Our last day at Big Ears again involved some tough decisions. Terry Riley or Bill Morrison/Bill Frisell? Zs or Perfume Genius? Sleeping or eating? Ultimately, we ended up at just two shows. Each one, I personally would have made the trip for on their own.
In the first set of the day, Terry and Gyan Riley played with violinist Tracey Silverman under Richard Jolley’s steel and glass piece ‘Cycle of Life’, which overhangs the Bailey Hall in the Knoxville Gallery.
We arrived at 3:15ish for a 4 pm show, so we’d have time to scrounge chairs (the room, as with most venues apart from the Bijou and Tennessee Theatres, was left bare for floor sitting or standing). The early bird gets the worm. We were privileged to hear Terry Riley’s sound check starting about half an hour early, which consisted of a piano-backed singing raga. I tweeted, ‘Terry Riley winning at sound check’.
Among the pieces were Darshan, Mongolian Wind, and another raga. The interplay among the three was wonderful to watch. Another series of sound meditations. It was inspiring to see a hero, performing with energy and love.
For our next set, we returned to the Standard for Silver Apples – this version comprised of two Knoxvillians, Toby Dammit (sometime Stooges drummer), and Simeon. The show was joyfully noisey, full of weird juxtaposition of straight-ahead drum beats and OG style analogue synthesizer sounds.
Once again, we shoulda-coulda gone to see Michael Gira/Swans at the Bijou after Simeon. But for us, these shows of Big Ears would suffice.
Overall, the festival was extremely well-organized, low key, and featured interesting collaborations among big musical heroes of mine. The people in Knoxville were incredibly friendly. At every venue, staff were happy to help us find a place for a woman with a cane to put a chair. The audience was, in the main, there to see music [not to chat or see-and-be-seen, my least-favourite festival behaviour]. People remembered and chatted with us from one day to the next. They were impressed and flattered that folks had come all the way from Canada to their city and their festival. Knoxville was also a nice, low-key city without attitude. That part of the state, at least, was green, warm, and with lovely rolling hills.
I miss having my ears enlarged, and hope to make it back to the Big Ears again.