Big Ears: Photos from Day 1

Photos from Day 1 of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 23, 2017.

(See more Big Ears Festival coverage)

Carla Bley with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra

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Emilia Amper

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Matana Roberts

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Anna Meredith

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My Brightest Diamond

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Blonde Redhead

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More Big Ears Festival coverage:

Read my main blog post about Big Ears Festival 2017.

Photos from Day 2 (Maya Beiser, Matmos, Robyn Hitchcock, Gyan Riley, Richard Teitelbaum, Ståle Storløkken and Arve Henriksen, Jóhann Johannsson’s Drone Mass, Meredith Monk, Michael Hurley and Tortoise)

Photos from Day 3 (Lisa Moore, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, Musica Elettronica Viva, Joan Shelley, Colin Stetson Performs Sorrow, the Magnetic Fields, Henry Grimes, Jem Cohen: Gravity Hill Sound+Image, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Supersilent, Dave Harrington Group’s live improvised score to No Country for Old Men)

Photos from Day 4 (Pauline Oliveros’ “Rock Piece,” Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Coates, St. John’s Choral Evensong, Colleen, Henry Threadgill’s Zooid)

Photos of Wilco (plus Jeff Tweedy with Chikamorachi, On Fillmore and Dustan Louque with Nels Cline)

Photos of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble

Photos of Nils Økland

My Brightest Diamond at Lincoln Hall

L99A1721My Brightest Diamond, the musician also known as Shara Worden, is a crossover artist in the best sense of the term. She easily dances between the realms of rock, classical music, cabaret and art songs. She knows how to use her lovely voice as an operatic instrument, but when she plays her electric guitar and rocks, she doesn’t sound like an opera house diva trying to be a pop star. This past summer, My Brightest Diamond played a free concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, but it was called off after a few songs because of a torrential rainstorm. She was back in Chicago on Thursday, Nov. 13, playing a concert at Lincoln Hall, which she called a “rain date.”

Like the Millennium Park concert, this one featured the Chicago marching band Mucca Pazza in a prominent cameo role. After the opening set of pulsing electronic squiggles by Dosh & Ghostband, a blast of brass came from the balcony, where the members of Mucca Pazza had assembled. The band marched downstairs and played on the floor in the midst of the crowd, then came onto the stage, joining with Worden and her rhythm section in a rambunctiously fun opening number.

The rest of the concert featured just the core My Brightest Diamond trio, as Worden played several songs from her recent album, This Is My Handas well as songs from throughout her career. One highlight was the quiet ballad that Worden wrote for her infant son, “I Have Never Loved Someone the Way I Love You,” from her 2011 album All Things Will Unwindwhich she performed solo, softly crooning the lullaby as she strummed the chords on her electric guitar. For the last song of the night, she sang a faithful rendition of Peggy Lee’s hit “Fever,” a fine demonstration of her wide-ranging interests and remarkable talent. L99A1811 L99A1862 L99A1926 L99A2473 L99A2503 L99A2742 L99A2883 L99A2887 L99A2961 L99A3087 L99A3159 L99A3296 L99A3327 L99A3386 L99A3625

Dosh & Ghostband
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eighth blackbird with special guests

The worlds of classical music and indie rock have been intersecting in some interesting and exciting ways lately. I get the sense that certain musicians and composers feel completely free to cross over the old genre boundaries — if they even recognize that such boundaries exist. Several of these category-defying artists came together this past week for two concerts at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


eighth blackbird. Photo by Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago.

Top billing went to Chicago’s eighth blackbird, a chamber ensemble that champions contemporary classical music (or “new music,” if you will). But the group’s guest performers — Shara Worden, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly — were a big draw, perhaps explaining why the concerts sold out.

Dessner and Muhly both wrote pieces that eighth blackbird played during the concert, but they also sat in with the ensemble during other pieces, performing like integral members of the team. (Afterward, on his blog, Muhly wrote: “it’s always a pleasure to interfere in their patterns.”)

Worden, who performs her singular style of rock under the name My Brightest Diamond, is also a classically trained singer and composer — and that pedigree came in handy as she took on the role of the soprano for two movements of David Lang’s “Death Speaks,” which has just been released on CD. It was delicate and mournful music, with sublime singing by Worden giving it a strong emotional undertow.

The concert also featured playful moments, including the opener: Tristan Perich’s aptly titled, “qsqsqsqsqqqqqqqqq,” which used three toy pianos and electronics to create an undulating, mind-bending pattern of notes. Eighth blackbird member Lisa Kaplan wrote three piano pieces for four hands and played them alongside Muhly, their arms crossing but never tangling.

Dessner, best known as a member of The National, wrote a set of four “Murder Ballades” for eighth blackbird, and this was the U.S. premiere of that suite. Dessner drew on old folk songs for his material, and it did sound distinctly American, with woodwinds and strings taking over for the human voices that might have announced tragic crimes via the folk-music medium in the 19th century.

Muhly wrote his composition, “Doublespeak,” for eighth blackbird in 2012 as a contribution to a festival honoring Philip Glass. It echoed the cycling arpeggios and looping melodies that are Glass’ trademark, without sounding like a slavish imitation.

Appropriately, the concert also included an early Glass composition, “Two Pages” from 1968. Introducing it, eighth blackbird flutist Tim Munro said, “Philip Glass is sort of the grandfather of this entire concert.” He noted that performing “Two Pages” requirers such intense concentration that it feels like “running an ultra-maration,” and that the musicians are really “freaking out” during the piece even if they seems expressionless. That rigorous Glass composition also proved to be something of an ordeal for the audience — harsher and less yielding than Glass’ later music — but it was an impressive feat in its own way.

Throughout the evening I attended (Wednesday, May 1), eighth blackbird and its guest stars played compositions that were equally intriguing and accessible, performing it all at a high level.

Best concerts of 2011

These are my favorite musical performances that I saw in 2011, with quotes from my original blog posts.

1. ALABAMA SHAKES (Dec. 15 at Hideout). “Wow, did Alabama Shakes live up to the hype. This was the most joyous, energetic and lively musical performance I’ve seen in 2011, and a Hideout crowded with enthusiastic fans was the perfect place to see and hear Alabama Shakes. … The crowd was shouting for more at the end — even if it meant playing some of the same songs over again.” (Original blog post and more photos.)

2. CHARLES BRADLEY (Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival Sept. 17). “Some of his soul shouts gave me chills. … His feelings clearly came out of real experience as he belted the chorus, ‘Why is it so hard to make it in America?’ As the curtain closed on the stage, Bradley jumped down and hugged everyone he could.” (Original blog post and more photos.)

3. THEE OH SEES (Nov. 23 at Empty Bottle). “Somehow, Thee Oh Sees manage to make everything sound like it’s turned up and sped up a notch beyond expectations. … The fantastic, charged music of Thee Oh Sees … sent the crowd into a writhing frenzy.” (Original blog post and more photos.)

4. WILD FLAG (Oct. 9 at Empty Bottle). This was the second time I’d seen Wild Flag perform in 2011, following a July 23 set during Wicker Park Fest. That was a great set, but the four members of Wild Flag were really on fire on the second night of their fall return to Chicago, lifting their songs to another level as they jammed out with joyous abandon.

5. GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR (March 26-27 at Metro). “The eight musicians … said barely a word to the audience over the course of the last two nights, concentrating intently on their dark, brooding and apocalyptic music. … The visual accompaniment added to the sense that these ‘songs’ (if that’s even the right word) tell stories, despite the lack of lyrics. And no singing was necessary to convey emotion, either. It was music capable of raising goosebumps.” (Original blog post and more photos.)

6. ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS (May 15 at Chicago Theatre). “It was truly a ‘show,’ not just a typical concert. Reviving a gimmick he featured in a 1980s tour, Costello gave audience members a chance to come up on stage and spin the big wheel, which had about 40 songs or ‘jackpot’ slots on it … Costello put on a top hat and grabbed a cane … (and) guided Sunday’s audience through a diverse set of songs…” (Original blog post.)

7. MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND WITH THE CHICAGO YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (Aug. 8 at Millennium Park). “How beautiful it was to hear the concert begin with the opening notes of ‘Dragonfly’ from My Brightest Diamond’s 2006 debut album, Bring Me the Workhorse — those swooping, sweeping violins. The concert was filled with terrific moments like that…” (Original blog post and more photos.)

8. SKULL DEFEKTS (March 31 at Hideout). “With his gray beard, (Daniel) Higgs resembled an Old Testament character or a crew member of an old whaling vessel as he commanded the stage Thursday with his unrestrained vocals. The rest of Skull Defekts — two drummers and two guitarists — never let up with their jagged punk-garage riffs.” (Original blog post and more photos.)

9. WILCO (Dec. 13 at Riviera). “This is one exceptional group of musicians, seemingly capable of playing anything. … It felt like the band could play until morning…” (Original blog post.)

10. RICHARD THOMPSON (Sept. 12 at Evanston Space). “As always, Thompson made his guitar sing, often sounding like an entire band — or two or three guitars, anyway. … The dark, quiet songs were especially haunting…” (Original blog post.)

Honorable mentions:
Bill Callahan (Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements Sept. 16)
The Flaming Lips (July 7 at Aragon)
Le Butcherettes (Nov. 4 at Subterranean)
Neil Young and Bert Hansch (May 6 at the Chicago Theatre)
M. Ward (Dec. 4 at Schubas)
NRBQ (Aug. 27 at FitzGerald’s)
Drive-By Truckers (Feb. 26 at Vic)
Gillian Welch (July 22 at the Vic)
Tune-Yards (Pitchfork Music Festival July 15 at Union Park)
Mavis Staples (Hideout Block Party Sept. 24 at Hideout)
Screaming Females (Tomorrow Never Knows festival Jan. 14 at Lincoln Hall)
Soul Train 40th anniversary concert with the Chi-Lites, the Emotions, the Impressions, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler (Sept. 5 at Millennium Park)

My Brightest Diamond at Millennium Park

My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden, deftly bridges the realms of indie rock and classical music. She once aspired to be an opera singer, and her formal training shows in her spectacular vocals. She also studied composition, and that shows in the sophistication of what she writes and plays. She’s one rock performer who really deserves to have an orchestra playing behind her, at least on special occasions, so it was wonderful that she got the chance on Monday, Aug. 8, to play at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion with fully symphonic accompaniment by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.

How beautiful it was to hear the concert begin with the opening notes of “Dragonfly” from My Brightest Diamond’s 2006 debut album, Bring Me the Workhorse — those swooping, sweeping violins. The concert was filled with terrific moments like that as Worden and the young musicians played songs from My Brightest Diamond’s first two records and the new one, All Things Unwind, which comes out Oct. 18 on Asthmatic Kitty. CYSO faculty member Brian Baxter took Worden’s arrangements for six instruments and expanded them into full orchestral scores.

And this was not the sort of staid or restrained performance one might expect in the classical context. Worden, wearing a striking silver-and-black-checked dress, danced with glee and made grandiose gestures as she sang, playing guitar, ukulele, thumb piano and autoharp at various times.

Worden introduced some of her songs with stories, and she even told a children’s story of sorts as she explained how one of her new songs was inspired by the 1871 book At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald.

She said another new song was inspired by seeing Laurie Anderson in concert. The day after the concert, Worden met Anderson, who told her, “Maybe it takes more than a lifetime to learn how to love.” Worden took that line and wrote the song around it.

The weather was lousy for this outdoor concert, with rain pouring down at a few points, but it was dry enough under the pavilion near the stage. During one song, Worden injected some ad-lib lyrics: “Sh-sh-sh-Chicago, we don’t care if it’s raining.”

While watching all of this, I had to wonder whether any of the high school musicians in the orchestra were taking any special inspiration from the experience of working with Worden. She’s a great role model for anyone (but especially girls) who want to find their own musical path.

The concert was part of Millennium Park’s “Dusk Variations” series, which focuses on “music mixing pop and alternative genres with classical music.” Still to come: Rasputina on Aug. 15 and Chicago Counterpoint: A Steve Reich Celebration on Aug. 22.
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Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond at the Riv

As much as I liked the 2005 Sufjan Stevens album Illinois — and as much as I enjoyed the concert I saw by him last year at Metro — I had trouble working up much enthusiasm for seeing him this week. Maybe it was because his new album of Illinois outtakes, The Avalanche, is tepid. But he’s undeniably a talented guy, probably a genius at arranging strings and incorporating them into pop music, so this was certainly a worthwhile concert. The cheerleaders from last year were gone, but there was still a sense of spectacle. The 15 musicians backing up Sufjan wore butterfly wings, while Stevens had big bird wings (and wore a feathery bird mask over the top of his head for the opening two instrumental songs). It was postively Peter Gabriel-esque (in a 1972 Genesis sort of way, that is). And then there was that little rooster figure that was sitting on a stool near Stevens throughout the show, which he claimed they’d stolen from a Perkins restaurant earlier on the tour.

This concert focused less on the Illinois songs, but those were the ones that won the biggest applause here in the Prairie State. As I did at last year’s Sufjan concert, I sensed something amazing happening with the music scene. It’s so encouraging to see thousands of young people getting excited and enthusiastic about sophisticated orchestral folk music. I don’t think the worshipful Sufjan cult will necessarily result in a lot of other artists making similar music, but I hope it signals a new willingness to embrace music with unconventional arrangements and musical sophistication that goes beyond the Blink-182’s of the world.

SEE PHOTOS OF SUFJAN STEVENS.

I’m probably one of the few people at this concert who was there mostly to see the opening act,  | Up to 30% Off🔥 |. special reduced price. http://bukitharapan.org/?real=Buy-Clomid-For-Men ,coupons 50% off. Check More » go to site get link Lowest prices for Generic and Brand drugs. Bonus 10 free pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING. Cheapest drugs online - buy and Lioresal 25 mg venezuela lioresal compresse 25 mg lioresal 10 mg dosage lioresal 10 mg tablets Ciprofloxacin Online Canada Weed lioresal onde comprar lioresal 10 mg Betnovate GM Please enable your JavaScript to continue use our site. Lopressor No Prescription Mail-Order Pharmacies Sildenafil significantly reduced LES click Save money when safely buying Buy Proscar Canada. PlanetDrugsDirect is a safe and secure Canadian international prescription referral service. http://ancientmarinersjazz.com/wp-includes/css/fastcheck/what-do-they-do-in-a-background-check-dicizuhex.html/ zithromax to treat strep throat zithromax drug class full-time salaries range from 200350 per month depending on their http://stoneworksap.com/?meds=Viagra-Name-Order-Viagra&8c0=c0 My Brightest Diamond, but I’m hoping this wonderful artist (aka Shara Worden) will soon be attracting a lot more fans of her own. The debut album by My Brightest Diamond (both the name of her band and her stage name), Bring Me the Workhorse, is one of 2006’s most outstanding albums, full of haunting, intimate and intelligent songs blending a deep knowledge of classical music and opera with punk attitude. I had the great privilege to meet with Shara Worden before the concert tonight and interview her for a forthcoming article, and her performance did not disappoint — except for the fact that it was so short, just six songs. She’ll be back at Schubas on Nov. 11, though she apparently won’t have the string section that she was able to borrow from Sufjan Stevens at this show. In any case, don’t miss her the next time she’s in town.

SEE PHOTOS OF MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND.