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Fontaines D.C.: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.


Filmed in Chicago's beautiful brick Irish American Heritage Center during a recent tour, this four-song set begins with Fontaines D.C. singer Grian Chatten in the stacks at the center's library, playing a button accordion and singing the mordant ballad "The Couple Across the Way" as cellist Maureen Dunne and violist Isaac Henry accompany him. An emotional touchstone on the band's latest album, Skinty Fia, it's a taste of an unfinished Fontaines project: the Irish group originally planned to release a double set with half traditionally-styled tunes and half the searing, atmospheric post-punk that makes this third LP the band's best.

But we won't stay here in the quiet, unsettled heart. Chatten ambles over to the library's open area, where the band is set up alongside members of the Northwestern University Choir to perform "In ár gCroíthe go deo." The eerie blend of the choir's harmonies and the band's droning, building rhythms moves this music from storytelling to poetry. The song is a keen: an Irish lament for a dead woman whose family wanted the song's title phrase inscribed on her grave but were thwarted when officials in their English hometown demanded a translation. "Gone is the night, gone is the day," Chatten sings through gritted teeth as the choir and his bandmates chant those lost Irish words. Another library corner offers a dynamic shift, as Carlos O'Connell leads the tender, drifting "Big Shot" with delicate keyboard. Then it's back to the noise with "Nabokov" — the perfect tune for tearing up an archive — and a final surprise sends the set into happy chaos.

SET LIST

  • "The Couple Across The Way"
  • "In ár gCroíthe go deo" 
  • "Big Shot" 
  • "Nabokov" 
  • MUSICIANS

  • Grian Chatten: vocals, accordion
  • Carlos O'Connell: guitar, keyboard
  • Conor Curley: guitar, backing vocals
  • Conor Deegan III: bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Tom Coll: drums
  • Maureen Dunne: cello
  • Isaac Henry: viola
  • Choir:

  • Tom Avery
  • Joe Blanchard
  • Emily Ann Brooks
  • Peter Carroll
  • Martina Cavard Blanco
  • Mariana Leone
  • Maddie Mazzella
  • Emily Somé
  • Jackson Owen
  • Olivia Whitmer
  • CREDITS

  • Produced and Directed by Jamie Fleischel and Josh Modell
  • Cameras by Corey Lillard, Matt Carroll, John Sedivy
  • Recorded by Chris Butterworth
  • Monitors by Mat Acreman
  • Audio mixed by Dan and Orla Carey
  • String arrangements by Violeta Vicci
  • Vocal Consultant: Melissa Foster
  • Thank you to the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Video Producer: Kara Frame
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bobby Carter, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, NPR Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.