The Big Ears listening party held at the Square Room on Thursday, Feb. 25, was heavy on the listening and light on the party, as AC Entertainment’s Ashley Capps held court from the stage to play—and discuss—music by key performers at the Big Ears festival, scheduled for downtown Knoxville on March 26-28.
After half an hour of clips from the Ex, the National, Gang Gang Dance, and Vampire Weekend, during which the room was filled just about to capacity, Capps took the stage, armed with a laptop, and explained the impetus behind the festival. Capps described the current state of pop music—fractured, unfocused—as similar to the 1960s, which helped him introduce minimalist composer Terry Riley’s momentous In C, first through the 1968 recording at the State University Center of Creative and Performing Arts, then New York new-music ensemble Bang on a Can’s 1998 version. (Members of Bang on a Can will appear at Big Ears to perform In C with Riley, Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, and new pieces by Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.) Capps followed this with a clip from the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” from 1973, which draw on Riley’s compositions.
Later that night, L.A.-based producer Nosaj Thing, who’ll be performing at Big Ears with British post-punk band the xx and Swedish avant-pop singer jj, played a brief set sandwiched in between Jogger and Daedelus at 90 Proof in the Old City.
And, in case you missed it, the almost-final lineup for Big Ears was announced late last month. Alt-folk superstar Sufjan Stevens has been added to the schedule, but he’s performing with the chamber-pop group Clogs and won’t be playing a solo set. Also new to the schedule: New York composer William Basinski, Baltimore’s Videohippos, former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, U.K. improv trio Konk Pack, jazz drummer Jens Hannemann (played by Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen), and Brooklyn black metal band Liturgy.