After the winner of the Tiny Desk Contest claims the grand prize — playing an actual Tiny Desk concert — NPR Music takes them on tour across the country. This year’s Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour was a victory lap for 2022 winner Alisa Amador, who was met by thousands of new fans, and also showcased local talents in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, as three Contest entrants performed alongside Amador each night.
Tour began in Washington, D.C. — the city that’s home to Bob Boilen’s Tiny Desk — with an eclectic lineup of artists from the area. Everyday Everybody kicked off the night with an energetic set; Outerloop kept the energy high performing its loud, invigorating, cathartic songs; and 2021 Contest winner NEFFY put on a breathtaking acoustic performance, including a rendition of her Contest-winning song, “Wait Up.”
In Atlanta, O’She Tyght kicked off the show with soulful rap songs, Alto Moon brought the heat with his theatrical set and stunning voice, and Yah Yah and her crew put on a groovy R&B performance that had the whole crowd dancing.
In Seattle, Halley Greg and her band played a handful of what they called “bluesy feminist rock songs.” Then, in Helmer Noel’s first-ever live gig, he dazzled the audience with his exquisite voice and natural stage presence. And Ollella put on a moving performance with her impressive cello looping.
In Los Angeles, Yosmel Montejo and his band kicked off the night with a lively set, and he also had an inspiring message for the audience: “We all came here because of a dream. Don’t quit. Just go for it.” Jack Rabbit took the stage next, performing songs about heartbreak, friendship and queer joy. And Pocket Queen closed out the night, wowing the crowd with a skillful, drum-heavy performance.
Amador and her band put on joyful, jazzy performances across the entire tour, prompting celebratory encores and standing ovations from fans who’d fallen in love with her heartfelt lyrics and beautiful melodies.
Itzel Alejandra Martinez/NPR
Eventually, the tour wrapped up with a night to remember in New York. For the first time ever, a handful of Contest winners performed as part of the same lineup at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park. Amador kicked off the night, making herself right at home on the biggest stage she’s performed on yet. Then, 2020 winner and New York native Linda Diaz took the stage to play her gorgeous R&B songs. Next, Seratones (one of many past entrants who, despite not winning the Contest, have gone on to play the Tiny Desk) took over and rocked the park. And for the grand finale, our first-ever Contest winner and three-time Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito put on an incredible performance, playing the song he won the Contest with and selections from his new album, White Jesus Black Problems.
What was really special to us, besides watching all of their incredible live sets, was seeing these artists support one another: Each artist shouted out the others from the stage, congratulated this year’s winner and lifted the Contest and their local music communities up every evening.