Vampire Weekend, The National Rock Eclectic Big Ears Festival

March 29th, 2010 by Matt Hendrickson Leave a reply »

Photo: Forrest/WireImage

When you think of classic college towns, Knoxville, Tennessee doesn’t exactly spring to mind. Unlike Athens, Georgia, or Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose respective universities spill into the downtown streets creating a vibrant, eclectic social hub, the University of Tennessee buttresses “The Strip,” a mostly soul-crushing stretch of countless fast foot chains and down n’ dirty student bars. For various reasons, the city’s nearby downtown area has struggled through the years — part of it is geography, it’s separated from the university by a man-made park and a busy six-lane highway ­— but after some wobbly periods it’s begun to find its footing due to a dedicated group of local activists and tent-pole events such as the Big Ears Festival, which held its second installment this past weekend.

Simply put, while Knoxville may not have the name cachet, Big Ears is arguably the classiest, most diverse festival in the country, selling more than 13,000 tickets for the 30-plus events. The brainchild of local promoter Ashley Capps (also one of the founders of Bonnaroo), BE’s closest model is All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, but with an even wider range of musical offerings. Of-the-moment bands like the xx, Vampire Weekend and the National — whose guitarist Bryce Dessner served as Capps’ co-curator — joined renowned minimalist composer Terry Riley, ambient noise freaks like Ben Frost, Tim Hecker and William Basinski, black metalists Liturgy, electronic folk artists the Books and even Andrew W.K., who performed with his chamber pop collaborators the Calder Quarter as well as giving a fiery motivational “speech” at high noon on Saturday at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

But the bar was immediately set high on Friday night with a searing set from ...

Article Source: Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily


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