Back in April, I published a short video piece on something called a Tinier Desk concert (which can be found here). Now, a month later, there have been five Tinier Desk concerts. Each concert was performed on the show But Wait, There’s More on WBRS 100.1 FM, with hosts Tobias Reynolds and Yair Koas (see Plate between 4 and 5; Tobias is in front and Yair is behind him).
“The real idea behind [Tinier Desk],” Yair says, “[is to] get more students involved in radio.” And it was a success. “Tons of people tuned in… we had at least… double the listeners when we had a live guest on the show.” For Tobias, the series was a voluntary challenge, and a way to do something unique. “I wanted to try something new… and it was mostly to see, like, could we actually do this, could we make it work with our microphones and our setup? And we could.”
Both hosts say they want more variety in the artists they bring on if they do another Tinier Desk series. And they are planning on doing a second series when school starts up again. “We’re definitely going to be having steady live performances next year,” Koas promises. “The proof of concept worked so now we can put it into full-fledged swing.”
I also sat down with Liz Nielsen, who recently performed on the final Tinier Desk concert of the semester with their a capella group Too Cheap For Instruments (see Plate 2). “We obviously have a different style than most people, we have kind of a folk/folk-pop kind of thing, we had… more elements [than other performers]” says Nielsen.
The a capella group coming on the show was the ultimate proof of concept for the series. Toby and Yair wanted to show that they could have more than just one person with a guitar and one or two voices(shown in Plates 3 and 4), which would give their concerts a much greater range of sounds in the future. The two hosts confirmed the concert was a success on a technical level, and were very happy with the amount of people who tuned in. Nielsen confirms that the concert was a success on the performer’s end as well. “It was kinda nice to be in that intimate space and perform together.” The group was so enthusiastic about the performance that they’d like to come back and do it again. “We should continue to do this… make it an annual thing.”
Finally, I talked with Michael Harlow, who performs with Acia Gankin as the musical duo The Downstairs Neighbors (see Plate 4). In addition to being a performer, Michael is a fan of Tinier Desks himself. “I personally listened to Gavi’s (Plate 5) and Eli’s (Plate 3) afterwards… I played them as I was doing homework or doing other stuff… basically instead of Spotify, just listened to nice, Brandeis-local music.”
Michael agrees with the hosts that to improve the concerts for the next series, they’ll need to add more variation to the instruments played in addition to the styles. “While there is tons of variety accessible in one guitar and one voice, there’s infinitely more variety available if instead of a guitar you have ANY instrument.” And he confirms there are plenty of students on campus who play instruments beyond the guitar. “There are plenty of horn players [or] piano players on campus who I’m sure have their own music or covers that they play.” Like Liz, Michael assures that if he were asked back to do another Tinier Desk, he would, but he would want to introduce a new element to his performance. “If I were asked back… I would want to bring a hand drum in addition to a guitar. I think another option… would be to bring a bass and an amp… with a bass and a guitar, the musicality is really opened up.”
The concerts are also a good practice and exposure for aspiring musicians. “People knew that we were making a lot of music,” Michael tells me, pertaining to himself and Acia, “but they didn’t realize that we were a group… The Downstairs Neighbors is a group that could perform, you know, at open mics, at dive bars, gigs.”
Tinier Desk concerts have proven themselves to be a success. To keep that success, they’ll need to expand their range of sounds- a difficult goal, but also a reachable one. “It’s a really important show to have,” says Harlow. But Wait, There’s More listeners agree with him.