From its first iteration in 2009, the Festival has been a locus of expedition, defined more by a go-anywhere ethos than by any style or genre allegiance.

NPR Music

Recent BIG EARS Press

Nashville Scene

Listening a Bit Differently at Big Ears Festival 2019

By Olivia Ladd //

Surprises from Spiritualized, vulnerability from Jlin, a look inside the mind of composer Nils Frahm & more.


Our Six Favorite Performances at the 2019 Big Ears Festival

By Lee Zimmerman //

“There’s no other festival quite like Big Ears … the Knoxville-based event has a propensity for presenting the unexpected while reaching well beyond any preconceived parameters.”

New York Times

Big Ears Festival: 15 Performances That Soothed, Jolted and Intrigued

By Jon Pareles //

“Instead of sales metrics or star power, Big Ears contemplates the perceptual properties of music: shades of dissonance and consonance, the particular qualities of a drone, the ever-changing applications of subtlety and brute force.”


ECM At Big Ears: A Boundless Label Meets A Broadminded Festival

By Sarah Geledi & Nate Chinen //

“ECM is observing its 50th anniversary this year and its largest celebration took place at Big Ears, where artists from its roster played some 20 concerts.”

Wall Street Journal

Big Ears Goes Electronic

By Peter Margasak //

“The annual Big Ears Festival again featured artists eager to experiment, including a slate of talented electronic artists who pushed the genre in new directions.”


Big Ears’ Generous Cross-Pollination

By Peter Margasak //

“With every installment, Big Ears feels more like several festivals under a single banner … But that segregated outlook misses the genius of the festival, which is about cross-pollination. Few festivals in the U.S., let alone the world, program such a broad array of cutting-edge artists across all genres.”


Jazz’s Bleeding Edge? You Can Find It, Briefly, In East Tennessee

By Nate Chinen //

“This year’s Big Ears felt right in tune with an emergent, exhilarating frontier. I see this not only as a hopeful turn in the festival’s model of inclusion but also as an indicator of present-day permissions around jazz’s state of the art.”

Rolling Stone

Big Ears 2018: 10 Best Things We Saw

By Christopher Weingarten //

“Nigerian party jams, a turntable orchestra, a cardboard box played with a bow and more from Knoxville’s annual experimental gathering.”

Bitter Southerner

Don’t Knock Knoxville

By Rob Rushin //

Rob Rushin explains the fascinating history of Big Ears founder Ashley Capps’ creative ventures. It’s a gem of a story and an important reminder of the power of art.


Big Ears Festival Embraces Jazz Experimentalism

By Jon Ross //

Jon Ross likens jazz pioneer Carla Bley’s compositions to “chapter books with new themes and ideas emerging on each subsequent page.”


Avant-Garde Tendencies in Tennessee: A Report from the Big Ears Music/Art Festival

By Steve Dollar //

Steve Dollar of ARTNEWS affirmed that Big Ears “reconsiders the terms by which experimental music can be presented to an eager, sophisticated audience compelled by seemingly errant tangents of art- and music-making.”

Wall Street Journal

Genre Mixing Down South at the Big Ears Festival

By Jim Fusilli //

Jim Fusilli described Big Ears as a “silo-destroying festival” with “music liberated from the confines of category and overt commercialism.”

Rolling Stone

Big Ears 2017: Where Jeff Tweedy is Noise Star, Symphony Plays on Floor

By Chris Weingarten //

Rolling Stone music critic Chris Weingarten declared the festival “a listening experience unlike any other in America,” boasting “the biggest, boldest lineup in the history of the fest.”

The New Yorker

Embrace Everything

By Alex Ross //

“At Big Ears, the sounds are the stars, free of the tyranny of categories,” writes renowned American music critic and longtime contributor to The New Yorker Alex Ross. Citing Ben Ratliff’s Every Song Ever as his timely Big Ears jumping-off point, his review captures the heart and soul of not only this year’s festival, but of the event itself.


Get to Know Big Ears, America’s Most Distinct and Defiant Music Festival

By Grayson Haver Currin //

Grayson Haver Currin dives deep not only into Big Ears but into Knoxville itself, “again turned into America’s most carefully, lovingly program experimental music hub, at least for a perfect long weekend.” Currin also ponders the expansive, unexpected appeal of Sunn O))), music ownership and collaboration.

New York Times

Big Ears Festival Resists Commercial and Genre Constraints

By Ben Ratliff //

Writer Ben Ratliff, who’s been to every iteration of the festival since 2009, explores the “series of concentric circles” of music at Big Ears, informed by the classical tradition at the center.

The Guardian

Big Ears Festival Diary – Three Days at Knoxville’s Genre-Spanning Event

By Seth Colter Walls //

Writer Seth Colter Walls sums it up nicely: “Crossing the boundaries of musical styles may have become a cliche – but when you have the likes of Kamasi Washington and Laurie Anderson on hand, it can also offer an innovative and moving experience.”

Oxford American

Big Ears, A Reanimation

By Holly Haworth //

Holly Haworth of the Oxford American presents her fabulous, creative exploration of ‪Big Ears, managing to capture the poetry, magic, and mystery that inspires our festival, deeming it “Knoxville’s monster … one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over.”


Big Ears Festival Breaks Barriers for Open-Minded Music Lovers

By Jeffrey Brown //

Ashley Capps, artistic director and founder of the Big Ears Festival, chats with PBS’ Jeffrey Brown on the ways the small, personal and eclectic music festival aims to showcase how diverse genres can stretch and influence one another.

Tennesssee Theatre
The Quietus

Live Report: Big Ears Festival

By James Richards //

Hailing from London, author James Richards concluded after his Knoxville immersion, “[Big Ears] is unique among the American festivals in that it enlists musicians, not by genre, but their enthusiasm for provocation and their boldness to delve into the fringes of sound.”

Knoxville, TN · USA



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