Yes, NPR Music is only ten years old. Although All Songs Considered is going on 18 years strong, the coalition of NPR member stations from across the country was founded in 2007 to centralize the regional tastemakers that bring us shows like World Cafe, Jazz Night in America, Alt.Latino, and more. It's hard to overstate its cultural influence on music in that short time, most notably with the Tiny Desk Concert video series, where up-and-comers like Diane Coffee and established arena acts like Adele come to perform. In the spirit of the brevity-focused music series, seven bands and musicians took to the stage to play three or four songs each. The event quickly sold out the day it went on sale. But the plot twist? NPR kept the lineup a secret until the moment they came on stage. Of course, when you're NPR Music, it's not hard to ask the public to place your trust in them.
So was it as surprising as people were hoping? It probably depended on their expectations. There weren't any arena-filling acts, but they brought in a strong and diverse lineup that reflected NPR Music’s all-encompassing range:
- Kronos Quartet
- Jeff Tweedy
- Robert Glasper with Bilal and Black Thought
- Gaby Moreno
- Bon Iver
- Margo Price
- Tank & the Bangas
Those that missed out on Bon Iver’s sold-out show at The Anthem were elated to get to see Justin Vernon play songs like “Heavenly Father” and “Skinny Love.” Fans of Kronos Quartet were surprised to see Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy join the four on vocals during their cover of “Born Alone” before Tweedy launched into his own solo set. Robert Glasper fans were treated with a performance alongside neo-soul and hip-hop heavyweights Bilal and Black Thought of The Roots. Guatemalan artist Gaby Moreno utterly won over the crowd with her captivating combination of Latin folk and blues music and a voice that soared way above all others that night.
Of course, it isn't an NPR Music event without a plug for the band they helped to break out on a national level. Tank & the Bangas sold out Songbyrd and U Street Music Hall with ease this year, and judging by the reception they received during their closing performance 9:30 Club under loads of confetti, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them pack out this room in 2018.
In the end, what was surprising was the fact that there was something for pretty much everyone, not just for one type of music lover. That's thanks in part to the broad net of curation that NPR Music casts. Where else would you get to see a lineup as diverse as this? Not Coachella, that's for sure.