The Sh-Booms performing their 2017 Tiny Desk Contest entry
As the memory of live concerts in a gritty venue becomes sadly more distant and livestream concerts grow in popularity – and provide some really nice nightly diversions; I've been enjoying the action-packed Quarantine Concerts in particular for the last week or so – suddenly NPR's Tiny Desk concert series seems less delightfully quirky and more a way forward to experience live music over the next couple of months (or more).
Started in 2008 by All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen, the video sessions feature musicians throwing down in and around the cramped confines of Boilen's (yes) workspace, and the results are spontaneous and crucial viewing. Sort of a spiritual successor to BBC DJ John Peel's iconic Peel Sessions, hundreds of artists have played the Tiny Desk, from the Wu-Tang Clan to Taylor Swift and Weird Al Yankovic. And again, musicians making the best of a cramped space, stripped-down sound, and playing to an online audience seems suddenly very prescient.
Competition became so fierce to play the aforementioned Desk that in 2014, the Tiny Desk crew launched a nationwide contest to win a coveted booking. Local public radio station WMFE 90.7-FM has joined in, throwing a spotlight on Orlando's entrants and giving these tuneful locals access to their listening audience. Area musicians who have tossed their metaphorical hats into the Tiny Desk ring over the past couple of years include Beemo, Amanda Lyn and the Sh-Booms. (It's worth noting that, though the Sh-Booms didn't win, they still ended up with a feature on NPR's national Weekend Edition program.)
This year's contest has taken an unintended importance, with stages for musicians all around the country – be they physical or online – scarce. NPR has extended the deadline for entering the national competition to Monday, April 27. Which means there's still plenty of time for local musicians to record a video and enter.
The guidelines are simply that you, a local musician, send in a video performance to NPR of an original song. More information on submission guidelines for the national contest can be found on the WMFE Tiny Desk page. They've also collected a small handful of the local entries thus far on a playlist (including Blackberry and the aforementioned Beemo).