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Tiny Desk Concerts: the Minnesota mix

Since it started in 2008, National Public Radio’s “Tiny Desk Concerts” have provided stay-at-home public radio listeners with intimate musical performances staged at, yes, musician/producer/founder and “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen’s desk. The series has taken the music video world by storm, and featured several Minnesota artists, including Cantus, Trampled By TurtlesDessaBob Mould, and Peter Wolf Crier.

Last month, Boilen and crew put out an open call to musicians all over the world: “Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now’s your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“To enter, make a video of you performing one original song behind a desk of your choosing. It could be your work desk, your home office or the product of your imagination. We’re looking for great unknowns, so if you already have a recording contract, you’ll have to sit this one out.”

The deadline for submissions was Jan. 19, and now the good tastemakers at NPR are poring through the pixels to choose a winner, to be announced Feb. 12. A scan of YouTube finds a number of Minnesota-made entrants, along with plenty of banjos, guitars, cityscapes, countryscapes, snow banks, frozen lakes, house pets, beer, and good songs (thanks to Brianna Lane and Banjo Brothers’  Mike Vanderscheuren for the tip). And the winners are …

Who: Lynn O’Brien

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: O’Brien is a music therapist-turned-singer/songwriter that the Aural Premonition reports, “has not only a voice, but a personality of gold. Accompanied by ukulele and now a well-mastered vocal looper, O’Brien’s music is overflowing with originality and optimism.”

Video/song: “Light Everywhere”


Who: The Adjustments

From: Duluth

Good to know: “We’ve been playing locally and regionally, with a few different lineups, since 2010.”

Video/song: “Two Dogs”


Who: Dedric Clark and The Social Animals

From: Cloquet

Good to know: “While studying English at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Clark pushed forward with his songwriting and eventually started playing live. By junior year he had assembled a band – originally named Diet Folk – and amassed a considerable following, thanks partly to the group’s high-energy live shows.”

Video/song: “Waiting”


Who: Har-di-Har

From: St. Paul

Good to know: “This song was spawned by an argument that resulted in someone getting kicked out of the car and walking home.”

Video/song: “We Scare Each Other”


Who: The Poor Nobodys

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “Easily characterized as music from a film score, their original compositions weave unconventional melodies through rustic roots, all the while refining a carefully chaotic meter.”

Video/song: “Waking, Still Asleep”


Who: Jacob Grippen

From: Caledonia

Good to know: Grippen is the Minnesota DFL Secretary

Video/song: “Questions Asked”


Who: Brianna Lane

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “Your rock & roll heart don’t satisfy me/Gimme banjos and bluegrass and moonshine and sweet tea/Your rock & roll heart don’t satisfy me/Need a fiddle and a bow and porch songs and that old-time harmony.”

Video/song: “Minneapolis”


Who: Paul Doffing

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: Doffing is in the midst of his ongoing “Freedom From Fuel Tour,” which he’s doing cross-country on bike.

Video/song: “Banker’s $”


Who: Erin Fox and Charley Dush

From: St. Paul

Good to know: Video shot by ace Minneapolis-based photographer Steven Cohen.

Video/song: “Somedays She Gets Strange”


Who: MR DR

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: Singer/songwriter Stacy K plays bass in this groovy little lo-fi trio.

Video/song: “I Got a Feeling”


Who: Tree Party

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “Tree Party’s third album ‘Iced Over: Thawing Minnesota’s Local Lore’ is a year-long project of researching stories and local history in smaller communities across Minnesota.”

Video/song: “Well Put, Bob”


Who: Chris Koza

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “Over the last several years, Koza and his band Rogue Valley have released a total of nine albums and EPs. Koza’s songs have been featured on numerous television shows including ABC’s ‘Cougartown,’ MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘Matt and Kim,’ and CBS’s 2013 Super Bowl pregame show.”

Video/song: “The Healer”


Who: Tabah Yames

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “It’s not okay just to be forgotten/Unless you’re burning man or stinking rotten.”

Video/song: “Curtain Call”


Who: Hank

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: Tiny desk appearance: 3:33.

Video/song: “This Time”


Who: Stacy K

From: Sleepy Eye/Minneapolis

Good to know: “Recent press: 89.3 The Current’s blog’s brand new acts to keep an eye on – ‘breathy, gauzy, moody pop.’ Vita.MN Are You Local 2013, best tracks – ‘down tempo trip-hop in the vein of Morcheeba, Portishead, but duskier.’ ”

Video/song: “Stay”


Who: Undlin & Wolfe

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “Reminiscent of the folk duos of old, they have the vocal capabilities of The Carpenters but the edge of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.” – Music That Isn’t Bad

Video/song: “Lullabies Lost”


Who: The Awful Truth

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: Band leader Brent Colbert: “It’s music that is very vulnerable, almost to the point where it makes people uncomfortable, and I’m well aware of that.”

Video/song: “Equal”


Who: The Lowest Pair

From: Olympia/Minneapolis

Good to know: “The Lowest Pair is a quirky, old-time roots influenced duet featuring the high lonesome harmonies of banjo pickin’ songsters Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee.”

Video/song: “Hogtied”


Who: Spirits of the Red City

From: Louisville, Kentucky

Good to know: Arguably the most Minnesotacentric entry of the batch, this vid was partially filmed on wind-whipped and frozen-over Amelia Lake in Villard, Minnesota.

Video/song: “Halfway Poem”


Who: The Old Smugglers

From: St. Paul

Good to know: “Scotch and coffee, smelling like smoke and grandpa, truckload of soup cans falling from the sky, Americana shanty sounds of regret and revelation.”

Video/song: “The Devil Always Knows”


Who: Turn Back Now

From: Minneapolis

Good to know: “We are the narrators, the Greek chorus of the Apocalypse of Free America. We travel up and down the Mississippi in search of news from the rebels on the front lines and stories from our heroes in the field. Then we bring those stories to y’all, ‘cause we’re all in this apocalypse together.”

Video/song: “Monty’s Molotovs”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by charles thompson on 01/26/2015 - 11:21 am.


    thanks jim

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