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Archive for the ‘Live at Massey Hall’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: MATT MAYS-Live at Massey Hall (May 4, 2018).

I had never heard of Matt Mays.  He was once a part of the Canadian country band The Guthries (who I also don’t know).  Perhaps the most surprising (and disappointing) thing to me about this show is when I saw an ad for this concert and saw that Kathleen Edwards was opening for him (!).  And that so far they haven’t released the Kathleen Edwards show.

Before the show he says he wants all feelings present–happy, sad–he praises the expression “all the feels” because that’s what he wants to happen tonight.  He wants the night to be “like a Nova Scotia kitchen party.”  You laugh you cry you dance and you fight all in one kitchen.

He starts with “Indio.”  Like most of these songs, it is a rocking guitar song with a definite country-rock feel.  It’s also interesting that a Nova Scotia guy is singing about “old fashioned California sin.”  There’s a ton of lead guitar work from Adam Baldwin.  Mays also plays guitar and there’s an acoustic guitar as well from Aaron Goldstein  The song breaks midway through to a piano melody from Leith Fleming-Smith.  Mays asks “You feel like singing Toronto? It’s real easy.”  And it is: “Run run run you are free now.  run run run you are free.”

For “Station Out of Range,” he invites his dear friend Kate Dyke from St Johns, Newfoundland.  She sings backing vocals.  It opens with some big crushing drums from Loel Campbell.  It has a slower tempo, but it grows really big with some really massive drum fills.

“Building a Boat” opens with a repeating keyboard pattern before a real rocking riff kicks in.  Ryan Stanley also plays guitars.  The song rocks on with a lot of little guitar solos.  Mays takes one and then Baldwin follows.  They jam this pretty long.

“Take It on Faith” starts with a simple piano before the guitars come roaring in with two searing solos.  The melody is really catchy, too.

“Terminal Romance” is a slower number.  Mays puts his guitar down and its mostly piano and bass
(Serge Samson).  Eventually a guitar with a slide is added.  It builds as more guitars come in.  They jam this song for about 8 minutes.

He ends the show with “Cocaine Cowgirl,” an oldie that still means a lot to him.   He says he’s been playing Toronto since he was 19 years-old in font of tow people.  He’s thrilled to be at Massey Hall.  His band is his best buds from Nova Scotia.   It’s an absolutely wailing set ender with Mays throwing in some wicked solos.  The song seems like its over but Mays plays some really fast guitar chords and aftee a few bars everyone joins in and rips the place part with intensity.  It runs to nearly ten minutes and it’s a  really satisfying ending.

[READ: August 3, 2019] “Shopping in Jail”

When an author releases a lot of books and essays in various formats, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll wind up re-reading one or two.  Especially if some of those essays are reprinted in other books.

So it turns out that I read this small book five years ago (it’s understandable that I didn’t remember that after five years).  Here’s what I said about it five years ago:

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much.

I’m going to include what I said last time (in italics), but I felt the need to add some five-years later thoughts on each essay. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANNAH GEORGAS-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Hannah Georgas grew up outside of Toronto and always thought it was a treat to come to Massey Hall.  She says “My 18-year old self would be pretty psyched to play here.”

Georgas has two backing musicians Robbie Driscoll on bass/ableton and Dean Stone on drums/SPD.  She also plays keys but not for every song.

Most of her songs are quite spare–primarily featuring her voice.  The music is often slow washes and a drumbeat.

“Elephant” opens with warping synth sounds and Hannah singing.  The song builds nicely over four minutes with an interesting guitar accent and some powerful drumming.  Hannah also jumps  on the keys a bit for the end.

“Lost Cause” starts with Hannah playing keys and singing.  It’s spare with just the piano and drums and a nice melody.  Her voice is quite lovely.

“Rideback” has great interesting sounds from her keyboard–like horns or harmonicas or something.  I’m more intrigued by these sounds than the song itself.

“Naked Beaches” sounds like a slow dance song–a simple beat with a single note keyboard riff ringing through the song.  Her voice is echoed a lot on this song (both echos and harmonies) and it sounds really nice.

“Don’t Go” is another spare track.  It’s almost all drums with washes of synth and Hannah’s voice.

I was surprised to see her play a cover.  It was the Eurhythmics’ “Love is a Stranger.”  Hannah doesn’t sound like Annie Lennox, but she doesn’t sound all that different from her–it’s a good pairing for her and her band.

“Waste” has a whole series of wonderfully weirdo noises in its melody.  It starts fairly quietly but after the first few vocal lines, a kind of distorted synth line starts the melody, but its the chorus that really adds the weirdness with horns that sound like horns but also like screams.  Its really fun and funky, and is my favorite song of her set.

“Waiting Game” is a pulsing song with some chugging guitar and synth stabs as accents.  The set ends with “Enemies,” a quiet song with pulsing synths and drums and lights to accompany them.  For the chorus, things smooth out with some nice synth washes.

This show was on the same night as Rhye, and I honestly can’t tell who was the headliner.

[READ: May 15, 2019] “Going Up the Mountain” 

I loved this short story which speculates how our lives might turn out in a few years.

The story begins “The mountain sits in the middle of town.”  The mountain has always been there and it will continue to always be there.  It’s right in the middle–a brief walk for everyone.  You can’t miss it.

When people see each other in town the ask if they have gone up the mountain that day.

A neighbor “grins a tight grin and gives the sort of shrug people always give when they haven’t gone up the mountain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHYE-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Rhye opens with the sweetest story about Massey Hall thus far–“My parents’ first date was at Massey Hall.”  He also says the first show he saw there was Sigur Rós, which must have been amazing.  (They played there 6 times, so I’m not sure which one).

He knew that he had to play there…somehow.  Setting a big goal makes you subconsciously have to do it.

Rhye is a Canadian R&B act created by Mike Milosh.  As such (the R&B, not the Canadian part), I don’t enjoy this show all that much.  Although Milosh has a wonderful high-pitched voice and a  second listen got me to come around to a lot of what he was doing.

Prior to Rhye, Milosh had a band called Milosh and they released two albums.  But these songs are form the two Rhye albums.

His band is made up of organic and electronic instruments.  He’s got horns and strings as well as synths.

The first song is “3 Days” and despite all of the live instruments the entire middle of the songs is overtaken by a weirdly cheesy keyboard solo (performed by Theresa Womack ).  The key board sound they chose is so unpleasant.   But I do like the way the solo ends in utter chaos.  During the solo Milosh plays a small drum kit (there is already a drummer, Zacahary Morillo) which he plays harder during the crescendo.   I really enjoy the crescendos of his songs.

“Waste” is a gentle song with cello from Claire Courchene and Milosh gently singing.  It’s quite a pretty melody and ends with a cool trombone solo (also from Claire Courchene!).

“Please” continues in the same mellow vein.  As with the other songs, the bass (from Itai Shapira) sounds great throughout.  The middle gets loud with a clap-along “give me all of that sugar cane, one more time.”

For “Count to Five” Milosh removes his jacket and gets back on the tiny snare and high hat.  This song is much funkier than the others.   By the middle of the song, the guitars (Patrick Bailey and Paul Pfisterer) kick in full–the keys soaring and the bowed upright bass roars along.  It’s a shame it doesn’t last longer, but it does act for a nice dramatic middle section.

“Song for You” opens with a quiet keyboard melody and gently strummed guitars.  The trombone comes back adding some nice washes of sound.  The gentle trilling of strings works really nicely along with Milosh’s quieter and quieter singing.  For the end of the song he steps away from the mic and up to the front row as he sings along.  This whole denouement goes on for about four minutes of intimacy.

“Taste” gets things moving again with a clap-along into and a funky bass line.  And indeed this turns out to be a dance song “I’m dancing with my eyes closed” and even throws in a disco bass line during the rather wailing guitar solo.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  The song is quite long and the dance part segues into a pretty piano based denouement for the show.

Rhye’s not my thing, but I did enjoy this show.

[READ: April 10, 2019] “Monster”

This story won The 1999 Esquire Fiction Competition.  I have no idea what the criteria were for that competition–previously unpublished? No idea, although she doesn’t seem to have written anything else that I can easily discern.

This story opens by telling us that a motorcycle is definitely in the town’s pond.  It has been there as long as anyone can remember.  But no one can remember whose it was.  And no one owns the pond.  So it just sits there.

Seventeen year old Dale Roberts would go almost daily to the pond with his little brother Davey,  Their father said there was no bike down there–it was more likely a monster.  This excited Dave more than the motorcycle.

Dale imagined that motorcycle under him.  He imagined riding fast, riding the hell away from here.  Dale’s father has a motorcycle and Dale is forbidden from touching it.  He said the only place Dale was going “was juvey hall if he didn’t straighten up and fly right.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I saw Whitehorse open for Barenaked Ladies a few years ago and they blew me away.  I really want to see them again.

When I saw them it was just the two of them and the magic of their interplay was what really impressed me the most.  For this special Massey Hall show, they have a full band.  But as Melissa McClelland explains:

This is the first time playing the Massey stage with a full band.  We wanted to … finally invite some friends on stage with us and play music.

Those friends include John Obereian on drums, Ryan Gavel on bass, guitar and backing vocals and on keys and bongos and guitar, the second best singer in this band Gregory MacDonald.  He replies, “Thanks to the second best guitar player in the band.”  I have seen MacDonald on tour with Sloan a bunch of times and he is awesome.

As to why they are a duo, she says

we knew that Whitehorse was always going to be just the two of us and that everyone would know that we are equal partners in the band.  But we didn’t want it to be a folk duo so we started brainstorming and bought looping pedals and a kick drum and a stomp box and we  found new arrangements and once we got it we were like Yeah!

The show opens with hand clapping from the band and the audience and then Melissa’s slinky bass intro to “Baby Whats Wrong.  Then comes Luke Doucet’s echoing Western guitar. Their voices are wonderful together and I love when Doucet sings in that weird telephone microphone.  He also plays a ripping guitar solo.

Luke introduces “Tame as the Wild Ones” by saying they needed to write a sexy song so “Melissa kicked me out and said she’d do it alone.  I go to the bar to get drunk and when I come home, she plays me this song.  And nine months later our son Jimmy was born.”  I love the way the bridge (or is it a chorus) builds and settles–that melody is just gorgeous.

“Pink Kimono” has a simple rocking riff and the two singers singing at the same time.   Doucet’s soloing is on fire in this song.

“Die Alone” is a showstopper.  A slow moody piece in which Melissa sings over a wash of synths.  The music so much build as just unfold as first Luke sings with her and then the band kicks in.  Wow can Melissa belt out a song.

“Downtown” is a celebration of how you can put hundreds of thousands of people in a city and for the most part everyone gets along.  It s got a great throbbing bass and some cool guitar scratching and riffs from Doucet.  It’s a bummer that they interrupt the awesome middle solo section with an interview, even if it is quite interesting.

After Melissa lays out how they wanted the band to sound, Luke says that when people ask him about what it’s like to do Whitehorse, he says

we were solo artists first but we had been involved with each others albums as singer or producer  or touring musician.

So in order to be successful

you have to hang out together for five or six years and play in each others bands and make eight albums together and then you have to go on tour as freelance/hired gun musicians working for Blue Rodeo or Sarah McLachlan and then you have to live together for five or six years and listen to music together and fight and then you have to get married and once you’ve done all these things and listened to 10,000 hours of music and dissected Tom Waits entire catalog and argued about which is the best Beatles record and had fights on stage about who is speeding up or slowing down and once you’ve done all those things together then start a band.

It certainly worked for them.  The only bad thing about this show is that it’s only 30 minutes.

[READ: January 24, 2019] Hits & Misses

It has been a while since Simon Rich published a collection of his stories.  This one was pretty enjoyable.  Overall, not as much fun as some of his previous collections, but still a lot to laugh at.  Rich tends to write what he knows, which is often a very good sign.  However, sometimes what he knows is limited to writing and filming, which tends to miss the everyman silliness of his earlier pieces.

Having said that there are still some hilarious pieces that anyone can enjoy and some pieces about writers that are very funny.

A few of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, and I indicate as much, with a link to my longer review.

“The Baby.”  This was a highlight.  A sonogram reveals that their baby is holding a pen–he is going to be a writer!  But when word gets out that the baby is already getting a reputation AND representation, well, that baby’s writer father is pretty damned jealous.  Wonderful absurdity based on reality taken to its extremes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LA FORCE-Live at Massey Hall (June 15, 2018).

I’d never heard of La Force.  Turns out La Force is Ariel Engle, vocalist and newest member of Broken Social Scene.  In her pre-show interview she says something that concludes with “life’s a bitch and then you die,” which didn’t bode well, but her sound is interesting (if maybe too much saxophone).

The show starts with “Upside Down Wolf.”  I love the weird square guitar she plays (and the cool sound that comes from it).  There’s also an acoustic guitar, sax and drums.  The drums from Evan Tighe are really dynamic with some great unexpected rhythms (and electronics).

The blurb describes “You Amaze Me” as infectious.  It’s a more dancey song with lots of drum-triggered sounds.  The sax from David French works pretty well here because it adds to the swells of music that are triggered by the drums.  And when the sax does add a solo, it;s a nice deep sax, which is a nice change of sound.

“Lucky One” opens slowly with a great guitar sound–a slow intro that is accented wonderfully by the acoustic guitar (there seems to be a cool echo on Warren Spicer’s sliding his hand up and down the strings).

“The Tide” swings faster.  Both guitarists add some cool sounds while the drums shuffle quickly.  Before the next song she explains she got the name La Force from a tarot card.  The La Force card had a picture of a woman opening a lion’s mouth and she loved the idea of the power that represented.

“Can’t Take” is a moody, slow piece, with some cool lead guitar from Spicer while Engle plays a very pretty minor key melody.

“TBT” opens with a simple two note guitar riff (that’s quite infectious) and a cool tribal drum beat.  The end of the song is a wonderful jam of the guitar, sax and drums totally rocking out.  It’s my favorite moment of the show and a great end.

[READ: January 20, 2019] Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter

I get the feeling that this book may have been initially intended for an older audience and then they brought it down to be more family friendly.  Or maybe it feels more like a pilot episode than a confident story.  It just didn’t feel natural.

I enjoyed a lot of the book, but it felt forced in places.  Especially because Scarlett says all kinds of exclamations that seem odd–Leaping Lizards! or Gaskets! or Piston Heads!  I mean, she’s not a car person, so why would she scream car epithets?

I also didn’t love the darkness of the story.  I realize times are bleak, but the art doesn’t have to be.

The premise is that Scarlett Hart is a monster hunter (duh).  But by law, she is too young to fight monsters (not sure how old she is or what the age of consent is, but she is younger than it).  This seems like a strange law, but many laws are strange.  She has help, though, from her butler Napoleon White and his wife.  They also helped her parents fight monsters.

But her parents were killed several years ago while on the job.  She can’t get revenge against the monsters that killed them but she can become the best monster hunter she can be. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TERRA LIGHTFOOT-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I know of Terra Lightfoot because she has done some (very minimal) work with Rheostatics.

Amazingly, she is not related to Gordon Lightfoot (how many people have this last name?).

Terra Lightfoot opened for Whitehorse (a double bill I would love to see).  She plays a half a dozen songs.  I thought she might be a sensitive folkie (again that Gordon connection), but it turns out that she rocks (and blues), has a powerful voice and plays a pretty wicked guitar as well.

Lightfoot is a great front woman–engaging and funny–and she has some great stories to tell about each of her songs.

“Stars over Dakota” just rocks out–big guitars, smashing drums (from Joel Haynes) and then settles into a swinging shuffle.  Lightfoot has a singular voice which I quite like.  I also like the little guitar riff she gives after the “gin martinis make dizzy” line.  She is joined mid-song by Melissa McClelland of Whitehorse who sings some amazing harmonies.  That’s two killer voices on one stage.

Drifter is a slower song, with a really lovely opening guitar melody.  She has been inspired in her career by her grandmother and her aunt who both played music.  Her grandmother recently died, but her aunt is still playing.

Introducing the next song “You Get High,” she says she has a special new guitar–a woman made it for me Ashley Leanne from Waterloo, she’s 26.  While Terra’s going to play this acoustic, she invites Daniel Lanois up on the stage.  “Can we get a spotlight on the man here?”  They can’t so he scooches over to her spotlight amid much chuckling.  Lanois plays a beautifully fluid electric guitar while she picks out a lively melody on the acoustic.

“Norma Gale” is about a famous musician from the 70 who played with Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash and went on a date with Conway Twitty (I guess he didn’t call her back).  While she was doing all these cool things, she was also raising a young son on her own.  So Terra wrote this song for her.  It starts as a pretty, slow ballad but builds nicely with the addition of keys (from Alan Zamatis).

“Hold You” rocks up again, and it’s got a cool call and response with a bass melody (from Maury LaFoy) rumbling along.  “Two Hearts” is a song she wrote in a couple of places in Europe when she was very much in love…. with a couple of people.   The song starts slowly but build to an intense climax with pounding drums and Terra on her knees rocking out,.

Having had a total mis-perception of Terra Lightfoot, this show blew me away and I want to hear more from her.

[READ: January 19, 2019] All Summer Long

This was a fun story about friendship, distance and guitar playing.

As the story open we see Austin and Bina getting ready for 7th grade summer vacation.  They have been friends since they were five years old and have spent all of the previous summers together.  They even created the Combined Summer Fun Index–a way to tally just how much fun they have each summer.

Last summer’s included:

  • Cats petted: 22
  • Went swimming: 51 times
  • $idewalk change: $1.18
  • Sneaked into R-Rated movies: 2 times

But this summer, Austin can’t participate.   He is going to soccer camp for a month.  A whole month.  Summer is ruined–for Bina at least. (more…)

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