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Words By Tam Sackman, Photos By Armando Gallardo, Clarissa Villondo

Radio was alive and well at All Songs Considered’s 16th Anniversary show, which featured an equally packed and illuminated 9:30 Club. The sold out show was almost at capacity just a half hour after doors, buzzing with people eager to see who the promised “special guests” would be at a show marketed as a joint Sharon Van Etten/Dan Deacon bill. They were not disappointed.

The night began with a Dan Deacon-led countdown from 16, when the men of the hour(s), Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, hit the stage to recount their journey from the beginning of All Songs Considered to the future. They began with a clip from their first show, which featured 90s Irish rock band The Frames, led by none-other than Glen Hansard, who was revealed to be the first act of the night. Talk about starting on a high note. Hansard played a few songs before a guitar malfunction caused him to borrow another act’s guitar, which he took a liking to and kept even when his own was fixed. He ended on a gorgeous cover of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”.
Sharon Van Etten, ostensibly one of the main reasons people came to this show (other than pure loyalty to the ASC name) played a quiet set, the closest thing to a triumphant return we could have expected from her as of recent. She’s been on hiatus from music-making as she pursues her undergrad Psych degree, and it was nice to have her back for a little, however brief. She played a new song called “Lucky Stars”, and we thanked ours for being the first ones to hear it.
Speculative murmurs of the next special guest abound, Bob and Robin traced their history towards the present, reminiscing on SXSWs of years past. One of which they discovered experimental violin looper genius, Kishi Bashi. On a personal note, I was completely caught off guard as Lighght has been an incredibly formative album for me over the past few years and I was nowhere near ready for one of my favorite artists to be one of the special guests. There were tears. But the rest of the crowd seemed largely less stoked than I was (though still relatively stoked). He played only three songs, which quelled everyone but me. But alas, there were three more surprises before Dan Deacon went on.
The first of the three accompanied the story of the first Tiny Desk ever, Laura Gibson. I am embarrassed to say I had never heard of her before the show. She was endearingly awkward in her in-between banter as she played just four of her own songs, most of which were new. The theme of the night was clearly singer-songwriters who could fill a room with just their instrument and voice, and Gibson was no exception. Her mature folk-rock was crystal clear and cut deep, but the room’s energy was waning by the end.
As the sets switched over, Ari Shapiro surprised Bob and Robin with a sweet compilation video of some of their favorite acts raising their glasses to them, including J. Mascis, Deer Tick, Luluc and Sharon Jones. We joined them in a toast.
Enter The Suffers. This 10+ piece band whipped out their trumpets, saxes and soul to bring us into ASC’s 16th year in style– despite not even having their first album out yet. Lead singer Kam Franklin wouldn’t let us stay still for too long as she made us repeat back to her the band’s name and hometown as she brought back the energy that had drained from almost 3 hours of music. They ended with a serenade of the Beatles’ “Birthday Song” as we did another countdown and all of NPR’s team took the stage for a picture, which ended with thousands of NPR-themed balloons falling from the ceiling as Dan Deacon began one of his notorious sets.
For those of you who haven’t seen Dan Deacon, just do it. There’s no other act that focuses on crowd interactivity and the pursuit of a shared good time as much as he does. He played an abridged version of his usual set, which featured Bob and Robin leading their respective sides in dance for “When I Was Done Dying”. This, coupled by the seemingly endless flow of balloons, squeezed the last bit of excitement out of a pretty damn exciting night. And to think– it was all in the name of radio.
Dan Deacon
Bob Boilen
Robin Hilton
Glen Hansard
Sharon Von Etten
Kishi Bishi
The Suffers