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A Dream I Never Thought Would Come True Finally Did: My Big Ears Festival Experience Seeing John Paul Jones 3 Times and Herbie Hancock!!!!

In late 2019, I bought a wristband (you wear a wristband instead of having a ticket) for a festival in March of 2020, which is called Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee.

It has been going strong for 15 years, and it encompasses a lot of artists of various types of music, as well as other arts.  It also occurs at many different venues throughout Knoxville.

I bought a wristband for this because one of my favorite musicians, John Paul Jones, was scheduled to play.

As of this writing, he does not tour anymore, but he still does play live from time to time with various different musicians.

He was booked to play twice at this event.  One as a solo act, the other with his duo group Sons of Chipotle (w/Anssi Karttunen).

I was sooooo excited.

However, about two weeks before the festival was to happen, this thing called COVID reared it’s ugly head and shut down the world.

So, Big Ears Festival did not happen in 2020 and  I did not get to see John Paul Jones.

I was heartbroken.  I don’t blame anyone for canceling everything because that needed to happen to try to protect people.  But still, I was heartbroken.

Fast forward to September 2023, I find out that Big Ears Festival has once again announced John Paul Jones as a solo act and as part of Sons Of Chipotle (also later announced to play with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth too) in March of 2024.

I was so happy I was getting another chance to see who I think is one of the greatest musicians ever.

And if that wasn’t enough, Jazz legend Herbie Hancock was announced to play at Big Ears Festival too!!

I bought a wristband very quickly, booked a hotel room in Knoxville near the venues I was going to, and then waited for March to get here.

Well, it finally did.

I went to Knoxville and saw John Paul Jones 3 times!!!  Once on Friday, March 22.  Once on Saturday, March 23.  And once on Sunday, March 24.  All 3 shows completely different too.  And I saw Herbie Hancock a few hours after the second John  Paul Jones show!!

I’ll start with the first John Paul Jones show.

Oh for those of you who don’t know who John Paul Jones is, let me give you a little history.  Born John Baldwin, he became a sought after session musician in the 1960s, as well as becoming a music arranger.

Through his session work, he met Jimmy Page, and when John found out that Jimmy was forming a new group, he called Jimmy and asked if he could be the bass player.  This group ultimately became Led Zeppelin.  One of the biggest bands ever.

After Zeppelin, John went back to arranging and producing different artists and playing with many different musicians.

He even made a few albums of his own, including the Scream For Help movie soundtrack, and the solo albums Zooma and The Thunderthief.

He also was in a band called Them Crooked Vultures, with Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal, and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

And he reunited with Zeppelin a few times for some one off shows.  The best one being what is now a live album/DVD/Blu-ray called Celebration Day.  Phenomenal show from 2007.

If you dig into his discography, John is soooooo diverse, musically.  He’s worked with everyone from The Rolling Stones, Donovan, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Madeline Bell, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, Ben E. King, The Mission, Cinderella, R.E.M., Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Diamonda Galas, Heart, just to name a few.  Go to and check out his discography.

OK on to the shows.

The first John Paul Jones show was just him.  No band or any other musicians at all.

He told the crowd he had never done a show like this.

He started the show by coming up from inside the floor playing a big organ.  He was playing the Led Zeppelin song “Your Time Is Gonna Come”.

Throughout this first show, John mostly played instrumental versions of Zeppelin songs as a well as a few other things.  Including an awesome instrumental of “Down To The River To Pray”, which he covers on his album The Thunderthief.

And he did all of this on many different instruments.  Organ, Bass, 3-String Acoustic/Mandolin/Bass, Collapsible Lap Steel Guitar, and Piano with various electronics on pads.

If you are a Zeppelin fan, this was DEFINITELY the show to see.

As legendary as Zeppelin are, John always seems to be the least talked about of all the band members.  It’s so odd because trust me, he is one of the best musicians of all time.

And I saw it in spades. Monster player.

Throughout the show, John also spoke to the audience.  He has a very good sense of humor.  Even when he had a few brief technical difficulties with some of his technology, he even joked about that too. 

When introducing the Zeppelin song “Ramble On”, he talked about how people put “Isolated Bass” tracks out for people to listen to on the Internet.  He said that at least when you listen to his “Isolated Bass” tracks that you know he didn’t suck as a player.  

I can’t say enough about this show.  He played for roughly an hour and it was sooooo much fun.

And me and a few fans almost got to meet him when he was leaving the theatre after the show, but his security rushed him out.  But that’s OK.  I at least have his autograph, via online, and a few fellow fans told me it is legit, and I believe them.  All good.

The second John Paul Jones show was the next day, and it was his group with Anssii Karttunen called Sons Of Chipotle.

It has nothing to do with the food chain, according to John.

In this group, which this was their US debut (they had only played overseas a few times), John played piano, electronics, and mandolin while Anssii played Cello and electronics.

The best way I can describe their music is to say it is avant-garde electronic Jazz music.

Very dark and moody.

It reminds me of the theme music for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, or music from a horror movie from the 1960s or 70s.

Which is not a bad thing, but a lot of people I think probably thought it was too weird for them.  Their loss because I enjoyed it. 

It’s very different, but that’s what’s so great about Big Ears Festival is that it’s so musically and artistically diverse.

So having Sons Of Chipotle play at this festival was perfect.

Thank you guys!!

Oh and both of these shows were at the Tennessee Theatre, which is a great venue.

And actually, it was a perfect lead-in to my next concert later in the evening:  Jazz legend Herbie Hancock!!!

Having played with Miles Davis, Herbie then went on his own, making a lot of albums over the decades.  Even a few soundtracks, like the one to the first Death Wish movie, which I love.

Herbie and his band, which includes himself on Piano/Keyboards/Vocoder/Keytar, Terence Blanchard on Trumpet, Devin Daniels on Saxophone, James Genus on Bass, Trevor Lawrence Jr. on Drums, and Lionel Loueke on Guitar, played a PHENOMENAL almost 2 hour set of tunes that just blew me away.

All of these guys are MASTERS at their craft. 

Just go see them.  You will not be disappointed.

Then the next day, I saw the third John Paul Jones show.  This time he played Bass/Electronics/Piano with Thurston Moore, Guitarist of the band Sonic Youth.

They had played before a few years ago.

Like Sons Of Chipotle, this show was pretty avant garde.  At least the first half was.  The second part may have been more musical for some people’s ears, but still very adventurous.

This was definitely the loudest show I had seen during this festival, which was fine with me.  

The two of them played like they were mad scientists, which I mean in a good way.

John is phenomenal on the Bass, but he is also out of this world on Piano.  His playing was a sight to behold.  And Thurston made a lot of sound with his Guitar.  Really cool stuff.

This show was at a club called The Mill And Mine.  A very nice club.

I am sooooooooo glad I got to go to Big Ears Festival in 2024.  Thank you for being such a great organization with great staff, and for booking all of these great talents.

I only saw these shows, but trust me, there were a TON of great artists there giving fans more than their money’s worth.

And thank you to Anssii Karttunen, Herbie Hancock and his amazing band, and Thurston Moore for all of the awesome shows I saw during this festival.

But most thanks I’m giving to John Paul Jones, just because I have been wanting to see him in concert for years, but sadly, just missed him before or didn’t get the chance.  Until this festival.  Thank you for everything.  One of my favorite musicians ever and always.

Dream come true for me.  I’m glad it did come true.

I’m only putting two of the set lists here because the other two were really more improv stuff.  Still great of course.

And one more thing:  I was able to stay at a very nice hotel, eat at some good restaurants, went to some cool music stores, and even went to see a movie.

Great weekend.

John Paul Jones Set List:

  1. Your Time Is Gonna Come (on Wurlitzer Pipe Organ)
  2. No Quarter (on Piano)
  3. Down To The River To Pray (on 3-String Acoustic/Mandolin/Bass)
  4. Ramble On (on Bass)
  5. When The Levee Breaks (on Collapsible Lap Steel Guitar)
  6. Since I’ve Been Loving You (on Piano)
  7. Piano Solo
  8. Going To California (on Mandolin)
  9. Bass/Piano Improv.  Actually on this and Down To The River To Pray, he did multi track parts, which means he plays one part, records it, then plays another part while the recording is playing too.  He did that a lot during the shows he played.  He also played a little more of No Quarter at the end of this show.

Herbie Hancock Set List;

  1. Overture (included Dark Ligtning and parts of Rockit by Herbie’s Guitarist Lionel Loueke) and then Band Introductions
  2. Footprints (Wayne Shorter cover, arranged by Herbie’s Trumpet player Terence Blanchard)
  3. Actual Proof
  4. Come Running To Me (in which Herbie used a Vocoder.  He said he may have been the first to use the Vocoder.  Really cool stuff.)
  5. Secret Sauce
  6. Chamelion (featuring Herbie on the Keytar and Trumpet player Terence Blanchard playing Keyboards)

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  • Steve A. Jones


    Glad you were able to attend both nights of John’s performances. You are absolutely correct that he is no longer actively touring so his rare public performances nowadays are not to be missed if one can attend. It’s hard to believe his first solo tour was 25 years ago, but my memories from that tour remain vivid. Likewise, I have no doubt you’ll remember these gigs fondly for the rest of your life.

    Steve A. Jones

    • The Ardent Fan

      Thank you so very much!! Yes I’m a big fan, but when he did his solo tours, I just missed them and I did not have as much ways and means to go to as many shows as I do now. But hey better late than never. I’m glad you got to see him solo. Yes I will never forget these. If you look at my website (please do and tell your friends) I have been to a lot of shows. Not as many as many other people have, but I’m glad I’ve seen the ones I have. Sure I’ve missed some big ones, but the ones I’ve seen are big to me. Also, just curious, but can you confirm that the autographs I posted on the Led Zeppelin forum under the JPJ Big Ears story are legit? I got Jimmy’s thru this website so I figured it was real. And the JPJ one I got off Ebay, but another fan told me it is the real deal. Just wondering what you think. Thanks for reading my post and I hope you like the site too. All the best.

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