“I used to have 30 guys helping me do this,” quips Jones as he adjusts a mic stand. “…but here I am.”

And indeed, there he was, all alone on the stage, performing a dizzying variety of instruments, from lap steel, to mandolin, to triple-neck guitar, grand piano, pipe organ, Kyma electronics, and of course his signature bass. Winning the prize for the festival’s most audacious entrance, Jones rose from the orchestra pit playing “Your Time Is Gonna Come” on a bright red-painted theater organ, to delighted squeals of recognition, masterfully tweaking his audience’s collective memories and, alternately coaxing them along with him into the future with live electro-acoustic performances like this one:


Bassist, keyboardist, mandolinist, composer (and much more), John Paul Jones – once in a little band called Led Zeppelin — has more recently toured as Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and Joshua Homme, appeared in Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera ‘Anna Nicole,’ toured the US with Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, released Cloud to Ground (debut album of Minibus Pimps), and made several guest appearances with acclaimed Norwegian avant-garde group Supersilent.

John was also one of the first adopters of Kyma (on the original Capybara), and he continues to expand the frontiers of live interactive electronics performance today using the newest incarnation of the APU hardware — the Pacamara Ristretto — in conjunction with his bass, piano, and a menagerie of tiny controllers and other instruments (expect the unexpected).

At the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville 22, 23, 24 March, Jones is presenting not one, not two, but three performances:

John Paul Jones playing a grand piano in an orchestra rehearsal room

John Paul Jones Solo Concert at Big Ears 2024

Sons of Chipotle: Anssi Karttunen & J P Jones

Thurston Moore & John Paul Jones

1. John Paul Jones solo concert on Friday, March 22

2. Sons of Chipotle, with cellist Anssi Kartunnen on Saturday March 23

3. John Paul Jones with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) on Sunday March 24

Other festival headliners and events include Herbie Hancock, Jon Batiste, André 3000: New Blue Sun Live, Rhiannon Giddens, Adrianne Lenker, Laurie Anderson, a Blacktronika workshop exploring how Detroit Techno, Chicago House and Jamaican Dub contributed to the advancement of electronic music, and a film festival including Ancient Voices: a film for George Crumb, Sisters with Transistors, and more!

“One of the world’s biggest music bashes” (NYT), the Big Ears Festival features visionary composers and musicians on concerts that transcend genre — bringing together trailblazers and iconoclasts, blending classical and contemporary composition, jazz, rock, world music, pop, avant-garde, ambient, experimental, and beyond.

Big Ears offers 200 performances during the festival situated in historic downtown Knoxville — at restored historic theaters, churches, refurbished warehouse spaces, museums, galleries, and clubs — with pop-up events and performances, exhibitions, films, literary readings, workshops, markets and talks taking place in cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, all within walking distance or dedicated trolley service to nearby hotels.

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