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Big Ears 2017 Festival Review

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Nogbad_The_Bad View Drop Down
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    Posted: March 27 2017 at 20:23
Spent the weekend in Knoxville at the most eclectic festival I know anywhere. Had a whale of a time as usual with a couple of friends. Some bands hits some misses.

Thursday
First up Ahleuchatistas who were heavy complex, loud, good room, big crowd, forgot my ear plugs that was a mistake, really enjoyed the set. The Sarah Kirkland Snider vocal Chamber ensemble was superb, really entracing. Enjoyed the Anne Meredith, reminded me a lot of Moulettes with a bouncy joyful feel and interesting instruments with Tuba and Cello. That was my last act of the day as I was beat and knee was killing me.

Friday
Maya Beiser was wonderful trance like solo cello, Matmos wasn't really for me, spoken word with ambient acoustic behind, left after 30 min, Fredric Rzewski, was 20th century solo piano, good in parts, 30 min was enough for me, Storlokken and Hendriksen were playing ambient church organ and trumpet in a church, superb, wonderful stuff. Johannsen Drone Mass with choir and string Quartet playing over drone was otherworldly, I was entranced. Last 3 bands of the night, stayed for 5 songs of Wilco, alt-country, not really my thing, headed over to Carla Bley trio, I was looking forward to Andy Sheppard on sax, good avant jazz, enjoyed it a lot, then off to Tortoise at midnight, very good set of groovy post rock focused on electronica. Walked 16 miles between venues over the day, phew!

Saturday
Day 3, bit of a mixed bag, first up Meredith Monk, vocal artist with very little backing, no words just wails clicks and pops, gave up after 4 songs. Sir Richard Bishop, pleasant solo electric guitar, stayed for a couple of tracks and went for a beer. Hans Joachim Roedelius(Cluster/Harmonia), ambient electronica and piano in the Cathedral, beautiful stuff transcendental. Musica Elettronica Viva, piano and keyboard musique concrete, lots of samples, improve, back and forth, we were all sitting on the floor soaking it up, wonderful stuff. Horse Lords, minimalist post rock, layer upon layer, crushingly heavy and loud, grooved and grooved, loved it. The Magnetic Fields, huge stage set up in the Tennessee Theater for Americana song cycle, did nothing for me, left after 2 songs. Gavin Byars Ensemble, listened to 8 sonnets with string quartet and 2 vocalists, beautiful stuff. Henry Grimes, free jazz only stayed for 1 track. Supersilent were excellent, dark stage shrouded in dry ice, crushingly heavy, layer upon layer of keyboards effects and trumpet. One of the highlights, stunning.

Sunday
Day four got off to a slow start with the first act for me at 2.30 with Theo Blackmann and Ben Monder, treated vocals with jazz guitar with lots of effects, very good set. Next was Oliver Coates solo cello , I liked it, not enough looping or effects for my personal tastes but well done. Deathprod was crushingly heavy lava slow ambient electronica in a pitch black theater, superb set, dark, heavy, massive, loud, mind altering. Last up was Gavin Byars, doing a minimalist classical piece with effects and a film of the Titanic, spoilt a bit by being an hour late starting.

Top Picks
Deathprod, Supersilent, Horse Lords, Ahleuchatistas

Very Good
Sarah Kirkland Snider, Johannsen Drone Mass, Tortoise, Musica Elletronica Viva, Anne Meredith, Bleckmann - Monder, Roedelius, Gavin Byars Ensemble, Carla Bley Trio, Storlokken & Hendriksen




Edited by Nogbad_The_Bad - March 27 2017 at 20:42
Ian



Anyone who thinks Kansas is Prog get out of the room - Adolf Hitler



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote organizedsound Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2017 at 09:45
Hey, NogBad,

I was there too! I don't go on PA too often anymore, so I didn't see your post until just now. Big Ears was incredible! Everything I could ever want from a festival, without any of the downsides to your typical outdoor event. Brilliantly curated (what a lineup for fans of experimental and otherwise bold music!), clean venues and bathrooms, respectful crowds, a beautiful city––I had a wonderful experience and plan to go back next year if it lines up with my work schedule. I definitely recommend it to any other PAers reading this. Most of the lineup is by no means "prog," but the vast majority of acts are far more progressive than "prog" bands. 

We seem to have fairly similar taste, with some overlap. My favorite acts of the festival were definitely Horse Lords, Supersilent, Deathprod, Wilco (they are my thing), and Matmos (huge fan of their output, but it was a treat to see them interpret the work of a 20th century master, Robert Ashley. Their theatricality was a welcome change to the weekend as well), and I was also at the Ahleuchatistas, Tortoise, Richard Bishop, Anna Meredith, and Bleckkman/Monder sets. Beyond those, though, there were several other highlights for me that you didn't go to, and that's the beauty of the festival––there's so much amazing work that you couldn't possibly see everything that you want to see. ACME's performance of Charlemagne Palestine's Strumming Music was transcendent, both Xiu Xiu sets were wonderfully offputting, Jace Clayton's subtle and humorous reworkings of the music of Julius Eastman put me in a trance, and I was lucky enough to see one of my favorite guitarists, Nels Cline, in THREE different sets (Wilco, his set with his wife, Yuka Honda, and a secret show). And so much more! It was a continuously blissful weekend. 

I'll sign off by saying that PA needs to give Horse Lords some attention. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nogbad_The_Bad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2017 at 10:48
Glad you enjoyed it, I'll probably be there next year, I go with two other progheads who are into the experimental stuff, there are some of their reviews over on ProgEars. If you're there next year we'll have to connect.


Cheers


Edited by Nogbad_The_Bad - May 03 2017 at 11:02
Ian



Anyone who thinks Kansas is Prog get out of the room - Adolf Hitler



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