Big Ears, the nonprofit music fest that has developed a reputation for bringing a strong complement of artists who push musical boundaries to Knoxville, was one of the first big public events in our area to be canceled in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The fest has now announced its return to Marble City March 24 through 27, with a variety of jaw-dropping performers across a huge array of traditions.
At the top of the bill is revered Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon, alongside pop maestros Animal Collective and Sparks. Avant-garde champion John Zorn will present eight different concerts during the festival featuring recent work, highlighting pieces co-written with lyricist Jesse Harris for vocalist Petra Haden (The Haden Triplets, That Dog), work for a “heavy metal” organ trio led by John Medeski and lots more. Jaimie Branch, Shabaka Hutchings and tons of other players who are writing the future of jazz will be there. Same with composer-vocalist Meredith Monk and Bang on a Can All-Stars, boundary-eradicating composer-bandleader Annette Peacock, recalibrators of pop Yves Tumor and Dawn Richard and Tuareg guitar wizard Mdou Moctar.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Among the more than 100 planned discussions, multimedia presentations and performances, there will be a special selection of happenings focused on the threads of influence running through music from New Orleans, Haiti and Cuba, with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and many others. Check out the full lineup at bigearsfestival.org, where passes go on sale Thursday, Sept. 16, at noon Eastern time (11 a.m. Central).