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Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

San Fermin at Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Bob Boilen
San Fermin at Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

You might see some of it pop up on my Twitter account (@allsongs) or our Facebook page in real time, but this will be a permanent home for the amazing rainbows in my life.



Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen takes a very familiar form — a singer with a guitar — and creates something entrancing and unforgettable. The stripped down sound sometimes is down and gritty and sometimes a whisper in the ear (you can see what I mean when you hear her play live at the Tiny Desk or by listening to the whole album). I've been living with this music for a bit now. It's my friend, my comfort; it shakes me, saddens me and lifts me.


San Fermin at Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., February 8

One of the very first shows that this young New York band played was on this very stage last April. I had fallen hard for their well-composed and orchestrated pop. The musicians playing this complicated stuff on the album included the two singers from Lucius, but there was no touring San Fermin band. As so those first shows with new folks and complex music didn't fare so well. Nine months later, San Fermin returned to D.C., now a great big working band with multiple horns, singers and percussionists, all under the direction of composer/arranger Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Go see them!


"Beneath the Brine" by The Family Crest

Some weeks I love the intimate in music, but this week epic beats out the intimate. In the vein of San Fermin comes The Family Crest, a San Francisco collective with a core group of seven but boasting an "extended family" of friends that includes conservatory singers, shower singers, old friends and the newly met. Their song, "Beneath the Brine," is the title track for their newest album, which comes out February 25.


"Crooked River" by Dana Falconberry

Washington, D.C. had a week of snow storms and ice. So when our local NPR member station, WAMU, posted a lovely video of Dana Falconberry shot months ago in a sunnier season on its website, it blast of warmth. Oh, and there's an actual rainbow in the shot! OK, it's just lens flare, but I'll take what I can get. Either way, Dana Falconberry's music is just beautiful.



Opening up for Julianna Barwick on at the Sixth and I Synagogue was a New York artist known as Vasillus. I had no idea what to expect, except that his website said, "no laptops, not ever." The stage was set with two tables of pedals and keyboards. And when Vasillus took the stage he was so filled with joy, so thrilled to be performing, that his exuberance simply won me over. His stripped-down electronica worked because his voice had such range and power. He's a new artist with a few demos, a man of heart and soull. Let's keep an ear out for Vasillus.


Watching A 9-Year-Old Falling In Love With Music

It's happened a few times at concerts in the last few months: There's this young girl at shows here in D.C., standing with her parents at the foot of the stage. She was at the Lucius show last fall and then I saw her again on Saturday night at San Fermin's show, and she sang along to every word. She clearly adored the band, and what I loved, as I glanced at her now and again, was the sense of her discovery, that this was all very new. As I looked around the room, I was sure that everyone there had, at one point, had that same experience, the moment that music — in a way no other art form, no other experience on the planet can — carries us off and takes us away.

I began thinking that Lucius and San Fermin are both bands we've had at the Tiny Desk, and I wondered if that's where she might have discovered them. And as coincidences happen, I was walking out the door of the Rock & Roll Hotel at the same moment as this girl and her parents. I didn't want to embarrass her or let her know I was watching, so I told her parents that I'd seen them at shows and realized that some of these bands had played Tiny Desk Concerts. As it turned out, Mia is a big fan. I told her the Tiny Desk was MY desk, gave her my NPR business card so she could contact me and told her that I'd love to have her come see a live Tiny Desk taping some time. Her eyes got wide, she took the card and I hope to see her and her family soon.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.