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Patti Smith, Thundercat, Kronos Quartet, Network & More to Play 2020 Big Ears Festival

The Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, has announced its expanded 2020 lineup.

The Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, has announced its expanded 2020 lineup, which will include a headlining set from punk godmother Patti Smith and her band, who will play and participate in the literary program.

Attendees can also expect performances by the Bell Orchestre, Che Apalache, D. Scot Williams, plus 100+ other shows, as well as films and literary events. 

The three-day fest (March 26-29) focused on the avant garde, unexpected and surprising, will pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of the invention of the Theremin, with Rob Schwimmer, a master of the eerie instrument leading a trio featuring pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman in a 20th anniversary celebration of their album Theremin Noir

Montreal’s Bell Orchestre, featuring Arcade Fire members Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry, will make their Big Ears debut, while Chicago chamber group Ensemble Dal Niente will be joined by sax master Ken Vandermark as they perform music written for them by Roscoe Mitchell.


Other first-timers include Pakistani singer/composer Arooj Aftab’s Vulture Prince Ensemble, mezzo-soprano folk singer Josephine Foster, composer/percussionist John Hollenbeck, a solo performance from Múm cellist and singer Gyda Valtysdottir and cellist D. Scot Williams playing solo music by Hindemith, Crumb and Overall, according to a press release. 

Click here for more information on the event, which takes place in a walkable radius of downtown Knoxville in a range of ornate theaters, refurbished industrial spaces, art galleries, churches and clubs.

See the full announced lineup below:

75 Dollar Bill

A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Andrew Cyrille

Annette Peacock

Anthony Braxton

Areni Agbabian

Arooj Aftab’s Vulture Prince Ensemble 

Astrid Sonne 

Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses

Bang on a Can All-Stars

Bell Orchestre 

Ben Lamar Gay Quartet 

Caroline Shaw

Caterina Barbieri

Che Apalache 

Christian Scott

D. Scot Williams 

Damo Suzuki Network with the Sound Carriers

Dan Weiss Starebaby

Daniel Pioro & Valgeir Sigurðsson

Devendra Banhart

Diamond Curtain Wall Trio

Dos Santos


Electric Appalachia (William Tyler, Mary Lattimore, Eric Dawson of TAMIS)

Ensemble Dal Niente + Ken Vandermark 


Gyan Riley

Gyda Valtysdottir 

Harriet Tubman

Jacob Kirkegaard 

Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die

Jason Moran & the Harlem Hellfighters

Jeff Parker and the New Breed

Joe Henry’s 115th Dream

Josephine Foster 

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society

Kim Myhr

Kronos Quartet

Marc Ribot

Maurice Louca

Mdou Moctar

Meredith Monk

Moonlight Benjamin

mssv (Mike Baggetta, Stephen Hodges, Mike Watt)


Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret

MZM (Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins, Myra Melford)

Nadah El Shazly

Natalie Joachim


nief norf

Patti Smith 

Paul Lazar’s Cage Shuffle

Peter Brötzmann

Sam Gendel Concert Group

Sarah Davachi

Saul Williams

Shabaka and the Ancestors


Sonja Labianca 

Sons of Chipotle (John Paul Jones & Anssi Karttunen)

Sound for Andy Warhol’s KISS (Kim Gordon, Bill Nace, Steve Gunn, John Truscinski)

Spektral Quartet

Steve Coleman and Five Elements

Sudan Archives


Terry Riley

The Claudia Quintet 

The Haden Triplets

The Necks

Theremin Noir (Rob Schwimmer, Uri Caine, Mark Feldman)

Thunder Music Ensemble



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