When SXSW-ers hear whispers of a “secret lineup,” expect the crowds to flood. At least, that’s what I witnessed at NPR’s first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour.
Lovers of the well-known online concert series started lining up at Central Presbyterian Church over two hours before the doors opened, all chatting among themselves about who they hoped and guessed would be performing. The church quickly filled up with excited (and lucky, not everyone fortunate to make it in) attendees and loud cheers as soon as NPR’s own Bob Boilen walked out on stage.
Boilen opened the night sharing how he hoped the showcase would feel more like listening to music in a friend’s living room than a concert, which it certainly did. Throughout the evening, nine amazing Tiny Desk alums delivered short yet breathtaking performances.
American folk singer Gaelynn Lea is a former Tiny Desk Contest winner who wowed us with her violin loops and euphonious voice. With lyrics that strike home, Lea’s melodies and passion left us speechless.
Josh Karpeh, a.k.a. Cautious Clay brought an effortless yet thoughtful performance full of soul and funk. Playing guitar, saxophone, AND flute, Karpeh is a rising artist who is bound to shake up the music industry with his raw talent.
John Paul White
A personal favorite of mine, John Paul White is well-known for his former music in the duo Civil Wars, however, his solo career has drawn in even more fans who adore his beloved dreamy voice. With emotive vocals accompanied by harmonious guitar strums, John Paul White had us feeling all the feels with his melancholy set.
Mountain Man is a delightful folk trio featuring Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath (who is also in Sylvan Esso, another band I ADORE!). Haunting yet hymnal, Mountain Man is a must-see for all folk lovers, with otherworldly harmonies and adorable charisma.
Austin’s own Gina Chavez (and one of our personal must-see’s at SXSW – read more here), brought an incredibly emotional performance that left us wanting more. Though she was a little under the weather, Chavez poured her heart out on stage through her breathtaking vocals and bilingual lyrics.
Alright guys, this one totally took me by surprise and in the best way possible. Another Austin local band, Fragile Rock is what many call “Avenue Q meets emo band,” and if you know anything about Avenue Q you can probably imagine how hilarious Fragile Rock would be. Founded by musician and comedian Brently Heilbron, Fragile Rock had us all laughing with their angsty tunes performed through puppets.
Intense and eerie, elegant and romantic, Amanda Palmer is a singer-songwriter who tells stories through compelling lyrics and haunting themes. Arched over a piano that was specifically rolled out on stage for her, Palmer’s voice hummed throughout the church and stuck in our ears for the remainder of the night.
Haitian rapper and three-time Grammy winner Wyclef Jean lightened the mood with his adorably funny commentary on stage and smooth voice. Though I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of rap and hip hop, I enjoyed every minute of Jean’s performance full of catchy riffs and beats.
The night concluded with masked-artists Leikeli47 who literally had everyone up on their feet bouncing along to her hip-hop tunes. A joyful and gregarious set, Leikeli47 was the most pleasant surprise to close out NPR’s Tiny Desk Family Hour.
Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.