BLUEGRASS AT BIG EARS
Rooted in Place
For us, one of the distinguishing characteristics of a great festival is a strong sense of place. We believe that Knoxville’s historic downtown, its walkability, and its unique array of venues, restaurants, and shops create a vibrant and dynamic context for the Big Ears experience. Beyond this, we are also rooted in one of the world’s richest and most fertile musical and cultural melting pots, a journey that takes one from the Caribbean and New Orleans, up the Mississippi River to Memphis, Nashville, through Knoxville and East Tennessee to Bristol and into Kentucky bluegrass country and the mountains of Appalachia. It’s a remarkable tradition that we are proud to celebrate in its multiplicity of manifestations.
Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, Mighty Poplar, Mr. Sun, our own Tennessee Sheiks, and newcomer Wyatt Ellis are among the most exciting purveyors of the bluegrass part of that tradition, and we’re delighted to have them – and others digging deep into the roots of American music – join us for Big Ears 2024.
Molly Tuttle is keeping the spirit of Bluegrass alive and well. She unveiled her latest album, City of Gold, crafted alongside her band, Golden Highway, this past July. Just days prior, Tuttle and Golden Highway earned nominations in seven categories at the 34th Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards where she and the group took home Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Female Vocalist of the Year. Adding to their accolades, they recently clinched a 2024 Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Big Ears patrons will have the opportunity to witness the epitome of contemporary Bluegrass on Friday, March 22.
The bluegrass world’s newest supergroup, Mighty Poplar, is a five-piece band centered around three virtuoso players from the Punch Brothers orbit: banjo player Noam Pikelny, guitarist Chris “Critter” Eldridge, and original Punch Brothers bassist Greg Garrison, currently in the band Leftover Salmon. Out front as primary vocalist is Watchhouse mandolinist Andrew Marlin. Their self-titled debut has earned them a Grammy nomination for Bluegrass Record of the Year, and we’re thrilled to welcome Mighty Poplar to Big Ears 2024 on Friday, March 22.
American Roots Music thrives on growing new branches from its grand traditions, and the band Mr Sun, and its individual members — including violinist/fiddler Daryl Anger, founding member of the original groundbreaking David Grisman Qunitet and later on Montreux and the Turtle Island String Quartet — have long been actively re-shaping the acoustic musical landscape. For Mr Sun’s tenth anniversary, this celebrated company of virtuoso string players has reinterpreted the legendary Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker Suite, bringing this monumental reimagining of the iconic Tchaikovsky piece into the acoustic string band world. Don’t miss the chance to hear this unique interpretation at Big Ears on Friday, March 22.
The Tennessee Sheiks, familiar faces to East Tennesseans, are sticking to their roots by joining us at next year’s Big Ears Festival. They trade solos on Swing, Bluegrass, Blues, Alt country, Jazz, and originals, creating a distinctive exchange and synergy that make each performance a joy. Come experience that joy on Thursday, March 21
A mandolin wunderkind, at just 14-years-old Wyatt Ellis has quickly become one of the most-watched young musicians in Bluegrass. He has been championed by many of Bluegrass’ finest, including Tennessee-bred virtuoso mandolinist Sierra Hull. With two songs in the top five on the Bluegrass Today Chart and a recent Grand Ole Opry debut, he is well on his way. Watch him pick and pluck on Saturday, March 23.
Bluegrass at Big Ears Playlist
We’ve compiled our favorite tunes from these artists to get you ready for next year!