It was a long, dusty trail to the Tiny Desk. Beirut had just finished a show at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., where it had been a brutal 100-plus degrees outside. Without a chance to bathe between there and here, the band needed to be led to NPR's basement showers, at which point things began to look up. Zach Condon and company came up beaming, clean and ready to play — a bit exhausted, but with a handful of inspired new tunes.
Condon, the guy who started Beirut as a solo project, had a big grin as the band began to warm up — appropriate, given that there's something about the tunes on Beirut's new album, The Rip Tide, that seem to wear that big grin. When the brass kicked in, everyone at NPR seemed to smile, too. Infectious music does that.
Beirut's inspiration, music from the Balkans mixed with a tinge of Mexican folk, often conveys bittersweet feelings. But much of The Rip Tide leans toward joy and hints at celebration. The band's tip of the hat to "Santa Fe" provides a good example of that.
Beirut only intended to play two tunes, opening with "East Harlem," but with a crowd gathered and spirits high, it belted out a number intended just for those gathered: "Serbian Cocek," a traditional tune with an arrangement by the band's friend and fellow New Mexico musician Jeremy Barnes. (You may know Barnes from his project A Hawk and a Hacksaw.) The result was too much fun to leave on the cutting-room floor, so with Beirut's blessing, we've included it here.
- "East Harlem"
- "Sante Fe"
- "Serbian Cocek"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Tucker Walsh/NPR