Tiny Desks Of Atlanta: Local Groups Document Music Scene

Diet Cig performs inside The Ghani Hair Studio for an episode of Public Radio Sessions.


Public radio listeners probably know of Tiny Desk concerts. Bands squeeze behind All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk and perform a few songs. The sessions are filmed and put online for fans to watch.

Tiny Desk is just one of many organizations that do sessions like these. Other public radio stations like KEXP and music companies like Audiotree have vast libraries of bands performing in their studios.

Atlanta has a few homegrown music sessions. Georgia State University’s indieATL just celebrated nine years of videos. A joint venture between WRAS and the Digital Arts and Entertainment Lab, the sessions feature local talent and national touring bands.

Back when indieATL started, the pool for video sessions was quite small. Matt Rowles, the Digital Arts and Entertainment Lab’s digital media coordinator who heads up the operation, saw the videos as a “digital tour bus.”

“It’s really expensive for bands to get in a van and tour the country. There’s no money in it,” Rowles said. “This was originally a way for bands to reach people in other towns. Or at least, when they did book a show, the venue will provide a link to that video, so the audience has some idea of what they are like before they see them.”

indieATL is also an educational opportunity for the Digital Arts and Entertainment Lab’s graduate students, who shoot and engineer the sessions. On average, there will be 12 people in set, working with five different cameras.

Production company Carbon Film has been putting out videos since last summer. In no reference to actual public radio, their video series is called Public Radio Sessions, and it primarily features talent from Atlanta and other Southern cities along with bands touring through the South. With a smaller crew, creators Adam Valeiras and Michael Morales shot each video in a different location.

Morales said, “We try to pick locations that fit the band, and sometimes we have our heart set on a location, but it doesn’t work out. So, if the location’s not going to highlight the band, it’s just something that falls into the background and lets them come out.”

They filmed Molly Parden and Charlie Whitten at Decatur Presbyterian Church. Sydney Eloise and the Palms were filmed atop Arabia Mountain. New York’s Diet Cig was shot inside The Ghani Hair Studio.

Valeiras and Morales hope these sessions help bands book shows and sell tickets, but the sessions also provide a historical record of the music scene.

“Because we’ve done a lot of local bands, it’s kind of like we’ve created a catalog of the scene at this current moment in time,” said Valeiras. “If the videos were ever to surface in the future, it’s something people can go through to see what Atlanta was like.”

More videos are available through Way Down In Cabbagetown’s sessions, some of which WABE featured last year. WABE has also partnered Immersive Atlanta on Liner Notes, a video series featuring Atlanta songwriters.