey Hodges, Nick Huinker






Senior Editor Matthew Everett manages the Knoxville Mercury's arts & entertainment section, including the comprehensive calendar section—Knoxville’s go-to guide for everything worth doing in the area. You can reach Matthew at

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