R.B. Morris and his band launch inaugural Big Ears Festival streaming series live from the Bijou Theatre

Knoxville’s “songwriter’s songwriter” and first Poet Laureate R. B. Morris with his band will launch the Big Ears Festival’s new series of streaming concerts and events from the stage of the city’s iconic 111-year-old Bijou Theatre on Friday, August 21, 2020. Joined by multi-instrumentalist Greg Horne, bassist Daniel Kimbro, and percussionist Hunter Deacon, R. B. will perform the richly textured, cinematic “dust bowl” songs from his acclaimed new record, Going Back To The Sky. Released on CD and vinyl back in January, Singular Recordings is releasing the full recording to streaming services for the first time on Friday, August 14.

Lucinda Williams called Morris “the greatest unknown songwriter in the country” and, indeed, has been widely heralded by his peers while maintaining a passionate and devoted cult following for decades. The late John Prine signed R. B. to his Oh Boy label, releasing his first full- length recording, Take That Ride, back in the 1990s. A few years ago, Prine also recorded R. B.’s song, ‘That’s How Every Empire Falls’, which was then covered by Marianne Faithfull, encouraged by the late producer (and R. B. fan) Hal Willner. Steve Earle said simply, “R. B. Morris is the reason I started writing poetry.”

Big Ears Festival presents R.B. Morris at the Bijou Theatre.

In addition to his body of recordings, Morris has published several books of poetry — as well as the play, ‘The Man Who Lives Here is Loony’, an homage to fellow Knoxville literary icon, James Agee. Morris was the University of Tennessee’s Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence from 2004 – 2008, was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2009 and served as Knoxville’s inaugural Poet Laureate from 2016-2018. R. B. has performed on several occasions at the Big Ears festival, especially in 2016 and 2017, when he played with his band, performed poetry and spoken word, and led a program exploring aspects of the sometimes mysterious and elusive cultural history of the city.

The concert stream of R. B. Morris live from the Bijou will be available through NoonChorus. Tickets are priced at $10 (plus service fees) in advance, then $12 (plus service fees) on the day of performance. After the initial broadcast on Friday, August 21 at 8 p.m., there will be replays of the concert beginning at 9 p.m. that evening and continuing until midnight on Monday, August 24. For information and links to the stream go to www.bigearsfestival.org.

Proceeds from the stream benefit the Big Ears Festival, the Bijou Theatre, and the artists.

R. B. Morris’ live concert from the Bijou is the first program in a new initiative from Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival called Sites & Sounds from Big Ears. Collaborating with many of the world’s most exciting and groundbreaking musicians, artists, writers, and filmmakers, this new Big Ears initiative will encompass both full-length concerts and shorter vignettes from regular Big Ears venues as well as non-traditional locations throughout Knoxville, and further afield. The programs will also include talks, interviews films, readings, and more. The next programs in the initiative will be announced later this month.

The Big Ears Festival
The Big Ears Festival serves to bring artists and audiences together to create and share transformative cross-cultural experiences with a borderless mix of music, film, and conversation.

Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American and “one of the world’s greatest music bashes” by The New York Times, the Big Ears Festival has established itself as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings anywhere. The festival brings together a Who’s Who of established and acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators, and luminaries with inspired younger artists who are making fresh, new creative work. Big Ears is located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, taking place in over a dozen historic theaters, intimate clubs, majestic churches, and unique alternative performance spaces. All of the venues of Big Ears are within walking distance of one another. A Chicago journalist wrote, “Knoxville has the most venues with good sound within walking distance of any place in America.” The venues are intermingled with vital restaurants, bars, and shops, offering an unparalleled experience for artists and audiences alike. While primarily focused on music, Big Ears has developed strong film and literary components while also presenting installations, exhibitions, and interactive experiences.

The Bijou Theatre
The Bijou Theatre serves to enhance the cultural and economic development of Knoxville by providing all-inclusive access to the arts and creating a sense of place through historic preservation.

The Bijou Theatre is one of East Tennessee’s oldest and most revered performance venues, opening in 1909, as part of the Lamar House Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in Knoxville. Praised by The New York Times as “one of the best sounding rooms in this country,” the Bijou offers a clear stage view and aural excellence from every seat. The building also houses the acclaimed Bistro Restaurant as well as the Theatre offices. Music, vaudeville, opera, comedy and more have all been performed on the historic stage throughout the years hosting, among others, Joan Baez, The Ramones, Public Enemy, Richard Thompson, Bob Weir, St. Vincent, The xx, and comedian Aziz Ansari.

Aaron Greenwald
Managing Director of Big Ears Festival
[email protected]