Pictures and words by Rrita Hashani and Zoe Evans.
Big Ears is nearing the end but we’re still going strong. We attended multiple shows on Saturday, but only picked three of our favorites.
Mimi Goese and Ben Neill
Mimi Goese and Ben Neill were certainly a PRESENCE. Neill stayed in one area of the stage, playing his trumpet and the synthesizer, as Goese floated around: dancing, sitting down, going off stage, even entering Neill’s area to wipe the sweat from his brow. “I know I take up a lot of the attention,” she told us, “but he is Oz”, referring to Neill. They played beautiful loops of music, as Goese whisper-sang, spoke, and bellowed into the microphone, and as Neill worked his magic with the trumpet. Behind them, dreamy video art played repetitively. Much of it was of nature, or inanimate objects going through change (like being frozen in water and thawed), but some of it included images of Goese herself. There seemed to be comfort and love between the pair that they brought to the stage, and to the audience. They played and joked with us, bringing levity and humor to the performance, which kept their work from seeming like it took itself too seriously. All aspects of their show, including their personalities, combined to make it an unforgettable experience.
Dragnet Girl with Live Score by COUPLER
You may have seen Yasujiro Ozu’s Dragnet Girl, but you’ve never seen it the way I saw it on Saturday. The 1933 film, which throws the audience into the deep end of a nuanced gang of “punks” in Japan, is filled with unexpected scenarios and excitement. YK records describes the band Coupler as “deliberate ambient music”-- which I find extremely fitting. Every moment of their live scoring seemed extremely well thought-through. Coupler used drums, synths, and bass to create suspense in the second just before a character’s intentions were revealed to us. They repeated certain patterns, to recall emotion from earlier segments of the movie. They played rhythms that seemed to ride forever and ever, emphasizing the film’s buzz, while maintaining the cool, uncomplicated mannerisms of the characters throughout. This project was a beautiful and intentional pairing, resulting in the best viewing of a 1930s gangster film I could have asked for.
Josiah Wise, or serpentwithfeet, is not as intimidating as the name might make you think. Serpentwithfeet comes from a personal mantra about being “fluid but grounded” and it shows in Wise’s disposition, lyrics, and performance. His avant-garde, audacious sound may shock you at first, but once you open up, you’ll definitely cry.
Whether you’re in love or not, you’ve definitely felt an overwhelming obsession for a person. The feeling swells in your chest and then all over and it’s almost too much. Serpentwithfeet gives into that obsession with his honest lyrics and theatrical, booming drums. At his set at Big Ears, he allowed the audience to join him. We sang with him, chanting “Sewing love into you is my job” and “Each time you deny my mess / You'll find yourself closer to me, closer to me.”
But his songs are not just about unrequited obsession, he also discusses the need to find someone you don’t settle for, and who doesn’t settle for you -- whether that be with a lover, a friend, yourself or even “that person at the cafe that always gives you extra lox.”
Ooh child bless your heart
Keep a tender heart
Wise also read the poem “I Take Mastercard (Charge Your Love to Me)” by Knoxville native Nikki Giovanni. Here’s a snippet:
I've heard the stories
'bout how you don't deserve me
'cause I'm so strong and beautiful and wonderful and you could
never live up to what you know I should have but I just want to let you know:
I take Mastercard
He gave us so much in so little time. When he stepped off stage, we realized the set had only been a half hour long. “He made me cry and then cry again when he left,” an audience member said. Maybe that’s just what he wanted.