My love for NPR knows no bounds.
I spend hours with their podcasts every week. Hidden Brain, It’s Been a Minute, NPR Politics, and How I Built This keep my head full and my heart light.
Tiny Desk is not a podcast, but it is a big part of why I love NPR. The great name refers to both a sound desk and an office desk and works perfectly to describe the small live shows that happen around All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk.
As the band or musician performs, surrounded by bookcases, desks and office staff, NPR film and record. The result is over 550 videos archived on the NPR site and Youtube. Over 6500 minutes of incredibly honest live music that is as fascinating to watch as it is enjoyable to listen to.
The origin behind Tiny Desk is very satisfying. One of the things that makes my blood boil, that I hate with every fibre of my being, is people talking during gigs. A whispered comment, a quick shared review or pressing observation is absolutely fine. I do that. It’s the full blown conversation at a normal volume that I think is mindblowingly rude. You can bet they aren’t talking about the pros and cons of AI or the complexity of Strangers Things‘ female characters. They’re talking bollocks. I’ve stood behind enough of these crud smugglers (a gender neutral term) to know from their body language that they’re trying to impress each other or just chatting shit because they are selfish idiots.
Anyway, so the story goes that Bob Boilen and Music Editor Stephen Thompson went to see a bar show in 2008 and were so frustrated that they couldn’t hear the band. They wished that their favourite musicians could come and serenade them in their office, at their desks. Bob Boilen must have then sat back down to work and realised that he could actually do just that. He has the connections.
Boilen invited Laura Gibson, who had been drowned out by goobers at the local bar show, to come and play in their office. She agreed, he filmed her and uploaded the video. Tiny Desk was born.
The really remarkable thing about these stripped back live shows is that, aside from the huge range of musicians and musical styles, every performance I’ve seen is always the most clear, heartfelt, compelling version of that music. I love having the videos on in the background when I’m working and I often sit and watch a video as a break. They remind me how much I love great music every time.
I will share more of their videos; for now I’ve chosen a few of the videos that I’ve been playing every day recently- D.R.A.M, Anderson Paak, Hozier, Sampha, Pinegrove and Bushy One String. I’ve also included Laura Gibson’s video- the very first Tiny Desk.