We often joke about how many people we can fit behind Bob Boilen's desk for one of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts. Every month, we seem to push the boundary just a bit farther, as the bands get bigger and louder. But the first real test of our limits came when eight members of Dark Meat showed up to play.
For those who can't wait to hear songs from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's follow-up to Once (titled Strict Joy, out Oct. 27), the pair played six new songs before performing the first-ever Tiny Desk Concert encore: a white-knuckle journey through "When Your Mind's Made Up."
A lot of talented artists pass by Bob Boilen's desk. But this was the first time that NPR Music was serenaded by a trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba and truncated drum kit playing a Rufus Wainwright cover (and several clever originals) in rich, soulful polyphony.
It's a high compliment to suggest that these three Bill Callahan songs may well implant themselves in your brain, lay eggs and sprout horrifically disturbing dreams at that point when you're banging on the snooze alarm in a state of anguished early-morning half-sleep. Hear and watch Callahan perform at the NPR Music offices.
If you see Canadian singer-songwriter Julie Doiron perform live, you'll hear a good deal of distorted guitars and intense drumming. Well, at least when she's not performing at the NPR Music offices. It took her a few takes, but we wound up with a bare, stark and memorable set at the Tiny Desk.
With all due respect to its terrific albums and kinetic, frenetic live shows, if The Avett Brothers could put on a three-song acoustic concert at every workplace in America, the band would be a world-beating colossus. For proof, listen to this performance in the NPR Music offices.
Sweet-voiced, bearded acoustic guitarists are not a rare commodity in the Pacific Northwest, which has spawned the likes of Fleet Foxes, Blind Pilot and countless others, just in the last few years. Horse Feathers' Justin Ringle may be the gentlest beard-wearer of them all, which made him a perfect candidate to appear in NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series: With a voice that high and soft, the man needs a quiet room.