Festival Recap: Big Ears 2018 – A Top 5 Rundown

1 – Kelly Lee Owens

With a fierceness that quickly made itself known as the set drove on, Kelly absolutely rocked the house harder than anyone else at Big Ears this year. She performed pretty much every song from her repertoire but that didn’t stop her from making a statement by performing it as if it was a collection of greatest hits gathered over a long career. Her vocal delivery was a bit below the rest of the concert’s mix, but it allowed her euphoric yelling to really shine when she got loud. I haven’t danced that hard in a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever danced that hard.

2 – GAS

Wolfgang Voigt was there for one purpose: perform music from the GAS catalogue and then leave. He walked out to an audience primed for sublime drone and deep sub frequencies, the lights already dimmed and his figure in the dark, below a towering projector screen. We were treated to some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen, all taken from what’s presumably the Konigsförst–the location where the whole idea behind GAS was formulated.

3 – Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval brought along a crew of three, including herself, to make the Bijou weird–and weird she brought. Her visuals were handled by a woman on the left of the stage who would occasionally join in on the on-stage antics, including yoga, dancing, and reading off Word Document screen prompts. The music was handled by Hval and the third member of the troupe, a guy who would pull out a guitar at some points that used a swath of keyboards and trigger pads to pull in the carefully sequenced beats and samples. The most bewitching bit of the entire affair was Hval’s voice, an otherworldly slice of terrifying, gorgeous siren-song.

4 – Sam Amidon

Sam Amidon treated a smaller audience in the Bijou to songs from his newest album, bringing along a notable band (Shahzad Ismaily on drums and Sam Gendel aka Inga on sax) and a warm heart. During his set, he performed a particularly inspired cover of Tim McGraw’s great song, “My Old Friend,” and read snippets from his hilarious collection of tweets, Notes on the Twitterographer.

5 – Kid Koala’s ‘Satellite’ Turntable Orchestra

I can say with total honesty that I’d never heard a solo Kid Koala song in my life, but I’d heard some of his work with collaborators. Leave it to Big Ears to introduce me to something I never knew I’d needed: Kid Koala and Emilíana Torrini’s Satellite, a warm work of emotionality directed at those who feel like they’re on the fringe of life. The show ran multiple times during the course of the weekend, and provided a thoughtful respite from running around between venues. I absolutely loved the concept and participatory nature of the entire performance.


Here’s a gallery of photographs from the festival taken by our General Manager, Anthony Williams–

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