Since we started making Tiny Desk Concerts almost eight years ago, we've had more than 500 artists play the Tiny Desk, our own little makeshift concert venue right in the middle of NPR's offices in DC. From huge stars like Adele to T-Pain to up-and-comers like Car Seat Headrest and actual big bands like Mucca Pazza, all these musicians actually play behind MY desk — but I move out of the way when they set up.
This is one of the things that always surprises people when they visit NPR: that the Tiny Desk isn't a set. So we decided to give everyone a peek behind the scenes on a Monday afternoon earlier this month, when Wilco just happened to be stopping by.
We invited a company called RYOT to bring two 360-degree cameras to our offices and put them right in the front row of the audience. Then we filmed the whole thing, starting before Wilco even set up, before the staff flocked from all over the building to see the band play. Not only can you see the band up close, but if you look around, you'll see everything else that goes into making a Tiny Desk concert. You'll see our brilliant and calm engineer, Josh Rogosin. You'll see our lead videographer and producer of Tiny Desk Concerts, Niki Walker, along with her intern, Kara Frame. Then, of course, there's the crowd — what a lucky bunch. Many of them work here, many are lucky friends of people who work here. You'd probably recognize some of the voices in this radio crowd.
If you've never watched a 360-degree video before, we can help. There's lots to look around and spot — in fact, if you look really carefully, you might be able to find seven of Wilco's album covers around the desk and references to each one that we hid in the crowd. And of course, enjoy the song itself, one of Wilco's unforgettable tunes, "Misunderstood" from the 1996 album Being There. In front starting from the left you'll see Mikael Jorgensen playing the melodica, Nels Cline on that resonator guitar, Jeff Tweedy singing and strumming, John Stirratt playing guitar and singing strongly alongside Jeff and Pat Sansone on banjo and glockenspiel. In the back, holding it all together and sometimes tearing it apart, is drummer Glenn Kotche.
If your memory of virtual reality still includes climbing on a platform at the mall and strapping on a clunky headset, know that the '90s are long over and the future is in your hands ... literally. Recently VR has evolved into a medium where anybody with a computer or smartphone can experience it. So if you just weren't paying attention (like me), maybe you're not quite sure how to watch our behind-the-scenes video of Wilco's Tiny Desk, filmed with 360-degree cameras right in front of the audience. You can get right up in Jeff Tweedy's face, see the folks who make the Tiny Desk happen and watch the audience around you as Wilco performs.
Here's an explainer with GIFs because, hey, GIFs explain it all.
From your mobile device (iOS and Android), we recommend opening the video in the Youtube, Facebook or Little Star apps. You can turn your phone sideways and slantways and squareways (well, maybe not the last one) to your heart's content.
From your desktop browser, you can click and drag around the NPR Music office. Or press the left, right, up and down keys on the keyboard. It looks best in Chrome, Firefox or Opera.
If you already own (or know someone that owns) a VR headset, just slip your smartphone into the front slot, hit play (don't forget the headphones!), and fully immerse yourself in the Tiny Desk. Be thankful we didn't include Smell-O-Vision.