Hurray for the Riff Raff performs for NPR Music at 9:30 Club on Nov. 29, 2022. (Photo by Will Colbert)
The architects of music’s most engaging programs, such as All Songs Considered, Louder Than A Riot, and Tiny Desk, showed off their curatorial prowess in a recent celebration at 9:30 Club. The second night of NPR Music’s 15th-anniversary featured performances by Amber Mark, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Yendry, and surprise guests Moonchild.
“I am so excited to introduce this first artist…an Alt.Latino fave, my personal fave, Yendry” said Annamaria Sayre, co-host of NPR Music’s Alt.Latino on Nov. 29.
The Dominican-Italian singer-songwriter confidently took to the stage for her first DC performance. She wore a catsuit that Keith Haring could’ve painted. In the ‘80s, Haring used bodies as canvases for artistic expression. On this night, Yendry would use the 9:30 Club’s platform for her autobiographical ballad “Nena.”
The song recounts the blessings sent from afar by Yendry’s single mom, Rosa, during the musician’s early years. In the mid-90s, Rosa left her two-year-old daughter with family in the Dominican Republic to find a better life in Italy. After a year apart, Yendry would join her mother in Turin.
Watch the official music video for “Nena” by Yendry on YouTube:
Yendry’s music mixes Latin and European elements, but she showed a soft spot for her birthplace during the performance of “Bendicion.” “This song is about how much I miss the sense of community in the Dominican Republic. I grew up in Italy, but sometimes I miss the warmth of my people,” said Yendry. The song will be on her forthcoming album.
“We are so excited to have Hurray for the Riff Raff on this stage! I think I first wrote about Hurray for the Riff Raff in 2009,” said NPR’s Steven Thompson about the alt/indie band led by Alynda Segarra.
Segarra, inspired by “rebellious women and activists,” fuses rock, punk, and folk in her music. She’s a storyteller who weaves socially conscious topics into her narrative. The latest Hurray for the Riff Raff album, Life on Earth, is about thriving when disaster is pervasive.
“I hope it gives anybody out there who is struggling a little light at the end of the tunnel because there is a light,” said Segarra. With a steely gaze, she would sing through the hurt nestled between verses on her ode to survival, “Saga.”
“This next artist put out an album at the beginning of the year, and it has had me in a chokehold,” said the man on the ones and twos who kept the party lit between sets, Tiny Desk Senior Producer Bobby Carter, also known as DJ Cuzzin B. The introduction referred to pop-R&B songstress Amber Mark.
The New York-based singer-songwriter would perform music from her debut full-length album, Three Dimensions Deep. The record grapples with existential topics like the meaning of life. Mark takes on the cosmic quandary through relatable songs that decode the messy parts of human existence.
“I wrote this song during a really low point in my life. Just really questioning inner securities,” said Mark before her performance of “Worth It.”
“We’ve all got that feeling
I can see you hurting
You don’t think you deserve it
But, baby, you are worth it,” sang Amber Mark.
The artists performing on the 9:30 Club stage shared many similarities — striking songwriting, powerful lead vocalists, and NPR Music’s Tiny Desk appearances. The series, a global phenomenon, tops many musicians’ bucket lists. Moonchild, the night’s surprise guest, has over 4 million views of their Tiny Desk performance on YouTube.
Watch Moonchild’s Tiny Desk performance on YouTube:
The LA-based neo-soul/jazz multi-instrumentalists Amber Navran, Andris Mattson, and Max Byrk closed the show. Navran would sing in her trademark feathery soprano on “What You Wanted” before picking up the saxophone to blow a few notes on the upbeat track. Mattson and Byrk joined her on sax and flugelhorn, turning the trio into the song’s brass section.
Moonchild grooved during their performance of “The Other Side” before transitioning into their collaboration with Lalah Hathaway. The R&B icon wasn’t present at the show, but her vocals played over the club speakers and complimented Navran’s during the performance of “Tell Him.” Moonchild put a cherry atop NPR Music’s birthday cake with fan favorite “The List.”
During the concert, Steven Thompson recounted a funny story about his friend’s reaction to him taking a job at NPR Music in 2006. In true-friend fashion, they were supportive but bluntly told him how uncool his new gig sounded. It’s safe to say they were wrong. The 15th-anniversary concert was a testament to National Public Radio’s impact as music tastemakers. That’s pretty cool.
Here are some photos from the NPR Music Celebrates 15 Years! Night 2 at 9:30 Club on Nov. 29, 2022. All photos are copyright and courtesy of Will Colbert.