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by Derek Loosvelt | August 17, 2017


musical instruments

Summer Fridays are great, but Tiny Desk Concerts are better. And if you don't know what Tiny Desk Concerts are, I both envy you and feel sorry for you. I envy you because you have so many great Tiny Desk Concerts to experience for the first time. And I feel sorry for you because you've missed so many great Tiny Desk Concerts over the years.

I also envy anyone who's ever interned for NPR in Washington, D.C., because they've been able to attend these live, intimate concerts as part of their jobs. And I can't imagine a better perk. Imagine, as part of your job, getting to watch Wilco live in concert with about 20 other people. Or Chance the Rapper live with a handful of your coworkers. Or The National, Adele, Hozier, Yusef/Cat Stevens, Sylvan Esso, Death Cab for Cutie, or xx. All as part of your job. Or, at least, while you're at work.

To give you an idea of this amazing summer perk (which, yes, is available to full-timers at NPR in D.C., too), here are a few of my favorite Tiny Desk moments in recent years.

1. Natalie Merchant.

This entire concert, featuring Merchant's transcendent voice, is excellent, but if you skip ahead to the 20:40 mark you'll see how Merchant gets all of NPR's staff in attendance to sing along with her. And if you need a little musical healing these days (I sure do), this should help.


 2. Watkins Family Hour featuring Fiona Apple.

The bluegrass collective Watkins Family Hour are virtuoso musicians. And so, when you add Fiona Apple's voice to the mix on the old standard "In the Pines" (which many major musical acts, including Nirvana, have famously covered) you get gold. Skip to 3:40 and be prepared to be stunned by the notes coming out of Apple's body.


 3. John C. Reilly & Friends.

Reilly, you probably know, is an accomplished comic actor (Boogie Nights, Talladega NightsStep Brothers, etc.). But you probably don't know that he's also a pretty good guitarist and singer. Here, he showcases all of these skills, telling jokes, singing old folk songs with his all-star band, and even giving the NPR staff a couple of "tips" during the intro and outro to the band's final song, which begins at 12:12.


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