NPR is an all-around public radio source that has a little something for everybody. For music lovers, such as ourselves, this led us down the path of Tiny Desk Concerts. Simply put, these are a video series of tiny concerts that were organized, and are performed at the desk of Bob Boilen of All Songs Considered in Washington, D.C. These tiny concerts have been happening since 2008, with their first performer, Laura Gibson. Since the debut, there has been a wide range of artists featured, of all different genres, abilities, and energy levels.
With the complete amount of Tiny Desk Concerts available on Youtube, some of the Music Directors and I highlighted our favorites over the years, and what made them so special.
AUSTIN: THUNDERCAT (OCTOBER 18, 2017)
This shit slaps. Thundercat hooks it up phat with finger-licking-good bass, and the progressions visually seem impossible. When paired with his vocals over them, one can’t help but marvel at the dedication to the instrument that has been portrayed through his art. This Tiny Desk Concert provides an intimate performance which Thundercat commands through its entirety. This video gives the audience an opportunity to view a master of his craft at work and it is a joy to participate in all the way through.
DAVIS: TUXEDO (JULY 17, 2017)
As a brand new high schooler with no money, I remember relying on SoundCloud to listen to my music. That’s where I discovered Tuxedo, a funk duo who were producing some downright funky and danceable tracks. I would compare their works to that of the Gap Band, Curtis Mayfield, and Kool and the Gang. Their songs mostly revolve around romance and love, which adds a layer of sensuality and emotion to the songs. This particular TDC was one of the first I ever watched, having been a big fan of Tuxedo since day one. My dream is to interview them one day!
ZEKE: SNARKY PUPPY (NOVEMBER 27, 2019)
I won’t lie and say I listen to a great deal of jazz, but Snarky Puppy definitely makes me appreciate it more. Their song Lingus (We Like It Here) introduced me to just how dynamic the genre can be, and also features an absolutely incredible synthesizer solo by musician Corey Henry. I first listened to this performance in my high school band class, and have heard it several times since. Their decision to get the crowd to clap along to certain parts of songs is a great example of getting the crowd involved with live music. While it may not be for everyone, if you like lots of polyrhythms and unconventional song structures I definitely recommend giving Snarky Puppy‘s Tiny Desk Concert a listen.
ASHLYN: IDLES (JUNE 26, 2019)
What an absolute group of buffoons. Mark Bowen (aka Bobo), the lead singer of IDLES is one of the most energetic people I have ever seen perform. Bobo sings from the gut, and it always sounds like he’s just yelling at you, not actually singing. It’s interesting watching how quickly Bobo turns red from singing, but everybody is dancing, doing crazy shit and having fun. Not only do they kill their performance, but they kill a lot of the decorations on the shelves too, all around a good watch.
GARY: REGGIE WATTS (JULY 12, 2012)
ANGELA: MAGGIE ROGERS (AUGUST 14, 2017)
My favorite Tiny Desk Concerts are those that highlight an artist’s vocal and songwriting abilities in ways that most live performances can’t. Roger‘s performance for the series does this beautifully. Though she has three band members with her, the spotlight remains on her and her guitar. My favorite song from this performance is “Dog Years.” It’s a song I’ve loved since this first time I heard it, and she never really performs it live, so getting to hear it like this is really special.
ISAK: DANIEL CAESAR (JUNE 11, 2018)
Apart from the rock, punk and metal stuff I enjoy, it is nice for me to listen to R&B every now and then. Whenever I need a break form all the heavy stuff, I find myself coming back to this Tiny Desk Concert. The grooves that the band vibes with alongside Caesar is so colorful in expression, it’s hard not to a least rock your head to. My favorite part of the concert is when Caesar is joined by H.E.R to sing one of my favorite songs right now, Best Part. This song is so vibrant both in rhythm and color truly a great way to end a set. Hope you all check it out and go ahead and enjoy the ride.
RYAN: TOMBERLIN (JUNE 13, 2019)
Tomberlin‘s tiny desk is admittedly a little slow, and I think you need to be in the right mindset to enjoy it. But, if you’re a little sad (which, most college kids are), this is a tiny desk you’ll want to check out. Tomberlin‘s song writing, mixed with her ethereal voice, and rather simple but beautiful acoustic instrumentals creates a one of a kind Tiny Desk. Not to mention she has a couple awkward moments in between songs that make her feel human, which is refreshing. There has yet to be a tiny desk that has moved me as much as Tomberlin‘s did, and I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t seen it before.