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Exclusive Performances: St. Louis Bands Enter NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Contest

Jenn Malzone of Middle Class Fashion records at St. Louis Public Radio studios
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

More than 5,000 bands submitted video entries to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, including a dozen from the St. Louis area.

Contestants filmed themselves indoors, outdoors, as groups or solo acts, and some even featured tiny desks of their own. Although submissions are closed, "Cityscape" gave listeners an exclusive taste of three local bands participating in the contest. The contest winner will be named Feb. 12.

Middle Class Fashion  

Middle Class Fashion rose from the ashes of St. Louis girl band Paper Dolls. Former members Jenn Malzone and Brad Vaughn recruited Brian McClelland to play in their new group, adding Katie Lindhorst a few years later. Their music is a usually dark and danceable take on indie rock, primarily driven by two synthesizers.  In studio, Malzone played a stripped down piano version of the band’s new song "Talk All Night," which will appear on a new album the group intends to release later this year. It’s the first public recording of this song.

Middle Class Fashion, "Talk All Night," from their forthcoming album.

Susan Logsdon of Scarlet Tanager recording a song she wrote to surprise her husband at their wedding
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Susan Logsdon of Scarlet Tanager recording a song she wrote to surprise her husband at their wedding

Scarlet Tanager  

Scarlet Tanager is the shared project of husband and wife team Susan and Michael Logsdon. Their first album was a collection of songs written by Susan and adapted for a larger band. In June, they released a new album aptly titled “Let’s Love." The album was primarily recorded on the second floor of the couple's St. Louis apartment.  Their sound is often characterized by full band sing-alongs they refer to as “gang singing.” Susan performed an exclusive version of a song she wrote and played as a surprise for her husband at their wedding. 

Scarlet Tanager, "Birds of the Dawn," written for Susan and Michael Logsdon's wedding.

The Wilderness

Dan Johanning was born in St. Louis and has lived here since, but it took a partnership with Bobby E. Stevens to form their band, The Wilderness. Johanning has played music around the city for years; Stevens arrived in the city just over a year ago. The two discussed forming different bands, and quickly realized that teaming up and sharing songwriting duties “just like the Drive By Truckers,” would create a stronger sound.  Their songs are often straight-forward boozy rock.  Johanning performs an acoustic set of their Tiny Desk Concert Contest submission, the song “Living Well.” 

The Wilderness, "Living Well," an acoustic version of their Tiny Desk Concert Contest submission.

These performances were recorded and produced by St.  Louis Public Radio’s Greg Munteanu.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.