Big Ears — Personal Selections from Ashley Capps

You know we’re really excited about the Big Ear Festival coming up. It’s next weekend! We were also very happy to see another email from Ashley Capps about the event, and this time he included some tips and information to help folks navigate all the great performances that are coming to Knoxville. Enjoy…and we’ll be sure to post Part 2 soon.

Hello everyone!

Thanks so much for all of the great feedback to my letter about Big Ears. People seem as excited as I am.

A number of folks asked for more information and even some personal picks or tips about the weekend’s line up of shows. So I’m writing now in response to that.

To keep it manageable, this is Part 1. Part 2 will come tomorrow or the next day.

First, I would like to say this:

If you love great music of any kind, I am certain that you will hear something extraordinary that you will really love at Big Ears. This is not an “avant garde” music festival. Many of the artists performing are among the best-selling artists of the moment. Most of the music is completely accessible – melodic, tuneful, and, in some cases, quite beautiful. Highly enjoyable, inspirational, and fun!

You can purchase tickets for individual concerts. You may also, if you wish, choose from a couple of pass options – the Inner Ear and the Outer Ear. Tickets are available on line and the information about how to purchase is here. You may also purchase tickets through the Tennessee Theatre Box Office by calling 865-684-1200 ext. 2 from 10am – 5pm weekdays.


The National
The National – My favorite rock band of the moment…hands down. And I’m not alone. Their last CD, Boxer, was selected #1 Record of the Year in 2008 in Paste Magazine. The new one, due in May, is expected to be one of the biggest music releases of the year. These guys occupy a musical position not unlike that of the Velvet Underground in NYC in the late 1960s…powerful, direct, gritty, wickedly humorous with subtle but highly sophisticated arrangements. They play on Sunday night. My Brightest Diamond is really great too and she opens the show. This will be a really great show.

Joanna Newsome
Joanna Newsom, the xx, the Dirty Projectors, and St. Vincent are all among the most exciting rock artists of the moment. Joanna’s been everyone recently – with great features in the New York Times Magazine and NPR. She’s totally enchanting.

I would mention Vampire Weekend, who had the #1 record in the country in January, but they are already sold out. Joanna and the xx have only a few tickets remaining.


I hope that you will make an effort to see at least one of Terry Riley’s concerts (each will be very different…more about Terry in the next letter). But of special note:

The Calder Quartet will perform Terry’s stunningly beautiful string quartet, Candenza on the Night Plain, on Sunday afternoon at the Bijou, where Terry will also perform some of his solo music. I saw Cadenza performed at the UT Music Hall back in the early 1980s and it’s still one of my most memorable concerts ever.

I think you might also love the Calder’s collaboration with the dazzling Czech violinist/singer Iva Bittova…they will perform Janacek and a modern piece by Fred Frith at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday evening at 5pm…other artists are on that bill too (see below).

Stepping a bit beyond the borders of straight classical music but offering a lot of musical pleasures will be the 802 Tour and Clogs (both at the Bijou on Saturday) as well as the 3 Bang On A Can All-Stars performances during the weekend.


The 802 Tour – I can’t describe this. It’s just wonderful but it makes little sense on paper…classical/opera composer Nico Muhly and viola virtuoso Nadia Sirota join Appalachian folk singer Sam Amidon and the almost whispered songs of Doveman (Thomas Barlett) to create something unworldly in its beauty. Very jaded friends have told me that it is the best show they’ve even seen. They’re too busy on their own to do this very often. This is what Big Ears is all about in one show. At 1pm on Saturday afternoon at the Bijou.

Clogs: The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton
Clogs – One of the highlights of the weekend. They will perform their beautiful new song cycle, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, with all of the special guests who sing on the records, including Sufjan Stevens, Matt Berninger (the National), and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Likely the only full performance of the work in the USA. And there are likely to be a few surprises during this show too. Saturday at 4pm.

OK. Part 2…about Terry Riley and a few other special events will come in the next 24 – 48 hours….

Ashley Capps

This Ain’t Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese

April is National Grilled Cheese Month (who knew?) and to honor the occasion Mahasti is making a grilled cheese sandwich the Tomato Head way. Lets just say this ain’t your mama’s grilled cheese.

Tune in to WBIR on Saturday, March 20, around 8:15am to get the step-by-step on how to prepare a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted tomato jam, Benton’s Bacon and smoked turkey. The recipe for the roasted tomato jam will also be provided.

Or, if you’re more of an instant gratification type,  you can order it up on Saturday at either the Knoxville or Maryville location, served on the new Country French Loaf bread.

Why We are So Excited about the Big Ears Festival…

We received this message (see below) from Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, the group responsible for the upcoming Big Ears Festival, and think he captured exactly why we’re so excited about Big Ears and why you should be, too. We hope to see folks come out for the event. It’s another thing that goes on our list of “great things about Knoxville.”
Dear Friends and Neighbors –

Last year, we launched a new and very unique festival concept in Knoxville called Big Ears. It was a relatively small event, but an auspicious beginning…with considerable acclaim from fans, artists, and the press, including the New York Times.

This year, the Big Ears Festival – scheduled for March 26 – 28 – has evolved into something truly extraordinary. I want to tell you more about it and what it can mean for our community. I hope that you will also share this with your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who have a passion for creativity and the arts. There’s something here for everyone to experience and enjoy. I’d like to invite everyone in our city to “stick their toe in the water,” take in a show or two, and experience what Big Ears has to offer.

We have some of the most acclaimed and exciting musicians in contemporary rock…Vampire Weekend, the National, Joanna Newsom, the Dirty Projectors…

We also have important young “classical” artists such as Nico Muhly – whose first opera commission from the New York Metropolitan and the English National Opera was just announced…viola virtuoso Nadia Sirota…and the groundbreaking Calder Quartet.

Guitarist/composer Bryce Dessner – who curated much of this year’s Big Ears Festival – embodies the expansive vision that the festival aspires to…in the past month he has just finished recording what is poised to be one of the biggest rock records of 2010 with his band, The National…and he also was a member of the ensemble that recorded classical composer Steve Reich’s 2009 Pulitizer Prize winning Double Sextet. His chamber ensemble, Clogs, just released their most critically acclaimed recording to date, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton. Their performance of this work at Big Ears will undoubtedly be a festival highlight, when they will be joined by guests Sufjan Stevens, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), and Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner from The National.

And there’s Terry Riley, our Artist in Residence for the weekend, simply one of the most influential and visionary artists of our time …and we’re celebrating his 75th Birthday Year with a series of concerts during the festival.

This barely scratches the surface, however…you can see the full schedule and read about all of the great artists at and find videos/links on Facebook.

People from all over are coming to Knoxville. Fans are coming from Europe and Australia as well as throughout the USA. Writers from the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press…possibly the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Spin, NPR…as well as from such cutting edge music and culture websites/blogs such as Pitchfork and Stereogum…will be in attendance.

Why Knoxville? Why not Knoxville!!! For years, people have asked why Knoxville doesn’t have a major music and arts festival event, like a Spoleto or a SXSW. We believe the time is now. Knoxville has the perfect infrastructure – a beautiful historic downtown, two world-class historic theatres, a major University, a first-class museum, great clubs, outdoor spaces, and wonderful restaurants – all within an easy walk of one another. The vision of Big Ears was to engage these community resources, find synergies, and create an unforgettable experience. Now…it’s happening!

I’m especially thrilled at the opportunity to work with the great folks at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the University of Tennessee, the Square Room, the Pilot Light, the former Blue Cats/Catalyst and, of course, the Tennessee and Bijou Theatres in bringing Big Ears to fruition. And I must thank Regal Entertainment Group and Toyota of Knoxville for believing in Big Ears and making its growth possible.

The vital role of Art and Culture in fostering dynamic communities that support creativity, entrepreneurship, and economic development is being recognized by successful cities throughout the country. The need to attract, support, and retain the “creative class” has been at the heart of forward thinking economic and business strategies for some time now. I believe that concepts like the Big Ears Festival are an important part of making that vision a reality.

At Big Ears, you will not only hear some of the most imaginative and beautiful music being created today, but you will also be part of our great community taking another step in the realization of its tremendous potential for the future.

I hope to see you!


Batey & Cohen, Exhibit & Reception (Maryville)

Robert Batey and Dana Cohen presented their artwork at The Tomato Head’s Knoxville location throughout February. The month of March brings their work to the Maryville location of The Tomato Head and to the Blount County community.

All are invited to attend a reception, to be held on Sunday, March 14, from 5pm-7pm, to celebrate the exhibits and to meet the artists.

We hope to see you here!

Tomato Head’s Strawberry Brownie Sundae

Mahasti appeared on WBIR this morning (March 6) and introduced how to make a delicious Strawberry Brownie Sundae. Step-by-step below:

Tomato Head’s Strawberry Brownie Sundae

For the brownie:
½ lb butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1.5 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder

Line the bottom of a 8 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper. Grease the sides of the dish with butter.

On a double boiler melt butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer for 4 – 5 minutes on high speed until pale yellow. Reduce speed to low and add vanilla. Gradually add the melted chocolate. Gradually add the flour and mix just until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is shiny and the brownie is puffed up.

Allow brownie to cool for 1 hour. Remove from pan.

To assemble sundaes:

2 cups sliced strawberries
¼ cup sugar
Hershey’s Chocolate syrup
Whipped cream

In a medium bowl toss strawberries with sugar and set aside until the strawberries begin to give off some juice.

Cut 4 pieces out of the brownies you just made. Place each brownie on a plate or in a bowl. Divide the strawberries evenly amongst the brownies. Top with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. Top with whipped cream and nuts.

Julie Armbruster’s Doomed Mammals exhibit at The Tomato Head–March 6

(Knoxville, TN) – The strange narrative paintings of Julie Armbruster return to Knoxville this Spring, debuting at the Tomato Head Market Square location on Saturday, March 6th.

Drawing from three separate narratives, Julie Armbruster’s work exhibited in Doomed Mammals illustrates selections from the Potato Boy, Frog-Monkey, and DuckLips sagas. The three stories deal with volatile friendship, scientific mutation, and how to accept responsibility.

The show is a retrospective of the most recent events unfolding within these stories, revealing some interesting twists that are sure to peak your curiosity. The show will be on display at The Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville until April 3rd and will then move to the Maryville Tomato Head from April 4th- May 2nd. A closing reception will be held Saturday May 1st from 3-5pm at the Maryville Tomato Head restaurant. At the reception, Armbruster will have a limited edition book relating the story of Potato Boy and his pet duck Elmore entitled “Idealism Requires Patience.”

Julie Armbruster’s work has evolved to include much more intricate compositions and details. Her work is often realized through automatic drawing and then refined through layered rendering and delicate outlining. The landscapes seem oddly familiar and often directly reflect her surroundings in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The world rendered in the paintings is set at a distance from the viewer with the addition of the resin surface and illustrative style. The shine and saturation of color give the work an inviting pull. The viewer is further entranced by the complexity of emotions conveyed by the characters that are often faced with some sort of weighty decision or traumatic occurrence. The narratives are realized through anthropomorphic characters that seem bewildered and internal. Her stories are both funny and dark and typically lack a straightforward resolution.

Julie Armbruster’s work can be seen on her website and in her hometown of Asheville, NC at the Woolworth Walk and Honeypot Boutique.

Julie Armbruster has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in galleries throughout the East Coast and Abroad, including the School of Architecture in Venice Italy, 80 Washington Square Gallery in New York, and Rebus Works in Raleigh, North Carolina. Often seeking shows in alternative spaces, her work has been exhibited in skate shops, bars, music venues, restaurants, and record shops. Julie Armbruster was born in Voorhees, NJ in 1979 and has lived in New York most of her life. She received a Masters in Painting from New York University in 2003 and has studied abroad in Italy and Germany. Following grad school, she moved to Asheville, NC and maintains an art studio in The Wedge in River Arts District.

7th Annual Leadership Summit

Friday morning and afternoon we’re serving up breakfast and lunch to the participants at the 7th Annual Leadership Summit in Blount County. It’s a special event, co-sponsored by two local organizations, Leadership Blount and the Center for Strong Communities at Maryville College.

The topic at this year’s summit is “Health Care—Redefined,” with a keynote address by Dr. John McKnight, co-founder of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University.

We’re happy to be included in an event that addresses our community’s health and wellness and promise to keep making the healthiest, freshest food we can for our customers.

Breakfast Tacos

Mahasti’s in the kitchen at WBIR, Saturday, February 20, cookin’ up breakfast tacos with Benton’s bacon, scrambled eggs, cheddar, shredded lettuce, salsa and sour cream. Air time is roughly 8:15am, so tune in and watch if you get the chance. The tacos will be available for eats at both Maryville and Knoxville locations of The Tomato Head this Sunday, February 21. Get your yum on.

Love In a Box

I love to bake. In fact, I probably enjoy the act and craft of baking more now than ever before. In addition to experimenting with bread that uses mash from Scott’s forays into brewing, I’m spending a lot of time baking up sweet stuff.

Chocolate has an amazing power of making things right, especially when it is fresh and in cookie format. And nothing delivers a chocolate punch like the Chocolate Thunder—a chocolate cookie packed with melting white, milk and bittersweet chocolate chips. Mmm. These cookies dispel the rainy/cold day blues and when shared, they have a way of saying “I really like you” without ever uttering a word.

The Chocolate Thunders seemed like the perfect Valentine’s Day gift to offer in a cookie box–to give (or to give to yourself). Not too big, not too small, able to be enjoyed immediately as well as able to be shared.

We’re going to take reservations for these special Cookie Boxes (Love in a Box) up until the day before pick up. Deadline for Friday pick up is Thursday, deadline for Saturday pick up is Friday, deadline for Sunday pick up is Saturday. You get the idea.

Just call in a reservation to the restaurant where you plan on picking up. (865.637.4067-Knoxville, 865.981.1080-Maryville).


-ps-We make ‘em fresh so you can give ‘em fresh…so make sure to eat ‘em fresh!

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