Film Programming

15+ Feature Films / 50+ Shorts / Visiting Artists, Curators & Installations / Open to Big Ears pass holders & Film Pass holders

For the third year, Big Ears continues to expand film programming and collaboration with The Public Cinema, a Knoxville-based group dedicated to sharing vital works of contemporary American and international film. Films will be screened at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the downtown Regal Riviera Stadium 8 Theater, and the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, with several cinema-related live events presented during the festival weekend. All film events will be open to Big Ears pass holders, with a “film program only” ticketing option on sale now.

Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment GroupVisit KnoxvilleTennessee Department of Tourism, and the University of Tennessee School of ArtThe Canyon Cinema 50 project is organized by the Canyon Cinema Foundation and supported in part by the George Lucas Family Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Owsley Brown III Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and The Fleishhacker Foundation.

12-Hour Drone: All Night Flight

The Standard / 416 W. Jackson Ave. / Sunday, March 25 / 12am – 12pm / Free to Big Ears patrons, $10 for general public

Prepare for a transcendent evening of sustained sound exploration at 12-Hour Drone: All Night Flight, an immersive new experience featuring 19 genre-defying artists at The Standard from midnight on Saturday to noon on Sunday during the festival weekend. Experimenting with continuous tones and repetition through vocals or instrumentation, artists and listeners alike will be transported to a meditative space pushing the boundaries of time, genre, and music itself.

A nod to pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley’s project by the same name, All Night Flight will feature performances by Anna RG, B|_ank, Ben Shemie (of Suuns), Coupler, David Daniell, Debtors Prism, Dream Chambers, Duet for Theremin & Lap Steel, Eli Keszler, Eve Maret, Gamelan Gongs, Jessica Moss (of Silver Mt. Zion), Joseph Yarmush (of Suuns), Lambda Celsius, Palatheda, Steve Gunn, Susan Alcorn, The Black Twig Pickers, Travis Morgan, and Walsh.

View the full schedule here.

Pillows, yoga mats, sleeping bags, blankets, and snacks are encouraged – whatever necessary to keep you comfortable during this communal experience.

All Night Flight will be free to all Big Ears pass holders and $10 for the general public. Get tickets here.

We are grateful to the Basilica Hudson team, Melissa Auf Der Maur, and Le Guess Who? for their guidance and inspiration.

Appalachian Happening Curated by Anna Roberts-Gevalt of Anna & Elizabeth

Market Square & Jig & Reel / Free and open to public

Thursday, March 22

  • Square on the Square: A Market Square square dance with The A Four Forties and Big Ears special guests, called by Stan Sharp, Anna Roberts-Gevalt, and Becky Hill / 7pm – 9pm / Market Square
  • Old Time Jam hosted by Anna & Elizabeth / 10pm – late / Jig & Reel

Friday, March 23

  • Eternal Jam hosted by Anna Roberts-Gevalt / 12pm – 6pm / Market Square
  • Percussive Dance & Clogging Workshop with Kristin Andreassen & Becky Hill / 4pm – 5pm / Jig & Reel
  • The Local Honeys / 7pm – 8pm/ Jig & Reel
  • Old Time House Party with Kristin Andreassen, Becky Hill, and Friends / 8pm – 9pm / Jig & Reel
  • Circus No.9 /10pm – 11pm / Jig & Reel
  • Irish Jam hosted by Sam Amidon & Cleek Schrey / 11pm – late / Jig & Reel

Saturday, March 24 

  • Eternal Jam / 12pm – 6pm / Market Square
  • Conversation with Ben Ratliff: Laurel Halo & Eli Keszler / 1pm – 2pm
  • Bruce Greene & Loy McWhirter / 4pm – 5:30pm / Jig & Reel
  • Fiddlers Convention / 6pm – 8pm / Market Square
  • Bluegrass Jam hosted by Stan Sharp / 10pm – late / Jig & Reel

Sunday, March 25

  • Field Recordings: Art & Archivist moderated by Anna Roberts-Gevalt, with Nathan Salburg & Emily Hilliard / 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Duet for Theremin & Lap Steel with Matthew Cummings

Pretentious Glass Studio / 133 S. Central Street / Friday, March 23 / 10pm – 11pm / Open to Big Ears pass holders

In addition to their Thursday night performance at The Standard and early morning set during 12-Hour Drone: All Night Flight, Duet for Theremin & Lap Steel will collaborate with Matthew Cummings, owner and glass blower of Pretentious Glass and Beer Companies, for an evening of live glass blowing and improvised music. Frank Schultz (lap steel) and Scott Burland (theremin) create an experimental sound unlike any other, while Cummings pushes the boundaries of physics through his gorgeous glassware. Join us Friday, March 23 at Pretentious Glass Studio to witness this heavenly blend of sound and sculpture.

Gene Smith's Sink: An Event by Author Sam Stephenson

with performance by Jason Moran, Aine O’Dwyer, and Rachel Grimes + short film by Jem Cohen

The Square Room / 4 Market Square / Friday, March 23 / 1pm – 2:00pm / Open to Big Ears pass holders

Author and documentarian Sam Stephenson will present an event inspired by pioneering American photographer W. Eugene Smith. Regarded as the father of the photo-essay genre, Smith captured everything from World War II to New York’s underground jazz scene. Linked to his new book, Gene Smith’s Sink, this expansive event on Friday, March 23 at The Square Room will feature readings by Stephenson; a screening of Chuck-will’s-widow, a short film by Jem Cohen based on a chapter in the book; and special performances by Big Ears musicians Rachel Grimes, Jason Moran, and Aine O’Dwyer.

Billy Martin's 'Stridulations for the Good Luck Feast'

Visit Knoxville Visitors Center / 301 S. Gay St. / Saturday, March 24 / 10am / Free and open to public

In addition to his performance with Medeski Martin & Wood, solo show on the drums, and art exhibition to be announced, Billy Martin will also give a special presentation for kids (and kids at heart) during the Big Ears weekend, explaining and demonstrating his rhythmic game piece Stridulations for the Good Luck Feast. The educational program, free and open to the public, will be broadcast live on WDVX Kidstuff with Sean McCullough Saturday, March 24 at WDVX Studios located at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center.

Children will be guided through the process of rhythmic and musical phrasing, as well as counterpoint and collective improvisation, to better understand how they contribute to our musical vocabulary and daily life. On-site musicians will join Billy for demonstrations, encouraging young participants to make rhythmic music of their own.

This unique approach to understanding “Rhythmic Harmony” (Billy’s term) is closer to the aural traditions in many folk cultures around the world, particularly the Pan-African diaspora. Billy hopes this will encourage kids to develop their own rhythmic vocabulary and connect with their communities.

Live Mural Painting and Paris Woodhull Map Reveal at Smart + Becker

Smart + Becker / 1154 McCalla Ave. / Friday, March 23 / 12pm – 4pm / Free and open to public

Stop by Knoxville’s newest gallery and maker-space Smart + Becker for a live mural painting and official East Knoxville map reveal by local illustrator Paris Woodhull. Woodhull, a Knoxville native, is known around town for her apparel with a purpose, quirky paper goods, and city maps — all handmade with love and care. Come hang out, watch Paris paint, and shop a curated selection of handmade items and vintage at Smart + Becker!

Big Ears Poetry Expo

Awaken Coffee & Knoxville Museum of Art Auditorium / Free and open to public

The Big Ears Poetry Expo is a three-day event comprised of open mic events, guest spoken-word features, poetry slam workshops, and a cash prize slam competition finale. All poetry expo events are free and open to the public, held in family-friendly venues.

Thursday, March 22

  • Listen Up: Big Ears Poetry Expo feat. Joey Jennings / 6pm – 8:30pm / Awaken Coffee (125 W Jackson Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902)

Friday, March 23

  • Listen Closer: Big Ears Poetry Expo feat. Deje Morris / 6pm – 8:30pm / Awaken Coffee (125 W Jackson Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902)

Saturday, March 24

  • Poetry Workshop: Writing & Performance by El’Ja Bowens / 12pm – 2pm / Awaken Coffee (125 W Jackson Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902)
  • Loud & Clear: The Big Ears Indie Poetry Slam Finale / 7:30pm / Knoxville Museum of Art Auditorium (1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr, Knoxville, TN 37916)

Big Ears Beer Exchange

Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern / 409 S. Gay St. / Saturday, March 24 / 1pm / Open to the public / 21+

The annual Big Ears Beer Exchange returns to Suttree’s for its fourth installment Saturday, March 24 at 1pm. Co-hosted by friends of the festival Charles and Bruce Gearhart along with George Talley and the Suttree’s team, this year’s exchange will also feature a special appearance by Blackberry Farm Brewery’s Roy Milner, who will be on hand to share his passion for beer and some special brews from the award winning Blackberry Farm Brewery. Featuring rare, hard-to-find, and unique beers, the exchange will also highlight local Knoxville breweries including Pretentious Beer Company, Crafty Bastard Brewery, and others. 

We encourage fans, patrons, and locals alike to bring their own favorite beers to share with fellow connoisseurs. This year’s event will raise money for Big Ears’ favorite charities — Joy of Music School and Community School of the Arts — and all participants are strongly encouraged to donate $5 for their participation. Must be 21+ to participate.

'Born in Bristol: The Untold Story of the Birth of Country Music' Screening

Knoxville Museum of Art /1050 Worlds Fair Park Dr. / Sunday, March 25 / 3:30 – 4:30pm / Free and open to public

Everyone knows where rock ‘n’ roll, the blues, and jazz were born, but few know where country music got its start. In this hour-long film presented by Tennessee Tourism, learn the story of country’s most historic event: The Bristol Sessions. Through cinematic reenactments, we’ll revisit those 12 days in 1927 when the “Big Bang” of country music was recorded. With interviews from Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, and others, this documentary is guaranteed to be a treat.

Artist Talks & Performances at Visit Knoxville

WDVX Studios located at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center / 301 S. Gay St. / Free and open to public

We are excited to share a series of artist talks and performances throughout the weekend with special hosts and guests at the WDVX Studios located at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center.

Thursday, March 22

  • Blue Plate Special: Susanna, Giovanna Pessi, Frode Haltli, Cheyenne Mize & Susan Alcorn / 12pm – 1pm

Friday, March 23

  • Blue Plate Special: Anna & Elizabeth + Poet El’Ja Bowens / 12pm – 1pm
  • Artist Talk: Listening in the Age of Abundance: Ben Ratliff + Damon Krukowski / 1:30pm – 2:30pm
  • Artist Talk: John Schaefer of New Sounds: A Question Of Belief: Spiritual Music for a Secular World / 3pm – 4pm

Saturday, March 24

  • Big Ears for Little Ears & WDVZ KidStuff present: Billy Martin’s Stridulations for the Good Luck Feast / 10am – 11am
  • Blue Plate Special: Steve Gunn / 12pm – 1pm
  • Music For 2 Radios / 2pm – 2:30pm & 2:30pm – 3pm
  • Panel: Music Norway at Big Ears / 3pm – 4pm
  • Julia Wolfe: Anthracite Fields / 5:30pm – 6:30pm

Sunday, March 25

  • Panel: Zen Buddhist John Tarrant in conversation with filmmaker Vincent Moon & Michelle Coltrane / 12pm – 1pm
  • Panel: 30 Years with Bang on a Can Composers – Moderated by Andy Bliss / 1:30pm – 2:30pm
  • Symposium of Sound: Sound & Spirituality / 3pm – 4pm

The Pilot Light Presents...

The Pilot Light / 106 E. Jackson Ave. / Free and open to public

We’re partnering with The Pilot Light, Knoxville’s home for independent and experimental music, to host a series of shows throughout the festival weekend that are free and open to the public.

Thursday, March 22

Friday, March 23

  • SECRET SHOW Presented by The Pilot Light / 8pm – 9pm
  • SECRET SHOW Presented by Hologram Electronics / 10pm – 11pm
  • SPECTRAL HABITAT / 11:30pm – 12am
  • LOWER INTERIORS / 12am – 12:30am
  • NEST EGG / 12:30am – 1:30am

Saturday, March 24

  • HOLOGRAM LAB Presented by Hologram Electronics / 8pm – 9pm
  • RYAN OSLANCE / 9pm – 9:30pm
  • THOM NGUYEN + CROWMEAT BOB DUO / 9:30pm – 10pm
  • SECRET SHOW Presented by Hologram Electronics / 11pm – 12:30am
  • TEMP JOB / 12:30am – 1am

Kid Koala 'Satellite' Turntable Orchestra

Six performances across three days / RSVP Required / Open to Big Ears pass holders

Want to join Kid Koala’s ‘Satellite’ Turntable Orchestra at Big Ears? Reserve your spot to experience one of his six immersive performances at The Square Room, where the audience will work in harmony to contribute music through custom turntable stations. Each performance is limited to 200 participants, so sign up now using THIS FORM.

Secret Shows

Free and open to public

You never know who might show up to perform at Big Ears Secret Shows. Download the Big Ears app for Apple and Android devices to receive alerts when secret show artists are revealed! Stay tuned…

Friday, March 23

  • 1:30pm / Magnolia Records
  • 5pm / WDVX Studios located at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center
  • 8pm / The Pilot Light
  • 10pm / The Pilot Light

Saturday, March 24

  • 2pm / Magnolia Records
  • 7pm / Jig & Reel
  • 10:30pm / The Pilot Light

Sunday, March 25

  • 1:30pm / Magnolia Records


Big Ears takes you places. 

So will walkwithme.

Eleven short pieces. 

Spoken word, found sound, and original music. 

Context for places you encounter (performance venues and other spaces along the way).

Find each piece on the Big Ears app section. Look for the walkwithme pins. 

So, while you’re standing in line, moving between venues, waiting for lunch, or taking your seat, have a listen.

All you need is your phone and some comfy shoes. 

Tracks are optimized for earbuds or headphones.

Enjoy the festival (and the walk). 

Produced by Wide Lens with RB Morris (voice) and Jack Neely (historian)

Also visit

RALA Presents: Maker Studio Sessions

RALA / 112 W. Jackson Ave. / Thursday – Sunday / 11am – 2pm / Free and open to public

Join us at RALA, an inventive retail space of treasures located in the Historic Old City, for an intimate look at the processes of a carefully-curated selection of Knoxville makers. Witness the transformation from material to finished product at the hands of a metal worker, printmaker, leather worker, and a potter. Each of these local artisans will have their wares and processes on display throughout the festival for your viewing pleasure.

John Haywood Tattoo Residency + Art Exhibition

Saint Tattoo / 1020 N. Broadway St. 

Kentucky-bred banjo player, tattoo artist, and master painter John Haywood will make his Big Ears debut this spring, adding a unique blend of Central Appalachia to the festival. Stop by Saint Tattoo throughout the festival weekend for a tattoo by Haywood, then head over to The Standard, where a selection of his paintings will be displayed.

Hours of operation:

  • Thursday / 10am – 8pm
  • Friday / 10am – 10pm
  • Sunday / 1pm – 7pm

Big Ears Big Eyes: Big Ears Photos from 2009-2017

The Tomato Head / 12 Market Square / March 5 – April 1 / Free and open to public

Big Ears Big Eyes – Big Ears photos from 2009-2017, a photography exhibition by Ric Brooks, will be on display at the downtown Tomato Head on Market Square from March 5 until April 1. The exhibit will then move to the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from April 3 until May 7.

Beats and Eats at Visit Knoxville

Visit Knoxville Visitors Center / 301 S. Gay St. / Open to public

While you’re at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center, stop by Beats and Eats at Visit Knoxville — your one-stop destination for quick food and drink options from some of our favorite local food trucks! Honeybee Coffee Co. Airstream will be on hand to offer pour over coffee and espresso, Forks on the Road will serve their mouth-watering hamburger sliders and fries, Savory and Sweet will provide a variety of their signature gourmet eats, and Southern Sisters Mobile Cafe will satisfy any cravings for tantalizing comfort food. In-between shows, Beats and Eats at Visit Knoxville is the fastest way to eat like a local and not miss a moment of the festival action… See you there!


  • Honeybee Coffee available starting at 8am Friday – Sunday
  • Thursday: 4pm – 7pm
  • Friday: 11am – 10pm
  • Saturday: 11am – 10pm
  • Sunday: 11am – 10pm

The Lounge at The Standard

The Standard / 416 W. Jackson Ave.

Pabst Blue Ribbon and Panasonic bring you the ultimate place to relax! Head on down to The Standard, grab a drink, and take a break from the Big Ears action. Hang with your friends on the couches, take photos in the Pabst Snaps photo booth, and catch the latest festival info on the projectors provided by Panasonic. You’ll definitely want to check out the featured art from Big Ears artists John Haywood and Billy Martin while you’re there!

Tastings at Downtown Wine + Spirits

Downtown Wine + Spirits / 407 S. Gay St. / Free and open to public

We’re teaming up with Blackberry Farm Brewing, Four Roses Bourbon, and Downtown Wine + Spirits to bring you TWO tastings throughout the festival weekend!

Friday, March 23 / 3-5pm / Stop by Downtown Wine + Spirits and hang out with our friends from Four Roses as they celebrate their 130th year. 

Saturday, March 24 / 1-5pm / Blackberry Farm Brewery will be offering samples of their stellar craft brews made right here in Tennessee.