As advertised, Big Ears 2019 was a guitar extravaganza. My wife Liz and I were able to see Bill Frisell, David Torn, Mary Halvorson, Anthony Pirog, and Rafiq Bhatia, some of them multiple times, as well as other, non-guitar improvising legends and newcomers. Once again, venues like the Tennessee Theater, The Bijou Theater, The Standard, and The Mill and the Mine offered stellar sound quality and sight lines, and the local food was fabulous.
Big Ears starts Thursday. For those of you attending, here is a sample of the amazing guitar performances planned. For those of you who can’t make it, here is what you will be missing. There are still General Admission tix available, so if you can get to Knoxville this week, please do.
Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan
Sun of Goldfinger
Mary Halvorson and Code Girl
I am heartened by how it gets harder and harder to pick the best of the year. It means that there are more and more great records of modern guitar being issued all the time. This year was made a little easier by the fact that veteran masters like David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Eivind Aarset all appeared on one or more records. The list is rounded out by younger players like Julian Lage, Max Kutner, and Anthony Pirog, as well as the introduction of new faces: Justus West, Rafiq Bhatia, and Igor Osypov.
If you are a fan of modern guitar, Knoxville, Tennessee is without doubt the place to be March 21-24, 2019. The lineup at last year’s Big Ears Festival was terrific, but this year’s crop of modern guitar mastery is even more bountiful. Get your tickets and reserve your rooms soon. For starters, Bill Frisell is performing in two contexts.
Those familiar with Anthony Pirog from his work with the duo Janel and Anthony or from his solo record, Palo Colorado Dream, might be surprised by the pugnacious shredding he evidences in his new band, The Messthetics. They shouldn’t be, though. If you lie down with punks you wake up with aggro, and joining Pirog in the band is the former Fugazi rhythm section of Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty. The Messthetics also let’s Pirog channel his inner Sonny Sharrock, which combined with his mastery of effects makes for one of the most exciting modern guitar records so far this year.