Since its inception in 2009, Big Ears’ profile has grown from a local and national presence to yearly international coverage. Below is a small summary of notable articles that have been written about Big Ears, highlighting what The Wall Street Journal calls “a festival where all genres are welcome.”

“A music festival with a rare vision.”


Rolling Stone

Big Ears 2017: Where Jeff Tweedy is Noise Star, Symphony Plays on Floor
March 27, 2017

Rolling Stone music critic Chris Weingarten declared the festival “a listening experience unlike any other in America,” boasting “the biggest, boldest lineup in the history of the fest.”

Big Ears 2016 Gathers Thousands in Pursuit of Drone
April 4, 2016

Weingarten concluded that Big Ears “preserved its status as the most adventurously programmed music festival in America” by way of ever-expanding program offerings and genre-defying musicians.

Big Ears 2015: On the Ground at America’s Biggest Avant-Garde Party
March 30, 2015

Quoting 2015 guest Rhiannon Giddens of folk genre-benders The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Weingarten notes, “Festivals like to say that they’re diverse, said particularly eclectic folk imagineer Rhiannon Giddens onstage at the fourth edition of Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, but this is a diverse festival.”

The Wall Street Journal

Genre Mixing Down South at the Big Ears Festival 
March 27, 2017

Jim Fusilli described Big Ears as a “silo-destroying festival” with “music liberated from the confines of category and overt commercialism.”

A Festival Where All Genres Are Welcome
April 5, 2016

Fusilli praises Big Ears 2016, “comprised [of] musicians who are happy to wander far from perceived convention, resist commercial trends, and demonstrate a mastery of craft and an affinity for self-expression.”


Avant-Garde Tendencies in Tennessee: A Report from the Big Ears Music/Art Festival
March 30, 2017

Steve Dollar of ARTNEWS affirmed that Big Ears “reconsiders the terms by which experimental music can be presented to an eager, sophisticated audience compelled by seemingly errant tangents of art- and music-making.”

DownBeat News

Big Ears Festival Embraces Jazz Experimentalism
March 30, 2017

Jon Ross likens jazz pioneer Carla Bley’s compositions to “chapter books with new themes and ideas emerging on each subsequent page.”

The New Yorker

Embrace Everything
April 25, 2016

“At Big Ears, the sounds are the stars, free of the tyranny of categories,” writes renowned American music critic and longtime contributor to The New Yorker Alex Ross. Citing Ben Ratliff’s Every Song Ever as his timely Big Ears jumping-off point, his review captures the heart and soul of not only this year’s festival, but of the event itself.

The Guardian

Big Ears Festival diary – three days at Knoxville’s genre-spanning event
April 3, 2016

Writer Seth Colter Walls sums it up nicely: “Crossing the boundaries of musical styles may have become a cliche – but when you have the likes of Kamasi Washington and Laurie Anderson on hand, it can also offer an innovative and moving experience.”

Our Critics’ Tips for 2016
January 1, 2016

The Guardian featured Big Ears among the likes of Martin Scorsese, PJ Harvey and others in their critics’ top picks for 2016, calling it “America’s (the world’s?) most thrillingly diverse festival lineup.”


Get to Know Big Ears, America’s Most Distinct and Defiant Music Festival
April 14, 2016

Returning critic Grayson Currin dives deep once again not only into Big Ears but into Knoxville itself, “again turned into America’s most carefully, lovingly program experimental music hub, at least for a perfect long weekend.” Currin also ponders the expansive, unexpected appeal of Sunn O))), music ownership and collaboration, and much more that gets at the unmistakable heart of the festival.

The New York Times

Big Ears Festival Resists Commercial and Genre Constraints
April 3, 2016

Writer Ben Ratliff, who’s been to every iteration of the festival since 2009, explores the “series of concentric circles” of music at Big Ears, informed by the classical tradition at the center.

Big Ears Stars the Avant-Garde
March 30, 2015

On reigning experimental throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Ratliff wrote, “She was doing her own version of what Big Ears has done in its four editions since 2009: assuring listeners that it is level, trustworthy, wise, acting on reason as well as passion, connected to a sense of culture and tradition, while putting fairly radical art before its audience.”

They Heard Whatever They Wanted
March 31, 2014

Highlighting the depth and breadth of music circumventing the center of the festival, Ratliff deems Big Ears “a festival about the experience of listening, full stop, rather than listening to genre X or tradition Y.”


“This is my favorite festival in the world. There’s nothing like it.”

– Bryce Dessner, guitarist for The National and internationally renowned composer

Brooklyn Magazine

Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, the Avant-Garde SXSW, Adds a Film Program
April 11, 2016

Film critic Jordan Cronk profiled the inaugural Big Ears Film program, noting, “Big Ears has reached its boldest, most ambitious heights yet, nurturing a cross-section of artists whose unique methodologies highlight not only a spiritual kinship between the musical and cinematic mediums, but expertly navigate the fertile ground between the two.”

Oxford American

Big Ears, A Reanimation
May 7, 2015

Holly Haworth of the South’s premier culture publication Oxford American presents her fabulous, creative exploration of ‪Big Ears, managing to capture the poetry, magic, and mystery that inspires our festival, deeming it “Knoxville’s monster … one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over.”

The Quietus

Live Report: Big Ears Festival
April 11, 2014

Hailing from London, author James Richards concluded after his Knoxville immersion, “[Big Ears] is unique among the American festivals in that it enlists musicians, not by genre, but their enthusiasm for provocation and their boldness to delve into the fringes of sound.”

The Hollywood Reporter / Billboard Magazine

Three-Day Wrap-Up
April 5, 2016

Writer John DeFore did double duty at Big Ears 2016, covering the festival for both The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard Magazine. Check out his recaps here:

Day 1: Thursday, March 31
Day 2: Friday, April 1
Day 3: Saturday, April 2

“America’s most carefully, lovingly programmed experimental music hub.”logo_black_type11

PBS NewsHour

Big Ears Festival Breaks Barriers for Open-Minded Music Lovers
April 10, 2015

Ashley Capps, artistic director and founder of the Big Ears Festival, chats with PBS’ Jeffrey Brown on the ways the small, personal and eclectic music festival aims to showcase how diverse genres can stretch and influence one another.

Nashville Cream

Big Ears Festival Breaks Barriers for Open-Minded Music Lovers
March 31, 2014

Focusing in on their time with visiting Jonny Greenwood, Nashville Cream‘s interview with the Radiohead guitarist features this memorable quote: “It’s nice how it’s in every venue in the city. I was in the art gallery watching Wordless Orchestra play ‘Shaker Loops,’ and it’s great bouncing around from venue to bar to restaurant. It’s a nice mix of music and fun.”

“There’s no doubt that Knoxville has become the role model now for a music festival of the 21st century.”

– Reiner Michalke, artistic director of the Moers Festival and of Cologne venue, Stadtgarten