I make it a priority to see and experience as much live music as I can. There’s something about the raw vulnerability of live performance that feels incredibly intimate, and I always look forward to sharing that experience with the artist and other audience members. When I’m not seeking out shows, one of my other favorite ways to experience music is through listening to and watching National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts. These three to four song mini shows boast the beauty of live performance wrapped up in a tiny snapshot of the artists’ repertoires. While there’s nothing truly comparable to the real thing, these tiny concerts have helped me find some of my favorite artists, gotten me through late night writing sessions, and they’re just straight up enjoyable.
All of their little shows can be found on their website linked above, and their Youtube playlist. Here are ten of my favorite performances to get you started on your Tiny Desk journey.
When I discovered Trombone Shorty, he made my high school jazz nerd dreams come true. The New Orleans native mixes traditional jazz and blues with notes of funk and hip hop, and my friends and I idolized him and his band for making the music we loved cool. They preserve the integrity of true jazz music, yet maintain a grit and style all their own. Give ‘em a listen, these guys bring the fire.
Lake Street Dive
I’ve seen these guys live twice, and each time they astounded me with their tight instrumentals and easy rhythm, as well as with Rachel Price’s smooth-as-butter vocals. They vibe seamlessly and joyfully, like a group of friends jamming in a cramped basement for nothing more than a shared passion of the magic music brings, and anybody witnessing the magic feels lucky to be a part of that special moment in time.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
It’s difficult to stop grooving long enough to write about this group. With the irresistible chops of Rateliff leading the charge, these gentlemen put the heart and soul in southern rock. Listening to their music makes you feel like you’re at an open mic in some rundown bar on the back roads of Tennessee, and I gotta tell ya, if it’s them I get to listen to the whole night, then there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
I could listen to Leon Bridges, a man who many would call the second coming of Sam Cooke, croon for hours on end. There is something utterly pure about him that hearkens back to the roots of soul music, but he also brings his own freshness to the modern music scene. Like a whisper of the past, Bridges is here to stay. There’s no one else like him making music right now, and that’s something to be celebrated.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
What can you really do when you witness Paul Janeway and his troupe of stupendous performers play besides sit there with your jaw dropped? The sheer amount of energy that emits from these guys is unreal, and I can’t help but jam right along with them. There’s an urgency in their music, even through soul wrenching ballads, and listening to them keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
Browne is a classic artist in every sense of the word, yet this legend continues to make music that speaks the truth about the world we are living in today. There’s a thoughtfulness in his music that comes from years of experience, but also an unadulterated love for creating something honest and pure. Listen closely to his words, and watch them find a place in your every day experiences and struggles.
The Family Crest
I discovered these guys after an afternoon of browsing TDC’s, and they absolutely stopped me in my tracks. I halted any work I was doing, and drank in the insane medley of boisterous instrumentals and lead singer Liam McCormick’s forceful falsetto. You can feel the community watching this conglomeration of musicians create magic together, and you wont want to tear your eyes away for a second.
The Lone Bellow
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live performance filled with so much raw passion for music and life in general than when I’ve seen The Lone Bellow perform, and this tiny desk concert is no different. You can tell that every word, inflection, and guitar strum is emitted with all of their bodies and souls, and no I’m not getting carried away here. Just watch, ya’ll, it’ll bring some extra warmth to your day.
This duo slays every time with their lovely harmonies, eccentric costumes, and killer songwriting. One of the best things about them is that they can seem like a completely different band with each changing song, displaying mastery in the many different corners of their craft. They strike a balance between dynamic stage presence and compelling music making, and witnessing that is simply lovely.
Watching Glen Hansard perform is a truly singular experience. His stage presence reeks of intimacy with his audience, like a musician playing a side street somewhere for change thrown in his guitar case. This is a man who lives and breathes his craft, and brings a unique rawness to live performance. That kind of sincerity is a rare treasure when found, and I’ll gladly treat it with the respect it deserves.
Tweet us @literallydarling or comment below with some of your favorite Tiny Desk Concert discoveries!