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Matthew Shipp was in the piano chair with Parker & Lytton last night and he was magnificent. Very fine 45-46 minute piece followed by a 13-14 minute piece which had a strong opening solo statement by Shipp. Then an intense 4-5 minute encore.

Parker brought only his tenor (as I expected) and was in strong voice to my ears (albeit with some of the intensity of 15 to 20 years ago). Lytton is wonderful and was terrific as I expected. Good to see Clifford as well as the many regulars who all seemed to enjoy the fine set at a fine venue with great sound and a fine Steinway grand piano.  

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The initial lineup announcement looks good to me.

The lineup includes:

Andrew Cyrille

Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses

Anthony Braxton

Christian Scott

Harriet Tubman

Jaimie Branch's Fly or Die

Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters

Marc Ribot

Mdou Moctar

Moonlight Benjamin

Myra Melford's Snowy Egret

Peter Brotzmann

Shabaka and the Ancestors

Steve Coleman and Five Elements

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Full lineup announced:

Big Ears 2020

kronosquartet.png?w=150&h=9475 Dollar Bill
Andrew Cyrille
Annette Peacock
Anthony Braxton
Areni Agbabian
Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses
Bang on a Can All-Stars
Caroline Shaw
Caterina Barbieri
Christian Scott
Damo Suzuki Network with the Sound Carriers
Dan Weiss Starebaby
Daniel Pioro & Valgeir Sigurðsson
Devandra Banhart
Diamond Curtain Wall Trio
Dos Santos
Electric Appalachia (William Tyler, Mary Lattimore, Eric Dawson of TAMIS)
Gyan Riley
Harriet Tubman
Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die
Jason Moran & the Harlem Hellfighters
Jeff Parker and the New Breed
Joe Henry’s 115th Dream
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society
Kim Myhr
Kronos Quartet
Marc Ribot
Maurice Louca
Mdou Moctar
Meredith Monk
Moonlight Benjamin
mssv (Mike Baggetta, Stephen Hodges, Mike Watt)
Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret
MZM (Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins, Myra Melford)
Nadah El Shazly
Natalie Joachim
nief norf
Paul Lazar’s Cage Shuffle
Peter Brötzmann
Sarah Davachi
Saul Williams
Shabaka & the Ancestors
So Percussion
Sons of Chipotle (John Paul Jones & Anssi Karttunen)
Sound for Andy Warhol’s KISS (Kim Gordon, Bill Nace, Steve Gunn, John Truscinski)
Spektral Quartet
Steve Coleman and Five Elements
Sudan Archives
Terry Riley
The Haden Triplets
The Necks
Thunder Music Ensemble
Xylouris White


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2020 Lineup Announced!

We’re excited to announce the first round of artists slated to join us for Big Ears 2020.

A few of the many highlights include:
• BRAXTON75.  A celebration of composer/saxophonist and musical iconoclast Anthony Braxton’s 75th year featuring a rare solo performance, his Diamond Curtain Wall Trio, and the world premiere of the Thunder Music Ensemble.

• TERRY RILEY at 85.  A celebration of the minimalist guru’s 85th year on the planet, featuring a duo with Gyan Riley, a solo organ performance on the new St. John’s Cathedral pipe organ, and more.

• MEREDITH MONK with BANG ON A CAN ALL-STARS. The amazing Meredith Monk returns to Big Ears with BOAC for the full concert premiere of their collaborative work, Memory Game.

JOHN PAUL JONES & ANSSI KARTTUNEN: Sons of Chipotle. The legendary Led Zeppelin bassist gathers no moss as he continues his musical explorations and collaborations. This finds him in the company of the renowned Finnish classical cellist in their North American concert debut.

• KIM GORDON • STEVE GUNN • BILL NACE • JOHN TRUSCINSKI: Sound for Andy Warhol’s KISS. Rock icon Gordon returns to Big Ears with her Body/Head collaborator, joined by two other Big Ears alums to create the soundtrack to Warhol’s iconic film.

• JOE HENRY’S 115th Dream, featuring Jason Moran and Marc Ribot, with Jay Bellerose, David Piltch, and Levon Henry. Big Ears asked the great singer/ songwriter / producer Joe Henry to put together a special “dream band” for the festival. This is it.

• JASON MORAN & THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS: All around Renaissance man Jason Moran is bringing this large ensemble to pay tribute to the legendary ragtime innovator, James Reese Europe.

• CAROLINE SHAW with SŌ PERCUSSION: The 2013 Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Shaw finally comes to Big Ears to present some of her extraordinary work, including this collaboration with the percussion wizards of SŌ.

• NATHALIE JOACHIM with Spektral Quartet:  Femn D’ayiti (Women of Haiti). Flutist / singer Joachim, who first appeared at Big Ears with eighth blackbird, returns with an extraordinary tribute to the women of her native Haiti, easily one of the most fabulous new works of this or any year.

• Iceland’s alternative rock legends MÚM will make a rare US appearance, celebrating 20 years since Yesterday Was Dramatic—Today is OK.

• TINDERSTICKS will perform their first US concert in many years in the wake of a long awaited, brand new recording.

• Denmark’s Efterklang return to the US for the first time in many years, also with new music.

• After his astonishing performances at last year’s Big Ears with both Sons of Kemet and the Comet Is Coming, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings will return with a third group, The Ancestors.

• German free-jazz titan Peter Brötzmann will make his Big Ears debut, playing solo in celebration of a new recording and revisiting his duo with the amazing drummer Andrew Cyrille, a highlight of this year’s Vision Festival in NYC.

• There’s more adventurous new jazz from bands led by Joshua Abrams, Jaimie Branch, Myra Melford, Jeff Parker, and Dan Weiss.

• Psychedelic desert rock from Mdou Moctar, Haitian voodoo blues from Moonlight Benjamin, new adventures in electronic music with Caterina Barbieri and Sarah Davachi; Can’s legendary singer Damo Suzuki, plus exciting new sounds from the Egyptian underground from Maurice Louca and Nadah El Shazly, the wild, uncategorizable, freewheeling rock of 75 Dollar Bill

And much much more….

Additional artists and performances will be announced in the coming weeks, along with information about the film and literary programs, talks and discussions, and other facets of the Big Ears experience.

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Lineup additions.



Big Ears Festival is proud to announce that rock icon, writer, poet, photographer Patti Smith will make her Big Ears festival debut March 26-29, 2020 in Knoxville, TN, where she’ll perform with her band as well as present a literary program / conversation during the weekend.


Cited by Rolling Stone in 2010 as one of our 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Smith galvanized the New York punk scene in 1975 with the release of her debut album, Horses.  She is now a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as well as a Commander of the French Ministry of Culture’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  She received the National Book Award in 2010 for her memoir, Just Kids, which chronicles her friendship and journey in art with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. She has since published several other acclaimed collections of poetry and prose, including the recently released The Year of the Monkey.

The Big Ears lineup has expanded to include the 100th anniversary of the invention of the Theremin, where Theremin master Rob Schwimmer will lead a trio featuring pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman in a concert marking the 20th anniversary and recent release of their collaboration, Theremin Noir.

Montreal’s post-rock chamber ensemble Bell Orchestre, featuring Arcade Fire members Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry, will make their Big Ears debut on the heels of a long-awaited new recording. Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran’s A Winged Victory for the Sullen return to Big Ears with a stunningly beautiful new recording, The Undivided Five, inspired by the mystic Swedish painter, Hilma af Klint.

Chicago’s groundbreaking chamber group Ensemble Dal Niente will be joined by saxophone virtuoso Ken Vandermark, performing music written for them by Roscoe Mitchell, along with works by Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, and others contemporary composers. Dal Niente and Vandermark are also planning a kaleidoscopic array of performances at the Knoxville Museum of Art during the festival weekend.

Fennesz, whose richly textured guitar and electronics dazzled the very first Big Ears audience on opening night back in 2009, returns to the festival at long last. His latest release, Agora, was cited as one of the best recordings of the year in Pitchfork, which described it has having “a cumulative force that is unlike anything he’s done in years.”

Nivhek is the name of a new project from Big Ears alum, Liz Harris (Grouper), also cited by Pitchfork as one of the finest records of 2019, “…her music remains in an enigmatic class of its own.”

Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard will bring his evocative and mysterious explorations of the world that surrounds us, with both installations and live performance.

New additions include Pakistani singer / composer Arooj Aftab and the Vulture Prince Ensemble, with Gyan Riley, Maeve Gilchrest, Shahzad Ismaily, and Greg Fox; the mysterious mezzo-soprano folk singer Josephine Foster channeling Harry Smith’s “old weird America;” composer / percussionist extraordinaire John Hollenbeck’s minimalist/maximalist post-jazz ensemble, The Claudia Quintet; Chicago’s adventurous, boundary-pushing composer / cornet player Ben LaMar Gay and his band; an evocative solo performance from Múm’s cellist and singer Gyda Valtysdottir; saxophonist Sam Gendel’s haunting reimagining of jazz standards; the spirited Argentine / Mexican / North Carolina string band wizardry of Che Apalache; composer/performer Astrid Sonne, who explores perception and its accompanying emotional states through her viola and electronics; Sonja LaBianca, whose solo saxophone performances create poetic, minimalist soundscapes; cellist D. Scot Williams performs solo music by Hindemith, Crumb, and Overall.

Additional artists and special performances will be announced, along with information about the film and literary programs, talks and discussions, and other facets of the Big Ears experience. Stay tuned.

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You probably want to do that now, at least if you are confident of attending. Ticket prices go up the closer one gets to the festival. General admission weekend passes are at tier 2 of 3, while Premier and Sonic Explorer weekend passes are at tier 3 of 3 already. Perhaps they will sell out? I'm not sure as I buy them about the time of the main lineup announcement.

For hotels, it's probably too late to get a reasonable price in the downtown area. Now is the time to make a (cancellable) hotel reservation. I use expedia.com.



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Thank you both. sounds like the sooner the better, so I'll proceed accordingly.

alos glad to see the addition of the "contemporary classical" performances. That's very much in sync with my current curiosities, probably more than the various "rock"-based things (although there's sure to be a (welcome) overlap. Between that and the more overtly jazz/improv stuff, it sounds like I want to get the most inclusive ticket possible. Freedom of choice is not going to be free!

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If you are going to attend the full festival, you definitely want one of the versions of the weekend pass. The basic general admission weekend pass gets you into everything over the four days, space permitting. You do have to stand in line to get in. That's what I did the last two years--no problems the first year. Last year, there seemed to be longer lines and for one event I gave up. It seemed like last year the festival organizers misjudged in some cases the audience size relative to the venue chosen. (Ralph Towner in a relatively small church for example.) The two premium weekend passes allow you to bypass the general admission line and use a special line for premium pass holders. This year I decided that was worth the extra cost.

It is worth noting that at this festival they clear the house after each concert. So you basically have to pass through a line for each concert, even if you are attending a series of concerts in the same venue.


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5 hours ago, Chuck Nessa said:

What he said. This is an amazing experience.

Unfortunately we won't be able to make it this year - we are going to San Francisco for the NEA Jazz Masters event on April 2.

Oh, noooooo! Who am I going to "hang out" with? :g

Maybe we can meet up at the NEA. I plan to be there, too.

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We’re certainly thrilled to report that Big Ears 2020 has experienced unprecedented response and demand for weekend passes. If the current pace continues, we expect the 2020 festival to sell out weeks in advance for the first time in Big Ears history.

The limited quantities of Weekend Premier and Sonic Explorer VIP passes will be the first to go. We expect both to sell out during the holidays, but possibly sooner. The remaining GA passes will also be reaching the Tier III pricing level in the near future as well.

Because of this, there is a high likelihood that no single day passes will be available for the 2020 festival. This will be officially determined soon after the first of the year – when we will also share details of the daily line ups and additional festival programs. IF single day passes are released, the allotments will be relatively small and they will not include a VIP or Premier pass option.

We are very grateful for and inspired by this tremendous response to Big Ears. We are preparing yet another unforgettable weekend of extraordinary concerts and much, much more.  Still to come are details of the returning Big Ears Film Festival – in partnership with Regal – and an expanded literary facet of the festival as well. As usual, we’ll also have informative talks and discussions, installations, workshops, and other surprises in store for the weekend. Be on the lookout for all of this information – including ticketing updates – in the coming weeks.

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