A list of NPR Tiny Desk performances from New Orleans artists to ease being indoors

This isn’t just a roundup of Tiny Desk performances. It’s a spotlight on our musicians, of the many times we’ve brought the sound of New Orleans to Washington D.C. and, now, this is a small way to bring that sound back into our homes, in lieu of going out to a night at Chickie Wah Wah’s or The Spotted Cat.

by Sabrina Stone
May 6, 2020

In 2017, out of thousands of national submissions, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series picked one winning entry. That entry was from New Orleans’ own Tank and the Bangas. When they played, they brought their unique mix of Hip Hop, R&B, Funk, Jazz, Poetry and pure showmanship to NPR’s offices.

These days, most of us have some extra time on our hands, so, if you haven’t fallen down the glorious rabbit hole of Tiny Desk Concert viewing yet, may I suggest you start with this?

As a musician myself, I devour live music voraciously but I’m not easily won over by bells and whistles. What makes Tiny Desk Concerts unique is that, while the sound quality is crystal clear and the video quality is A+, the stripped-down simplicity of the performances feels honest. Performers are literally cramming themselves into an office space and playing during lunch breaks. Even when the guests are glamorous, like Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Wu-Tang Clan or Adele, the set-up is straight forward and you can see the musicians’ fingers actually playing their instruments. You can hear the artists talk about what’s on their mind. It lets you feel as if you’re in the room with them.

Here’s a 2018 performance from PJ Morton that is entirely about the importance of being sincere and being yourself. He literally begins by singing, “So many people didn’t want me to be myself but I decided that I was gonna be PJ no matter what, no matter what people told me and tried to get me to do ‘cause they say stuff like this, they say, ‘PJ you’re not mainstream enough, would you consider us changing some stuff, like everything about who you are?’

PJ soars across the keys while wielding powerful words like, “I must admit. I’m claustrophobic. I have a hard time trying to fit into your small mind.” While he could have carried the performance alone, he chose to invite over a dozen musicians to squish behind that tiny desk with him.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band gave a performance in 2017 that was faithfully and organically New Orleans. It featured prominent face sweat, one band member in sunglasses, one in a tie, two in button-downs, one in a tracksuit, and one in a polo. Nothing fancy, fake, polished or extraneous, just the meat of the music.

Dirty Dozen collectively teased and coaxed the audience by saying, “Now, this is the song where you all participate but y’all been a little bit stiff, not moving. (We don’t allow that.) Don’t just stand there and clap like that, you know, move. Put your back into it. Drop it like it’s hot. All that stuff y’all do behind closed doors. Do it now. (Well… not all of it.)”

Tiny Desk host, Bob Boilen, described the performance as, “They’re simply an abundance of euphoria. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band blasted the Tiny Desk with a sousaphone, trumpets, saxophones, guitar and drums, at stunning volume, for a joyful celebration.”

To people from outside of Louisiana, the impact of a sousaphone in an office space must have been startling. To us, it’s the sound of home.

You’ve probably caught on by now, this isn’t just a roundup of Tiny Desk performances. It’s a spotlight on our musicians, of the many times we’ve brought the sound of New Orleans to Washington D.C. and, now, this is a small way to bring that sound back into our homes, in lieu of going out to a night at Chickie Wah Wah’s or The Spotted Cat.

Enjoy Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ 2011 performance featuring a song called “Lagniappe.” Troy explains, “It’s kinda like a New Orleans type of thing that we do down in the street. It’ll probably never sound the same after this.

This 2015 Terence Blanchard feat. The E-Collective performance is a bit of a departure. It’s not a classic New Orleans sound, though he is a New Orleans musician through and through. It’s experimental jazz: a wandering, complex, take it or leave it kind of fusion. The album his band was touring for at the time was a unique one because it tackled the Black Lives Matter movement. It was called “Breathless”, a nod to “I can’t breathe,” and they do a stunning performance of the title track, thanks, in part, to pianist Fabian Almazan. The track “Soldiers” “is for social workers that have been doing all of the important work out in communities,” Terence added.

More recently, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah did another spectacular politically-driven, instrumental gig worth watching.

The Preservation Hall Band played on Christmas back in 2013, if it’s not too hot for some holiday cheer.

Enjoy this smooth, breezy recent performance by R&B up and comer, Lucky Daye.

And check out this extraordinary combination of The Soul Rebels, in strong form, backing hip hop legend GZA.

If you’ve watched all of those videos and you’re still craving more intimate music from local Louisiana bands, may I suggest these Tiny Desk concerts from Lafayette’s Indie Rock bands Brass Bed and GIVERS, this 2019 selection of Tiny Desk’s first-ever metal band feature, Thou, hailing from Baton Rouge, and some Cajun and Creole Rock n’ Roll from Southern Louisiana’s Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys? Happy viewing.

 

Sabrina Stone is a NYC born, New Orleans based musician and writer. She’s written for OffBeat Magazine, I’m Music Magazine, Hear.by, Hello Giggles, Quarterlette, Femsplain, The NY Observer’s Scooter, and Huffington Post. She's headlined Bowery Presents' The Mercury Lounge (NYC) and The Toff in Town (Melbourne, AUS), she's played 30+ gigs at "NYC's Oldest Rock Club," The Bitter End, and has three albums out on Spotify, with a fourth on the way. That newest album sold 200+ physical copies in its first week at Peaches Records. email: sabrinastonedoesstuff[at]gmail.com instagram: @sabrinastonemusic facebook: @sabrinastonemusic twitter: @sabrina_s_music

More Local Stories

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Sanford

On this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando explore what’s new in the Northern part of town. Sanford has a plethora of breweries, bars, and delicious dining options to choose from.

Hometown Tragedy: The Pike County Massacre

On this episode of Hometown Tragedy: Missing in Milwaukee, we’ll explore what happened to Jerica Banks, her children, and how it impacted their community.

Six New Orleans parks that are perfect locations to celebrate 4th of July

Head to one of these six New Orleans parks to celebrate Independence Day in the city.

Cheap Date Orlando: Punk Rock & Pooches

Two Orlando couples shop vintage, search for the perfect slice, visit a post-apocalyptic saloon, and take the stage on blind dates in Orlando.

Fit and Fab: Free summer workouts in Boston

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images Looking to get fit for the summer? Still wary of COVID-19 or just looking for some sunshine while you sweat? Here are some Boston free summer workouts across the city so you can keep moving all season long! Seaport Sweat May 2 to Sept. 29 Boston’s biggest free workout series…

What’s On the Menu?: Farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement brings locally grown foods to your plate. Not only will enjoying farm-to-table meals allow you to indulge in fresh, nutritional, seasonal dishes, but farm-to-table dining helps the environment and supports the local economy.  Check out these delicious farm-to-table restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina on the latest episode of What’s On the Menu?. …

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

A guide to Pittsburgh’s summer events must-do list

Check out our roundup below for the can’t-miss events happening in the city over the next few months.

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Tarpon Springs

In this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando you’ll be transported to a thriving Greek community nestled on Florida’s gulf coast. From sponge diving to flaming cheese to a Greek bakery that supplies a ginormous amount of baklava to the entire country, you’re sure to fall in love with Greek culture in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Dorchester doughnuts that pack a paczki

These traditional Polish pastries are the real deal.

black owned brunch spots new orleans 14 parishes

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.

drive-in movie theaters near Pittsburgh

Guide to drive-in movie theaters near Pittsburgh

Road-trip idea: Get out of the house and under the stars. Here are six drive-in movie theaters you can visit all summer long.

documentaries about Pittsburgh

9 documentaries about Pittsburgh history

From punk music in the ‘80s to a documentary about the polio vaccine, there is a lot of local history to watch