Three-time Levitt Shell Memphis performers St. Paul and The Broken Bones in 2014.
Last year, over 6,000 undiscovered musicians from across the country submitted entries for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. The prize? A gig at one of music’s most unlikely concert venues: the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.
Since its start in 2008, the Tiny Desk Concert Series has become an online phenomenon, with nearly 500 performances boasting millions of viewers who tune in to see old favorites and up-and-coming artists alike nearly every week. Musicians across a wide range of genres have visited the Tiny Desk, including Adele, T-Pain, Yo-Yo Ma and over 40 artists who’ve performed on Levitt stages across the country.
As passionate advocates of music and reimagined spaces, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite Tiny Desk concerts featuring Levitt artists. Check them out!
The Suffers | Levitt AMP Lafayette (2015), Levitt Pavilion Arlington (2015) & Levitt Shell Memphis (2015)
Backed by the other nine members of rising Houston soul band The Suffers, lead vocalist Kam Franklin commanded the room in 2015 from her place atop the Tiny Desk with a smoky performance Boilen described as a “perfect mix of power and delicacy.”
Quetzal | Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles (2014, 2011, 2008, 2007) & Levitt Pavilion Pasadena (2015, 2013, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005)
The venerable GRAMMY-winning Chicano rock band from East Los Angeles brought folk traditions, bluesy violin riffs and the Mexican jarana into their set back in 2014, topped off by the powerful vocals of lead singer and activist Martha Gonzalez.
No BS! Brass Band | Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks (2013)
Although it was 23-piece marching band Mucca Pazza (Levitt AMP Sheboygan, 2015; Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, 2013; Levitt Pavilion Pasadena, 2013) that set the record last year for most musicians at the Tiny Desk, No BS! Brass Band managed the impressive feat of packing 11 members, four trumpets, four trombones, a tuba and a saxophone into the small space for three high-energy songs back in 2013.
Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys | Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks (2012) & Levitt Pavilion Westport (2013, 2003)
Formed in 1988, the two-time GRAMMY-nominated quintet from Louisiana played an upbeat acoustic set with all the traditional Cajun fixings: fiddle, accordion, guitars and vocals sung in Cajun French. The 2011 concert also marked one of the final performances for founding fiddler David Greely.
Booker T. Jones | Levitt Shell Memphis (2012)
The legendary Memphis musician opened his 2011 Tiny Desk Concert with a joyous solo rendition of his signature piece, “Green Onions.” He also shared the story of how he discovered the Hammond B3 organ and performed “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Down In Memphis.”
Want to see more? Watch additional Tiny Desk performances from these artists who’ve graced Levitt stages: Khaira Arby, Bombino, Brass Bed, Justin Townes Earle, Cowboy Junkies, David Wax Museum, Diego Garcia, Davíd Garza, Genevieve, The Holmes Brothers, Flaco Jimenez, Johnnyswim, Kopecky Family Band, Pokey LaFarge, La Santa Cecilia, Bettye LaVette, Jim Lauderdale, Los Lobos, Luisa Maita, Anaïs Mitchell, Gaby Moreno, Oliver Mtukudzi, Novalima, The Oh Hellos, Pistolera, The Polyphonic Spree, Red Baraat, Spirit Family Reunion, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Thao Nguyen, Richard Thompson, Ana Tijoux, Trampled By Turtles, Abigail Washburn and Vijay Iyer Trio.
And if you know an aspiring musician, the second annual Tiny Desk Contest is accepting submissions! The winner will get to perform a Tiny Desk Concert as well as tour across the country with NPR Music. The deadline to enter is February 2, 2016. Check out last year’s winner, Fantastic Negrito.
Have a favorite Tiny Desk Concert? Let us know!