In Studio Sessions took many different forms for WNRN in 2021. From Manchester Orchestra performing live from home in Atlanta to Illiterate Light and Devon Gilfillian uniting in our studios to perform “Freedom” while en route to early tour stops, we learned to expect and even embrace the unexpected. When Shakey Graves made a last minute decision to debut two unreleased songs, we were ready (thanks to the quick thinking and flexible folks at In Your Ear!). When Japanese Breakfast made their first in studio appearance since the release of smash album Jubilee, we were ready. When timing and circumstance allowed us to invite members to join us for a memorable session with Leftover Salmon or to welcome back a holiday tradition in our Commonwealth showcase, we were ready. Enjoy ten of our favorite performances in the playlist below and visit our Live Sessions page on NPR Music to watch more! 

Our 10 Favorite Performances of 2021

Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet”  In her first in studio performance since the release of Jubilee, Michelle Zauner and company delivered an incredible 4-song set for 30 lucky WNRN members.

Matthew E. White – “Judy” WNRN visited Matthew E. White at his Spacebomb studio in Richmond, with a killer backing band White played songs from new album K Bay and went deep with NRN’s Desiré Moses.

Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno – “Will You” Incredibly we were able to welcome back our Commonwealth Holiday Showcase this year and Lexington, VA native Viviain Leva and Riley Calcagno showed us why they are rapidly making a name for themselves on the roots circuit with this sizzling performance.

Shakey Graves – “Evergreen” Shakey Graves debuted a pair of new songs in a session that almost didn’t happen. Tip of the hat to our friends at In Your Ear for capturing this stellar snapshot of a song being born.

Deau Eyes – “Some Do” Deau Eyes first caught our ear with this song and it’s easy to see why we fell in love with this performance captured during our Commonwealth Holiday Showcase in Richmond. Ali Thibodeaux and crew are poised for the big time.

Illiterate Light – “Freedom” Fortuitous meetings like this didn’t used to be rare. When two of our favorites happened to be passing through Charlottesville we were determined to get them together to play this song. Thanks to Kai Crowe-Getty for capturing this on video.

Manchester Orchestra – “Telepath” Home Studio Sessions continued to be a thing in 2021. They were often trying and occasionally train wrecks, but moments of beauty emerged when we turned things over to the bands and there was no greater example than this stunning version of “Telepath”.

Leftover Salmon – “Flying at Night” Our first member session in 18 months and its a seafood feast with legendary jamgrassers Leftover Salmon. Can’t have it any better than that. Thanks to our friends at the Front Porch for filming and to Surfside Sustainable Seafood for making sure the salmon was fresh.

The Steel Wheels – “Little Sadie” 2020 collided with our plans for Dead Air 3, but we rebounded with all streaming version, Dead Air 2.4 that featured 12 bands performing from shuttered venues, studios, and spaces like Alder Creek Farm where the Steel Wheels took on the frequent Dead set piece and classic folk ballad “Little Sadie”. 

S.G. Goodman – “Space and Time” Stepping away from her band S.G. Goodman proved she has the power to stun all on her own with this stellar live version of “Space and Time” from her debut album Old Time Feeling.