Photo by Claire O’Neill/NPR
The sold-out 9:30 Club hosted a beautiful sweet 16 birthday celebration for NPR’s All Songs Considered. Dan Deacon welcomed the crowd with his usual poignant meandering that I find incredibly endearing, likening All Songs Considered to that friend we had growing up who reliably turned us on to new and compelling music. This image stayed at the forefront of my mind as the crowd traveled through the rich history of All Songs Considered’s 16 years.
Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton took the stage to tremendous applause before launching into a loving exploration of the show that they have crafted for 16 years. Guiding us through the genesis of All Songs Considered and its constant evolution, Bob and Robin gave interesting and often humorous insights into a program that has shaped much of the music I have come to love in recent years. A testament to this impact was the incredible line-up of musicians that peppered the evening with heartfelt performances.
Glen Hansard started the evening off with a fantastic set filled with his usual heart and power, the highlight of which was a phenomenal and touching cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” which left much of the audience in tears.
Sharon Van Etten carried on her long legacy of bringing Robin to tears, wielding her soul-churning voice over the moody drone of guitar as colored mist swirled about her. Kishi Bashi sent chills firing through my nerves, as he layered his violin and voice to craft fantastic and surreal soundscapes.
The “Typhoid Mary of the Tiny Desk,” Laura Gibson showcased her unique power that blends a delicate and fragile sweetness with a cutting edge, like milk tinged with blood or the sudden and chilling transition to winter. Continuing their long legacy of turning us on to new music, Bob and Robin brought on Houston 10-piece The Suffers that played an incredibly fun set of rich soul music.
Each musician took time between their songs to speak of the impact that All Songs Considered had on their career, many of whom seemed genuinely convinced that they would have traveled a completely different path had it not been for this show. Emotions were high as videos showed cherished moments like Kishi Bashi playing a small venue at SXSW, a toast presented by Ari Shapiro and Robin crying at an early Sharon Van Etten concert played in the background.
Often, the evening would descend into unrestrained soliloquies waxing on the love for the D.C. music scene, or 9:30 Club, and most often to music itself. It was truly an amazing evening, bringing the makers, the promoters and the eager consumers of music together to revel in their shared zeal and unshakeable and eternal love for what might be our most pure art form.
After Bob and Robin blew candles out on the cake, Dan Deacon closed the evening with one of his now famous dance parties as balloons cascaded from the ceiling. The elation that permeated the venue, aided by Dan Deacon’s irresistible and euphoric music, was the natural cumulative expression of the deep love and appreciation that carried throughout the evening. A love and appreciation for music, for those who live to make it or consume it, and a love for those that bring the previous two together.
Here’s to 16 more years All Songs Considered, thanks so much for everything you do.