Our 2018 Tiny Desk Contest tour has come to an end. Over the last two months, we've hosted concerts in eight cities featuring 21 bands who entered the Tiny Desk Contest — plus our winner, the brilliant guitarist and singer Naia Izumi.
One thing I found compelling as we traveled from Washington D.C. to New York City, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, Petaluma, Seattle and Chicago was the remarkable talent in each city. These Tiny Desk Contest entrants are often unknowns even in their own communities, so it was a night of discovery for both the fans and for the musicians.
I was personally enamored of Lau Noah's poetic beauty at our New York show. The Denver concert at Globe Hall was my favorite night, and I loved all that I saw, including Ivory Circle, Audible and Los Mocochetes. The band that lit up the The Twin Cities for me was iLLism — Naia Izumi was even inspired to call on the band's drummer to join him for a number.
This year, there was an energy in many of the bands who entered the Contest that reminded us of — and perhaps was inspired by — last year's winner, Tank and the Bangas. iLLism had that energy — and we felt it in Philly, too, especially from the band &More, who mixes R&B, poetry and hip-hop. Petaluma had a similar feel from the rousing and infectious La Misa Negra and SOL Development. And then in Seattle, I was stunned by the rock band Among Authors and its original take on music that's akin to Radiohead and explosive art rock.
I was excited for our final city, Chicago. I'd encouraged Naia to find a drummer for the last date of the tour; he'd been touring with a drum machine and his bassist, Maddie Lough. He did find a drummer, but the weather and the airlines had other plans for me. I had two flights canceled and I missed the final night of the tour.
Fortunately, Pilar Fitzgerald was there. Pilar has been managing the tour for NPR Music and has been an invaluable resource to us all. And though her plane circled Indiana as they waited for the storms to pass, once again she came through. Here's her dispatch from Chicago:
Putting aside the difficulties of getting there, the Chicago showcase was one not to be missed. First up was MICHA, whose bilingual set spanned laid-back southern soul and Latin pop flare. Growing Concerns Poetry Collective, who mixes storytelling, slam poetry and hip-hop was next; the group told me it normally performs in libraries, so being in Lagunitas' trippy brewery was different for them, but still so enchanting. Following that, the explosive rapper Dxtr Spits and his band The Devonns launched themselves on stage decked out in neon body paint. The hair-whipping rap-meets-rock verses of co-MCs Dxtr and Nexus J sent the crowd into a frenzy. That energy carried over to Naia's headlining set; local drummer Jessica Burdeaux brought a special spark to the performance. It was a night full of inspiration, and though we couldn't control the weather, these bands certainly brightened my day.
We want to give a huge thanks to all who participated in this Contest. It's been a thrill to hear so much music from exciting, undiscovered artists. Thank you for submitting and for following along; for listening, watching and making it out to a show; and for celebrating music and its power to connect us all.