Gold Star For The Internet: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

In my travels across the Internet, I stumble upon many gems that when I see them, I wonder where they’ve been the whole time. One of these gems I want to share is NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

Back when I had a much longer commute, I loaded my phone up with as many podcasts about art and pop culture as I could to pass time that was otherwise dead. In trying to find more shows about music, I discovered Tiny Desk Concerts on my phone’s podcast app. Bob Boilen, the guy who started NPR’s All Songs Considered, hosts a range of musical performances at his desk at the NPR offices. You can read more about Boilen here.

The first Tiny Desk concert I watched was its 500th episode a few months ago. It happened to feature one of my favorite bands, The Arcs, which initially hooked me — if the program was featuring an act I really liked, there was probably more where that came from. I don’t watch every episode that pops up on the feed, but if it sounds like something I’d be interested in I usually end up loving it. The standard set seems to be about three songs, which ends up being a 11-20 minute video. I like that I have to sit down and carve out time to keep up with the episodes.

I’m a big believer in the power of the live music experience, and highly suggest that if you love a band you need to go see it perform — recordings are incredible, but you can’t replace the emotional experience of going to a concert. The only exception to my suggestion is now Tiny Desk, mostly because of how high the production values are. In my honest and humble opinion, the cinematography rivals Oscar-winning movies. The cinematography is varied enough so that you see shots like close ups of hands on pianos — which are always beautiful — as well as the overall configuration, as if you were standing right in front of the artists along with the office audience. Even though these performances are shot in an office space and sometimes unplugged, the sound is great. And when you go to look up a band to find their recordings, you’ll have how they looked in the back of your mind.  These videos add to the overall experience of a particular band’s music, and I think that’s wonderful.

As much as I have tried, I’ve never been an NPR groupie. I promise you don’t have to be one to enjoy Tiny Desk Concerts.

My favorite episodes have been the Arcs, Benjamin Clementine, Monsieur Periné, Timber Timbre, Reggie Watts and the Bots. I had seen the Bots in concert before watching their episode, and thought they did an incredible job translating the power and layers of their music into an intimate setting. When I saw the Arcs last week in a crowded and tiny venue, I was extra hyped because of their Tiny Desk performance. I’ve always wanted to see Timber Timbre, and now I really really want to. Even though these videos were my first introductions to Benjamin Clementine and Monsieur Periné, I had some real “whoa” moments that added them to my must-see list. For whatever episode you decide to watch, I think you’ll have the same reactions. In scrolling through the list of 500+ shows, I’ve found even more that I want to look at.

What I really love about Tiny Desk Concerts is that it celebrates incredible music, and uses the digital platform to share performances that most people wouldn’t get to see elsewhere. When I watch a Tiny Desk concert, I feel like it’s just me, the performer and an audience that just happens to be in the background. That’s a really special experience, even if it is being facilitated by a screen. And most importantly, it has introduced me to new artists and sounds that I wouldn’t have found without it.  And for that, I give it the biggest gold star in the world.

Do you watch Tiny Desk Concerts, or have an Internet gem you want to share with me? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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