During our weekend in Knoxville, Big Ears hosts a series of special programs and collaborations, film showings, workshops, panels and discussions with the artists, interactive exhibitions and projects, and more! Many of these are free and open to the public, inviting patrons and passers-by alike to delve into the magic of the festival.


Artist Discussions, Panels, Q&As

Jackson Terminal • Free & Open to the Public


Panel / Q&A: Festivals Like This: an Exploration into the Innovative

Q&A / Discussion: Das Buch: a presentation by Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Panel: Norwegian Invasion


Panel: Musical Interpretations of Middle America

Q&A / Discussion: Uproot: a Presentation by Jace Clayton

Q&A: Fugazi’s Instrument: a Q&A with Guy Picciotto (Venue: Regal Riviera)

Panel: Folk Traditions in a Hyper-connected World


Panel: Making Art in a Time of Rage

Discussion: Pauline Oliveros – Impact and Influence

Discussion: When in Rome: a Glimpse into the Knoxville Music Scene

For full details on Artist Discussions, Panels, and Q&As, click here.

Ryuichi Sakamoto 'async' World Premiere Album Listening

Knoxville Museum of Art

Friday, March 24 • 10am-12pm

Sunday, March 26 • 11am-1pm

Free and Open to the Public

We are pleased to announce Big Ears will host the world premiere album listening of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s async during the festival weekend. Set to release April 28 via Milan Records, Sakamoto’s forthcoming album will be playing at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday and Sunday. Paying close attention to the essence of each track and carefully balancing the sounds with a less-is-more perspective, what remains are singular expressions of Sakamoto’s current mindset, and one of his most personal albums. The pallet includes conventional instrumentation such as piano and orchestra, but also a deep selection of unique acoustic and electric sounds both programmed and organic. Join us for this exclusive preview event!

Film Programming

The Big Ears Festival 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. 2017’s programming includes special screenings of innovative work and some timeless classics, site and festival-specific installations/performances, and, of course, some live musical performances accompanying some showings. Filmmakers Jonathan Demme, Jem Cohen, Kevin Jerome Everson, Janie Geiser, Roger Beebe, and more will all present work. Details here.

Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group, Visit Knoxville Film Office, Tennessee Entertainment CommissionTennessee Department of Tourism Development, and University of Tennessee School of Art.

Secret Shows

Jackson Terminal • The Pilot Light • Free & Open to the Public

In addition to the weekend’s stacked schedule of concerts, we’re excited to host a handful of curated secret shows featuring unique collaborations, tributes, DJ sets, and more at Jackson Terminal presented by Visit Knoxville. We’re also teaming up The Pilot Light, Knoxville’s home for independent and experimental music, to host a secret show at the beloved Old City venue on Friday, March 24. The surprise performance will be part of The Pilot Light’s Hello City series, an “indigenous companion” to the festival featuring music from underground favorites throughout the weekend. Mum’s the word on details… but we can let you know that Greg Saunier, perhaps best known as the frenetic drummer of Deerhoof, will be involved. Keep an eye on Big Ears socials and The Pilot Light’s website for more details as the event date gets closer. We can’t wait to reveal what’s in store!


Jem Cohen: Gravity Hill Sound+Image

Bijou Theatre • Friday, March 24 • 4:30pm

Intersection of S. Gay St. & Wall St. • Saturday, March 25 • 10:30pm • Free & Open to the Public

The 2017 festival will feature independent filmmaker, Jem Cohen and a Big Ears-specific version of his project, Gravity Hill Sound+Image. Jem will join forces with a special selection of versatile and adventurous musicians to explore films and live soundtracks in a wide range of combinations: scored and improvised, indoor and outdoor, quiet and loud. Cohen will collaborate with musicians including Guy Picciotto, Matana Roberts, Jessica Moss, Mira Billotte, T.Griffin, Catharine McRae, festival alumni Xylouris White, and multi-media tech team, Dawn of Man, who will be projection mapping site-specific images on Knoxville architecture. Taking place in the paved lot between the Century Building and Mast General Store on South Gay Street, this outdoor collaboration is sure to draw in Big Ears fans and passersby alike. Big Ears will also include several of Jem’s films in its programs at the Regal Riviera Theater, including his new film, World Without End (No Reported Incidents), a 2017 Sundance selection. Jem Cohen’s feature length films include Museum Hours, Counting, CHAIN, Benjamin Smoke, and Instrument, a portrait of the band, Fugazi.

Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group, Visit Knoxville Film Office, Tennessee Entertainment CommissionTennessee Department of Tourism Development, and University of Tennessee School of Art.

Kevin Jerome Everson: Open Ended

UT Downtown Gallery • March 3-31 • Free & Open to the Public

Open Ended is an installed exhibition of films on display in conjunction with Big Ears Festival.

Century (2012)

A General Motors’ automobile, a Buick Century, meeting its fate.
Runtime: 6:40

Ninety Three (2008)

A wonderful age to celebrate.
Runtime: 3:00

Rough and Unequal: Oceanis Procellarum (2017)

A single channel film about the beautiful lunar surface.
Runtime: 21:13

Workers Leaving the Job Site (2013)

Another take on the Lumiere Brothers’ classic 1895 film.
Runtime: 6:30

Kevin Jerome Everson is a Professor of Art at the University of Virginia and a recipient of the Alpert Award in Film/Video as well as numerous grants, commissions, and fellowships. His work has screened at major American and international film festivals and been exhibited at museums, galleries and art biennials, including, most recently, selection in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. A retrospective at the Tate Modern, London is planned for fall 2017.


Thursday: 11am-6pm

Friday: 11am-8pm

Saturday: 10am-5pm

Sunday: 1pm-5pm

Virtual Views: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation

Knoxville Museum of Art • Runs through July 23 • Free & Open to the Public

Drawn from the extensive Chicago-based collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, Virtual Views: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation explores the growing importance of electronic new media in contemporary art as seen in the work of artists who are pioneers in the use of LEDs (light-emitting diodes), LCD (liquid crystal display), and computer-driven imagery.

Virtual Views features nine electronic works each of which presents a paradox—it is comprised of synthetic materials and powered by digital technology, yet the rhythms and patterns of its imagery are derived from nature. The featured artists include Jim Campbell, Craig Dorety, John Gerrard, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Alan Rath, Daniel Rozin, Björn Schülke, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Leo Villareal.

Jim Campbell (Chicago 1956; lives and works in San Francisco)

Home Movies, Pause, 2014

LEDs, metal, wire and custom electronics, 66 x 76 x 3 inches

Jered Sprecher: Outside In

Knoxville Museum of Art • Runs through April 16 • Free & Open to the Public

Outside In, Jered Sprecher’s first solo museum exhibition, reflects the dynamic range of the artist’s recent work in terms of format, scale, imagery, and process. His design for the Knoxville Museum of Art exhibition layout is inspired by the centuries-old practice of adorning living spaces with motifs derived from the natural world. Here, muted images of birds and flowers appear sporadically, often embedded between layered abstract passages. Sprecher also uses unorthodox object placement and format to infuse the gallery setting with subtle domestic references. One work appears in the form of a 30-foot long span of custom wallpaper based on digital scans of a loosely painted surface. Several related canvases are suspended from the ceiling in a way that enables them to serve a dual role as vibrant contemporary paintings and as partitions dividing the gallery space into separate compartments. Sprecher’s resulting installation scheme enables viewers to experience his recent work as a single intimate environment, and as individual statements representing his ongoing treasure hunt through the debris of visual culture.

Jered Sprecher is a professor in the School of Art, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is represented by Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York; Gallery 16, San Francisco; and Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston.

For a closer look at Sprecher’s installation, click here to view Paul Harrill’s video on the fascinating artist.

Annual Big Ears Beer Exchange hosted by Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern • Saturday, March 25 • 1-3pm • Open to the Public

Join us for the annual Big Ears Beer Exchange hosted by Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern! Co-hosted by friends of the festival Charles and Bruce Gearhart, the exchange will feature rare, hard to find, and unique beers. We encourage fans, patrons, and locals alike to bring their own special brews to share with fellow connoisseurs. Festival patrons will be able to access the Beer Exchange as part of their festival experience, while those without a Weekend Pass or Saturday Day Pass will require a $5 donation of which 100% will be donated to Big Ears’ favorite local charities – The Joy of Music School and the Community School of the Arts. 

The Agee Amble: Literary Pub Crawl

Regal Riviera • Friday, March 24 • 5pm • Open to the Public

Join us for a literary pub crawl dedicated to Knoxville’s most famous literary native son, James Agee. Immediately following our screening of Farrebique at Regal Riviera and the celebration of the publication of Agee’s Complete Film Criticism (edited by University of Tennessee professor Charles Maland), we’ll visit sites on Gay Street, Market Square, and points in between. Short readings of Agee’s film works will be performed, and beverages will be consumed. There may even be a surprise or two along the way.

INSTRUMENTHEAD: an Installation by Michael Weintrob

The Standard

Michael Weintrob is pleased to present INSTRUMENTHEAD, a series of portraits shot since 2006, portraying a vast spread of entertainers with their instruments obscuring their faces. These two-dozen 3’ x 4’ artist proofs will be installed at The Standard throughout Big Ears, in anticipation and pre-release of the forthcoming INSTRUMENTHEAD fine art book. 

With INSTRUMENTHEAD, Weintrob has captured uniquely intimate expressions of over 500 artists’ identities without ever showing their faces. His subjects include Bootsy Collins, Mickey Hart, Junior Brown, Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers, and Derek Trucks, to name just a few. The exhibition will include iPads with biographical information about the subjects, and INSTRUMENTHEAD making-of films.

Wild Honey Records Pop-Up Shop

Jackson Terminal • Open to the Public

The Wild Honey Records Pop-Up Shop will offer a specially-curated selection of new and high-quality vintage vinyl and compact discs. At this downtown extension of their nearby brick & mortar record store, music lovers will find new, emerging artists along with hard-to-find vintage treasures—with a particular focus on jazz, classical, soundtracks, experimental and electronic titles… and they’ve got pretty rad t-shirts, too!


Thursday: noon to midnight

Friday: 9am to midnight

Saturday: 9am to midnight

Sunday: 9am to 8pm

Trolley Tales: Touring Our Literary Landscape

Downtown Knoxville • Saturday, March 25 • 11am & 1pm • Free & Open to the Public

Join local historian Jack Neely and other special guests on a free 90-minute trolley ride on Saturday, March 25 that explores the lives and work of James Agee, Nikki Giovanni, Alex Haley, Cormac McCarthy, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. The free tours will depart from Krutch Park at 11am and 1pm and stop for readings at significant local literary sites. Due to limited space on the trolley, please pre-register here. Make sure to download or print out your ticket and bring it to the literary crawl!

Knoxville – Bermuda Triangle of the Appalachians

Jackson Terminal • Saturday, March 25 • 5-6:30pm • Free & Open to the Public

Knoxville Poet Laureate R.B. Morris hosts an afternoon of contemporary Appalachian voices, including Hector Qirko, Greg Horne, Hunter Deacon, Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, and BARK. The artists in this diverse group explore and expand commonly-held ideas of what it means to be “Appalachian”.

The Dusty Clockless Hours: A Complete Reading of Cormac McCarthy's SUTTREE

Downtown Knoxville • Free & Open to the Public

McCarthy devotees and dilettantes alike are invited to take part in a marathon reading of one of Knoxville’s iconic works of literature. Readings will take place throughout downtown Knoxville on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Register here for a 15-minute slot.

Friday, March 24:

11am-1pm: Suttree Landing Park

1pm-3pm: Volunteer Landing Marina

3pm-6pm: Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

Saturday, March 25:

10am-11am: Blount Mansion

11am-1pm: East Tennessee History Center

1pm-6pm: Scruffy City Hall

Sunday, March 26:

10am-1pm: East Tennessee History Center

1pm-3pm: Scruffy City Hall

Poetry Expo

Jackson Terminal • Free & Open to the Public

The Big Ears Poetry Expo will return to the festival this year, celebrating some of the most vital poets and performers from the area. Hosted by extraordinary Slam Master and nationally-ranked slam poet Black Atticus, the expo will feature several events over three days including some Poetry Slam champions (El’Ja Bowens, Julia Nance, Ed Mabrey), a few local legends (Marilyn Kallet, Kali Meister), as well as a public Big Ears debut of Knox Generation — the youth spoken word poets under the mentorship of Own The Boards

For the final night, we have a double feature lined up with Knoxville Poetry Slam Legend Julia Nance and three-time Slam Champion El’Ja Bowens, on top of what should be an electric Poetry Slam Qualifier for The 5th Woman 2017 Slam Team. Winners will receive bragging rights, a spot on the slam team (welcome to all genders), and a cash prize!

Big Ears Spoken Word Expo • Day 1 • Thursday • 6:30-8pm • Poets: Olivia “Origins” Riggins, Ed Mabrey

Big Ears Spoken Word Expo • Day 2 • Friday • 6:30-8pm • Poets: Kali Meister feat. Michael Simek, Tenesha TruStori, Knox Generations / Youth Slam Poets

Big Ears 5th Woman Slam Off • Day 3 • Saturday • 7:30-9:30pm • Poets: Julia Nance, El’Ja Bowens, The 5th Woman Slam


Big Ears Poetry Slam Workshops @ The Birdhouse • 12-3pm

Suggested donation $15 • $5 for students with ID • Seating is limited


Ed Mabrey will examine the 5 W’s of your poetry, then take you through the do’s and don’ts of performing your work to create unforgettable experiences.


Workshop based on writing prompts to help create different worlds as to writing on one topic.

AURORA Listening Lounge

The Mill & Mine

Big Ears 2017 is partnering with Nashville’s renowned audio and technology company, Thiel Audio and their 4k Ultra HD live streaming division, AURORA Nashville to bring Big Ears patrons exclusive access to their new line of high performance wireless audio devices. Stop by the AURORA Listening Lounge at the Mill & Mine throughout the festival weekend to test our their speakers, charge your phone, and relax in-between Big Ears shows. Make sure to enter to win a LifeStream Home Speaker while you’re there!


Downtown Knoxville • Big Ears App • Free Podcast

walkwithme is about being somewhere. In a place. In your head. In the now. All at once.

Where we’ve been stays with us. It’s there when we recall the shape of a tree, or the way light moves on the edge of a building, in the sound of traffic and every face we encounter. It’s in the air. Along the street. Under a bridge. In buildings that hold history and memories. In the words of poets like RB Morris…

walkwithme uses spoken word, found sound and original music to provide a means for discovering the city with your senses.

Listen to each episode. Take it all in. Share your impressions. 

Tracks are optimized for earbuds or headphones, but they aren’t necessary. What’s important is being there and letting the place become part of you. Thanks for listening. Enjoy your walk.

Learn more about walkwithme here.

walkwithme is made possible by:
Visit Knoxville, CBID, Buzz Goss/Marble Alley,
Dick Coffey/Dixie Kitchens, Jenny Hines/Hines and Company, Aaron Thompson/Sapphire, and Nick McCall. Thanks also to AC Entertainment for including the project in the Big Ears festival, Jack Neely for his input and fact checking, TAMIS for the early recordings of WNOX, and the City of Knoxville.

Goose Island Patio

The Mill & Mine

The Goose Island Patio returns to Big Ears this year at its brand new location, The Mill & Mine! The Goose Island Patio is the perfect spot to take a break from the action or hang with your friends in between shows. Check out the schedule below for specialty tappings throughout the weekend!

Specialty Tappings:

Friday: 5pm – Devils Backbone Danzig Porter

Saturday: 4pm – Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Vertical (’15 & 16)

Sunday: 12:30pm – Goose Island Sisters Sofie and Lolita

Bike Rentals Powered by Tennessee Valley Bikes

210 W Magnolia Ave 

Pick up at 11am on Thursday

Return before 5pm on Saturday

In Knoxville and especially during Big Ears, we strongly encourage our community and visitors to cycle, which saves money while reducing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment. We’re proud to announce the return of our complimentary Bike Rental service to all Big Ears patrons, powered by Tennessee Valley Bikes – now at their new location on 210 W Magnolia Ave!

Janie Geiser: Look and Learn (Parts 1 & 3)

Knoxville Museum of Art • March 23-26 • Free & Open to the Public

Drawing on a range of visual instructions, assembly guides, photography manuals, maps, and diagrams, Look and Learn (Parts 1 and 3) excavates the visual vocabulary we use to operate and construct the daily material world. These instructions are filmed in tandem with a series of found 1950s school class photos. Each individual student portrait is inserted into an orderly grid, so the overall photo suggests orderly children seated at their classroom desks, ready to learn. Magnified through the camera, the individuals re-assert themselves, and suggest another kind of diagram, a barely glimpsed chaotic guide to their future world.

Part 1: Far wall; two side by side projectors (8-minute video loop)
Part 3: Entryway corner; projector with rotating mirrors (3-minute loop with rotating mirrors)

About Janie Geiser

Janie Geiser’s work “prowls around the mysterious boundary-land between territories–like the lands of the conscious and the unconscious mind, or life and death, sanity and madness, hope and despair, animate and inanimate, nature and culture. From these uncanny in-between zones, her projects send back mysterious intelligence about the roiling nether lands we largely fear to traverse alone. Geiser is a guide to the other side, wherever that ‘other’ might be.”–Holly Willis, KCET Artbound

Named one of the world’s top avant-garde filmmakers on Film Comment’s “Best of the Decade” list, Janie Geiser works in multiple disciplines, including film, installation, visual art, sound, and performance, often working and reworking bits of discarded materials. Janie is on the faculty at CalArts, and her work has been recognized with a Doris Duke Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an OBIE Award. Her films have screened at the Whitney, the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Centre Pompidou, Pacific Film Archives, and at major film festivals in New York, Rotterdam, London, Oberhausen, and Hong Kong.