NEWPORT, Ky. -- WVXU's second annual Tiny Desk Showcase will celebrate the diverse output of Cincinnati's music scene July 29 at the Southgate House Revival in Newport.
Following the success of NPR's national Tiny Desk Contest, in which bands and musicians from across the country submit videos of themselves performing with, on or near a desk in hopes of winning a big-city tour, the organization sent lists of local entrants to all NPR station members, including WVXU. Overall, 91 entries have come from the Greater Cincinnati music scene.
Kevin Reynolds, WVXU's community relations manager, saw an opportunity to spotlight not only local music, but also local public radio.
"This showcase gives us a nice entree into the local music scene," Reynolds said.
The concept was partly inspired by fundraisers he attended, including one at local nonprofit Caracole that featured local bands performing their takes on popular '80s songs.
"In terms of freestanding showcases, there seem to be a lot that are affiliated with causes of some kind. We're kind of a cause ourselves," said Reynolds.
As a member-supported station, WVXU relies on donations from listeners. Reynolds reached out to Morella Raleigh, booking manager at the Southgate House Revival, to secure the venue.
"I figured, 'Maybe she'll give us, if we're lucky, a Wednesday night, maybe a Thursday,' and she gave us a Saturday," Reynolds said.
Raleigh said she was happy to host the showcase.
"We were very aligned philosophically with the independent radio stations and the NPR mindset," she said. "(Reynolds) just thought, 'Here's another opportunity for us to raise money for the station,' which is always a thing with public radio, certainly, and we're always happy to help with that in any way, if we can, especially if it involves bands that are local."
Local band Elk Creek is the only band on the bill this year that also performed last year. Formed in 2012, the self-described Americana rock group has been playing with its current lineup for three years. The band first submitted a video to the national Tiny Desk Contest in 2015 and again in 2017.
"I get more excited about this concert than about the contest in general," said Elk Creek lead guitarist Nick Whittenburg. "It really is a great showcase of the scene in Cincinnati. I'm excited this year because I don't think I know a single other band that we're sharing a stage with, which is awesome."
Other participating bands include Anew to Wander, Greg Mahan, Jack Burton Overdrive, Jen Creasey, Jetlab, Knotts, Mega Pixel, Nick Kizirnis, The Matildas, Emily Parker, Maurice Mattei, Brianna Kelly, Lauren Eylise and Tooth Lures A Fang.
The showcase format works especially well at Southgate House Revival. The smaller, more intimate lounge area on the first floor features singer-songwriters and smaller acts, while the second-floor ballroom features larger ensembles.
"It's incredibly eclectic. We don't vet these groups in any way. If they applied and they sent a video to NPR for the Tiny Desk Contest, we invite them," said Reynolds.
Bands are staggered to allow for as much music immersion as possible. The diversity of genres on both stages means you're likely to find something you enjoy, and more often than not, it'll be something you haven't heard before.
"I do shows here, sometimes 10 to 12 a week, and there's still plenty of artists on this upcoming lineup that I haven't seen yet, so it's exciting for me -- it's that thrill of discovering something new and exciting and current," said Raleigh. "I've loved the fact that WVXU supports that and it fits in with what they're about."
Until recently, WNKU, operating out of Northern Kentucky University, was the area's local music purveyor, showcasing Cincinnati and regional bands on the air since 1985. In February, NKU announced it was selling the station to a religious broadcasting company, stirring concern among local bands and fans about the impending lack of an outlet for local music.
While WVXU is not in a position to fully assume that mantle, Reynolds said, there are opportunities, such as the Tiny Desk Concert Showcase, to continue in that vein.
"This gives us at least one really good outlet to support local music," said Reynolds. "We're giving (the musicians) a new outlet, some new promotion, some new publicity and potentially some new fans, in much the same way we hope that they will bring their current fans, who may or may not be on board with public radio yet, and we'll have a chance to talk to them."
Tiny Desk Showcase
When: 9 p.m. July 29
Where: The Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport.
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at the door