Sons of Chipotle, Braxton75, Kim Gordon/Steve Gunn, Carolina Shaw Lead 2020 Big Ears Festival

After attracting a sell-out crowd for its triumphant 10th year anniversary festival this past March, the Big Ears Festival now unveils some highlights of its 2020 programs with a kaleidoscopic lineup that once again transcends music genres and generations.  Regarded as one of the most unique and eagerly anticipated cultural gatherings in the world—“a music festival with a rare vision” (The New York Times)—Big Ears Festival will return in 2020 during the four-day weekend of March 26–29 in historic Knoxville, Tennessee.

As usual, the Big Ears lineup offers a who’s who of musical visionaries and innovators. This year’s program also includes several world and North American premieres, along with several artists all too rarely heard in concert, especially in the United States.

The first round of performers is listed below, and many highlights include:


  • BRAXTON75.  A celebration of composer/saxophonist and musical iconoclast Anthony Braxton’s75th 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 85thyear 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 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 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 Barbieriand Sarah Davachi; Can’s legendary singer Damo Suzuki, plus exciting new sounds from the Egyptian underground from Maurice Loucaand Nadah El Shazly.


There will be additional artists and performances 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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