Ric Brooks – Featured Artist

Lloyd Swanton during the Necks performance

Laurie Anderson with Kronos Quartet

Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond

 

 

 

 

Love is in the air.  And it’s on our walls.

It’s hanging there, mostly in bold colors, as a clear statement that photographer Ric Brooks loves music makers almost as much as he loves their music.

For years, Brooks has been the official unofficial photographer of Big Ears.  And it’s a role he loves.

He’s a straightforward guy, I suspect he wouldn’t tell you any lies.  So when he repeats that he isn’t a professional photographer, you believe that he believes it.  Yet when you look at his work, you’ll recognize that he is a passionate shutterbug – which, in many ways, is exactly what you want for a festival that touches the very heart of passion.

Artist Ric Brooks

His collection of work now hanging on our Market Square walls spans 2009 – 2017 and is mostly comprised of artists in action shots.  Each one is a studied photo in its way.  Brooks says, “I’m in the audience, listening, and I see a photograph that I want to take. Say, I see this look on the artist’s face, and I know I want to photograph it. I’ll have to take 3 or 4 just to get that expression.  Lots of musicians will do certain things, make a move or something to get that high note; you know it – it’s what people call the guitar face.  But you can see that happening in the song so you know it’s going to come back on the chorus or somewhere. I’m waiting for it. I know what photo I want.”

Some of the shots have a curious intimacy to them.  There’s a striking moment when it would seem that he made eye contact with Laurie Anderson but, “of course she couldn’t see me. That’s chance.  She can’t see me out in the audience.  I don’t like to get up close.”

Brooks opines that it might be that, like Schrodinger’s cat, the artist, even in performance, changes when observed so closely by the eternal possibilities represented by a lens: “Surely as an artist you have to feel the presence of the photographer, and wonder ‘is it looking good, is that the correct side?’ “

The exhibit represents just a fraction of his search for the images he likes and an extensive association with musicians.

Brooks and Big Ears founder Ashley Capps have a long and continuous friendship that dates back to Kindergarten.  When Capps started doing concerts at the Laurel Theatre way back when, Brooks was there with a camera and, sometimes, catering too.  When Capps opened Ella Guru’s, Brooks was there, managing, taking tickets, and meeting, hearing and watching.

Despite his wariness at labeling himself, Brooks is certainly conscious of his work as an art form – whether he admits it or not.   Each photograph is a full image; one that extends all the way to the edge and border of the photograph, which are beautifully coupled by a stamp bearing his signature.  Brooks carved the soapstone stamp himself, an inspiration drawn from his time in Japan, where he taught English for 4 years when just out of college.  The stamp means “Little River, “ he says. “It’s my name.”

This distinctive element binds the subject, the art and the artist.  And one might opine that this considered and loving combination represents a sense of a work’s entirety and rests at the heart of what makes Ric Brooks’ Big Ears photography so alluring.  “I’m not assignment,” he says, which means he’s not visiting 3 or 4 concerts a night collecting images that he needs to post before a deadline: “I like to photograph a whole concert.”

His approach is a long form that yields a lot of treasure that we’re happy to share.

“Big Ears Big Eyes – Big Ears photos from 2009-2017”, an exhibit of photographs by Ric Brooks will be on view at the downtown Tomato Head on Market Square from March 5th thru April 1st.  The exhibit will then be on view at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from April 3rd thru May 7th.

Calfkiller Brewing – Featured Brewery

As breweries become more of a fixture on the urban landscape, it’s refreshing to find one that’s close to home but situated smack dab in the middle of a picture perfect vision of bucolic Tennessee.  Located in Sparta, which is just about an hour and a half from Knoxville and almost due south of Cookeville, our featured brewery for April, Calfkiller, is a backyard operation that’s been patched together in a fashion that’s the stuff of storybooks and beer loving dreams.

Sparta is one of those places in Tennessee that probably doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, though in the 1830’s it was an important spot on the wagon trail to Nashville, and it’s still the home to the Sparta Rock House, once an important inn, tollhouse, and rest stop that’s part of the National Register of Historic Places. Lester Flatt lived there for a spell, and the city hosts an annual bluegrass festival in his honor.  Sparta came close to being our State’s capital, but, according to legend, it lost to Nashville by one vote – and that vote was sold for a drink of whiskey.  Perhaps it’s ironic or merely just that another thirst quencher has helped Sparta reclaim some of its luster.

Calfkiller, named for the river that flows nearby (which, according to one legend, is named for a cattle loving Cherokee chief), is the passion child of brothers Don and Dave Sergio.  Located in the back yard of Don’s house, the brewery was constructed and equipped mostly from reclaimed and recycled materials and gear, though it’s as picturesque as anything you might plan.  And it was put together and grew as the brother’s expanded what originally was “an aggressive home-brew hobby” that they started around and about 2001.  It wasn’t until 2004 that Don and Dave commenced brewing Calfkiller proper, and they’ve spent the ensuing years honing their craft, ramping up production and distribution, and making a name for themselves.

But the fact of the matter is that the trappings of the building and the burdens of marketing are secondary concerns or, perhaps, just necessary evils to these modern day Spartans – their cause in love, peace, and perhaps battle, too, is a frothy class of “Beer free of the tyranny of stylistic oppression.”

That’s a pretty good fight to fight – at least as we see it.  The beer is good and has the added value of being made by loving hands in a beautiful part of the world that you can visit in about the same amount of time it would take you to get in and out of Turkey Creek on a holiday weekend.  You can visit their website to schedule a tour or buy some groovy Calfkiller merchandise that will brand you as real beer lover and a smart one, too.

We’re featuring 4 of their brews – maybe some others, too – so you’ll want to hurry on down and see what it’s all about:

Wizard Sauce

It’s an American style IPA that the Sergio boys describe as, “An ode to summer, an ode to magic, an ode to 13 years of brewing Wizardry…the Calfkiller Wizard Sauce. Some things DEFY explanation! Taste the Magic!”  5.3% ABV

Scorned Hooker

This American Style Amber ale gets a colorful description, too: ” ‘She may be a little bitter, but she ‘s still so sweet!,’ describes this hooker to a ‘T.’ Its bright whole-hop flavor is balanced perfectly with a smooth, malty backbone and notes of caramel and honey.”  5.7% ABV

Deadhorse

“Traditionally untraditional. An ‘oatmeal and brown sugar entire,’ precursor to the porter. This beer is well balanced, dry, faintly roasty, slightly chocolatey, moderately warm and heavily drinkable!” 6.0% ABV

Just Dew It with a side of Pecans

The approach of Big Ears, in addition to a fantastic slate of music, gives us pause to appreciate things homegrown.  It also reminds us of how nice it is to be in Knoxville, and how lucky we are to have witnessed and participated in all the work that has gone into making our city a place where something as cool as Big Ears can find a home.  We’re looking forward to the festival and all the good things that come with it.  So we’re celebrating in Tomato Head fashion with lots of southern themed specials and, of course, desserts.

In the spirit of East Tennessee and its sense of humor, we’re commemorating one of our most famous soft drinks, Mountain Dew.  As with any notable product, the actual origins of the recipe for this soda are subject to some disputation, but it is undisputed that the product was first trade marked by Barney and Ally Hartman who ran a bottling plant in Knoxville.  And that’s good enough for our purposes, especially seeing as we’re not here to pick a fight- we’re just baking a cake.

Mountain Dew cake is a recipe that comes from any number of possible sources, but we’ll be using Paula Deen’s recipe which combines a lemon cake base, supplemented by lemon pudding and a can of good ole Mountain Dew.  It’s a very limited offering that we’re baking up just for the festival, so if you want to “do the Dew” by living out a few of Mountain Dew’s slogans  and “tickle your innards” or “get that barefoot feelin’” you’ll want to stop in early this weekend before the Dew evaporates.

We’re also putting up our Pecan Pie – it’s the kind of dessert that gives us the warm fuzzies and makes us feel at home whenever we see it, let alone eat a piece.  Part of that comes from the fact that we like to claim the pecan as a particularly Southern nut- and we’re mighty fond of Southern nuts, particularly if they’re our relations.  But if the truth be told, pecans belong to a large swath of the United States – the name itself is an Algonquin word that, according to the vast wisdom of the web, means something like, “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”

Certainly Pecan Pie remains a decidedly Southern dessert whose nutty, rich, buttery and gooey excellence occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of our regional cuisine and the images upon which fond recollections of an unspoiled youth in the country are founded.  It’s also a young-ish recipe, but nobody’s really certain when the pie came to be; it didn’t show up in cookbooks until the 20th century.

Still, it’s a potent symbol of Southern hospitality and tradition and the value we place on gathering together to break bread.  Of course, a real Tennessee table knows no strangers – so whether you’re visiting to hear a little music with Big Ears, or if you’re one of the neighbors that we see all the time, we’ll be tickled pink to see you!  Come one in and sit a spell.

Big Ears Festival: A macrocosm of Knoxville’s artistic community.

Big Ears Festival is more than music. This is a festival that is as much about expanding communities as it is a lineup. The city of Knoxville is opening its arms again this weekend to welcome back Big Ears and the vast, internationally renowned community of artists of many mediums.

For the second year in a row, the Big Ears community is reaching back to Knoxville through its community outreach program Little Ears which raises money to support The Joy of Music School and the Community school of the Arts. Both of these Knoxville based schools offer opportunities in the arts to children and teens who have trouble affording them otherwise. It’s a welcomed partner of our Loving Spoonful charitable program.

At the Tomato Head, we are proud to be partners with Little Ears and supporting both schools by displaying photographs of the Joy of Music School and paintings from the Community School for the Arts in our Market Square location through March. If you miss them, you can see them in April at our Kingston Pike location.

We are also featuring special Big Ears pint glasses for sale that benefit Little Ears. (More details here) During the festival weekend, stop into the Tomato Head to purchase a Big Ears glass and try the Saw Works Sonic Wit, the featured beer for the festival.

Little Ears is a program with powerful meaning and serious results. Last year, AC entertainment reports having raised almost $4,000 to benefit both of the organizations. This was enough to create two new scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year at the Community School of the Arts. Music education is integral to the festival, according to Neeley Rice, one of the forces behind Big Ears at AC Entertainment. The promise of Big Ears is it features musicians and artists of several mediums who push the envelope in their art.

The festival is in many ways a macrocosm of Knoxville’s talented artistic community that the School of the Arts and Joy of Music have helped to foster, and a level of discipline for the students who are just learning the skills of their art to aspire to. The paintings displayed at the Tomato Head were done by middle and high school students.

For many of them, this is the first time their work has been displayed outside of the school. The work is unique and you don’t have to be an art expert to enjoy the paintings. The photographs of the children at the Joy of Music School are pristine and capture beautiful moments of children learning to play music.

This weekend, Knoxville will again transform into what Jennifer Willard at the Community School for the Arts describes as an international cultural mecca. It’s safe to say that there is a lot of excitement in the air. It will be really neat to see the how the culturally diverse art on display at the Tomato Head through Little Ears is a stepping stone that every artist masters before becoming a force in pushing their craft forward like the artist featured in Big Ears.

Knoxville has such great culture, and this weekend is promising to be very special.

The New Festival Beer You Haven’t Tried

Nothing shines better in the sunshine than the colors of a well brewed beer. That’s certainly what Saw Works Brewing Company is hoping for this spring with the cloudy gold shine of their new Sonic Wit.

Created for the Big Ears Festival, the Sonic Wit was meant to be stimulating on a hot day of drinking. Will, the Head Brewer at Saw Works, explained how the Sonic Wit was inspired by Icelandic ales and Belgian wheat beers with the intention of keeping the unfiltered look and notes of orange while drawing out the wheat to be replaced by Tennessee favorites, rye mash and honey malt.

The result is an unfiltered American ale with an orange-citrus forward note and a smooth honey rye finish that moves quickly across the tongue. This beer is light, easy to drink, and can easily be enjoyed at Big Ears or on a patio in the warm weather.

Luckily, you’ll have a chance to try this beer too, even if you won’t be attending Big Ears this year. The Tomato Head will be one of the only places featuring the Sonic Wit, as part of our Saw Works lineup for our featured brewery of the month, and will be a light orange zest for pairing with a salad, chicken, or chocolate desserts. We’ll tap the keg of this very special beer on Thursday, March 26.

Just as it was intended, the Sonic Wit is a great pairing for food, sunshine, and great music. A number of the Big Ears creators actually helped in the brewing of this beer, which just goes to show the local bonds of our small city that pull together to show that Knoxville has culture worth taste.

Saw Works Brewing Sonic Wit

Big Ears Festival & The Tomato Head fund raise for Joy of Music School and The Community School of the Arts

Howdy beer drinkers and live music lovers! Our first Loving Spoonful fundraiser of 2015 starts today and we think you’re gonna love it.

We’re teaming up with the folks at the Big Ears Festival’s Little Ears program, an educational component of the annual contemporary music festival. Through the program, local students from The Joy of Music School and The Community School of the Arts are given hands-on music education experiences throughout the festival weekend. Little Ears also provides financial support to each organization via donations from each ticket sold to the Big Ears, and fundraiser partnerships like our pint glass fundraiser.

At both Tomato Head locations, you’ll find these snazzy pint glasses for sale. One side has the Big Ears logo and on the other has Tomato Head’s. 100% of the proceeds from each one sold will be split between each nonprofit.

The glasses retail for $2.95 for one, 2 for $5.50, or 4 for $10. Thank you for helping raise money for Community School of the Arts and Joy of Music School. Order any draft beer and the glasses are only $2.50!

Additionally, “Little Ears Presents: Expressions in Arts Education” will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head from March 9th through April 5th. The exhibit will then move to 7240 Kingston Pike Tomato Head from April 6th through May 4th.

Tomato Head Big Ears_7369

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design