For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to love. For this edition, All Things Considered Host Ari Shapiro picks his five favorite performances.
I've been told that one of the ways to stay sane in a pandemic is to make daily gratitude lists. I haven't actually done that yet. But if I did, re-watching Tiny Desk concerts would definitely be on it. Dropping in on an acoustic performance by any random artist in the middle of the day is one of the perks of working from NPR headquarters that I miss most during the shutdown. Fortunately, I can relive all of my favorite moments on YouTube. The artists at the Tiny Desk have brought me joy, calm and occasionally tears. For this list of five favorites, I'm leaning into the joy. —Ari Shapiro
I can still name every winner of the Tiny Desk Contest, year by year. This New Orleans band won in 2017, and its performance is so exuberant, I recommend it for anyone who needs a lift. When Tank and the Bangas got nominated for a Grammy this year, I cheered.
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This is basically a short film, created to document the Tiny Desk's move from NPR's old headquarters to the building we're currently evacuated from. The video has more cameos than I can count, including the late, beloved Carl Kasell. Oh, and who's that tall guy in the suit hitting the chimes? IT ME. The closest I'll ever get to playing the Tiny Desk.
This one is just about the bragging rights: "I saw her way back when!" Well, the bragging rights and Adele's phenomenal voice. My favorite moment is after she tries to clap along with "Rolling in the Deep" when she cackles, "I forgot to take my gloves off!"
Every genre of music had graced the Tiny Desk except for Broadway. Then, audio engineer Josh Rogosin decided to invite the cast of The Band's Visit in 2018, and the gates were open. A handful of other shows have made the trip from New York down to Washington, D.C. to play the Tiny Desk since then, and Hadestown is so far my favorite. Playing the role of the narrator Hermes, André De Shields, now well into his 70s, is a national treasure.
This is actually the second time I've been asked to choose my favorite Tiny Desk concert. The first time, in 2014, I picked Gogol Bordello. I figured I should be consistent and keep them on this list of five. I still maintain it's the closest the Tiny Desk has ever come to crowd surfing. Actual crowd surfing remains a goal but will have to wait until we have a vaccine for the coronavirus.