It’s another week and another slightly different Timely Tunes playlist than usual. I spent this past Thursday through Sunday at Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, and since this space is a reflection of what I am currently listening to, I figured that I would give a short rundown of the music that I heard at that event. Next week we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Life With Dee!
I have been to a lot of music festivals over the years, but I have never been to one quite like Big Ears. First of all, instead of spending a weekend in a giant field packed with people, sweating myself into a dehydrated husk, this festival takes place in theaters, churches, small venues, and a museum around downtown Knoxville. The venues were fantastic, relatively easy to maneuver between (assuming you don’t mind getting some between-show exercise in), and the sound mix was phenomenal at just about every show. If you haven’t been, I recommend making the journey next year.
The other thing that sets Big Ears apart in a crowded sea of sometimes same-y music festivals is how adventurous, diverse, and weird the lineup is. Many artists who perform at Big Ears rarely tour the United States, and many of these shows felt like once-in-a-lifetime moments (especially when the Gavin Bryars Ensemble gave a rare and transcendent performance of “The Sinking of the Titanic” accompanied by avant-turntablist Philip Jeck).
I believe I saw 27 performances throughout the four days, so I won’t give a play-by-play of everything, but some of the highlights included Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha, Blonde Redhead performing “Misery is a Butterfly” in its entirety, Matmos performing their interpretation of Robert Ashley’s “Perfect Lives (Private Parts)”, Robyn Hitchcock’s charming acoustic set, a gorgeous church performance by Norway’s Nils Okland Band, an electrifying Wilco set, an intense performance of the music from “Twin Peaks” by Xiu Xiu, a spine-tingling and black metal-tinged reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony by an ensemble led by saxophonist Colin Stetson, The Magnetic Fields performing all 50 songs from the new record, spread between two days, the transfixing Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan, and a sweaty, dance floor filling set by DJ/Rupture. Everything else I saw was great too. I didn’t see a single bad performance, which is pretty incredible given the track record of most music festivals.
The accompanying playlist features a selection of tracks from most of the artists that I saw at the festival. Many of them were new to me, and that’s always an exciting thing.
TIMELY TUNES, VOL. 41
1. Ahleuchatistas “Sundowning”
2. Dave Harrington Group “All I Can Do”
3. Michael Hurley “Any Ninny Any”
4. Anna Meredith “Scrimshaw”
5. DakhaBrakha “Vesna”
6. Blonde Redhead “Elephant Woman”
7. Matmos “You”
8. Robyn Hitchcock “Raymond Chandler Evening”
9. Nils Okland “Blond Bla”
10. Johann Johannsson “A Pile of Dust”
11. Matthew Shipp “Piano Sutras”
12. Wilco “Spiders (Kitsmoke)” (Live)
13. Tortoise “It’s All Around You”
14. Sir Richard Bishop “Dust & Spurs”
15. White Magic “Runaway”
16. Xiu Xiu “Falling”
17. Six Organs of Admittance “They Fixed the Broken Mirror Today”
18. Horse Lords “Truthers”
19. Colin Stetson “Sorrow: III – Lento – Cantabilie-Semplice”
20. The Magnetic Fields “’02: Be True to Your Bar”
21. Yasmine Hamdan “Hal”
22. DJ/Rupture “A01 Jibal Al Nuba, Gemini Dub”
23. Gavin Bryars “The Sinking of the Titanic”