Opinion: Big Ears 2016 is an experiential feast

Alexis Kamolnick explores the grandeur of this past weekend’s seventh annual Big Ears Festival.

Downtown Knoxville’s seventh annual Big Ears Festival drew yet another potent cluster of world-class artists to our relatively unsung streets. The festival delivered every ounce of promised brilliance to niche patrons and pedestrians alike. Reputable independent art sponsor, AC Entertainment, organized this festival to “celebrate the the never-ending adventure of artistic creation and exploration,” showcasing indie talent that the majority of residents are unlikely to come across.

This year’s eccentric collection proudly included Laurie Anderson, a strikingly avante-garde multimedia artist whose work has remained provocatively cutting edge for 50 years running. She was also the cherished wife and inspiration of the late Lou Reed. According to “Rolling Stone,” her collaboration with “minimalist master,” Philip Glass, was the “most notable” feature of the festival. It was also this particular show’s second performance on earth, and its first performance within the United States.

Envision the Tennessee Theatre’s guilded-age grandeur housing a hypnotized ocean of an audience, each awaiting Anderson’s poetic invitation to the solemn stroke of her bow, each hand clapping feverishly just as she lifts it. Meanwhile, to complement her gripping reflection, Glass’s buoyant piano and comical tone complete the performance by exposing the brighter hemisphere of human experience. With many sate souls shining from many wet eyes, the performance draws to its haunting close, and the audience rises to its feet.

This experience was merely one among many performances that inspired profound responses in the Big Ears 2016 audiences. At the very least, this festival is consistently a testament to the merit of witnessing and supporting rare talent that escapes mainstream press.

Our city is given this opportunity to amble listlessly into presentations that reward our artistic experimentation through film, gallery exhibition, live performance or artist/audience interaction.  As affirmed by the “Oxford American Magazine,” “It’s an obscure and prismatic music festival in an obscure and prismatic city, catching the light from all different angles.”

Next year, don’t be fooled by the discretion of Knoxville’s predominately indoor venues because precious experiences lurk beneath downtown’s scruffy husk.

You can find out more about this year’s festival on the Big Ears website and their Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of Big Ears Festival Facebook page.

Edited by Katy Hill