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The Hold Steady: 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.

If you've ever seen a Hold Steady show, then you know it's an experience, complete with communal singalongs and confetti. But for its first-ever full-band Tiny Desk appearance, the group squeezed behind a cramped backstage corner of the Brooklyn Bowl, COVID mask protocol in place ("Unusual times, unusual measures," Craig Finn explains).

Illuminated by string lights, the band ran through tracks from its latest album, Open Door Policy, kicking off with "Heavy Covenant" as a swell of clarinets and trumpets round out the sound ("The Horn Steady," as Finn tells it). Though the lineup consisted of its current supersized iteration – featuring both Steve Selvidge on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay back on accordion – the band scaled back its swagger for the space. Here, the recurring "Woos!" on the recorded version of "Unpleasant Breakfast" become softer and more subtle; the surf sounds of "Riptown" still rolick, but with restraint that suits the setting.

Even after eight studio albums and nearly two decades, it's surreal to think that any band can still have the capacity to surprise. But to this fan's ears, Open Door Policy upends expectations and redefines what The Hold Steady sound can be. And even in a compact – and crowdless – setting, there's still so much joy to be found in what The Hold Steady has built for almost 20 summers.


  • "Heavy Covenant"
  • "Unpleasant Breakfast"
  • "Riptown"
  • "Parade Days"

  • Bobby Drake: drums
  • Craig Finn: vocals
  • Tad Kubler: guitar, vocals
  • Franz Nicolay: keyboards, accordion, vocals
  • Galen Polivka: bass
  • Stephen Selvidge: guitar, vocals
  • Stuart Bogie: clarinet
  • Peter Hess: clarinet
  • Jordan McLean: trumpet

  • Video: Jonathan Healey, Clint Tuccio
  • Audio: Scott Adamson, Jonathan Silverman

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Video Producer: Maia Stern
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Associate Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Tiny Production Team: Kara Frame, Gabrielle Pierre
  • Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
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