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Big Ears Festival celebrates 10 years of genre-defying musical exploration

November 13, 2018

Big Ears is thrilled to announce the final lineup for its tenth-anniversary, March 21-24, 2019, in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. The festival will offer more than 100 performances — plus a film festival, workshops, talks, exhibitions, and a 12-hour drone concert — all taking place in an extraordinary array of venues, from historic theaters and houses of worship to beautiful converted warehouse spaces, galleries and clubs. Big Ears 2019 is the most exploratory and ambitious edition yet for one of the United States’ most artistically diverse music festivals. Tickets and information about each performing artist can be found at

Lonnie Holley

Big Ears 2019 traverses the boundaries of genre with unbridled enthusiasm.  Experimental rock icons Spiritualized, Mercury Rev and This Is Not This Heat share billing with folk standard-bearers Béla Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Richard Thompson and the Punch Brothers. The Art Ensemble of Chicago commemorates their 50th anniversary in a rare performance, while Boredoms drummer Yoshimi P-We returns to the stage with Susie Ibarra and Robert Aki Aubrey Lowe. The likes of Nils Frahm, serpentwithfeet, Avey Tare, Stephen O’Malley’s KTL, Oren Ambarchi, Jerusalem in My Heart, Yves Tumor, Lonnie Holley and Jlin represent the contemporary vanguard of experimental music.

Kayhan Kalhor

One core of Big Ears 2019 thrives at the fertile intersection of jazz icons and the genre’s imaginative young innovators. The legendary likes of Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Carla Bley, Wadada Leo Smith, and Evan Parker share ranks with a new generation of genius — Vijay Iyer, Mary Halvorson, Makaya McCraven, Craig Taborn, Shabaka Hutchings’ Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming, Mats Gustafsson’s FIRE! and Nicole Mitchell’s Artifacts Trio.

In one weekend, Big Ears 2019 illustrates the influential sprawl of the 50-year-old ECM and the electrifying momentum of explosive Chicago jazz label International Anthem. Big Ears 2019 offers a crossroads of trans-generational and transcontinental jazz at a pivotal moment in the genre’s renaissance.

Big Ears 2019 also includes a bevy of special programs that make these four days unlike any other at a music festival in the United States. Ambient icon Harold Budd offers three days of concerts with various ensembles, even offering world premieres. Alvin Lucier, now 87, presents his explorations of resonance and space alongside Europe’s Ever Present Orchestra, formed just to play his pieces. The National’s Bryce Dessner presents Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), a groundbreaking look at the life and legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe, alongside Roomful of Teeth.   Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi perform just the second concert of Lucy Negro Redux, a collaboration with the Nashville Ballet and poet Caroline Randall Williams.

A focus on pivotal women composers and performers in the contemporary classical realm threads throughout the festival.

Meredith Monk and Joan La Barbara — two powerhouse singers and brilliant artists who canonized the ideas of extended vocal techniques — perform. Kentucky composer Rachel Grimes presents the second concert of The Way Forth, her daring folk opera about the hardscrabble women of her home state. Kim Kashkashian, one of the world’s foremost viola translators, plays, as does Clarice Jensen, the cellist and ACME artistic director who released one of 2018’s great classical debuts.  ICE performs the work of Ashley Fure, Ellen Reid and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and collaborates with the ever-restless Carla Kihlstedt for her first classical composition.

Big Ears will announce details about installations, exhibits, panels, workshops and a film program in the coming weeks.  For the full lineup, tickets, and updates about special performances and appearances at Big Ears 2019, visit


Big Ears 2019 Lineup:
Alien Flower Sutra
Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones
The Art Ensemble of Chicago
Artifacts Trio
Avey Tare
Avishai Cohen Quartet
Béla Fleck
Béla Fleck & Edmar Castañeda
Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan
Bill Frisell and the Mesmerists featuring Tony Scheer, Kenny Wollesen and the films of Bill Morrison
Bill Frisell’s Harmony featuring Petra Haden, Hank Roberts & Luke Bergman
Brooklyn Rider
Carl Stone
Carla Bley TRIOS with Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
Carla Kihlstedt
Clarice Jensen + Jonathan Turner: For this from that will be filled
Columbia Icefield
The Comet is Coming
David Torn
DeJohnette Coltrane Garrison
Derek Gripper
Dragnet Girl with Live Score by Coupler
Evan Parker / Matt Wright Trance Map+
Ever Present Orchestra
Gabriel Kahane
Harold Budd
Ian Chang
International Contemporary Ensemble
Irreversible Entanglements
Jerusalem In My Heart
Joan La Barbara Performs works by Alvin Lucier
Joan La Barbara: Voice is the Original Instrument
Joep Beving
Kara-Lis Coverdale
Kayhan Kalhor
Kayhan Kalhor & Brooklyn Rider
Kieran Kane & Rayna Gellert
Kim Kashkashian
Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir
Larry Grenadier
Lonnie Holley
Lonnie Holley and The Messthetics
Makaya McCraven
Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl
Mathias Eick Quintet
Matt Wilson’s Honey & Salt
Mercury Rev
Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble Cellular Songs Concert
The Messthetics
Moor Mother
Mountain Man
Nashville Ballet: Lucy Negro Redux
Choreography by Paul Vasterling
with music by Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi
and poetry by Caroline Randall Williams
Nate Wooley
Nief Norf
Nik Bärtsch’s RONIN
Nils Frahm
Oren Ambarchi
Parker / Schlippenbach / Lytton Trio
Peter Gregson
Punch Brothers
Rachel Grimes: The Way Forth
Rafiq Bhatia: Breaking English
Ralph Towner
Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi
Richard Thompson: Killed in Action
Roomful of Teeth
Shai Maestro Trio
Sons of Kemet
Sun of Goldfinger (David Torn, Tim Berne, Ches Smith)
Theo Bleckmann: Berlin – Song of Love and War, Peace and Exile
Theo Bleckmann: Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush
This is Not This Heat
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil
TRIPTYCH (Eyes of One on Another)
Featuring Roomful of Teeth
Composed by Bryce Dessner
Libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle
Featuring the work of Patti Smith & Essex Hemphill
Directed by Daniel Fish
Produced by Arktype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann
Uncle Earl
Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn
Wadada Leo Smith: Reflections and Meditations on Monk
Wadada Leo Smith’s Nda, Performing “Divine Love” with Bobby Naughton & Dwight Andrews
Yunohana Variations with Susie Ibarra, YoshimiO and Robert Aki Aubrey Lowe
Yves Tumor

Tickets for Big Ears Festival 2019 are on sale now at Enhanced ticket packages include new perks for the VIP Sonic Explorer ticket, such as access to exclusive kick-off and after-party events and more.

In addition, individual donors who support Big Ears Festival can join the Friends of Big Ears program, where benefits include special experiences between now and the festival and a discount on 2019 passes. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Big Ears Festival provides free programming to the community thanks to generous festival sponsors and partners. More information is available on the Big Ears website under the “support” section.

For more information, visit To keep up with Big Ears news and announcements, “like” Big Ears Festival on Facebook, follow @BigEarsFestival on Twitter and join the newsletter.


About The 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 in-to 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

The 2019 Big Ears Festival is made possible by the generous support of The Aslan Foundation, Pilot Flying J, Ann & Steve Bailey, Visit Knoxville, Tennessee Department of Tourism, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Hobson Wood Foundation, Red Bull Music Academy, Boyd’s Jig & Reel, National Endowment for the Arts, The Shifting Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, South Arts and Tennessee Arts Commission.

Carla Parisi
[email protected]