Big Ears — Personal Selections from Ashley Capps

You know we’re really excited about the Big Ear Festival coming up. It’s next weekend! We were also very happy to see another email from Ashley Capps about the event, and this time he included some tips and information to help folks navigate all the great performances that are coming to Knoxville. Enjoy…and we’ll be sure to post Part 2 soon.

Hello everyone!

Thanks so much for all of the great feedback to my letter about Big Ears. People seem as excited as I am.

A number of folks asked for more information and even some personal picks or tips about the weekend’s line up of shows. So I’m writing now in response to that.

To keep it manageable, this is Part 1. Part 2 will come tomorrow or the next day.

First, I would like to say this:

If you love great music of any kind, I am certain that you will hear something extraordinary that you will really love at Big Ears. This is not an “avant garde” music festival. Many of the artists performing are among the best-selling artists of the moment. Most of the music is completely accessible – melodic, tuneful, and, in some cases, quite beautiful. Highly enjoyable, inspirational, and fun!

You can purchase tickets for individual concerts. You may also, if you wish, choose from a couple of pass options – the Inner Ear and the Outer Ear. Tickets are available on line and the information about how to purchase is here. You may also purchase tickets through the Tennessee Theatre Box Office by calling 865-684-1200 ext. 2 from 10am – 5pm weekdays.


The National
The National – My favorite rock band of the moment…hands down. And I’m not alone. Their last CD, Boxer, was selected #1 Record of the Year in 2008 in Paste Magazine. The new one, due in May, is expected to be one of the biggest music releases of the year. These guys occupy a musical position not unlike that of the Velvet Underground in NYC in the late 1960s…powerful, direct, gritty, wickedly humorous with subtle but highly sophisticated arrangements. They play on Sunday night. My Brightest Diamond is really great too and she opens the show. This will be a really great show.

Joanna Newsome
Joanna Newsom, the xx, the Dirty Projectors, and St. Vincent are all among the most exciting rock artists of the moment. Joanna’s been everyone recently – with great features in the New York Times Magazine and NPR. She’s totally enchanting.

I would mention Vampire Weekend, who had the #1 record in the country in January, but they are already sold out. Joanna and the xx have only a few tickets remaining.


I hope that you will make an effort to see at least one of Terry Riley’s concerts (each will be very different…more about Terry in the next letter). But of special note:

The Calder Quartet will perform Terry’s stunningly beautiful string quartet, Candenza on the Night Plain, on Sunday afternoon at the Bijou, where Terry will also perform some of his solo music. I saw Cadenza performed at the UT Music Hall back in the early 1980s and it’s still one of my most memorable concerts ever.

I think you might also love the Calder’s collaboration with the dazzling Czech violinist/singer Iva Bittova…they will perform Janacek and a modern piece by Fred Frith at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday evening at 5pm…other artists are on that bill too (see below).

Stepping a bit beyond the borders of straight classical music but offering a lot of musical pleasures will be the 802 Tour and Clogs (both at the Bijou on Saturday) as well as the 3 Bang On A Can All-Stars performances during the weekend.


The 802 Tour – I can’t describe this. It’s just wonderful but it makes little sense on paper…classical/opera composer Nico Muhly and viola virtuoso Nadia Sirota join Appalachian folk singer Sam Amidon and the almost whispered songs of Doveman (Thomas Barlett) to create something unworldly in its beauty. Very jaded friends have told me that it is the best show they’ve even seen. They’re too busy on their own to do this very often. This is what Big Ears is all about in one show. At 1pm on Saturday afternoon at the Bijou.

Clogs: The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton
Clogs – One of the highlights of the weekend. They will perform their beautiful new song cycle, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, with all of the special guests who sing on the records, including Sufjan Stevens, Matt Berninger (the National), and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Likely the only full performance of the work in the USA. And there are likely to be a few surprises during this show too. Saturday at 4pm.

OK. Part 2…about Terry Riley and a few other special events will come in the next 24 – 48 hours….

Ashley Capps