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.

Music Videos

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

Yola Carter performs during tiny desk on December, 12, 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Yola

The singer who once sang for Massive Attack and sampled by Iggy Azalea and The Chemical Brothers, is front-and-center at the Tiny Desk.

Joyce DiDonato performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Nov. 11, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Joyce DiDonato

Watch the celebrated opera star deconstruct old Italian love songs with her signature flair, backed by a crack jazz ensemble.

Jordan Rakei performs during Tiny Desk on Nov. 15 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jordan Rakei

Despite some unexpected gear problems, the soulful R&B artist and his band locked-in and played a phenomenal set behind the Tiny Desk.

Brownout performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 18, 2018. Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR

Brownout

The Austin, Texas band brought old-school R&B horns, bongos and deep grooves to the Tiny Desk.

Bridget Kibbey performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Oct. 24, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Bridget Kibbey

The irrepressible harpist proves that the instrument can be as tempestuous as a tango, as complex as a Bach fugue and sing as serenely as a church choir.

Jon Batiste performs during Tiny Desk on November, 8 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste's Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

Daniel Norgren performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Sep. 25, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Daniel Norgren

The Swedish singer sways and writhes as he and his band create a dream state calming enough to slow the day's hectic pace to a crawl. Take a seat on a comfy couch and have a listen.

Spanglish Fly performs at a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 9, 2019. (Emily Bogle/NPR) Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Spanglish Fly

Spanglish Fly is one of the pioneers of the boogaloo revival scene happening on the East Coast. For about sixteen minutes, they turned the NPR Music offices into the hottest Latin dance club in D.C.

Balún plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Balún

It's impossible to not be drawn in by the visual specter of Balún as the band mixes traditional instruments and electronics, set against a rich tapestry of voices.

Moonchild performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Oct. 17, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Moonchild

The LA-based trio makes an intricate blend of jazz, R&B and hip-hop. For their Tiny Desk set, they pulled out all the stops: flutes, flugelhorns, saxophones, keyboards, ukuleles and more.

Back To Top