“Contained within a walkable radius of historic downtown Knoxville — in a range of ornate landmark theaters, refurbished industrial spaces, art galleries, churches, and clubs — it creates its own atmospheric climate, along with a center of gravity. 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

New York Times

Big Ears Festival: 15 Performances That Soothed, Jolted and Intrigued
By Jon Pareles // March 25, 2019
“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.”

“Put simply, Big Ears is an alternate universe, one where form-and-structure-defying acts can draw standing-room crowds, and erudite, serious listeners from around the globe can compare notes. … At its core, the festival is a celebration of the cerebral listening experience, offering a cornucopia of new and old sounds foreign and domestic for the relentlessly open-minded music fan.”
Rolling Stone


Big Ears’ Generous Cross-Pollination
By Peter Margasak, April 2, 2018
“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 // March 27, 2018
“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.”

Wall Street Journal

Big Ears Goes Electronic
By Peter Margasak, April 2, 2018
“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.”

Rolling Stone

Big Ears 2018: 10 Best Things We Saw
By Christopher Weingarten // March 26, 2018

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

Since its inception in 2009, the profile of the Big Ears Festival profile has grown from a local and national presence to yearly international coverage. Below is a small summary of notable articles that have been written about Big Ears, highlighting what The Wall Street Journal calls “a festival where all genres are welcome.”

“The Big Ears Festival, which unfolds each spring in Knoxville, Tennessee, might be the most open-minded music gathering in the country. Housed in an array of vintage theatres and industrial spaces, the festival unites elements of classical composition, jazz, rock, folk, and electronica.”
The New Yorker

The New Yorker

Embrace Everything
April 25, 2016

“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
April 14, 2016

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
April 3, 2016

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.

“one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over”
—Oxford American

Oxford American

Big Ears, A Reanimation
May 7, 2015

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.”


Live Report: Big Ears Festival
April 11, 2014

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.”

PBS Newshour

Big Ears Festival Breaks Barriers for Open-Minded Music Lovers
April 10, 2015

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.

Bitter Southerner

Don’t Knock Knoxville
September 27, 2017

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.

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