City Beat: Big Ears has strong Dennis Palmer vibe

City Beat: Big Ears has strong Dennis Palmer vibe

March 27th, 2014 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Music

There are so many cool things to do in Chattanooga these days, we don't often mention things as far away as Knoxville, but this weekend's Big Ears festival is a little different. Actually, it's quite a bit different, in a Dennis Palmer kind of way.

It's been almost 14 months since the Shaking Ray Levi Society co-founder passed away, and while he has been on the mind of lifelong friend and cohort Bob Stagner every day since, this festival is especially meaningful to Stagner because it represents so much of what Palmer believed in.

Stagner will be performing at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Square Room as part of David Greenberger and Prime Lens. If that supporting band seems unfamiliar to you, look closer. It's derived from the letters in Dennis Palmer.

Greenberger has collaborated with Palmer and Stagner many times over the years here and elsewhere. He is a New York-based author, artist and radio commentator best known for his Duplex Planet series and his conversations with old people.

Stagner is one of just a few local or even regional artists performing at Big Ears.

The festival will include music, installations, exhibitions, film screenings, interactive workshops, talks and surprise collaborations. It's being produced by AC Entertainment. AC produces the Bonnaroo and Forecastle festivals, books acts for Track 29 and owns and operates the Bijou and Tennessee theaters in Knoxville.

Big Ears is a little more eclectic in nature than those, and you get the sense that AC founder Ashley Capps is doing this one for just that reason. There are big names on the schedule that will appeal to music snobs perhaps but not necessarily your average fan.

Composer Steve Reich will be there, and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood will perform Reich's "Electric Counterpoint." John Cale, co-founder of the Velvet Underground, also will perform, as will seminal punk band Television.

The event is designed to "entertain, excite, provoke and inspire the creative spirit in all who attend." It's a mission that reminds Stagner of something Palmer said over and over in the months before his death.

"He kept saying we needed to do another festival like we'd done years ago. I didn't think it made sense, but he reminded me that we were still hearing from all of these people who were inspired by it and went on to do these really cool things. He was right of course."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.