Music Monday: Tiny Desks and Take-Aways

Ed. Note: In the time between writing up the Week in Preview post and the writing of this post, I decided to expand the scope of this post to include some of my other favorite performances on the internet in a different web series.

It’s always great when you get to hear a fantastic musical act perform live. It’s even better when they’re performing just a few feet away from you, in your office or on the street. That’s kind of why NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series and French videographer Vincent Moon’s Take-Away Show are just so damn brilliant – they take top-shelf musicians, place them in by and large odd places, and have them just perform as they normally would – creating a spectacle that goes beyond the music itself.

The Tiny Desk Concerts began in March of 2010 as they do now (latest Tiny Desk Concert featured Wilco), literally at the desk of Bob Boilen, co-host of NPR Music’s flagship show, All Songs Considered, at the NPR headquarters in Washington. It’s basically a private concert for the workers in the NPR office (though, as you’ll hear in the concert below, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists “was always under the impression that these things were done while everybody was trying to work”), broadcast to the world.

One Tiny Desk Concert performer was actually quite the match for the setting: John Darnielle, heart and soul of the Mountain Goats, alone with his guitar.

The Take-Away Show, on the other hand, generally throws both Moon and the performer(s) into a different setting, just like this performance by REM, one of five songs Moon released on La Blogotheque, performed in Michael Stipe’s car in Athens, GA:

And finally, my personal favorite of those I’ve seen, Andrew Bird walking along Montmartre in Paris performing “Weather Systems,” which is just a remarkable show of Bird’s sheer talent.


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