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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Don't forget – Juliet Turner at the Purcell Room tonight…

December 22nd, 2006 · Comments Off on Don't forget – Juliet Turner at the Purcell Room tonight…

Another heads up for tonight’s gig at the Purcell Room – Juliet Turner, Boo Hewerdine and Brian Houston – a better singer/songwriter line-up you’d be very hard pushed to find. I’ll be there, so come and say hi and feel oh-so-festive at this most marvellous of gigs. There are still tickets available – details here – and look, you can go straight from work and catch Tomorrow’s Warriors in the foyer for free before the gig!

There is no better way to celebrate the friday before christmas than a day sorting out your tax accounts for the previous year, followed by a Juliet Turner gig, unless you left out the taxes bit…

Tags: Musing on Music

If this isn't civil war, what the hell is???

March 19th, 2006 · Comments Off on If this isn't civil war, what the hell is???

The former Iraqi ‘president’, Iyad Allawi has said that iraq is in a civil war. Seems like a fairly obvious thing to say, given that scores of people are being killed every day, there are two definable sides to this both with military capabilities, that are daily bombing, shooting, slaughtering one another.

However, those genius revisionists in the White House and Downing Street are claiming that there’s no civil war, with Bush claiming that things are looking up for the Americans to ‘win’ the war, and the UK Defense secretary John Reid saying the terrorists are “failing to drive Iraq into civil war.”

Both Bush and Reid come off like Pike from Dad’s Army – ‘Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring’! The barefaced cheek of the US/UK axis of international bullying are once again making themselves look utterly stupid, ill-informed, in denial and ridiculous by claiming that the truth that anyone with a TV can see is in fact all made up, and denying the reality as voiced by their own jumped up puppet ruler in the area, Allawi – they chose him, he was clearly ‘trustworthy’ back then. Now he aparently knows less about the situation than special-needs-Bush and the wanker that is John Reid.

Having just been watching David Attenborough’s latest spectacular programme Planet Earth, I was marvelling at the wonder of creation, at the mryiad beauties of the natural world, and feeling like somewhere the midst of all that beautiful complexity, we’ll work it out. Then the news comes on, and a handful of powercrazed fools in positions of unmerited influence are driving us headlong into a world war to protect the financial interests of a handful of their fucked-up billionaire friends and financial backers. It’s as wrong as wrong can be. Watching a nile crocodile drag a wildebeast to its death shows nature to be red in tooth and claw, but also shows the balance, the circle, the richly woven tapestry of a self-sustaining natural world. Watching the power-mongers in Drowning Street and The Shite House drag the situation in the middle east further into a downward spiral of murder, torture, imprisonment without trial, terrorism – state sponsored or otherwise, car bombs, cluster bombs, anti-diplomacy and thinly veiled white supremecy, is just about as depressing as life can get.

As my mum said only last weekend, ‘isn’t it about time for a revolution?’ I don’t think she was joking.

Soundtrack, Brian Houston, ‘Sugar Queen’.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

3 gig reviews (not mine!)

March 9th, 2006 · Comments Off on 3 gig reviews (not mine!)

That’s not my gigs, not not my reviews. Of course these are my reviews.

For some reason I completely forgot to blog about the two gigs I went to last thursday – Buddy Miller at Bush Hall followed by Ursula Rucker at The Jazz Cafe.

Buddy’s gig was put on by the lovely people at Greenbelt, so they were hosting a bit of a reception upstairs (if you ever want to do a gig with VIP stuff going on, Bush Hall is ideal – really nice little bar upstairs…) – so that was nice, to catch up with lots of GB-related friends, and Hoda from Fender who I’d not really had the chance to chat to for a long time. All good.

Opening the show was the marvellous Brian Houston – who just gets better every time I see him play. Don’t miss him if he plays near you.

After that was some other bloke who didn’t really do it for me, then Buddy. Part of the interest in the gig for me was that the rhythm section for the gig were Paul and Phil Wilkinson from The Amazing Pilots (I say ‘from’… they ARE the amazing pilots…) who are without doubt one of the finest roots rock rhythm sections in the UK. I’ve seen them before playing both as their own gig (where Paul plays guitar not bass) and backing up Iain Archer, and they are just fantastic. As a trio with Buddy, they were amazing (though there was no evidence of them being actual pilots). Alternately rocking out and acoustic balladeering, the evening was just magic.

Sadly I had to bail out about four tracks from the end of their set to get over to see Ursula Rucker. A gig that I really didn’t know much about other than a) Andy Hamill was on bass and had put me on the guest list and b) it involved, in some way, looping and poetry. Sounded promising. Lived up to the promise – Ursula is kind of a female Michael Franti – political poet, to eloquent and erudite to just be simply a ‘rapper’, she’s a soul singer/poet/thinker/activist, and puts on a slamming show. Her core band was Tim Motzer, looping and processing an acoustic guitar, and a drummer (whose name I can’t find just now), and they were augmented for a couple of tunes by Andy on bass and Julian on violin. All in all, a crackin’ gig.

And then, leaping forward to last night, Gary Husband was playing at St Cyprians. Well, was meant to be playing at St Cyprians, but there’s no heating in there, and the piano wasn’t tuned, so it was moved over the road to a school, a Yamaha C3 was hired in, and all was well.

Gary, for those who don’t know about such jazz-related things, is in the rather unique position of being pretty much at the top of his game worldwide as both a drummer AND a piano player. Last night was a solo piano gig (augmented at times by some extra layers of piano and percussion on multitrack), and was mind-blowing. It’s SO rare to hear that level of instrumental virtuosity without it either being smug, sterile or both. This was neither. Which was all the more remarkable given that the two sets were inspired by, and consisted of pieces written by or based on – Alan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin, both of whom are often seen as being monster technicians over and above their contribution to the world of jazz composition.

The playing, the arrangements, the performance and the banter were all top class, leaving no-one there in any doubt at all as to Gary’s standing in the world of piano players. I can’t think of many players who could have done anything even close to what he achieved. A hugely inspiring gig.

Tags: Musing on Music

Searching, Finding

May 21st, 2005 · Comments Off on Searching, Finding

here’s the latest crop of weird things people have been looking for when stumbling into this ‘ere blog –

armstrong
steve on jerry springer show
danny baker resignation
do nothing til you hear from me
dude etymology
feline concussion
ism jbk download
janek gwizdala
racist hall of shame
strongbad good
%22whale rider%22
albano italian singer photos
andy gangadeen drum rack
avashai cohen and the international vamp band
bbc news lion midget
belouis some imagination lyrics download
bill frisell wild thang
brian houston petersfield
britian’s piano man
can’t get motivated

Blimey there are some weird surfers out there in net-world!

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Jonatha gig number… 6? 7? I've lost count

April 26th, 2005 · Comments Off on Jonatha gig number… 6? 7? I've lost count

Jonatha‘s back in the country, as the UK version of Back In The Circus came out yesterday. Last night she played one of the Bob Harris Presents… gigs that used to be at The Stables in Milton Keynes, and are now at The Brook (no E on the end, but close enough for Jonatha to feel at home) in Southampton – a nice enough venue, but nearly all standing, so doesn’t win out over The Stables for me…

Anyway, Jonatha was on first, and fab as always. It’s a great feeling when you go to see someone fantastic that most of the audience aren’t really familiar with – it’s the same feeling going to a Julie Lee gig – you just know that half an hour from now, there are going to be a whole load of Jonatha/Julie/Whoever converts in the audience.

As expected, the response was like she was the headliner. Marvellous.

Brian Houston was up next – I’ve not seen Brian play for a few months, and he was on top form – great songs, great stage show. He’s a really really engaging and entertaining performer. Great stuff.

And Finally Thea Gilmore, who was headlining. She’s good, though the stripped down simplicity of her songs didn’t really follow either the glorious complexity of Jonatha or the bouncy exuberance of Brian so well. Still, most of the audience were there specifically to see her, and she played really well, particularly the cover of The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Falling In Love With Someone’.

Sadly, we had to leave early as the Small Person, who had been wilting all evening, got progressively iller and iller as Thea’s set went on. I was doing merch by this time (whole catalogue of disaster for Thea – her tech was in A & E with concussion, her merch dude didn’t turn up), so handed that over to Thea’s manager, and took TSP home.

So, go and buy Jonatha’s album!

SoundtrackMasse, a demo of stuff by solo looping bassist/flautist – very inventive indeed; the Works, ‘Beware Of The Dog’.

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A wet weekend in Heaven…

September 2nd, 2004 · Comments Off on A wet weekend in Heaven…

So Greenbelt‘s over for another year. Once again ’twas a fantastic festival. Definitely the best fest there is.

I was pretty exhausted when I arrived, having got back from Edinburgh, then gone to Southampton to play at Greyum and Chrissie’s wedding (which was a fantastic day), and had to jump straight into flyering/postering mode as my solo gig was on the Friday night. two minutes before I went on stage, a GB fire officer came in telling me they were about to remove my car with a crane as I was parked in a fire lane. so move car, rush back to do gig. Previous band overrun, quickest changeover possible, and nice big crowd. Lots of friendly faces (and no friendly faeces). About a minute into ‘Grace And Gratitude, I notice that the second Lexicon unit wasn’t working, so I looped the melody so I could get up and fix it (just plug the powerchord back in), but in getting up, I twatted my head off a TV set hanging over the stage, and nearly knocked myself out. doh!

middle of second tune, I realise that my Ebow is still in my jacket pocket, so more looping and shuffling ensues. All good fun. Many of the jokes from the Edinburgh show make their way in a modified form (tourettes removed), all goes very well.

finish at 10, pack up, and start compering in big acoustic venue at 11. First night was Peter Case, followed by Terry Callier followed by Julie Lee. good lord, what a remarkable night’s music. Terry was breathtakingly good. Lovely bloke too. Big success all-round. Compering’s lots of fun, and back stage crew are very friendly and helpful. Get to bed about 3

Saturday am is first rehearsal for Sunday morning service… ends up being about 5 hours of rehearsal on the Saturday… bit much, but sounding good.

Saturday night, The Low Country played on Stage 2 – fantastic gig, one of the best things on this year. More compering, this time Brian Houston, Rosie Thomas and Denison Witmer. Again, all fantastic. Nice to be compering on this stage rather than having to try and sound enthusiastic about generic rock shite on the mainstage played by people who look like potatoes. got to bed about 3.30.

Saturday as a whole though was spoilt by The Small Person having to head home due to the Aged Feline being v. ill. We’d had to take him to the vets after Edinburgh, not well at all, not eating. Turns out he’s got Pancreatitis, and Pneumonia, as complications of his Chronic Renal Failure. None of it is looking good for the little guy.

Sunday mornig was the service – the Greenbelt service is generally fabulous. This year the music was just me, two drummers and 15,000 singers, which was a fun gig to have! Lots of new tunes by Andy Thornton, and some old GB favourites. Fun to be sat next to the Archbishop of Canterbury, playing afro-cuban grooves… sort of fits into that ‘mark thatcher arrested for funding a military coup’ bracket of weird unpredictable scenarios.

The rest of sunday was a bit more relaxed, punctuated by regular calls to the small person to check on The Aged Feline’s condition, which was not good but stable. I was pretty exhausted all day, but didn’t got and see much so was able to relax a bit more before compering that evening. Three more marvellous things – Cathy Burton (great as always), Moya Brennan (interview plus a few songs to backing track – lovely person, fascinating story, hope she comes back with a band soon.) and Martyn Joseph. Brilliant as ever. another late night.

Planned a lie in on Monday, but Deb and Alice were packing up their tent next door at some ungodly hour. Woke up, went for breakfast with my mum (oh yes, hardcore festival going mum have we). saw Rob Jackson at lunch time playing solo – magical stuff, and very funny too. Then did my gig with Calamateur, AKA andrew howie, which went very well. His songs are just marvellous, and the album’s a must.

An afternoon of wandering was followed by another performance cafe gig, this time with Andrew Buckton, who has the ability to make me cry with his songs while I’m playing them – not great when you’re trying to read chord charts. Magical stuff.

From that gig I rushed up to the mainstage to catch as much as possible of Show Of Hands – possibly the greatest live act in Britain. A massive inspiration in terms of their ability to connection with their audience, controlled virtuosity like a couple of internationally renowned concert soloists, and a great sense of humour. I come away from their gigs feeling like a total amateur. I’m pretty good at what I do, but they take the art of performing to a whole new level. I hope I never miss another London gig of theirs…

They were followed by Ron Sexsmith and Jamelia – Ron was fab (I’m a fan anyway) and Jamelia was agood festival ending gig – loads of people digging it, she had a great band with her, top stuff. We closed out the festival in Centaur with a great jazz singer called Polly Gibbons.

As you’ll notice, I didn’t get to a single seminar or worship event over the weekend – more evidence that I’d taken on far too much. next year, I’ll drop one or more of those commitments, or at least refuse to rehearse for the service! :o) But all in all it was a great fest. It’s lovely to be at a festival where I know literally hundreds of people, and have most of my favourite people in the world on one site. Great to catch up with other lovely people who are equally busy and to meet some new lovely people.

The big shadow over the whole weekend though for us was The Aged Feline. He’s coming home from the vets today, and the future looks bleak, and very short. Please keep the little guy in your thoughts and prayers – the last thing we want is for him to be in any pain or discomfort.

soundtrack – Moya Brennan, ‘Two Horizons’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’; The Cure, ‘The Cure’ (thanks Greg!); the two CD compilations I made to play between the acts at Greenbelt…

Tags: Uncategorized

All systems go on the new CD!

June 25th, 2004 · Comments Off on All systems go on the new CD!

So, the new Cd – Grace and Gratitude – is recorded and is being mastered as I write, the artwork’s finished and been sent off to the manufacturers, there’s a page up in the e-shop about it with some MP3s and preordering details, and gigs are getting booked! This is the fun bit – I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of making this work – making CDs, booking gigs, sending out press releases and all that. It’s a little daunting, and I’m easily distracted, but when I’m on a roll, it’s great fun.

It looks like I’m going to be doing a few dates with Rob Jackson around the time of the album release, which I’m really looking forward to – Rob’s a hugely talented solo guitarist, and I’m sure that anyone who digs what I do is going to love his music. I’m trying to book a launch gig at the moment, and might be going out to check out a venue this afternoon… watch this space.

Had a great response to the MP3s so far, which is good news – I think this is my best album… I’ve thought that with each album I’ve released, and I don’t think it’s just that I’m enamoured with newness… It seems like there’s a definite progression from one to the next. This one takes some of the more advanced looping that’s going on on ‘Open Spaces‘, and combining it with the more melacholic side of my solo stuff (Ok, except Shizzle, which is good ole’ fashioned stevie-style-funkiness).

So what’s still to be done? Posters need to be sent out for the gigs, more gigs need to be confirmed, Edinburgh promo needs doing, websites need informing that the CD is out, as soon as I get the master CD back I need to start burning CDRs to send out to radio for airplay ahead of the release date, and I need to resume talks with the various distributors who’ve expressed an interest in the CDs, and see if we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial deal to get this stuff into the shops… On top of that, I have a set of John Lester’s tunes to learn, and I need to go back and learn all the tracks on the CD in order to be able to play them live! I also need to mix and master the extra disc, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II’ – I’ve got lots of extra tracks that I really like, so I think it’s going to be a rather lovely CD once again…

Other than that, I had a marvellous gig last night with Jez, Tom Hooper on drums and Michael Haughton on sax – it was a function gig in a gorgeous hotel near Bath. Now those of you who do function gigs will know that the staff in hotels and function suites often treat bands as less than vermine, but the entire staff at this hotel were SOOOO helpful. It made such a refreshing change! The event organiser was totally on top of everything, we played really well, got paid – what’s not to love? It was great fun getting back to playing with a quartet, and we used my Accugroove/Mackie/QSC set up as the PA, and it sounded incredible. Ain’t no other bass rig I could use as a PA for sax, piano bass and drums!!

Got back at 4.30 this morning, so slept in late. Am only now just getting into the land of the living. Need to go and post off some Cd orders, reply to some email, go and check out a venue for the album launch, contact some venues and send out some press stuff. Busy day!

Soundtrack – right now, Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; yesterday – cathy burton, ‘Speed Your Love’; Brian Houston, ‘Thirteen Days in August’; David Torn, ‘What Means Solid, Traveller?’

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Like a Rolling Stone… With a Rolling Stone

June 21st, 2004 · Comments Off on Like a Rolling Stone… With a Rolling Stone

So I’m sat listening through the lastest set of tiny tweaks on the new album, and the phone rings. It’s Harry Cellist offering me a ticket to see Bob Dylan at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park in 25 minutes! Quick chat to the small person to postpone prearranged domestic chores to a later hour, and I’m on the tube on my way to Finsbury Park to see his Bobness.

Bob has been on my list of ‘artists I really need to see before the drop dead’ for a long time, so I’ve very glad I saw him. There’s something very bizarre about Dylan – no-one else on earth would get away with singing simple blues tunes in the style of a punch drunk tramp impersonating Marge Simpson, and yet there’s something utterly compelling about his performance. Add to that the presence of the mighty Ron Wood on Stage (you can say what you want about jumped up rock stars, Ron Wood is one hell of a guitarist…) and it made for a pretty fine gig.

However, it was a gig in front of about 30,000 people, in a damp field in North London with the sound changing whenever the wind changed direction, not being able to see much and being bumped into by drunk people every couple of minutes.

Contrast that with Friday night’s entertainment, sat in a beautiful old church building in Reading listening to Brian Houston and Sarah Masen sing and play. Both exquisite singer-songwriters, Brian sounding not unlike Bob Dylan in his younger days at times, but with a Van Morrison accent. There were probably 35-40 people there, it was warm, dry, no drunks that I spotted, the sound was close to perfect, the drinks were cheap and the music of an arguably higher quality than most of what goes on on big stages round the country at all the festivals over the summer.

And you missed it.

The good news is that Brian and Sarah are playing in London tomorrow night at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, along with two other fantastic singer/songwriters, Cathy Burton and Duke Special. Shit, that’s four really really really great acts on one bill. In a lovely venue. In-doors. for about

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two fine gigs and a stolen phone

June 1st, 2004 · Comments Off on two fine gigs and a stolen phone

So Sunday, the small person and I headed off to the west country and wales. Firstly to call in and see my sister and niece for a day out in Cheddar Gorge (very nice it was too), and then off to Cardiff Coal Exchange to a WarChild benefit gig. On the bill were Stuart Henderson, Ben Okafor, Martyn Joseph and Bruce Cockburn. How good is that lineup???? unbelieveable. believe me.

First up was Stewart, an incredibly gifted performance poet, whose work I’ve been reading for years, and who has written a lot of songs with Martyn Joseph through the years, including one of Martyn’s ‘hits’ from the early 90s, ‘Working Mother’.

He was followed by Ben, who I’ve played with in the past, and whose albums I’ve had since the late 80s. A fantastic performer, he was also a boy soldier in the Biafran war in Nigeria, so his connection to tonight’s cause added gravity to the evening.

Martyn’s a favourite of mine and the small person’s, both having been fans for many many years. He’s a hugely compelling performer, fantastic guitarist, great songwriter and very engaging between songs. Highly highly recommended on CD and live. Truly a ‘hidden gem’ of the UK music scene.

And Bruce – it’s the fourth time I’ve seen bruce in the last few months, and the second time in a week, and he was as magic as ever. A genius in the truest sense, one of the finest guitar playing singer/songwriters to ever grace the planet.

A remarkable evening.

So back home monday for more recording, more recording all day today (see next blog entry for studio tales…), and then this evening off to the Borderline to see Amy Wadge (pronounced Woj), with the added bonus of catching the majestic Brian Houston on the same bill.

However, my evening’s enjoyment was spoilt by the bastard on the train who stole my phone. His behaviour was a little shifty – changing seats, apparently to read the tube map. I’d covered my pockets to make sure I wasn’t being pickpocketed, but the phone had already fallen from my jacket, I found out afterwards, which he must’ve picked up and run off with, the shitbag.

So once I realised (after we were in the venue) I rang Orange and got the phone and the number blocked and ordered a new phone. Given that the phone is now basically useless to the piece of crap that stole it, it’s a pain in the arse that it’s cost me

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Greenbelt Pt 2

August 27th, 2003 · Comments Off on Greenbelt Pt 2

So where were we? ah yes, Sunday. Met up with Patrick Wood, and gave him the passes for him and his family, then wen to the sunday morning communion service – 15,000 people taking the Eucharist is no mean feat, but it went without a hitch… oh, except the PA cutting out 10 minutes from the end.

Anyway That followed by another trip to Martyn Joseph’s songwriter thingie, The Rising, featuring Cathy Burton, Denison Witmer and Pierce Pettis – another fantastic sesh, and Martyn played a song or two of his own which was a treat – he’s kind of Greenbelt’s unofficial troubadour, and plays a full gig most years, often with fun special guests like Tom Robinson or Steve Knightly. This year, he just did The Rising.

After the Rising, it was back to Cheatsville, AKA The Performance Cafe, for an afternoon of astoundingly good acoustic music – Stephenson and Samuel (Stocki with Sam Hill), Ben Okafor, Old Solar and Denison Witmer all one after the other! Even though the programme was put together by Evil Harv, and it pains me to say this – it was fantastic.

The evening’s music began with Brian Houston in The Performance Cafe, then Cathy Burton rocking out on the mainstage (bit of a shock for those who’d only seen her in The Rising, especially the QOTSA cover!), and back then the catching the last train to cheatsville to see Pierce Pettis and my other join fave gig of the weekend (along with Cleveland Watkiss) Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson (not the former govenor of California). I’ve known Pete for years, heard him as The Booley House, and just Booley, but Duke Special is a whole other level – beautiful songwriting, outstanding performance, and Greenbelts own Hobbit, Chip Bailey on drums and percussion, playing perfectly, dramatically, sensitively. A genius pairing, playing oustanding music, with the occasional backing track on minidisc, but with a replica gramaphone there to make it less rubbish! A truly awe-inspiring performance – they are on tour loads, so check the website to see them when they come near you.

Monday and we’re into the home straight. It’s also the day when stevie-thoughts momentarily turned to work, as Patrick Wood and I had a gig in Cheatsville in the morning, and an improv workshop in the afternoon. The gig went very well, was equal parts mellow ambient and dissonant scariness, lots of fun for us, and a very positive reaction from the audience. The rest of the afternoon involved listening to Peter Tatchell (fascinating and no doubt hugely disappointing the representatives of the national press that were there due to the total lack of sensational material – Peter was friendly, charming, and laid out his thoughts on human rights in great detail, and there wasn’t really much for anyone to disagree with), then off to hear Anita Roddick speak about trade (oh, it was Trade Justice day, in partnership with Christian Aid), then back to the performance cafe to hear Nick Harper (Catherine Street Team – you were right, he’s a genius and a very nice bloke), Cathy Burton (minus rock posturing this time), then off to sort out stuff for the improv seminar, which went well, and over ran by half an hour.

The day finished with The Polyphonic Spree (good but not my bag) followed by Billy Bragg, who was so breath-takingly wonderful it was almost contrived. Almost too good – all that he said and sang was great (except some new song called ‘no power without accountability’ that was turd-on-toast). Finished off with ‘waiting for the great leap forwards’ into ‘a new england’ and an accapela encore of the old hymn jerusalem. A real spine tingling moment.

All in all, one of the best Greenbelts ever. Great music, great speakers, great atmosphere, great weather, great food, great campaining stuff, great friends. All good, and because I was playing music less than usual, I was able to spend loads of time with The Small Person, which was a treat I’ve not had at Greenbelt for many a year, and the thing that pushed it into the top 3 greenbelts ever for me. I’ve been going to Greenbelt since 1990, and only missed 91 and 96 since then. lots of great greenbelt memories, and this weekend swelled the stash of marvellous moments. It’s truly the finest weekend of the year.

soundtrack to follow in next post…

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