Attending the Big Ears Festival is a massive undertaking with well-over a hundred concerts, events and films. The festival embodied everything from folk with Rhiannon Giddens and Bela Fleck to jazz with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Jack DeJohnette to ambient with Harold Budd and the 12-hour Drone to rock with Mercury Rev and Spiritualized. It’s hard to locate a center because everything is pushing at the edges.
This year, some 18,000 attended the festival, although it didn’t feel that way with concurrent concerts splitting the audience across 15 venues from the massive and magnificent Tennessee Theatre to the tiny Pilot Light club, which everyone described as a dive bar.
I tend to go to entire performances and not hop and skip from one to another, leaving in the middle here, arriving in the middle there, so perhaps I saw fewer events, 24 in total, but I soaked them all in, going from 12 noon to after 1am each night. That said, my highlight is a concert of which I only saw about 25 minutes.