When it first hit the internet in 2008, NPR Music’s Tiny Desk concert series seemed like a novelty — a chance to see stripped-down performances by your favs in the charmingly humble setting of Bob Boilen’s desk at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Since then, the series has emerged as a cultural arbiter among the music-loving public. For up-and-coming artists, it’s a dream gig, one that comes with unprecedented exposure and a stamp of legitimacy.
NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, which debuted in 2014, was designed to open up the platform further, offering unsigned musicians from around the country a shot at a spot on the series. Of the thousands of eligible entries to the 2018 contest, 158 of them were from Massachusetts alone. None of those entrants won — that honor went to Naia Izumi, from Los Angeles — but we at The ARTery think our homegrown musicians deserve some shine, too. In that spirit, I am proud to announce WBUR's contest for the best Massachusetts entry — our "Wicked Good Boston Favorite."
Over the next month, our panel of judges will deliberate on the local submissions to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest, and you’ll get a chance to weigh in as well. (Watch the entries here and join our Facebook group to get to know the bands.)
The Grand Prize winner earns a supporting slot at WERS’ inaugural Wicked Good Festival on Aug. 18, headlined by Bleachers, and will be profiled in The ARTery’s “Up Next” series highlighting emerging local artists. Readers will also get the chance to vote online for a Fan Favorite from the contest’s finalists, which will be announced in early June. (Sign up here for updates on the contest and to receive the voting ballot.) The Fan Favorite gets a gig at WBUR's new venue, CitySpace, slated to open in 2019.
Joining me, in my capacity as The ARTery's music critic, are our judges: Lindsey Goldin, music coordinator at WERS; Eddie Cepeda, music journalist, musician and ARTery contributor; Mali Sastri, singer, composer and frontperson for Boston-based art-rock outfit Jaggery; and Mark Simos, associate professor of songwriting at Berklee College of Music.
From New Orleans to Oakland to Duluth — and now Los Angeles — the Tiny Desk Contest winners have all been from somewhere, the product of a regional scene. Now it’s time for us to recognize the talent in our backyard, to make the case for our own "somewhere."