Billed as "an indigenous companion to the Big Ears 2014 music festival," Hello City is a sort of revamp and expansion of the local music showcase that first took place during the inaugural 2009 festival.
Kicking off Thursday evening, the four-day series of concerts and activities will feature more than 15 acts, primarily from Knoxville. Bands from Asheville, Atlanta, and Nashville will be appearing as well, with Netherfriends making the trek from Chicago and drone band Ancient Ocean from New York. The event was organized by Pilot Light owner Jason Boardman, Cole Murphy (whose avant-R&B alter ego Fine Peduncle will be performing), and artist manager Carissa Stolting.
"I had talked to Ashley [Capps] about being involved with Big Ears in some way, and we decided to put on some shows at Pilot Light as an adjunct to it," Boardman says. "I thought having local bands was something that needed to be done. Then Cole and mentioned he and Carissa had some bands booked for a party at Ironwood Studios, and I asked him if they wanted to collaborate with what Pilot Light was doing."
Bands scheduled include Asheville's Ahleuchatistas (who performed at the 2010 Big Ears), Nashville-by-way-of-Knoxville's Faux Ferocious, and Knoxville's Ex-Gold, Persona La Ave, White Gregg, and Yung Life. Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evening shows will take place at Pilot Light (106 E Jackson Ave.), while Ironwood Studios (119 Jennings St.) will feature five bands on Saturday evening. The Birdhouse (800 N. Fourth Ave.) will also host an installment of TEKNOX, showcasing regional house and techno DJs, on Friday evening. Start times vary, but if you're looking for an after-party, the shows are likely to still be going after Big Ears performances have wrapped up for the night.
In addition to the music performances, Music Room Guitars will present Gear for Your Ears, an instrument and gear sale and swap on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Pilot Light. At 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Pilot Light will screen Breadcrumb Trail, Lance Bangs' documentary about influential Louisville band Slint.
All shows and events are free to Big Ears pass-holders, with a cover of $5 for Pilot Light shows and $10 for the Ironwood show for non-pass-holders, with the exception of Gears for Your Ears, which is free to all.
The organizers say they hope this will be the beginning of more events under the Hello City banner.
"This installment is about having local and regional involvement attached to the Big Ears festival, but we're also talking about maybe creating a structure we can use that isn't attached to anything else," Boardman says. "Local and regional acts, but bringing in some things from further afield, too."
Saturday will also see the sixth installment of the Big Asses festival. Started as a local response to the original Big Ears festival, it's been held in various venues around town every year since then, even when Big Ears took a few years off. At least 20 bands will be performing from 1 p.m. to around 2 a.m., with a wide and wild assortment of garage and punk rock, hardcore, pop, folk, solo synth explorations, a stand-up comedian, and more. It's generally one of the best one-stop representations of Knoxville's underground music scene each year. It's an all-ages, donation-based event, and the organizers are reluctant about revealing too much info—like the location. But if you're visiting from out of town and have an interest in checking it out, ask a townie where to find it, or look for the Facebook page.