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Light & Love

Inspired by the potential for Northern Irish music.

I had a dream last night, one I didn’t want to end,
Where the world was changed, that we’d altered the hearts of men,
Made what was evil, honest; and made the darkness bright,
With music that challenged heartstrings, that coloured the very sky,
A million different shades of beauty, smiles riding the sunlight,
So rock on all you with songs to sing,
I want to observe this dream made real,
Watch it grow to save us all, I swear we cannot fail,
Believe that we can do this,
If we only fight.

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Many things come to mind post-Glasgowbury – not least of all that I get the blues after such an all-encompassing high point as standing up the Sperrins (ahem, aye so I’ll admit my geographical misdemeanour in calling it the Mourne mountains for the last few weeks – not sure where that verbal balls up came from – we’ll just say enthusiastic swift ignorance) listening to some of the best music in the world. It’s also hard to top the connected social feeling from seeing all and sundry, reeling back down to normality can be a tough transition.

Aside from the obvious thank you to each and every person involved and in attendance at the festival, there was a number of other memories which stood out as making this year’s Glasgowbury particularly sentimental.

– receiving a dedication from the cheeky sods that make up More Than Conquerors. Meant the world, genuinely.

– getting to sit in the throat of And So I Watch You From Afar’s performance whilst all buzzed and whirled around me.

– proudly seeing Team Fresh and Pocket Billiards début at the festival to a practical riot respectively each.

– running into Electric Mainline’s Stephen McCauley in the campsite, whilst towing two chairs along at a sprint. At the time I don’t quite think I realised just how that must have looked.

At this point I thought it pertinent to pass over the reigns to a few of the masses, the collective music community that I rattle on so much about – each and every one of us has a story to tell, and an experience to share; individually they mean something to each of us, but together they hopefully become so much more.

Brian Magill

What a great day. The festival just gets better every year. I know most of the plaudits will be reserved for the blistering sets from Fighting With Wire, LaFaro & ASIWYFA, but for me to wax lyrical about those three would just be laziness, really.

For me, the three bands that stood out were Pocket Billiards, Team Fresh and Adebisi Shank. Pocket Billiards were so up for it, and you could tell from the moment they walked out on stage that they were there to have a great time. I hate this ‘too cool for school’ shit you get with a lot of bands nowadays; it’s ok to enjoy what you’re playing (!). They are the quintessential party band and really deserve a bit more exposure.

As for Team Fresh, they had the unenviable task of hitting the stage at the same time as And So I Watch You From Afar. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a) they might be playing to an empty tent and b) that it would rub off on their performance, but they gave it everything they had, and a lot of people (myself included) were sucked in by the racket emanating from their tent. Another bunch who know how to have a good time and entertain. We’ll need to get them up to Derry soon!

Adebisi Shank are a phenomenon. They confuse and delight in equal manner, and are as punk rock as you’re likely to find in this day and age. The new tuneage was head twistingly superb, and the old favourites were there in force. You know you are seeing something special with these guys, when someone as talented as Jonny Black turns to you mid-set and shakes his head in both envy and disbelief.

Oh, and it didn’t rain. What a bonus!

Colm Laverty

Like Christmas for NI music. Dozens of my favourite local acts, veterans and newcomers alike, all helped create that feeling of unity (a rarity for festivals). My love for the day can be epitomised in one moment, where I faced the sky with my eyes closed, just as the last chords of Fighting With Wire rang out, thinking, “These aren’t just songs, they’re the soundtrack to our lives”.

Danny Morton (More Than Conquerors)

Although it was Glasgowbury’s tenth anniversary it was my first time at the festival, or at any festival for that matter; so needless to say I was uncertain about what the next twenty four hours held in store for me. Apparently, ‘a lot’ of free booze, loud music and the absolute best of banter! It would be so easy to fill a week or month with great gigs in Belfast during term time, but you don’t actually realise the amount of incredible bands that we have knocking about until you hear most of them in only one day!

The only bad thing about Glasgowbury seems to be that you’re completely spoilt for choice – how can you choose between Strait Laces, ASIWYFA and Team Fresh? You do your best and no matter where you end up you’ll have a pint, a group of mates and memories that will last a life time…

Diane Greer (Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas)

We had high hopes for Glasgowbury 2010 and we had a fantastic time. I couldn’t believe the crowd we pulled, all ages, shapes and sizes, the place was packed. There were moments when I looked into the crowd and they were all singing and smiling back at us and I felt really moved. I know our album (When We Were Brave) is doing really well, I know the reviews are great, I know we have good things ahead but nothing, absolutely nothing will ever compare to what I felt, in fact we all felt it… and it was mighty!

When people know the words of your songs it stops being an ‘us’ and ‘them’ thing and becomes a shared experience, one which everyone plays a part in and I was definitely overwhelmed by it. We are gaining a reputation for making people feel good, and that’s a two-way thing. Paddy writes great songs but unless people like them then they are just that – good songs – it’s something when people start to tell you how they relate to them, how they make them feel. Glasgowbury 2010 will live forever in the memory of Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas – and we are grateful for that.

Graham Smith (Music Photographer)

Having attended Glasgowbury over the past six years I have been able to watch it grow, in every respect, in to what it is now: a vibrant, entertaining, relaxed and exciting showcase for the incredible talent this country holds. I have said it every year and I will say it is again for 2010….this really was the best year yet.

Jason Hawthorne (Yes Cadets)

Playing on the mainstage was such a buzz, seeing people dancing to our music in the sun; that has definitely made my Summer so far (thank you weather god!). Given the weather and the lovely response, clashing with two of my favourite bands (Adebisi Shank and Not Squares) didn’t seem to matter anymore, apart from the fact that I didn’t get to see them rock out.

Roll on next year!

John Gribbin (Building Pictures)

When I landed at the festival site around eleven on Saturday morning there were a few ominous grey clouds floating around the Sperrin Mountains, but thanks to a few strong gusts of wind and a bit of the old Irish luck it cleared up and the weather was glorious!!

As a wise man said to me, “Only Paddy Glasgow can get good weather in July“…such is the unpredictability of our bloody Summer! I parked up the car, and took a walk down to the festival site just before the doors were opened just so that I could take in the spectacle of the setting. It really does amaze me to think that four thousand people descend upon a mountain to dance their socks off to a load of local bands!!

It really is very special!!

Lisa Byrne

As far as birthday parties go, this has to have been the best I have been to! My fourth year at Glasgowbury didn’t disappoint. The best year I’ve had to date. I squeezed in as much music as I possibly could in the twelve hour running time and loved every minute of it. Not Squares were an absolute treat of a find and I’ll be going to a lot more of their gigs in future.

Here Comes the Landed Gentry, Furlo, Colenso Parade and ASIWYFA amongst too many others stood out for me; along with the mighty Cashier No.9!

O.M.G!

Niall Lawler (Axis Of)

For something we’d been building up for over a year, Glasgowbury completely blew away our expectations. Landing a slot on the main stage was something else. For a hardcore band like us, getting slots like that simply shouldn’t happen, getting the crowd the size we did furthered the general absurdity of it all. The only downside of the whole event was some amazing memories which were forgotten due to the later celebrations. I think it goes without saying, but we are massively grateful to Paddy, Dermot and the rest of the team for recognizing our hardwork and believing in us. No festival has come close to Glasgowbury in my eyes, long may it continue.

Rion McCartney (Here Comes The Landed Gentry)

As both a punter and musician, I have been attending this great festival since 2003, and this year like so many had again another diverse and exciting line up. For me it’s great to listening to bands who you never hear but always see/hear their names being mentioned, meeting people from other parts of the country who dig what the band are doing and having a good old booze up and a boogie!

Another personal highlight for me this year was HCTLG headlining the Spurs Of Rock stage to a jam packed capacity crowd, with people singing the words of the songs back to you.

The amount of preparation put into the process of the festival deserves a tip of the hat to Paddy, Stella and all the hard workin’ crew, without these people doing what they do who knows what I would have been doin’ last weekend…

…for this, I Salute You All!

Slaine Browne (Team Fresh)

First time playing Glasgowbury; we were a bit worried that no one would come to see us as it was our first time here and our older, wiser brothers were playing in the G-Sessions tent right beside us. By the first few bars of ‘Trojan‘ the tent was half full, by the end it was full to the brim, people crowd surfing, a mosh pit going for the entire set, the smoke machine blew up making Niall and Chops invisible for most of the show.

As soon as we finished we ran outside and across to the G-Sessions tent to catch the end of our comrades set, Dunbar ran up and stage dived into the crowd. We all reconvened in the camp site and got dinner, got our energy levels back up for Pocket Billiards and continued to crowd surf for the rest of the night. I remember leaving their set and collapsing on the grass in front of the main stage where I remained for the rest of the evening smiling at all passers by – then back to the camp site for more ‘Craic Fuel’ (tropical juice and vodka) and general ganch and bantering with everyone there.

Wish it was three days long…

Stephen McCauley (BBC Electric Mainline)

Glasgowbury has always been the temperature gauge for Northern Irish music but this year was extra-special! Maybe it was just that everyone wanted to celebrate the 10th birthday together but it felt like anything was possible! It felt truly joyous! As long as I live, I will never forget the atmosphere in the G-Sessions tent when And So I Watch You From Afar played. Fans were swarming around the outside of the tent trying to get in and this was before the band came anywhere near the stage! It was the worst kept secret in history that they’d be the surprise guests on the day and the sense of anticipation was electrifying! I watched it all from the back of the stage, speechless once again!

I was busy in the early afternoon trying to record a special edition of Electric Mainline from the artists’ car park and my abiding memory was LaFaro arriving in their red van straight from the ferry, on their way back from a gig in Glasgow the night before. They’d barely slept, they’d driven for hours, Alan climbed out of the van in crutches, they borrowed two guitars, crowded around a few microphones and played an absolutely heartstopping acoustic version of “The Ballad of Burnt Dave“. It was so great just to see everyone again!

It’s a festival like no other – may it last forever!

Steven Rainey (BBC Introducing)

It’s fast becoming a cliché to say, but this year Glasgowbury exceeded all expectations, taking this uniquely Northern Irish experience into uncharted territory. After ten years of supporting and promoting music in Northern Ireland, the festival has become the ultimate showcase of what this country’s musicians are capable of.

Looking around during Fighting With Wire’s headlining set, pride swelling within my bosom, I couldn’t help but think, “I wouldn’t swap this for any other experience in the world”.

Thomas Camblin (MojoFURY)

Glasgowbury, what a day! I love the fact that a small (but massive) festival can generate so much excitement with in a community.

My festival highlight was standing on the ‘smallbutMASSIVE’ mainstage while LaFaro blew the place apart…Alan Lynn is an absolute hero. The man, with damaged tendons in his kick drum foot, just back of a week’s tour, still beat the shit out of the kit.

Truly extraordinary!

With all of this said, from bands, fans, photographers and writers, there is only one last thing to re-state…

Paddy, Stella, Dermot, Niall, Sharon, Bobby and all the rest – from the very bottom of all our hearts, thank you for all of the efforts you have put into making the Glasgowbury Music Festival what it is.

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This weekend saw the tenth birthday of the Glasgowbury Music Festival, an event that transcended all expectations with some absolutely amazing music and an atmosphere to rival any festival in the world. There is a massive amount I could write about at this stage, particularly in terms of the sheer level of social interaction and good will present within the gathering of the Northern Irish music community – but for now, I’ll let it all simmer and let the pictures do the talking.

Personal sonic highlights for me were The Rupture DogsMore Than Conquerors (who I must thank profusely for the dedication on their last song), Colenso Parade – then on to easily the best gig I’ve ever been to… And So I Watch You From Afar’s (worst kept) secret show in the G-Sessions tent – Team Fresh (who I was so proud to see blow the audience away), MojoFURYNot Squares, Cashier No.9, Pocket Billiards, LaFaro and finally the massive Fighting With Wire.

…and there are many more that could be mentioned, it was without a doubt a show of epically talented musical force.

Obviously a full set of photos is a step round the corner at this stage (I do sleep, sometimes), but here are a few teasers to show off what everyone not in attendance missed out on.

Rory Friers, rock on you audio soldier!

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With the bubble of music here in Northern Ireland as intense as it is, it is sometimes easy to forget that the bands from here actually do quite a touch of jet-setting in their spare time. Back in May I managed to get caught up with one of its more frequent travellers John Dinsmore, lead singer of Warrenpoint born rock outfit, The Beat Poets. Always a revised source of music business information I decided to try and find out a bit more about their trip out to this year’s South By South West amongst all the usual trappings of recording, releasing and writing.

– Since you first strode out to SXSW (South By South West) last year, things have taken a fairly busy turn. You’ve been seemingly everywhere.
The best way I can put it is, it’s like running in sand. It is constantly busy but you sometimes feel like your still in the same spot. To be fair it has been a great year. We spent a lot of time working on a sound, new songs and a lot of studio visits rather than gigging – something we have never done on a large scale until now.

Most of our time previously was spent gigging without properly developing the band into a sound that we really wanted. We have been releasing constantly since last November and will continue to do so which is for me something we also neglected.

So, yeah it has been busy – mostly learning, developing and preparing to basically relaunch the band which has been growing steadily so far in 2010.

– Is there anything you did differently at this year’s festival compared to last, any lessons?
Last year we did six shows at SXSW, press and promotion mostly; which really helped put the band out in the international music scene. Particularly America and Canada, where I believe our sound would be well suited. This year was just as busy, cramped with a lot of high profile meetings and basically lining up stuff for the next twelve months. If we hadn’t of played the year previously none of the 2010 SXSW would have happened.

…kinda shows how long it takes to work an area of interest and to build on it. The biggest lesson for anyone going to SXSW is to prepare months in advance!

It’s clear that the US is a genuine target, both touring wise and in terms of exposure. Did you feel there was much of a response from your syndications on TV show, The Hills?

I have always felt the greatest response to our music has been across the water. I don’t know any bands that sound like us over here either to be fair, but I definitely feel the best market is over there. We have been over there playing and promoting since 2007, which I’m not sure a lot of people realise. It landed us some great stuff like The Hills, the Sonicbids endorsement, features in SXSW Magazine etc…and even just this week an iPhone app endorsement with Mobile Roadie through the El Media Group. So the same people that do The Doors, Madonna, The Black Lips and so on, are part of our application’s development.

It is a massive market and extremely hard to get noticed in but we have taken good steps at SXSW this year, so just gotta keep working at it.

In terms of the music community here at home you’ve certainly set yourselves apart by aiming at a much larger, one might say ‘stadium rock’ sound, echoing (no pun intended) the likes of U2. Has that opened a few doors?
Yeah it definitely has but it has been a mixed bag, and sometimes a slow burner – as all bands find (not easy!).

The new songs have been getting a lot of radio play, especially at day time. We’ve played some great gigs including SXSW, Marley Park, Glasgowbury and the Canadian Music Week; won several awards with Xfm London, Today FM and got good media coverage with the new releases. But it is a strange mix over here, we’re not a band that’s seen about the scene so to speak but are working relentlessly behind it to promote it, push ourselves and other new artists such as Silhouette.

In the last six months I have been making myself more visible socially, and got to know bands such as General Fiasco, And So I Watch You From Afar and Fighting With Wire; and find chatting with them highly inspirational. Three amazing bands who proved they can be successful outside the local scene and hopefully we can prove that our belief in a bigger sound and progressing outside the island is justified also.

Recently there has been a much richer layering to The Beat Poets (personally speaking). Have you played about much this year in development?
Totally, it was our major focus over the last year – hence the big reduction in gigging. We basically got rid of most of our set and re-focused to develop a ‘Beat Poets sound’. Before this our set was a mixture of influences that wasn’t blended into anything specific. It has taken longer than anticipated to do this, but definitely one of the best things we have ever done as a band.

– You’ve been fairly strict with your releases to date, putting the work in to build each one up individually. Is there a ‘five year plan’ as such?
We have ourselves a twelve month plan for the minute, with this business the way it is we look no further and leave ourselves flexible to change as things happen, but we have got our things into a lot of different stuff recently so it is a very exciting time.

– Can you reveal any plans at this stage for an album, or is it still a little too early in the calendar to be talking about that?
We are working regularly at it, and are in the studio a lot. It has been a learning curve both with developing the sound and the album, as some songs cut it others don’t. We have been highly critically in a positive way of everything we do now and it definitely brings out the best in us.

We will have more announcements at the end of the summer.

– New single ‘One By One’ will be out on May 3rd, how will you be marking the occasion?
Our headline show in the Spring & Airbrake is marking the start of the release and we’ll be launching a new ‘Beat Poets iPhone’ application next month to coincide with the release.

…I know have one but not sure if any other unsigned Northern Irish bands have one so hopefully it’ll be a first.

…gotta embrace technology these days!

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Over at BBC Northern Ireland’s Across The Line the staff have finally compiled their top twenty list of ‘bands what kicked ass’ during 2009, reflecting the votes of around fifteen different musicians, reviewers and writers.

It got me thinking – I don’t normally participate in lists, not because I dislike them, more because I can become fixated on the finer details of which position to put each band/film/song etc…

So, I thought I would gather some courage and stick out my own top five (easy now, give me twenty to work with and we’ll be here till next Christmas) Northern Irish bands of 2009.

1. And So I Watch You From Afar

I hear coughs in the background!…

No, speaking as honestly as one can I feel that after all the build up, after all the touring, after each massive home show…that this particular choice needs little explanation. There is a reason other bands look up to these four chaps, and there is a reason why all of us who are fans are so feverish about their unique brand of ‘fuck you’…

They rock.

…of course, I would say that.

2. A Plastic Rose

Again, a choice which for me explanation is secondary – A Plastic Rose are pure crowd ticklers, and come to the stage each time with energy to burn and ample passion to entertain. Constantly out performing the main acts in their early year support slots, they landed on their feet at the St. Patrick’s Day Hooley, joined ASIWYFA at CQAF, packed out the Spurs Of Rock stage at Glasgowbury; were rewarded for their efforts with top slots at the Reading & Leeds Festivals before returning home to several packed out shows.

…not to mention recording the ‘baste’ song of the year in ‘Kids Don’t Behave Like This‘.

3. LaFaro

Aside from being just generally, the musical equivalent of an aggravated wolf pack, LaFaro have really pushed forwards this year conquering the Ulster Hall not once but twice, as well as continuing to destroy crowds and take names.

Particularly, their reception at the Glasgowbury Music Festival, and headline gig at the Stiff Kitten stick out in my memory as real highlights of the year’s music calendar.

One of the most popular bands in the country, I think that this year has been all about LaFaro‘s growing fan base, a band it wouldn’t be a stretch to crown ‘The People’s Choice’ – if someone hasn’t already done so.

With an album in the works, as well as their still growing popularity it’s not inconceivable that 2010 will be the year LaFaro clear house.

4. Team Fresh

A band constantly overlooked in terms of both their popularity with thoroughbred hallions and upstanding citizens alike, Team Fresh’s destruction of RADAR towards the end of the year caps off a mighty set of gigs for them in 2009 which will live on in infamy.

They’ve finally moved from choice of the curious, to an outright headlining act…standing proudly as the champions of rap fuelled riots here in Northern Ireland. With a solidified line-up hopefully they’ll continue to build on the success they’ve had so far.

5. Panama Kings

I can hear more mumbled disagreements at the back – and to that I say, ‘one man’s poison’.

Panama Kings have come out of 2009 with a bit of a scattered reputation, and a few blotches that hopefully won’t stain them in 2010 – though, that said, impressive festival performances during the Summer months over in England as well as a full UK tour with Ash towards the end of the year cement in place a band that have taken 2009 by the collar.

An admirable home performance headlining the Mandela Hall in October is the real jewel in the Panama’s crown for 2009, where their Four Nations branding kicked off to a solid start.

…and I must give an honourable mention to The Answer – I just didn’t know where to fit them in without tearing out my hair and rearranging the entire list. They went on tour with AC/DC, crashed the walls in at the Ulster Hall and their second album Everyday Demons rock into the charts amongst other epic bowel movements.

There are of course, so many other bands who I could have mentioned and are certainly worth mentioning – but I tried to keep my thoughts at the surface, on the instantly noticeable achievements that have happened throughout the year.

Of course I could disclaimer this whole thing, mentioning something about ‘opinions’ and ‘go fuck yourself if you disagree’ etc…

…but where’s the fun in that?

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And So I Watch You From Afar made a triumphant return to home soil last night with a long session of welcome noise at the Ulster Hall – drawing on almost six months of solid touring around the United Kingdom and Europe.

…in the run up to January I will be posting a full update of photos from the day – and hopefully for those who weren’t there, I’ve managed to catch just a fraction of what it was like yesterday, standing in the throat of one of the most powerful bands to have graced many an ear.

I am certain that this gig will be long remembered as the crowning achievement of local music in 2009, a year in which I am happy to report has seen many Northern Irish acts stride forwards in developing and sustaining their music for years to come.

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It’s Tuesday

The weekend landed, exploded and vanished over the course of the Glasgowbury Music Festival, and by the Sunday morning several thousand people were wondering, “…what just happened?”

Having said that, A Plastic Rose, Tapasia, myself and an assortment of festival casualties relaxed up in the hills at the festival site until nearly five that afternoon in an attempt to hold off our emotional departure. We didn’t want to leave, in case the ride itself seemed less than it was; a mere memory awash with good vibes instead of a tangible experience you can hold onto.

…what went down in the mountains last weekend – despite all the reviews, the photos, recordings and footage that will be on view over the coming weeks – will only really be a part of those who were there.

I’m listening to Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate by festival headliners And So I Watch You From Afar and the context of that song for me has been changed yet again, having already been altered towards the epic, by A Little Solidarity and their very own Mandela Hall album launch.

I feel very privilaged to be allowed to come and support all the local music at the festival, but in particular document and support my good friends A Plastic Rose and Colenso Parade who are two of the most promising bands in this country at present – their enthusiasm really shone through on Saturday and each of them had the audience bouncing with delight (and in A Plastic Rose’s case, jumping, clapping, singing and spinning – in that order…)

…I would be lying if I didn’t say that my bias towards particular bands is not just dependant on their music – I will happily gravitate more towards bands who I think are genuinely nice people, there’s no secret there – anyone enjoys the company of a friendly person.

It’s one of the main reasons why I believe our current situation exists, the intensity of our music community is no co-incidence.

My own favourites from the festival (outside the already mentioned pair) were Skruff, Junior Johnson, And So I Watch You From Afar, LaFaro, Cashier No.9, General Fiasco, Jaded Sun and having never before seen – or heard them – In Case Of Fire tickled me a bit. I’ll be hunting down their album and would recommend giving it a listen.

A massive thank you must be put in the direction of Paddy Glasgow, Stella, Dermot and the rest of the Glasgowbury Music Group who made this weekend up in the mountains possible – last year’s festival was the best weekend of my life, and this weekend has surpassed it ten-fold.

Glasgowbury is a testament to just how strong Northern Irish music is.

Big thanks to the ‘crew’ – Gerry Norman, Dave Reid, Troy Heaton and Ian McHugh, you are going to destroy the Leeds & Reading Festival when you play next month – Darren Doherty, Omar Ben Hassine and Kyle Jaswal; Paul McCarren, JJ Ilsley, Eoin McGinn, Michael McSwiggan and the wonderful Paul Su.

…and of course thanks to Mickey McCullagh, Philip Taggart, Fergal Lindsay and Paul MellonColenso Parade went down a storm, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it if you don’t believe me.

A humble thank you to Graham Smith, for continually putting up with whatever it is exactly that I waffle in his direction, sometimes I just get too excited. Many thanks also to Phil O’KaneRamsey Cardy, Shane Kelly, Ciara McMullan and Kristam Moffett – I hope you all enjoyed the festival as much, if not more than I did.

Of course, I can’t decide to thank people and not mention Rory, Tony, Jonny and Chris – the four horsemen of the musical apocalypse that are baring down on humanity from stages as far flung as Austria, and as close to the skies as Draperstown.

…to quote a wise man – or at the very least a wiser man than myself.

“We’re all freaks, that’s why we’re up here…”

What a great year for local music so far,…what’s next?

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