Once a year, industry professionals of the non-commercial radio world gather at XPN’s facilities in Philadelphia to discuss trends and hurdles, share a drink or two, and watch some amazing music at the annual NON-COMMvention, or simply Non-Comm.

In between performances from The Both, Asgeir, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Shovels & Rope, and Jessica Lea Mayfield, I attended panels discussing whether or not to play the new Tori Amos (we’re not), how to make the most of your digital footprint (we try), etc. This is a conference, not a festival: it’s more chatting and plotting than anything else, but the performers always make this business trip a pleasure.

Here are the stand out acts of 2014's Non-Comm:

The Hold Steady

(Photo: CPR / Jessi Whitten)
The Hold Steady

While I’ve never felt quite angsty enough to consider the Hold Steady a personal favorite, the charm of their live performance is undeniable. Craig Finn bounces around the stage with an energy I haven’t possessed since the age of 12.   

 

 

Chet Faker

(Photo: CPR / Jessi Whitten)
Chet Faker

Chet Faker is not only a highlight of the week, but a highlight of the last couple years. This guy has it. A beautiful voice, slick beats, and he layers sound in a way makes you feel simultaneously hollow and whole. He took the stage alone and mesmerized.

 

 

 

Strand of Oaks

(Photo: CPR / Jessi Whitten)
Strand of Oaks

I love what I’d heard from the upcoming album "Heal," and when I met the lead singer Tim in person, I fell for him too. A good person, making good music. When he announced: “This is JM going out to Jason Molina,” I melted and the room spun.

 

 

 

PHOX

(Photo: CPR / Jessi Whitten)
PHOX

Anytime I can see Wisconsin's PHOX is a true treat. But while I've had the pleasure of catching them on stage and in an OpenAir studio session, I got to see them in a totally unique environment in Philly. During an incredible dinner courtesy of Songlines, they scooted from table to table playing from their new album for the diners. While this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime scenario, you can see them live at the Hi-Dive on July 9.

 

Bob Boilen (left) sans hat

(Photo: CPR / Jessi Whitten)
And while he’s not a performer, one of the most memorable moments of the conference was seeing All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen sans his infamous hat (which had been temporarily stolen from CJ from Saddle Creek Records). Now that you have too, you’re now officially a radio insider.