Gigs: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, Reddit Q&A
Everyone was still smiling over how the fiddle player got his back scratched by Letterman on national TV the night before.
“Let me get that for you,” the host said as the burly, thickly bearded Ryan Young reached to relieve an itch at song’s end. Banjo player Dave Carroll later quipped, “He’s never going to wash his back again.”
While the rest of the band hit a Chelsea watering hole to watch themselves on TV after the late-afternoon taping, the singer went back to their rented bus to crash.
“All the nerves and anticipation of playing that one song build up all day, and then suddenly it’s over,” Simonett explained. “I felt completely drained.”
Not even a big New York TV taping alters the bus’ usual 2 a.m. roll time. As on most nights, the band members and crew spent the overnight drive to Washington, D.C., sleeping in their bunks, piled three high and six per side. A sardine-can comparison works, especially when the smell builds after a couple weeks out.
While their bus driver slept in D.C., the band somehow wound up in a garish limo minibus with black tinted windows and a leather wraparound couch. “There’s even a hole to put a stripper pole,” bassist Tim Saxhaug cheerily noted as they pulled up to National Public Radio’s regal new headquarters near the U.S. Capitol.
What at first looked like a Mötley Crüe entourage turned into a Boundary Waters portage once the band members started unloading gear in their North Woods attire.
Among the odder gigs that bands play circa 2014 is the virally popular Tiny Desk Concert, taped for NPR.org. The concerts actually do take place at a desk, belonging to “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen, who got turned on to Trampled by Turtles three years ago at the South by Southwest Music Conference.
Boilen pointed out the restrooms, and Saxhaug instantly ran there. “The smallest bladder in bluegrass,” Young mused.
Mandolinist Erik Berry checked his phone for reports from home. “I’m missing my son’s last baseball game of the season,” he said all too matter-of-factly.
The band’s knowledgeable, T-shirt-clad co-manager from New York, Geoff Harrison, 36, traveled with them but stayed well-connected to the office. Yesterday was record-release day, after all. He excitedly reported that Trampled ranked in the top five on Billboard’s Real-Time Twitter Chart (for tweets about a band or its album).
Harrison more convincingly emphasized the enormousness of the “Tiny Desk Concert”: “These things get half a million page views.”
About 50 people crowded in to watch Trampled’s set, including NPR’s brand-new CEO, Jarl Mohn. After only a few minutes to set up — this is one gig definitely performed unplugged — the band tore through three songs from the new album. Boilen asked if they wanted to hang out.
“You got any beer?” Simonett asked.
Nope, but NPR’s new palace does have one heck of a salad bar. As if following a when-in-Rome dictum, the musicians all lined up and piled on the greens there — the only green they would receive for the gig.
“We eat like this every day on tour,” the band’s woolly-smiled banjo player claimed. It would not be his last fib of the day.