According to Boilen, singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen summed up the experience best: “ ‘This was intimate and awkward, a lot like my last boyfriend.’ ”
But they always draw a crowd. An intraoffice e-mail goes out days before each Tiny Desk Concert, followed by an intercom announcement moments before showtime. On average, 60 NPR employees congregate. Bigger gigs draw more than 100, including a recent performance from British sad-rockers the xx, for which staff members had to cordon off the NPR Music office area with a velvet rope, making a drab office hallway feel like a nightclub sidewalk.
Elise Hu, a digital editor in NPR’s newsroom, is a Tiny Desk Concert regular. Josh Ritter played her first day at work. Steve Earle’s performance made her weep. And when she posts her Tiny Desk snapshots on Instagram (frequently) her friends get jealous (very). “It’s quite a work perk to be able to walk up to the fifth floor, walk down the hall and see the Decemberists,” Hu says.
With an April 15 moving date fast approaching, NPR Music’s office space is a quarter-packed mess. There’s lots of ephemera that needs boxing up, including a paper coffee cup once clutched by Lyle Lovett and the half-sipped bottle of Fiji spring water labeled “Adele 2/17/11.”
“We can’t seem to find Daniel Johnston’s cookie,” says Boilen rifling behind his desk. “It’ll turn up. Nobody’s gonna eat it.”
Back outside, OK Go is filming what must feel like take jillion of a kerjillion. “We do so many things like this that require us shooting over and over and over again, so it’s not an unfamiliar feeling,” says Kulash, during a coffee break. “Everybody’s in this really, ‘Can we do it!?’ mode.”
So back onto the truck bed he climbs, and after three false starts, the Ford F-450’s ignition va-vrooms on the one, finally allowing this rolling spectacle to swing a gentle left onto Massachusetts Avenue.
Oblivious pedestrians stride by. Bicyclists coast along. Passing drivers squeeze 2 and 10. Workaday Washington refuses to have its head turned.
But check YouTube in a month or so. Millions are likely to have clicked.