Author Archives: Jon Pacella

TVD Live: Psycho California, Day One at the Observatory OC, 5/15

TVD spent a weekend at Psycho California in May and we’ll be bringing you a full report of all that happened at this unique music festival. Our coverage will be split into three parts, so you can take it all in one day at a time. If you were there, we hope you can relive that amazing weekend—and if you weren’t, here’s a detailed account of what you missed.—Ed.

Metal festivals have been the norm in Europe for years and are finally catching on over here in the States. This year, the first edition of Psycho California landed at the Observatory OC in Santa Ana, CA. Three days of some of the best stoner, doom, and sludge bands that music has to offer were on hand, pouring their souls out to the eager fans from two stages. Many fans had made the pilgrimage from near and far, coming from all points of the U.S. and countries like Brazil, England, and Australia just to name a few.

Inside, the music was split between two areas: The Grizzly Stage served as the side stage and was in a smaller side room near the front of the venue. When I say “smaller,” what I mean to say is “hotter than hell cramped tiny room that would be impossible to even get into at times throughout the weekend.” Not that that would detract from the quality of the music coming from that room, it just made seeing some cherished bands a bit tough. The second are was the large main room where the Monarch Stage would serve as the main stage for the event.

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Outside, there were multiple smoking areas, an area of the parking lot barricaded off for some pretty fantastic food trucks, and a back lot that was a place to relax and catch your breath, get in line for the big merchandise tent, or even see some of the Grizzly Stage bands—more on that to come.

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TVD Live: Death at the Black Cat, 5/28

Let’s face it. Amidst the constant stream of news as to what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been doing around the world, who doesn’t welcome a feel-good story now and then? That is exactly what the world was exposed to when they learned of a band call Death. Thursday at the Black Cat in D.C., fans finally got to experience Death live in their first trip to the nation’s capital. 

Regarded as “the band who was punk before punk was punk,” Death was ahead of their time, the most influential band that no one had heard of. Their story was well-documented in the 2012 film, A Band Called Death, and with a new album and tour, forty years later Death’s time has finally come.

The evening began with a whimper, as most of the upper main floor of the Black Cat was empty save for a few early-comers hanging around the fringes of the room. That quickly changed as Obnox took the stage to open the show, it was a steadily growing stream of people from then on.

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Torche’s Steve Brooks,
The TVD Interview

For over ten years, Miami, Florida’s Torche has been defying any rules and boundaries set by rock and metal norms. The band has crafted a truly unique, genre-defying sound, and if they have changed at all over the years, it’s been strictly on their own terms. Their latest release, Restarter, is a brilliant, artistic journey through a heavy soundscape, and will surely stand out as a top release this year.

We had a chance to sit down with singer/guitarist Steve Brooks before their show at DC9 in Washington, DC. It was a loose, interesting discussion, taking us through the ins and outs of Torche’s music, from writing to recording, and to which color vinyl to release it on. Steve also happened to be celebrating his 41st birthday, and being the same age, reminisced about Kiss, vinyl, and destroying our toys in our youth.

Restarter has been out for a month. Are you pleased with the feedback you’ve been getting on the album?

Yeah, more than pleased. You never know how anyone’s going to react to a record, so you just write a bunch of songs, record it, and you end up putting it out. It could be either good or bad reaction, it’s a crap shoot, but as long as we like what we’re doing, that’s all that matters. People are going to like or they’ll hate it, or they’re going to be a bit of both every time, so you can’t win. There’s no winning situation. It’s either, they’ll complain about one thing, and then you’ll do something that is kind of like what they wanted on the last record, but we didn’t necessarily do that.

You either grew too much or not enough.

Yeah, you either change too much, or didn’t change enough. It’s like, you know, we’re just gonna write a bunch of songs, and sometimes it’ll go on a seven-inch, and it won’t be as hyped up as it is on a record.

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Crobot’s Brandon Yeagley, The TVD Interview

Crobot’s unique brand of stoner-tinged, no-nonsense hard rock is catching on like wildfire and their latest album, Something Supernatural is garnering rave reviews from all sides. 

A rigorous touring schedule is helping to spread the gospel of Pennsylvania’s Crobot, and we caught up with singer Brandon Yeagley while the band was cruising through the European countryside. Brandon offered up his perspective on vinyl, touring, and starting life in a rural Pennsylvania town.

Everywhere I turn on the web—whether it’s album or live reviews or YouTube comments—I read how much your sound harkens back to the grandfathers of hard rock like Zeppelin or the Who. What’s your take on these reactions?

Honestly, it’s definitely an honor to be in the same sentence as those bands, let alone compared to them, sound-wise. Those are the bands that we look up to and definitely look for inspiration from. We’re not reinventing the wheel by any means out here. That’s definitely a cool thing to hear.

Who is one artist that made you want to do this for a living?

I guess it’s been a lot of different artists, a hodgepodge if you will. We love Zeppelin and Sabbath. I grew up listening to Rainbow, and Dio was a huge inspiration on what I do. There are a lot of awesome bands out there right now doing some really cool things. Queens of the Stone Age has been one that’s been out there for the last ten years. Clutch, bands like that, have really taken that sound and made it into something their own as well. I really look up to those bands.

Speaking of Clutch, you have shared the stage with road veterans like Clutch and Anthrax just to name a couple. What have you taken away from your time on the road with those bands?

Well, I tell you what, most often than not out here, everybody is really down to earth, very cool, and there aren’t many egos when it comes to touring, especially with the successful bands. I think that other than a lot of other things that we’ve learned just from touring in general, I think that’s the constant now—that nobody’s out here being bigger than anybody else, you know? We’re all on the same merry-go-round, we’re all here to help each other out. I think it’s really cool to see the other musicians when they’re all on the same page, everybody fighting the same fight. It’s definitely cool to see throughout the tours.

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Kirk Von Hammett’s
Fear FestEvil at Rockbar Theater, 4/11 and 4/12

There are possibly no two things in this world that go so perfectly well together, aside from maybe peanut butter and chocolate, than heavy metal and horror movies. There is one man in metal who stands above the rest at that crossroads, and that is Kirk Hammett, guitarist of Metallica. For years, Kirk’s obsession with all things horror-related has been well-known, and the collection of horror artifacts that he has amassed over the years has grown to astounding proportions.

For the second year in a row, Kirk has put together a weekend celebrating the unity of these two worlds, known as Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil. This year’s fest was held at the Rockbar Theater in San Jose, CA. Two days of metal bands, horror luminaries, and more made for one interesting and fantastic weekend in California.

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I arrived at Rockbar mid-afternoon, and a carnivalesque midway was already in full swing. Grotesque costumed figures wandered the premises and vendors hocked their wares, selling horror memorabilia, t-shirts, face painting, and other distinctive homemade goods. A personal highlight here was meeting John Russo, co-writer of the infamous horror classic Night of the Living Dead.

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TVD Live: Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs at Baltimore Soundstage, 4/1

It’s virtually impossible to have a conversation about stoner and doom metal without talking about England’s Electric Wizard. The self-proclaimed “heaviest band in the universe” has been laying down their evil brand of occult-tinged doom since 1995. 2014 saw the release of their eighth studio album, Time to Die, and at long last the Wizard has crossed the sea for their first American tour in ten years. The coven congregated on Wednesday night at Baltimore Soundstage, for a night of doom, evil, and weed—not necessarily in that order.

A sure sign that a band has not toured in the States in quite some time was the fact that upon entering Soundstage, you were instantly hit with a massive line. The line however was not for the bar, not for the bathrooms, but for merch. The line spread all the way across the floor to the front door as fans clamored to buy psychedelic black light posters and shirts that proudly proclaimed, “Legalise Drugs and Murder,” taken from the 2012 EP of the same name. By mid-show, a sign was posted stating that “ALL SHIRTS ARE SOLD OUT!”

The 9 o’clock hour tolled and Satan’s Satyrs took the stage. The trio from Virginia, bedecked in ‘70s garb, help establish the heavy retro vibe of the evening. Drummer Stephen Fairfield was damn near a spitting image of Geezer Butler, down to his frizzy mane and mustache. As they played “Show Me Your Skull,” Fairfield even broke out some retro metal moves, windmilling his hair around as he played. Overall, there was not a whole lot different this night than the last time I had seen them. The music was tight and cohesive at times and occasionally songs tried to be a bit jammy, but just seemed to unravel.

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TVD Live: Torche, Wrong, Jeff Carey,
and Black Clouds at
DC9, 3/29

One month after the release of their brilliant fourth full-length album, Restarter, Miami’s Torche have continued to defy being categorized into a subgenre of metal. Despite typically being labeled as “stoner” or “sludge,” their game plan is simple—do whatever the fuck they want—and it has worked out pretty well so far. On Sunday, Torche brought an eclectic cast of bands to the District to share the stage with them at DC9.

The eight o’clock hour arrived and DC’s own Black Clouds took the stage. Awash in blue light, the tranquil intro of “We Begged For The Floods” filled the room and quickly shifted gears, the tone of the music turning urgent and thunderous. There was not one spare inch of room on the diminutive DC9 stage made all the more crowded by the lighting rigs used by Black Clouds throughout the set. With each song, it becomes apparent that the lights are as integral to their live experience as the music, setting tones as gentle or as harsh as the music calls for.

All three members were in perfect synchronicity with one another. Drummer Jimmy Rhodes hammered out the rhythms from center stage while Justin Horenstein doubled down on guitar and keyboards. The mix of ambient soundscapes with an aggressively heavy post-rock aura work well with each other, and the sheer amount of soul and emotion conveyed by the instrumental trio was astounding.

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TVD Live: Lucero and Ryan Bingham at the 9:30 Club, 3/14

Tour packages can be a funny thing. Sometimes the bands are all similar, and sometimes the combination of styles may leave you scratching your head. Now and then, you get a tour that is just different enough, yet has sufficient common ground to make that perfect peanut butter and jelly combination. Such was the case last Saturday night at the 9:30 Club when Lucero and Ryan Bingham brought their gritty Southern sounds to the District.

The night was off to an odd start as a sign on the front door stated that opener Twin Forks would not be playing this evening. Word quickly spread that the band relayed through a Facebook post mere hours earlier that their van had been broken into and all of their gear had been stolen—an awful occurrence that happens all too often in recent times.

Just after 9pm, Lucero took the stage. Being a co-headlining tour and alternating the closing spot, tonight Lucero had first shift duties. Led by the unmistakable gravelly voice of singer Ben Nichols, the band opened with “Women and Work” as the temperature in the already-warm club rose rapidly. As they made their way through “Sounds of the City” and “Nights Like These,” the addition of the horns mixed with the unfancy rock and the sweet sounds of Rick Steff on the organ gave their sound an old-school feel with new-school attitude.

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Living Colour,
The TVD Interview

In 1988, Living Colour forever etched a mark in rock music with their smash hit “Cult of Personality.” Like a finely cut diamond, there were many sides to the band’s music—smart, socially aware songwriting about issues such as politics, race, love, and loss. Turning that diamond around a bit more reveals layers of rock, soul, funk, and punk influences that drove their music with a hard to define complexity.

A little older, a little wiser, and sounding better than ever, Living Colour is out on tour thirty years after their formation. During their stop at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD, I had a chance to sit down with singer Corey Glover and guitarist Vernon Reid. As much a social discussion as a musical one, we talked at length about life, success, vinyl, George Clinton, and the 25th anniversary of their sophomore album, Time’s Up.

Living Colour just turned 30. How does it feel to be back on the road playing together 30 years later?

Vernon Reid: Well they said never to trust anyone over thirty, so…

Well, we’re all fucked.

Reid: [Laughing] It’s a crazy experience. It’s every cliché you can think of, like “Where does the time go?” The thing is that the band’s been in a conversation, I think a uniquely American conversation. In things that we seek, a lot has changed, and a lot has not changed. That’s the weirdness of time. You’re still yourself. There’s us, living around the corner from each other. All those things that happened, like having the loft in Bushwick, and having some people pull for us, and having a lot of faith and a lot of rejection. Building a local following, the ups and downs, all of it. It’s all part of this history. Then our personal lives…marriages, divorces, all of that.

So, how has having thirty years behind you affected the interpersonal relationships within the band?

Corey Glover: I think it’s strengthened them, actually. Like Vernon was saying, those things that were going on in our lives sort of mirrored what was going on in the band. We couldn’t move froward unless we were dealing with each other. The music wouldn’t mean the same thing, the things we were saying wouldn’t have the same sort of resonance if they didn’t really reflect what was really going on in the interpersonal dynamic between the four of us.

We have to not particularly honor it, because sometimes it doesn’t need to be honored. It needs to be dealt with. There’s a distinct difference. We have to deal with that. Our records, even after the successes, sort of reflected not only the world that we lived in, but the world that we are in. When you hear something like “Burnt Bridges,” from The Chain in the Doorway, that’s not just about the world around us, this is about what we’ve been going through. It sort of reflects what’s going on outside of us as well. In a way, it’s sort of a microcosm of the way we as human beings work, but more generally as Americans in this society, and as African-Americans in this society. As husbands and parents, as brothers and sons, and human beings within the construct of whatever this is, and we have to deal with that.

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TVD Live: Living Colour at Rams Head, 2/10

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PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | In 1988, Living Colour burst onto the scene and took the world by storm with their smash hit “Cult of Personality.” Their sound—an amalgam of punk, funk, soul, jazz, rock, and metal, conveyed messages of tough social issues through a layer of fantastically technical music. After reuniting in 2000 and staying busy with group and individual projects, Living Colour is back out on the road before they finish their sixth studio album later this year. On Tuesday night, the destination was Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD where the audience was seated but the energy was high.

The venue, while very nice, seemed to be an odd setting for a heavier band such as Living Colour with a seated crowd and table service. As the band took the stage, this sentiment was echoed by guitarist Vernon Reid as he welcomed the crowd to “Dinner Metal, Part Three.” Reid fitted a slide onto his finger and led them into “Preachin’ Blues,” a heavy blues number from their forthcoming album, Shade.

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Frontman Corey Glover was dapper in his slacks and newsboy hat and his voice belted out the lyrics with ease. The band went right into the heavy groove of “Ignorance is Bliss,” then into “Desperate People” from their debut album. The sound was crisp and did the music justice. Doug Wimbish’s deep bass sound shook the earth and was complimented by the dexterous drumming of Will Calhoun. Throughout the set, Reid continuously displayed why he is among the guitar elite. On “Middle Man,” his deft fingerwork was superbly complemented by the complex bassline and funky popping of Wimbish.

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Records Collecting Dust: A look into the record collections of the bands you have in yours

If there’s one thing that is always on the mind of record collectors—besides what records they already have or may need—it’s what other record collectors have. Facebook, Meetup, and various other online outlets offer a haven for vinyl enthusiasts to share their treasures with like-minded individuals.

Filmmaker Jason Blackmore took this a step further, posing the question, “What do the people making the music have on their shelves?” In his new documentary film, Records Collecting Dust, he engages a wide array of musicians to find out, and we were on hand at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (1/15) for a first look at the film.

The doc begins at a blistering pace, cutting from one musician to the next in rapid succession. Punk luminaries like Jello Biafra, Keith Morris, Mike Watt, and Chuck Dukowski sound off, joined by artists like Matt Pike (High on Fire, Sleep), Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Mondo Generator), Matt Caughthran (The Bronx), and more.

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TVD Live: GWAR at Baltimore Soundstage, 12/13

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | Mae West was once quoted as saying, “All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” Nowhere is this more applicable than in the world of music. Some people move on, some grow apart, and others shed this mortal coil leaving a gap that can either be mended and healed or it becomes the death knell of a band. In the case of GWAR, the wound left by the passing of Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus, has been cleaned, dressed, and is healing up quite nicely.

Saturday night at Baltimore Soundstage, GWAR made a triumphant return, closing out the first tour of this new era and ensuring the outlandish legacy of the Scumdogs continues to march forth.

After sitting in hellish traffic due to the annual Army-Navy football game, I arrived about halfway through American Sharks‘ set. I quickly determined that I was none too thrilled about this, because these guys absolutely rocked my pants off. Figuratively, of course. Soundstage was already a packed house, and the high voltage punk-tinged stoner rock from the stage was the perfect way to start the night. Thick, heavy riffs with a Detroit garage rock flair, their sound was very catchy without being cliché or boring.

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Peter Frampton,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

When you say the phrase “live rock album,” one of the first albums on the lips of many a music fan is always Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! From his early days with Humble Pie, to recording one of the best-selling live albums of all time, Frampton has established himself as in influential icon to many guitarists around the world. Now in the third act of his career, which involves everything from writing music for ballet to a traveling jam session with other guitar luminaries, Frampton is showing no sign of slowing down.

As he gears up to make 2014 a busy year, Peter took some time to talk to us about the past and the present, and even got surprised by an old review that he had never heard. What struck me most is the fact that Frampton, while fully embracing his past, has greeted the present with open arms, always looking to try something new and finding inspiration from artists of yesterday and today. If time had permitted we could have gone on for another hour.

You’re bringing Frampton’s Guitar Circus back this summer, along with a solo tour and a tour with the Doobie Brothers. You’re definitely making this an interesting year!

Yeah, it’s a three-pronged attack. It’s a solo tour, solo dates, Doobies date, co-headlining with them, which is an honor. Then the Guitar Circus, which will be in California only, I believe, in August-September.

Your new album, Hummingbird in a Box, is described as “Inspired by the Cincinnati Ballet.” That’s not your typical inspiration for a rock guitarist.

No. It came from writing some pieces of new music to be part of this performance we did in April of past year. In Cincinnati, three performances, we did older music in the first act, and the third act, but the second act, I wrote these seven pieces of music with Gordon Kennedy, my writing partner for many years now. They wanted to do just old music, and when I suggested that I actually write a half an hour of new music, they went berserk.

That’s where this came from, that’s why it’s inspired by them, and that’s why it’s a little different. It’s not like my normal type of stuff. It’s still me, it’s still got my flavor, but it’s definitely something that was very freeing to write, because there was no format to follow, as far as songs or instrumentals.

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Ace Frehley,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

The Spaceman. Say those two words to almost any rock and roll  fan and the instant recognition of Ace Frehley will be met with a still vital memory from a childhood love of Kiss. For some, it might be a funny story—like the now infamous interview on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder—or how nearly getting electrocuted on stage inspired Ace to write Kiss’ classic, “Shock Me.” Maybe you’ll hear they too, along with many others, stood in front of the bedroom mirror pretending to play “Deuce” or “Love Gun.” The former cab driver from New York City is in an elite group of rock guitarists who have made such an impact on people.

During his time with Kiss, Ace crafted some of the most memorable riffs in rock music. His live stunts in the ’70s became the stuff of legend—the smoking Les Paul that floated up to the top of the arena, the guitar that lit up or shot fireballs from its headstock. These and other over-the-top aspects of Kiss’ stage show would change the face of rock and roll and would become ingrained in the minds of every Kiss fan for years afterward. Unfortunately alcohol would become a monkey on Ace’s back which led to his exit from the band. This burden stayed with him throughout his post-Kiss career, both solo and with Frehley’s Comet.

Presently enjoying a life of sobriety, Ace made his comeback in 2009 with the critically acclaimed Anomaly. Now, in 2014, Ace is about to unleash his first new album in five years, the aptly titled Space Invader.

This new life hasn’t been without its own public trials however—mainly with his former bandmates. After a media circus surrounding Kiss’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, there’s been a tug of war in the press, ending the induction celebration on a sour note. Looking past this and forward to the arrival of Space Invader on August 19th, we took the opportunity to talk to Ace about the new album, sobriety, and sure, vinyl.

Hi Ace! How’s it going?

Great! I’m in San Diego, looking forward to going to New York next week. I’m doing Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday night. I’m sitting in with The Roots.

I heard about that. Sounds like that’s going to be pretty awesome.

Yeah! I’m doing some signings and other press, radio and stuff. It should be a great week.

You’ve been clean and sober now for, what about eight years?

Yeah, it will be eight years on September 15th.

Congratulations, that’s amazing.

Thanks.

What has been the most surprising aspect of sobriety, for you personally?

I think it shows in this new record, I was really focused when I went in, I knew what I wanted and I went after it. It’s nice to wake up the next day and remember what you did the night before. There’s a lot of plusses to sobriety.

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Darkest Hour’s
Mike Schleibaum,
The TVD Interview

For close to 20 years, Northern Virginia’s Darkest Hour has been toiling away just under the surface to the mainstream metal scene. At the center of it all, founding guitarist Mike Schleibaum has guided the band through the tough waters of the ever-changing music scene, navigating them to their latest release, 2014’s self-titled album with new label Sumerian Records.

The band has honed their sound, and the metal masses responded with open arms, pushing their latest toward being their most successful release to date. This interview hit even more close to home—both of us going to the same high school mere minutes from Empire in Springfield, VA, where the band headlined a festive homecoming show before embarking on their European tour.

We stood outside the van, talking amongst friends, family, and bandmates. We toasted a beer, shared some whiskey, and a haze of herbal magic was in the air as we discussed Darkest Hour and pondered the current state of heavy metal and the validity of twerking in metal videos.

Welcome home! Feel good to be playing the hometown?

I guess we could call Springfield, Virginia our hometown. It is the closest to Burke, Virginia, which is where we first had band practice. It’s interesting to me to come back, because what happens out here in the suburbs is that you grow up and you usually leave. We haven’t played here in over a decade, which is nuts to me to think that there could be some kind of continuing…I don’t want to say “legacy,” but lingering thing about the band that’s existed. This isn’t a major city, it’s outside of Washington, D.C. This is kind of weird.

It’s suburbia.

Yeah. They have a lot of metal shows here, this club has been good for the metal scene.

Oh yeah, there have been metal shows here since we were in high school.

Exactly. This is where they buy the metal shows. I think it’s cool. I really like what they’ve done with the place, how they’ve changed it. All the people who work there now are younger people who are excited and into the music that’s now. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a museum.

It gave the club a little burst of energy?

Yeah, it has. I’m excited. When I got up on that stage to soundcheck, it was so fuckin’ weird. I was telling these dudes as we were loading in, I said, “When I was a kid, and we would try to play Jaxx [Empire’s former name] before anybody knew who any of our bands were, this is what I would have thought about all week. Nothing but the show, the show, the show.” I remember when being in a band was so new, that you would really love everything about it. It was cool. I hung out with some of the local bands that played today for a little bit.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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