The Best Local Bands in NPR’s 2022 Tiny Desk Contest | KCUR 89.3


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NPR’s beloved Tiny Desk Concert series has been bringing musicians to the smallest stage since 2008, even expanding into artists’ homes to broadcast during the pandemic. Remember when 2 Chainz casually performed at a nail salon?

In 2015, NPR launched the Tiny Desk competition, in which thousands of unsigned musicians have their work reviewed by an esteemed panel of judges. The winner gets to play their own Tiny Desk and tour the country with NPR Music.

On Tuesday, NPR announced the winner of the 2022 Tiny Desk contest: Alisa Amador, a singer-songwriter from Boston, Massachusetts. You can watch his winning entry, “Accidental Milonga,” here.

Among the thousands of musicians who entered the contest were several artists and bands from the Kansas City area. Here are some of our favorites. (For the full list, check out the Tiny Desk entries page to search by state, and keep your eyes peeled for local shows.)

The Fantastic

The “party band” label doesn’t do full justice to genre-defying The Phantastics, despite playing house all over Kansas City.

Like any good funk band, the eight-piece collective has a supernatural origin story involving Earth, Wind & Fire, Donna Summers, Parliament-Funkadelic and (who else?) Primus. Somehow Big Boi probably calls The Phantastics “cooler than a polar bear’s fingernails”.

There is a calm intensity to the handling of each instrument, even as the band as a whole operates with lively, carefree energy. Their contest entry, “Bananas,” is as thoughtful as it is dynamic, as singers Kemet the Phantom and Leigh Gibbs ask listeners to “go bananas” on the song. Done and done.

Real Lions

Representing Kansas City, Kansas and the always superb Manor Records, True Lions are inspired by the minimalist indie pop group The Softies. And maybe Phoebe Bridgers.

The band’s sound conjures up images of melting ice cream, crystal pools and the 1990s. Just throw a little feminist punk into the mix. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alison Hawkins is here to challenge the binary, playing with both soft and hard edges. We are there for that.

Based on a poem by a friend of the band, True Lions’ contest, “Crowded Vacant,” remains on the themes of loneliness and friendship, though other topics include the search for fairness in life. music industry.


It looks like Jass can do it all. Even if you’ve never heard her live or listened to a song other than “Teenage Dreams,” her contest entry, it’s clear that Jass exudes elegant confidence and has the talent (and stellar voice) to back it up.

In the video for “Teenage Dreams,” Jass perches next to a red desk and amplifier, holding a bass guitar. Jass grew up playing the keyboard, flute, sax and alto, and although you’d never know it, she didn’t learn to play bass until her quarantine.

With a cold, expressive sound that nods to Solange and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Jass truly shines when it comes to vocal control and clever lyricism. “Gangsta lean while I’m Mona Lisa grinnin'”, she sings over a bass riff.

Stream Jass’ EP “At the Close of a Decade” on SoundCloud and catch her at Manor Fest on May 26.

glass bandit

Participation in the Glass Bandit “Distance” contest gives meaning to the word “earworm”. It’s a tall order, we know, but the band’s sun-tinged pop-funk lives up to the hype. Even unlike lyrics that ask the speaker’s partner or friend to “justify the distance” between them.

But don’t let the catchy melodies fool you: Glass Bandit doesn’t lack depth in any way. They are eight musicians who thrive on their own microcosm of collaborative energy. You can tell they want their audience to have as good a time as they do.

Check out Glass Bandit’s new music on the “Vacancy” EP, and hear them live at The Ship on May 26 and Boulevardia on June 18.

redder moon

Redder Moon time is now, especially as we move out of the all-or-nothing vibes of a recent lunar eclipse. The group has already released several albums, including an LP titled “Hell is Other People”, which features their participation in the “Dominos in Slow Motion” contest.

The rather ambiguous phrase comes from a play by the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Rather than taking this as advice to stay solitary, the point is that we judge ourselves based on the judgment of others. Which makes sense given that the members of Redder Moon created the album in the midst of the pandemic, while apart from each other.

“Nobody’s paying attention,” warns lyricist Jill McKeever. “We are like dominoes in slow motion.” The band’s distinct brand of synthetic dark-pop reminds us to accept cosmic serenity – or chaos. And the rhythms are heavy here.

Nicole Springer

There’s something so pleasantly familiar about Nicole Springer’s lush blend of folk, Americana and soul. Emphasis on the soul. “Just loosen your grip on the past,” she tells herself, and tells us. “It’s not near you.”

But the past has a knack for subtle returns. In the same vein as Lake Street Dive and Brandi Carlile, entering Springer’s “Good Time” contest is a masterclass in turning nostalgia into a sharp feeling. Not that she needs the comparisons.

The result is a delicately layered – albeit powerful – sound that builds and builds. Hear it for yourself as Springer performs a live release show of his new EP “Chase the Light” on May 21 at Lemonade Park. We’ll see each other there.

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