August 10th, 2011
Episode 354 of 745 episodes
After close to 150 performances captured on video, we figured it was time for a look back at one of NPR Music's most unpredictable creations: Tiny Desk Concerts. On this episode of All Songs Considered, Bob and NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson share their stories of the most moving and surprising moments from three and a half years of live music in the NPR offices. Gogol Bordello Song: "Start Wearing Purple" Bob: "I remember saying to the leader of the band, Eugene Hutz, 'Do you guys need something to drink?' And out of a big paper bag he pulls a very chilled, huge bottle of vodka and says, 'Do you have glasses?'" Chuck Brown Song: "Bustin' Loose Stephen: "Not the first noisy artist to play the Tiny Desk, but still the biggest band ... The godfather of go-go music did not strip his sound down for the occasion whatsoever. And, because he's Chuck Brown, we indulged his every whim." Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Song: "Home" Stephen: "It's a very unusual-looking crop of very committed musicians, with this beautiful, communal vibe to them that really comes through." The Avett Brothers Song: "Laundry Room" Stephen: "Unbelievable volume, unbelievable power ... 'Laundry Room' is probably the individual song performance at a Tiny Desk Concert that I have listened to the most." Adele Song: "Someone Like You" Bob: "I always love performers whose speaking voice is so different — such a disconnect from their singing voice." Stephen: "She also has this absolutely magnificent cackle. Right at the end of the set, she's like, 'Forgot to take my gloves off, hahahaha!' You just can't believe this incredibly delicate instrument is also tuned to that cackle. Marvelous, marvelous performance." Tom Jones Song: "Green, Green Grass Of Home" Bob: "I imagined he would come with a backing track or something — I didn't know how he was going to do this. But this single guitar player, and Tom Jones' voice, was absolutely astonishing." Buke And Gass Song: "Medulla Oblongata" Bob: "A baritone ukulele and a guitar-bass hybrid. These are two old friends who have been making music for a long time — super-powerful, angular music." Phoenix Songs: "Lisztomania" Stephen: "We have to turn off the air-conditioning units when the bands start to perform, because you get a low hum if you leave them on. And we have gigantic picture windows — sort of like ants under a magnifying glass, with no air conditioning and probably 150 people streaming in to see Phoenix, one of the biggest bands we've had play ... Just imagine the engines of NPR wheezing to a halt for about 10 minutes." Wu Man Song:"White Snow in Spring" Bob: "Anyone who's into any kind of virtuosity in music should watch ... There's something going on that doesn't really look humanly possible." Rodrigo y Gabriela Song: "Hanuman" Stephen: "They played in metal bands, and somehow found a way to fuse it with flamenco music on nylon strings. That's one of those things where I feel like the target audience is anyone. You just have to love that." The Swell Season Song:"When Your Mind's Made Up" Bob: "There's that one moment in 'When Your Mind's Made Up,' where it builds to an explosive guitar moment ... and then it stops." Stephen: "And there's this buildup of nervous tension that then dissolves into laughter."