The Key’s Year-End Mania: Directors’ Cut — The XPN video team picks its favorite performances of the year

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Jupiter and Okwess | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, World Cafe videographers John Groome and Galea McGregor share their top performances of the year.

Two of the hardest working people at WXPN are easily Galea McGregor and John Groome, our two in-house videographers who document practically everything that happens at the station. Free at Noon concerts, World Cafe sessions, NonCOMM, the XPoNential Music Festival — they see and hear just about ever performance that happens in our little world, and they are arguably the most qualified to say what the best performances of the year are. Here are their picks.


Jupiter and Okwess – “Musonsu” – Live at XPNFest

The minute they came onstage, it was clear they were going to be totally different from any band out there all weekend. Their energy was huge, they had people on their feet and blown away by what was going on. Even the camera ops were saying over the headseat, “holy crap, this is nuts.” – John Groome

Jen Cloher – “Great Australian Bite” – World Cafe session

We’d had her in before, for a Free at Noon concert, but it was solo, and I was excited to see what the full band would sound like. This song in particular stood out, as it built into a really cool rock-out ending with her wife Courtney Barnett taking a badass guitar solo at the conclusion. – John Groome

Dr. Dog – “Go Out Fighting” – Free at Midnight concert

I’ve been a fan of them for a long time, so it was exciting for me to get to shoot them finally. It was also really cool to see how the energy was different for a Free at Midnight versus a Free at Noon; the crowd responded differently, and the band brought a different energy. And I’ve had that chorus stuck in my head ever since then. – John Groome

Bedouine – “Solitary Daughter” – World Cafe session

I was completely caught off-guard by how intricate, how deceptively complex her songs are. There was real power and clarity in the way she sang, and in the lyrics that she wrote. She played in a duo configuration, with Gus Seyffert on bass; he’s produced some people of note, like Beck and Michael Kiwanuka. Her the delivery was amazing, too; I don’t want to say it’s like Nick Drake, but there’s something simultaneously soothing and inspiring about her lyrics and the way she sings them, there’s a calm power to everything she does. – Galea McGregor

Hozier – “Shrike” – World Cafe session

I was expecting more of the full band, operatic, multi-harmony, bombastic Hozier for this performance. And I was just really really floored by this almost solo acoustic, stripped down performance of this really beautiful song. There are few people I can think of who could fill the room so powerfully with their voice, and he managed to just inhabit the whole space. It was really breathtaking! He told a story before the song, explaining that the shrike is a beautiful bird that murders its pray and hangs carcasses on thorns around nest, and he thought it was a beautiful analogy for love song. There was something endearing and genuine about him as he told this story, and even though I thought I know what this it going to be (a damaged love song), Hozier elevated it to a whole other level. The sparseness of it made it really really shine. – Galea McGregor

Serpentwithfeet – “Messy” – World Cafe session

We all realized Serpentwithfeet was an amazing artist from the way he carried himself, the way he interacted with us, as soon as he walked into the studio. And I was instantly transported once he started layering the synthesizers and samplers and loops; there was something raw and immediate about the lyrics and the way he sang them, but it was contrasted with the electronic wizardry and I found that really compelling. I feel like he took you to another planet, one that was dark and beautiful and sparking and strange. – Galea McGregor

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