tUnE-yArDs: Tiny Desk Concert With loop pedals and an irrepressible voice, tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus makes powerful and danceable songs that spring to life before your eyes. Watch Garbus perform three buoyant songs from this year's stunning w h o k i l l.

Tiny Desk

tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/142861581/142944976" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

I've been entranced by tUnE-yArDs for a long time. Bandleader Merrill Garbus makes music about rage and love; it wrestles with cultural inequality while also celebrating the joy of what it feels like to open your mouth and let out a wild sound.

Since her raw and lo-fi — but hardly low-energy — 2009 debut BiRd-BrAiNs, Garbus' one-woman band has expanded considerably, with each addition as carefully picked and positioned as each syncopated drum beat or vocal hocket. Alongside bassist Nate Brenner, she's fleshed out her touring band to include two versatile saxophonists and occasional pot-lid rattlers: Matt Nelson on tenor and Noah Bernstein playing alto.

Maybe you've already listened to this year's w h o k i l l, the band's stunning second record. But watch these four perform live, and you're staring down the throat of a completely different beast. From the first click of the drum stick on the tom drum's lip, you're invited into Garbus' creative machinations; to watch her swirling harmonized hollers and complex rhythms take shape as a song is born before our eyes.

It's always fun to see an artist who commands space and attention play the confined quarters of Bob Boilen's desk. Up close, Garbus' face contorts with a physical manifestation of the bellows and coos and Prince-style wails that come out of her mouth. You can peer over to watch her stocking feet cavort across the loop pedals. Her warmth and willingness to be unrestrained acts as a communal invitation, so when she encourages the audience to jump along during "You Yes You," she invites us to let go of our inhibitions, too.

If you watch closely, you can see everyone here grinning like fools. At the end of the performance, after the cameras were turned off, Garbus smiled and said, "Thanks so much for jumping."

Set List

  • "You Yes You"
  • "Doorstep"
  • "My Country"

Credits

Michael Katzif, Bob Boilen (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Mallory Benedict

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Come From Away plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 12, 2019 (Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR

Come From Away

Sixteen performers from the Broadway cast crammed behind the Tiny Desk to sing songs and share stories about thousands of airline passengers who were stranded in Newfoundland after 9/11.

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley

With eyes shut, Marley dug deep into the healing power of music with songs from his 2017 album Stony Hill.

The Tallest Man On Earth plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 10, 2019. Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

The Tallest Man On Earth (2019)

The Tallest Man On Earth's second appearance at the Tiny Desk comes almost 10 years to the day after his first. He returns with a touch of grey and a beard, but no less intense or moving.

A-WA plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

A-WA

The three Israeli sisters in A-WA mix Yemenite and Arabic traditions with splashes of reggae and hip-hop.

The-Dream plays a Tiny Desk Concert on April 12, 2019 (Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR

The-Dream

The singer and mega-hit songwriter showcases three of his own tracks, including "I Luv Your Girl" and two songs from Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3.

Dan Tepfer plays a Tiny Desk concert on July 30, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Dan Tepfer

The pianist and programmer has transformed the acoustic piano into his duet partner.

47SOUL plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 1, 2019 (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

47SOUL

47SOUL's message of equality is meant for the world. It's music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English.

Mandolin Orange plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Mandolin Orange

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, with just a few acoustic instruments and a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk, performing songs full of joy and thoughtfulness.

Nicole Bus plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 8, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Nicole Bus

Nicole Bus' sound is reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current and capable of transcending age and demographics.

Tobe Nwigwe plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 27, 2019 (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Tobe Nwigwe

The Houston-based rapper's mindful words are like a life hack for anyone seeking guidance, with pleas to look past inherent hardships and evil and to stay focused on life's ultimate prizes.

Back To Top