Music Festival Watch / BIG EARS


Forget Coachella, Bonnaroo, and South By Southwest. The cities and towns of North America are packed virtually year-round with smaller, thoughtfully curated, niche-oriented annual festivals based around virtually every kind of music you can imagine, and many of these make ideal quick getaways for Western New York-based cultural tourists. From time to time in this column, I’ll call attention to fests I either know firsthand or have heard great stuff about, ideally giving you enough advance warning to book tickets for the coming year (or at least plan ahead for 2019).


First up: the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 22–25 (

Now in its ninth season, Big Ears skews toward “experimental” sounds, but some pretty big—and accessible—names fall under that rubric (including, in past years, the National, Vampire Weekend, the xx, and a collaboration between Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson). As we went to press, the jazz-centric 2018 roster already included Roscoe Mitchell, a tribute to the late Alice Coltrane, Béla Fleck, Brooklyn Rider, Diamanda Galas, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arto Lindsay, Lucius, and the trio of Medeski, Martin, and Wood. March is an ideal time to leave the gray skies of Buffalo behind for a weekend in bluegrass country.


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