It's always been difficult to describe Big Ears, the odd festival of offbeat, avant-garde, and experimental music that AC Entertainment is reviving this spring after a three-year layoff. (Sometimes I'm inclined to describe it as "music that Ashley Capps likes.") New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff seems to have nailed it in the paper's Jan. 1 issue, when the Times' critics named their picks for the most anticipated events and products of the year.
"It's an extraordinary music festival in Knoxville, Tenn., drawing and serving the intersections among classical minimalism; detail-oriented indie-rock; experimental electronics and improvisation; drone-based or ambient music; and complete wild-hair whatever," Ratliff wrote.
Ratliff, who attended the festival in 2009 and '10, praised the previous events ("I was amazed to see challenging music take over a relaxed, midsize city, presented with attention to sound and comfort—in renovated historic theaters, a museum, a large club and a cheery warehouse district dive") and recommended this year's edition, with good advice on how to approach the range of music presented, which always makes intuitive sense but sometimes defies easy classification:
"Go, and try to hear things that may not be in your normal aural diet; pay attention to the connections it draws; make your own."