Tiny Desk, Big Sound: Nebraska entries into NPR Music’s video contest | Video Round-Up

NPR Music’s Tiny Desk concerts are traditionally filmed behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. For the competition to find the next great unknown artist, the show asks its entrants for a little spatial creativity.

As entrees have poured in – likely, as in last year, by the thousands — more than a handful of Nebraska acts answered the call. Whether as a hopeful entry or creative outlet, each entry features some reinterpretation of what a desk can be: a coffee table, a kitchen counter, a piano bench.

NPR has already featured a pair of Nebraskans, exposing Bach Mai and Andrea von Kampen to national audiences by sharing their entries via the Tiny Desk Blog. As a whole, and like their respective “work spaces,” these entries also range in feel: from the crowded kitchen caper to the somber solo session to the hauntingly experimental.

With the competition now closed, see a roundup of Tiny Desk concert contest entries from throughout Nebraska.

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Bach Mai’s “Flirtation Fleeting”

Filmed and edited by Cody Fenske | Audio recorded by Charlie Alley

Bach Mai’s Tiny Desk submission was featured on the Tiny Desk Contest blog back in January, in which the indie-folk group earned its NPR-titled genre label “kitchen-folk.” The video, “Flirtation Fleeting” was filmed in Mai’s kitchen, an on-the-fly decision after his basement studio flooded. Mai and his bandmates filed in the only other space they could all fit, performing “Flirtation Fleeting” confidentily and with ease, as if we’re just sitting in on one of their practices.


Catch Bach Mai this Saturday, Feb. 6 at Omaha’s O’Leaver’s pub. RSVP here.

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OMAHA’s “We Go To War”  

Filmed and edited by Gage Hanson

“Where can we find a bunch of tiny desks?” the indie-folk band OMAHA wondered. This question led the group to take the concept of Tiny Desk to a whole new level. Their upbeat performance of “We Go To War” was filmed in an elementary school classroom in front of their closest friends and family members. “We Go To War” describes the battles we’re all fighting that people don’t necessarily know about. Lyrically, the song says that we should fight for each other, and that the struggles we go through shouldn’t be faced alone. Frontman Topher Booth said he wanted the people who have supported and encouraged OMAHA to be in the video, the elementary classroom setting allowing them to do so.


OMAHA plays Barley Street Tavern Feb. 13 with Jazz Brown & The Afterthought and Kristen Taylor. OMAHA will also be accompanied by Omaha hip-hop artist Nz for a few songs. RSVP here.

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Andrea von Kampen’s “Let Me Down Easy”

Filmed and edited by Brent Scott Maze

Lincoln-based singer-songwriter Andrea von Kampen’s voice will captivate any crowd, even through a computer screen. So, it’s no wonder that when she submitted “Let Me Down Easy,” a endearingly refreshing break-up song, it was quickly picked up by the Tiny Desk Contest blog. The video was filmed in Seward, Neb. at Marble Music, which was recently converted from an old apartment to a music studio. Von Kampen wrote “Let Me Down Easy” when she was living in Nashville, Ten., with the help of the band Neulore. It’s a song about the difficulties of a relationship coming to an end. “Many relationship songs talk about the anger or the feeling of revenge,” von Kampen said.  “But ‘Let Me Down Easy’ touched more on the aspect of being broken and hoping that this person doesn’t break you anymore than they already have.”


Andrea von Kampen plays Lincoln Exposed with Lucas Kellison and The Undisco Kids Feb. 12 at Duffy’s Tavern (RSVP here).

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April Faith-Slaker’s “Copland”

Filmed and edited by April Faith Slaker

April Faith-Slaker is a midwest artist and cellist originally from Chicago. Faith-Slaker lived in Omaha for several years before moving back to the Windy City, and continues to have strong roots with Nebraska’s music and art scene. “Copland” was written nearly two years ago for the first Omaha Under the Radar Festival. From her electric cello pedal looping to her subtle, vocal hums, Faith-Slaker takes artistic risks in her effortless instrumental Tiny Desk performance, setting her self-shot video apart.

Faith-Slaker will perform “Copland” Feb. 13 at Omaha’s KANEKO for “Making Space II: An Evening of curated choreography.” RSVP here.

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Briner’s “Moon In The Window”

Filmed and edited by Britt Bailey and Alex Briner

Alternative four-piece Briner gives an upbeat performance in their Tiny Desk submission, “Moon In The Window.” The video was filmed in a church that was converted into a residence in Aurora, Neb., a rural Nebraska town from where two of Briner’s band members hail. The group utilizes every inch of the intimate space, their harmonies filling the room as the videographer exploits viewpoints from bird’s eye to behind the drum kit.

Briner already has several shows booked for the coming months. The next one is Feb. 19 at The Sydney in Omaha. RSVP here:

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Tara Vaughan’s “Stay By Me Love”

Filmed and edited by Christine McGuigan | Audio recorded by Adam Stoltenberg | Audio mixed by Luke Sawtelle

Tara Vaughan’s “Stay By Me Love,” was filmed at Everything Electric in Omaha, Neb. Omaha-based photographer Christine McGuigan, wife of the band’s bassist Matthew McGuigan, filmed the video. “Stay By Me Love” is a song from Vaughan’s upcoming LP, Dandelion Wine, and tells a story of acceptance and grace. “It’s about asking for forgiveness and trying to forgive yourself when you’ve messed up badly,” Vaughan said. “Just coming to terms with the fact that you’re capable of doing bad things, but they don’t have to define you as a person. ‘I am not my mistakes,’ as the song says.”

You can see Tara Vaughan Feb. 12 at The Waiting Room Lounge with Sarah Benck and fellow Tiny Desk contestants The Hottman Sisters. RSVP here.

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Baker Explosion’s “Forever Grateful”

The family duo Baker Explosion is based out of Norfolk, Neb. Their Tiny Desk submission video of “Forever Grateful” was filmed on their home base, in a garage and intimate practice space. The brothers’ rural Nebraska roots sing equally loud, from Benjamin Baker’s harmonica to the pit of Jason Baker’s saxophone. In their performance of “Forever Grateful,” the duo sings about the people in life who inspire us to live positively and passionately toward our goals.

Baker Explosion performs on the first Friday of every month at the Norfolk Arts Center in Norfolk, Neb. Their next show is this coming Friday, Feb. 5.

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The Hottman Sisters’ “Who I Was”

Filmed and edited by Toni Bonacci | Audio recorded by Adam Roberts

The Hottman Sisters perform the dauntingly beautiful “Who I Was” for their Tiny Desk entry in a small recording studio called ‘The Library.’ Filled with eclectic books and instruments, this intimate space is suitable for the indie-pop three-piece based out of Omaha. The chemistry between sisters Jessica and Heather is clear in “Who I Was,” from their smooth vocal harmonies to their upbeat instrumental execution. It’s a spunky song with contrasting, regretful lyrics. “It draws the listener in and makes them want to dance,” Jessica Hottman said. “But leaves them feeling the opposite, with a punch-to-the-gut cry that ‘I’ve lost who I was.’”


The Hottman Sisters’ next show is on Feb. 12 at The Waiting Room Lounge (RSVP here). This will be their last show for the upcoming months as they take a short break to finish their record.

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If you entered a Tiny Desk concert video and did not see if here, email us at editorial@hearnebraska.org, or post it in the comments. We’d love to see them.