Big Ears 2024 preview: The lineup’s best kept secrets

big ears music festival knoxville logo with text saying "the adventure continues march 21-24, 2024"

Knoxville’s annual Big Ears Festival is among the most interesting and diverse music events in the country. Rolling Stone describes it as “the most ambitious avant-garde festival to emerge in America in more than a decade.”

Get ready for an electrifying musical adventure unlike any other!

The Big Ears Festival is back, drawing artists and music enthusiasts from across the globe to Knoxville’s historic downtown for four days of unparalleled discovery.

With nearly 200 performances spread across restored theaters, churches, and refurbished warehouse spaces, attendees will be treated to an array of pop-up events, exhibitions, films, literary readings, and workshops in every nook and cranny of the city.

From visionary composers to groundbreaking musicians, the festival lineup transcends genres, promising an unforgettable fusion of classical, jazz, rock, folk, and avant-garde sounds that push artistic boundaries to new heights.

Don’t miss out on uncovering the best-kept secrets of the Big Ears 2024 lineup and immersing yourself in a musical experience like no other!

This festival makes creating a list of shows you can’t miss impossible. There is so much talent on this lineup. We’ve done our best to whittle down a list of shows from brilliant bands and composers that you absolutely cannot miss:

13 Big Ears 2024 artists you don’t want to miss

Zoë Keating

Over the past two decades, Zoë Keating has been a pioneering force in exploring the sonic possibilities of string instruments. With her cello as her canvas, she intricately weaves layers of sound that mesmerize audiences, earning praise for her genre-defying compositions. Utilizing technology to record and sample her performances both live and in the studio, Keating embodies a DIY ethos, handling every aspect of her music production independently. Her albums have achieved remarkable success, topping charts and finding widespread use in various media platforms, from NPR broadcasts to HBO dramas and documentaries. Beyond her solo career, Keating extends her talents to composing for diverse mediums including television, theater, film, and dance.

Performing Thursday March 21, 2024 – 6:45 PM at St. John’s Cathedral


Across two decades, Ahleuchatistas continuously redefine the boundaries of instrumental power trios. Emerging from a hiatus, Ahleuchatistas’ return in 2022 saw the release of the band’s ninth album “Expansion.” Led by guitarist Shane Parish, with Trevor Dunn on bass and Danny Piechocki on drums. Their mesmerizing performances, blending captivating melodies with abrupt shifts, further propelled by instrumental virtuosity, continue to impress international audiences. “Expansion” epitomizes their evolution, intricately composed and relentlessly paced, showcasing Parish’s guitar prowess amidst a whirlwind of frenetic rhythms and melodies, a testament to the band’s enduring innovation and growth.

Performing Sunday March 24, 2024 – 5:15 PM at Jackson Terminal

JJJJJerome Ellis

Delving deep into the realms of blackness, divinity, and nature, Jjjjjerome Ellis crafts a fusion of sound, text, and visuals. With saxophone, flute, dulcimer, and vocals, he conjures contemplative landscapes that defy categorization, blending spoken word with ambient and jazz textures. From theatrical performances to award-winning albums like “The Clearing,” Ellis’s artistry is a force to be reckoned with, earning acclaim for its transformative impact and profound storytelling prowess.

Performing Saturday March 23, 2024 – 4:30 PM at St. John’s Cathedra

Bitchin’ Bajas

Emerging from Chicago’s experimental scene in 2010, Bitchin’ Bajas is the brainchild of Cooper Crain, guitarist of the band Cave, joined by Dan Quinlivan and Rob Frye. Their debut album “Tones & Zones” blended repetitive grooves and non-Western polyrhythms into a hypnotizing tapestry. Collaborating with diverse artists like Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Olivia Wyatt, they’ve released nearly a dozen albums, culminating in their latest release, “Bajascillators” in 2022. With a unique sound that defies categorization, Bitchin’ Bajas continues to carve out their own stratosphere in the world of music.

Performing Friday March 22, 2024 – 10:30 PM at Old City PAC & Saturday March 23, 2024 – 10:15 PM at Regas Square

Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet is a multi-faceted artist born in Belgium, and shaped by a global upbringing, enchanting audiences with her unique blend of cello-driven compositions and haunting vocals. With roots in classical training and a penchant for experimental sounds, Gillet’s solo performances weave together an eclectic mix of French chansons, Belgian folk tunes, and influences ranging from rock to punk. Her latest album, “ReBelle,” released last year, showcases her prowess as a cellist, live looping artist, singer, and composer, solidifying her reputation as one of New Orleans’ most beloved and innovative musicians.

Friday March 22, 2024 – 2:00 PM Knoxville Museum of Art

bar itlalia

With a blend of post-punk, shoegaze, and lo-fi influences, London trio bar italia crafts moody and hypnotic indie rock. Comprising Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton, the band’s sound evolves from sludgy experiments to more polished yet volatile compositions. Their latest album, “The Twits,” recorded in Mallorca, showcases their knack for weaving evocative narratives through raucous, unkempt, and occasionally sinister turns, while maintaining a distinct, three-act dynamic rooted in shared kinship.

Saturday March 23, 2024 – 9:30 PM The Standard


Senryu, an underground art rock band hailing from Knoxville, has amassed a 24-year career, producing 23 records and earning acclaim for their dynamic recordings and spirited live shows. Founded by songwriter William Wright and drummer Steven Rodgers, the band is recognized for their fearless exploration and experimentation of pop styles. Wright is also known for his career in film composition, adding a unique depth to the band’s multifaceted sound.

Friday March 22, 2024 – 4:30 PM The Standard

Joanna Sternberg

Joanna Sternberg, a folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, was raised in Manhattan Plaza, the artist-subsidized residence known for its creative community. After pursuing classical music at Mannes College of Music and jazz studies at the New School, Sternberg transitioned from a gigging jazz bassist to writing and performing their own songs, with their debut album, “Then I Try Some More“, garnering praise for its raw honesty. Their latest album, “I’ve Got Me“, released in 2023 under Fat Possum Records, continues to explore the ideas that have defined their folk music story.

Friday March 22, 2024 – 1:15 PM Old City PAC

Joseph Allred

Joseph Allred, a musician and visual artist based in Crawford, Tennessee, draws inspiration from a rich tapestry of musical styles rooted in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee and Kentucky. American Drunkard called him, “Quite possibly the greatest living guitar player.” His guitar playing, influenced by Appalachian folk, bluegrass, blues, flamenco, and classical guitar, reflects a diverse array of musical traditions and avant-garde figures. Allred has released over twenty albums on various labels, including his own label, Meliphonic Records. His most recent album, “New Jerusalem,” was released in October of last year.

Saturday March 23, 2024 – 4:30 PM Jig and Reel & Sunday March 24, 2024 – 3:30 PM Jig and Reel

Joe Russo’s Selcouth Quartet

The Joe Russo Selcouth Quartet is as a exciting ensemble led by drummer Joe Russo, alongside Stuart Bogie, Jon Shaw, and Jonathan Goldberger. Their self-titled debut album, recorded at the remote Floki Studios in northern Iceland, showcases an engrossing blend of styles and moods, seamlessly drifting between haunting melodies and propulsive improvisation. Selcouth Quartet have only marked the start of a their compelling musical voyage.

Saturday March 23, 2024 – 5:00 PM The Point


Ringdown is a collaboration between Caroline Shaw and Danni Lee. They blend their diverse resumes, including a Pulitzer Prize in Music and Grammys, into an electronic cinematic pop duo arising out of Portland, Oregon. Their music occupies a unique space between classical influences like Brahms and contemporary artists such as Brandi Carlile. With a whimsical yet highly developed approach, Ringdown invites listeners on a journey to unorthodox musical territories, reflecting Shaw and Lee’s collaborative spirit and adventurous, imaginative allure.

Friday March 22, 2024 – 3:30 PM Old City PAC

Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio

Tomas Fujiwara, a prominent drummer and composer from Brooklyn, formed the 7 Poets Trio alongside Patricia Brennan and Tomeka Reid during his residency at The Stone in April 2018. Bringing together their diverse musical backgrounds, the trio’s debut showcased a blend of chamber jazz, modern classical composition, and improvisation, earning praise for their sensitive group consciousness and individual expressions. Their self-titled debut album released in 2019 on Rogue Art records was followed by “Pith” in September 2023 on Out of Your Head Records, solidifying their position as innovative contributors to the experimental jazz scene.

Saturday March 23, 2024 – 8:00 PM Regas Square

Horse Lords

From Baltimore, Maryland, Horse Lords redefine avant-garde rock with their boundary-pushing fusion of krautrock, post-punk, and traditional Appalachian influences. Comprising Andrew Bernstein, Max Eilbacher, Owen Gardner, and Sam Haberman, the quartet delves into just intonation and unconventional tunings, utilizing modular synthesis and algorithmic composition to create hypnotic, polyrhythmic soundscapes. With acclaimed releases like “The Common Task” in 2020 and “Comradely Objects” in 2022, Horse Lords continue to challenge musical conventions, earning praise for their carefully crafted chaos and compellingly unique approach to rock music.

Saturday March 23, 2024 – 5:30 PM Mill & Mine

Big Ears 2024 is poised to be yet another unforgettable festival experience. So mark your calendars, put on comfy walking shoes, and get ready to dive into four days of musical magic in downtown Knoxville.

View the complete lineup and festival schedule here.

Did you miss the recent Riverfront Nights announcement? Check out our Riverfront Nights festival spotlight to see this year’s full line up.