The Key's Year-End Mania: Directors' Cut - The XPN video team picks its favorite performances of the year - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Tank and the Bangas | photo by Galea McGregor for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, we combed through the XPN video archives to find the year’s best performances.

Here at WXPN, our video team — headed up by Galea McGregor and John Groome — keeps incredibly busy. Between weekly World Cafe sessions, Free at Noon concerts, XPoNential Music Festival performances, Key Studio Session and more, they’ve produced over 300 videos in 2017…and there’s still another couple weeks to go. I grabbed some time with Galea and John in between their busy shooting and editing schedule to reflect on their favorite videos from over the past 12 months, and what made them unique. here’s what they had to say.

Father John Misty – “The Memo”

It was a stripped-down performance, just him and a piano. But what was particularly exciting about this song is there’s a moment when he looked straight at the lens when he’s talking about the commercialization of music, which created a unique tension in the room. It’s pretty rare that an artist looks straight in the camera, and it was the only time he did that during the session. – John Groome

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band – “Santiago”

This one was great because they brought a huge energy and enthusiasm. To be right there with them and to try to capture that on camera was really thrilling. They were really fun, happy people and it was contagious. – J.G.

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The War on Drugs – “Knocked Down”

Everybody was very excited before this session, and when they were setting up, there was a quiet intensity. We were nervous about how they were going to fit all their gear and all themselves into the studio. The video crew was very conscious about not getting in anyone’s face, but there wasn’t that much room. So we were just holding our breath, trying to get the best shots we could without stepping on anybody’s cables. “Knocked Down” was my favorite because I thought the performance was exquisite, and John and I both were capturing very delicate moments. It was a beautiful performance of a beautiful song, one of the ones I felt lucky to be in the room for. – Galea McGregor

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Tank and the Bangas – “Ripperton Love”

There was a lot of hype about this band before they came in and I was not sure what to expect. But I was struck by how open and warm they all were, it was a very casual vibe when they were setting up. And when they launched into this song, I was impressed by the precision of everybody’s performance and how locked in to each other they were, and how they blend improvisation with structure. – G.M.

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Andy Shauf – “The Magician”

This was one that I came into with a lot of personal anticipation. I’d been listening to his album The Party a lot, and being very familiar with the arrangement of the songs on the album, I was very curious to see how he would pull that off live in the room. The specificity of the playing and all the different parts was impressive — particularly the drummer, who had a beautiful touch. – J.G.

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Charles Bradley – “How Long”

I shot him once before, when he came in to do a Special Producers’ Session for World Café, so I knew this his performance at XPoNential Music Festival was going to be special and amazing. And then when he came out in his red suit and Cuban heels, I nearly lost my mind. The song seems very timely; there’s a raw authenticity with everything he sings, it has a weight when he sings about civil rights and the state of the world. It was a beautiful performance, and the way it affected everybody in the crowd was palpable. It was also significant because this was one of his final performances; he passed away a couple months later. – G.M.

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Japanese Breakfast – “Road Head”

This is another one where I was a fan going into it and was curious to see what it would sound like, especially with the amount of electronic stuff going on in their music. It was interesting to see the way that those samples were integrated with the rhythm section. Especially with this song, it’s got that huge melody, but it’s really groovy too. It was also impressive to see these four people get that expansive sound. – J.G.

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Iron and Wine – “Call It Dreaming”

Coming into the shoot, I was already a huge fan of Sam Beam. I knew I would love the performance, but I never cease to be amazed by the fact that a lone person sitting on the stage with an acoustic guitar can transport you so powerfully. This was a two-person shoot and it was edited live, but it was one of the ones where I feel like we forgot our technical roles and were just floating on this beautiful story he was weaving. – G.M.

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Phoebe Bridgers – “Georgia”

Unlike the others, this is one where I had made a mental note to listen for more from her when she came out to sing “Lua” with Conor Oberst at XPoNential Music Festival. I wanted to check out her album, but never got around to it. So when she came in, I was excited to experience her music for the first time like that. It was unique because it was just her, a guitar and a pianist singing harmonies. The intensity and intimacy of the performance was one of those moments where everything fell away and you’re just trying to capture it as best as you could. There’s a moment in this song where she’s really emotionally invested in lyric, and pulled away from the mic to catch her breath; It’s really powerful moment . – J.G.

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Becca Stevens – “The Muse”

I was really caught off-guard by this. I had an idea what it was going to be, and she just spun out in to this whole other dimension. The complexities, and the melodies, and the way they were weaving all their sounds together was really surprising. It was easy to shoot because everywhere you look, there’s something amazing going on or some incredible detail to capture. – G.M.

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