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Big Ears brings free programming, music experiences to Knoxville

March 22, 2018

Have you heard? Big Ears – one of the world’s most innovative and diverse music festivals – is back in Knoxville on March 22-25.

In addition to bringing acclaimed musicians and artists to town for a one-of-kind experience, Big Ears offers a variety of free programming available to the Knoxville-area community.

“Big Ears is proud to bring thoughtful, carefully curated music and art experiences to Knoxville residents and visitors alike,” Big Ears Managing Director Carissa Stolting said. “As part of our mission as a nonprofit organization, we’re dedicated to bringing these enriching experiences to all people in our community and are offering several events and performances that are free and open to the public. We hope that the Knoxville community will take advantage of these opportunities and join us for the fun.”

Any Big Ears programming, workshop or event taking place at five downtown Knoxville venues will be free and open to the public; those venues are Market Square, Visit Knoxville Visitors Center, Knoxville Museum of Art, Boyd’s Jig & Reel and Awaken Coffee.

Below are some of the free events:

Thursday, March 22: As part of the festival’s focus on regional music and culture titled “Appalachian Happening” and curated by Anna Roberts-Gevalt of Anna & Elizabeth, Big Ears will host a Market Square square dance. Free and open to the public from 7-9 p.m., “Square on the Square” will feature The A Four Forties and special guests. The public also is invited to an Old Time Jam at Boyd’s Jig & Reel starting at 10 p.m.

March 22-24: The Big Ears Poetry Expo is a three-day event comprising open mic events, guest spoken-word features, poetry slam workshops and a cash-prize slam competition finale. All poetry expo events are free and open to the public, held in family-friendly venues. Events include:

  • March 22, 6-8:30 p.m.: Listen Up featuring Joey Jennings at Awaken Coffee (125 W. Jackson Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902).
  • March 23, 6-8:30 p.m.: Listen Closer featuring Deje Morris at Awaken Coffee (125 W. Jackson Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902).
  • March 24, noon-2 p.m.: Poetry Workshop: Writing & Performance by El’Ja Bowens at Awaken Coffee. (125 W. Jackson Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902).
  • March 24, 7:30 p.m.: Loud & Clear: The Big Ears Indie Poetry Slam Finale at the Knoxville Museum of Art Auditorium (1050 World’s Fair Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37916).

March 22-24: Big Ears has partnered with The Pilot Light, Knoxville’s home for independent and experimental music, to host a series of shows throughout the festival weekend that are free and open to the public. The Pilot Light is located in the Old City at 106 E. Jackson Ave. For a full schedule of performances, visit

March 22-25: Big Ears will feature a series of artist talks and performances throughout the weekend with special hosts and guests at the WDVX Studios located at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center. For a full schedule of daily events, visit

March 22-25:

  • Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., the public is invited to attend Rala Presents: Maker Studio Sessions, an intimate look at the processes of a carefully curated selection of Knoxville makers. Witness the transformation from material to finished product at the hands of a metalworker, printmaker, leather worker and potter.
  • All artist talks, a clogging and percussive dance workshop, multiple performances and late night music sessions with Big Ears special guests at Boyd’s Jig & Reel are free Thursday-Sunday.

March 23-24: In addition to a free Eternal Jam session on Market Square from noon-6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Big Ears is teaming up with Blackberry Farm Brewing, Four Roses Bourbon and Downtown Wine + Spirits to present two tastings that are free and open to the public at Downtown Wine + Spirits at 407 S. Gay St.

  • March 23, 3-5 p.m.: Meet Four Roses as the bourbon maker celebrates its 130th year.
  • March 24, 1-5 p.m.: Blackberry Farm Brewery will offer samples of its stellar craft brews made in Tennessee.

Friday, March 23:

  • From noon-4 p.m., the public is invited to stop by Knoxville’s newest gallery and maker-space Smart + Becker at 1154 McCalla Ave., for a live mural painting with Paris Woodhull. A Knoxville native, Woodhull is known for her city maps and will reveal her official East Knoxville map.
  • The public is invited to a free screening of Vincent Moon & Priscilla Telmon’s “Hibridos: The Spirits of Brazil” from 8-10 p.m. on Market Square.

Saturday, March 24:

  • As a part of the “Big Ears for Little Ears” series, Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood will lead a special presentation and interactive drumming game for kids on WDVX Kidstuff with Sean McCollough. The free event starts at 10 a.m. at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center on Gay Street.
  • The Fiddlers Convention will take place on Market Square from 6-8 p.m.

Sunday, March 25: At 3:30 p.m. at the Knoxville Museum of Art, this free film screening of “Born in Bristol” tells the untold story of the birth of country music. In this hour-long film presented by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, learn the story of country’s most historic event: The Bristol Sessions, revisiting the 12 days in 1927 when the “Big Bang” of country music was recorded, including interviews from Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill and others.

Through April 1: Big Ears Big Eyes – Big Ears photos from 2009-2017, a photography exhibition by Ric Brooks, will be on display downtown at Tomato Head on Market Square from March 5 to April 1. The exhibit will move to The Gallery Tomato Head in West Knoxville from April 3 to May 7.

“You also never know what additional and surprise shows will be added,” Stolting said. “You can download the Big Ears app for Apple and Android devices to receive alerts when secret show artists are revealed.”

Big Ears is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is able to provide free programming to the community thanks to generous festival sponsors and partners. To learn more about becoming a “Friend of the Festival,” visit

To view the full line-up, purchase tickets and more, visit To keep up with Big Ears news and announcements, “like” Big Ears Festival on Facebook, follow @BigEarsFestival on Twitter and join the newsletter.


Big Ears Festival
The mission of the Big Ears Festival, a 501(c)3 is to create, nurture, and support artistic expression and cultural education that transcends traditional boundaries, strengthens and builds relationships, and connects across communities through genre-defying music, film and arts programming, and interactive experiences.

Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American, Big Ears Festival has established itself as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings in the world, bringing together a virtual who’s who of established and acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators and influencers with younger artists who are synthesizing their own experiences into fresh, new creative work.  Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville – and taking place in its world-class historic theaters, excellent clubs, and unique alternative performance spaces – all within easy walking distance of one another and intermingled with superb restaurants, bars, and shops – Big Ears offers an unparalleled experience for adventurous artists and audiences alike.  While primarily focused on music, Big Ears is also developing a strong independent/experimental film component while also presenting installations, exhibitions and interactive experiences.

Big Ears is created and produced by AC Entertainment, recognized as one of the foremost independent promoters in the United States. Founded in 1991 by Ashley Capps, the company books, markets and presents over 1,000 events per year. In addition to Big Ears, AC Entertainment is the force behind internationally renowned events including Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival®, Forecastle Festival, and many more.  For more information on AC Entertainment, visit

Big Ears Festival is made possible by the generous support of The Aslan Foundation, ArtWorks/NEA, Visit Knoxville, Tennessee Department of Tourism, The Royal Norwegian Consulate General, Regal Entertainment Group, the Jig and Reel, Pilot/Flying J and The Clayton Foundation.