Tuesday, September 18, 2007; 2:00 PM
Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Dan Deacon does.
The transcript follows.
washingtonpost.com: Billy Joe Shaver: A Honky-Tonk Hero Softens His Punch
J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings from New York, where I was hanging with Jenny from the Block and her salsa-singer husband at their tour rehearsal yesterday. Tonight? The Dream Concert to raise money for the MLK Memorial. Stevie and Aretha are supposed to do a duet. Should be great.
In album-sales news, it looks like Kanye is putting the hurt on 50 Cent. Hits is reporting that Kanye's "Graduation" is on track to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 850,000 to 900,000 copies in its first week. Fitty's "Curtis" is likely to hit 625-650K. Kenny Chesney is going to finish third with 420-430K. I guess this means that Fitty is going to retire! Until he pulls a Jay-Z/Too $hort/Michael Jordan/Sugar Ray Leonard and un-retires, anyway.
If the Hits estimates are correct, then Kanye's tally is going to be the best single-week sales figure since 2005. His "Late Registration" album sold 860,000 copies in its first week of release that fall. Interestingly enough, 50 Cent's "Massacre" sold something like 1.1 million in its first week that same year. Perhaps the last album ever to hit the million mark in a week.
Interesting side note from Hits: Kanye, 50 and Chesney are on target to sell a total of more than 2 million, which might best the ENTIRE Top 200 from the previous week, when the 200 albums sold a combined total of 2,087,588 copies. Crazy.
Britney Spears -- fired by her manager. Oops.
Takoma Park, MD: Hope someone checks out Eric Hutchinson's show on 9/23 at Jammin Java. He's a native Takoma Parkan (literally the kid next door) who recently was blogged by Perez Hilton (!?) and shot to number 5 on Itunes downloads (he's dropped a bit since then).
Hey, local boy makes good!!
J. Freedom du Lac: Perez sure has given Hutchinson's career a boost, hasn't he? Can't be long before EH has a label deal, assuming he wants one. Apparently a ton of industry weasels were trying to get into Hutchinson's show in LA just after Perez started blogging about the dude. The show was sold out and a bunch of the weasels couldn't get in.
On his Myspace, Hutchinson notes that his challenge now is to keep getting mentioned on PerezHilton.com.
His top five ideas to make sure that happens?
* Crash my Hyundai Elantra and then take pictures
* Choreograph Britney's comeback video
* Gain tons of weight and then go swimming in St. Tropez
* Go shopping for milk in my pajamas with no makeup on
* "Accidentally" leak full-frontal pics to papparazzi
washingtonpost.com: Eric Hutchinson on MySpace
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I saw Ozomatli for the first time at the Starbucks coffee festival in Virginia on Saturday. Great mix of hip-hop and rock and drums and they were a very different sound. At the end they came out into the crowd and played drums, some horns and even played the theme from Sesame Street. We were all dancing all over the place with them, (maybe a little buzzed on coffee) but I loved them!
J. Freedom du Lac: Glad you got a chance to see them. Ozo is always terrific live, no matter the setting. The drum-line is a staple of their shows.
Anonymous: Hey J Freedom! Did you go to last night's Ben Harper show? What did you think of it? I thought it was fantastic--from Piers' enchanting vocals to Ben's hilarious break moments and level of energy.
J. Freedom du Lac: No.
Bethesda, Md.: Re: "Stronger"
Is Kanye saying he's the Black Pete Doherty? If so, he's got a lot of getting arrested to do.
J. Freedom du Lac: Very funny.
This is, of course, in re Kanye's "you could be my black Kate Moss tonight" lyric. But if he was really saying that he's the black Pete Doherty, wouldn't the lyric be something about black-tar heroin? Just wonderin...
Graduation: Is it just me, or is Kanye now going almost exclusively for the aging-hipster market? Can and Daft Punk samples, a video with Zach Galifinakis and Will Oldham, cover art by the currently hot Japanese painter/sculptor Murakami...
J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe. But if you're going after hipsters, do you really invite Chris Martin to sing on your record? (Short answer: No.) He also used a Steely Dan sample. The hipsters don't like Steely Dan unless they're using their music to illustrate Yacht Rock videos on YouTube. Also: He did that duet with MILF-rock star John Mayer.
White Stripes cancelled: What's the scoop?
J. Freedom du Lac: Meg White has "acute anxiety," or something like that.
Maybe she's anxious about having to try to replicate her drum work on "Icky Thump," since, for maybe the first time ever, she actually sounded like she really knew how to handle a kit.
Arlington, Va.: I know it was completely cheesy and staged, but Kanye's "I never win" to Rainn Wilson the Emmys had me in stitches.
J. Freedom du Lac: That was the only memorable moment of that skit. The rest of it fell flat.
Tila T: Your girl has a bisexual dating show coming out on MTV. Key questions: Have you programmed your TiVO yet? Does this mean she is following 50 Cent's lead and retiring from music? Will MTV matter again?
J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, it's true. I saw a commercial for the show the other night, and I almost spit out my Fresca upon hearing what Tila said about herself. I should have written it down, because it was priceless -- and also because I won't be watching MTV again anytime soon. Why bother?
washingtonpost.com: Tequila Dreams, And MySpace Viewers Fantasize
Billy Joe Shaver: Why are you so quick to put vapid, talentless pop singers and rappers on the front page of Style but you bury a real talent like Billy Joe Shaver on the inside pages? When did the Post become People Magazine? Billy Joe has forgotten more great songs in his lifetime than talentless hacks like Justin Timberlake and Kanye West will ever cut. Give the man his due. He has earned it.
J. Freedom du Lac: Huh. I always thought we were more like Star, or maybe Us.
OK, so to your point: Timberlake and West are actually quite talented and creative. That they're not the same kind of artist as Billy Joe doesn't mean they're any worse or lesser or whatever. Just ... different.
I do agree that Billy Joe is fantastic. Of couse I do. Otherwise, I wouldn't have made that show one of my top picks in the paper's Fall Preview. And I wouldn't have assigned myself to review the concert, either.
But Kanye West released the biggest album of 2007. Justin Timberlake is a superstar. Billy Joe is marvelous, but he can't sell out the Birchmere. I'm not even sure he sold out Jammin' Java. (It was crowded but not suffocatingly so.) I'm not saying that popularity dictates our coverage, because that ain't the case. But it is part of the calculus of story placement.
Personally, I didn't have a problem with the review running inside. I mean, I wouldn't have argued it off the front of the Style section. But I didn't disagree with the decision. We run a LOT of reviews inside the section. Most of them, in fact. Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Ray Price couldn't break onto the cover two weeks ago, and they're all Country Music Hall of Famers! (That one, I thought, should have run on the Style front.) But, you know, page four of the Style section ain't exactly Siberia.
Washington, D.C.: I saw Ben Harper last night at the Warner Theater. Decent show, except for the 9:30 club staff goons running around making sure people were seated the entire time, in spite of the fact that at a rock show, most people want to stand and dance. The audience finally got a break towards the end of his set when Ben gave everyone "permission" to stand up.
Do you have any thoughts on this strange new arrangement with the Warner, Live Nation, and 9:30? It doesn't seem like they have their act together.
Another thought: I can't wait to see the ruckus that will ensue when the Disco Biscuits play that venue and the staff attempts to make fans sit down.
J. Freedom du Lac: Huh. Anybody have any insight into why people were being told to sit?
Kanye: Will he throw a fit because he didn't sell a million?
J. Freedom du Lac: No -- but he'll probably blame MTV for failing to give him enough love to push "Graduation" past the million mark.
I see another album of the year Grammy nomination in his future, by the way. Kanye, Amy Winehouse ... and maybe Feist. I still haven't figured out the rest of the field. It'd be great to see Brad Paisley get a nod, but who really knows what the nominating committee will do.
Jersey Turnpike, Exit 23A: Free--
You heard of the new Bon Jovi tribute band featuring Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain -- i.e., "Zwan Jovi"?
Sorry, it's been a couple of months now, had to bring it back.
J. Freedom du Lac: Very nice!
Amusing sight at the J-Lo/Marc Anthony rehearsal yesterday: The orchestra was ripping through some salsa, and J. Lo's dancers were rehearsing their Fly Girl (and guy) moves on a replica stage on the other side of the arena ... and one of the stagehands was wearing a Bon Jovi shirt. Yessss! Then again, it wasn't all THAT surprising, since the rehearsal was across the river, in Bon Jovi territory.
If my job makes me feel like screaming: What music should I put on on my way home to help me get over it? Do you match music to your mood, or do you counteract with something soothing?
J. Freedom du Lac: You need some Windham Hill in your life. Soothe your soul, my friend, before you're overcome with road rage.
Ben Harper: Saw him last night at the Warner. Good show, in a mellow way. The only strange thing was the chip he has on his shoulder toward journalists. Did he get some bad press or something? I thought he sounded a little childish as he claimed that "the press never gets it right." Uh, OK. On the bright side, as one of his fans, I can congratulate myself for being brave and nonconformist. Or so he says.
J. Freedom du Lac: Interesting. Maybe he'd been trying to get a post answered here, and I keep ignoring him. Or perhaps he was miffed that we didn't blog about his set at V-Fest. Or maybe he's ticked that we killed the bridge column in Sunday Style and moved the Style Invitational to Saturdays. That has to be it, right?
Arlington, Va.: Paul Anka's "Mr. Brightside" or Shirley Bassey's "Get the Party Started?"
Death is not an option.
J. Freedom du Lac: William Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" isn't in play? I'll go with Anka's cover.
Keep getting mentioned on PerezHilton: I love it! But one of those top 5 should really involve getting arrested.
J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe he can start dating a starlet.
Alexandria, Va.: Sitting v. Standing: My wife and I were threatened by a guy sitting behind us at the White Stripes show at the Patriot Center because we had the audacity (!) to stand-up and rock out during, ahem, a rock show. What's up with these people?
NOTE: Same thing happened a couple of years ago when we saw the Stones. Chalked it up to the geriatric/sweater around the shoulder set not going to concerts regularly.
J. Freedom du Lac: I think it's your inalienable right to be able to stand when you please at a concert or sporting event. It should be anyway. The only exceptions: If you're sitting in front of somebody who is physically unable to stand. Or, you're wearing soiled underpants.
Stronger: KanYe's honoring Daft Punk or ripping them off? (Anyway I think it sounds fantastic - and topical: OJ and isotoners!)
J. Freedom du Lac: He's honoring them by ripping them off. He's also paying them a pretty penny. Win-win for them.
Wheeling, W.Va.: Did They (you know, THEM) send you a copy of the Best of the Johnny Cash show DVD?
J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno. As people back at the home office keep reminding me, I'm horribly behind on my mail.
Atlanta, Ga.: Full disclosure, I'm one of the guilty. But can you explain why Justin Timberlake has such appeal, and to such diverse populations? Why can't we just dismiss him as a former mousekateer and boy band pretty?
J. Freedom du Lac: Because he makes interesting music. Obviously, it's not interesting to you. But 10,000 cranky music critics (and a few million plain old fans) can't be wrong, can we/they?
Arlington, Va.: Are you going to see Led Zeppelin in London and if so can I be your plus 1?
J. Freedom du Lac: I don't think it's in our travel budget. East Rutherford I can do no problem. The O2 in London -- tougher sell. Either way, though: No plus-one for you.
Bethesda, Md.: I know Mike Patton has just finished up touring with Peeping Tom, and he released a new Tomahawk CD. What else does he have coming up?
J. Freedom du Lac: Can't say I've been following his career that closely.
I will say, however, in answer to the weekly Radiohead questions that are posted here: Still no clue when they might be putting out a new album. Here's the latest update from the Radiohead publicist: "Your guess is as good as mine. I can't wait to have some news for all of you."
Arlington, Va.: If he starts dating Lohan, he can do both.
J. Freedom du Lac: Truedat. La Winehouse, too.
Kill Devil Hills, N.C.: Ok, I gotta ask you.
What is your take on the Led Zeppelin reunion show. And......will there be another show or tour?
J. Freedom du Lac: Could be really interesting. Could be so-so, like the Page/Plant tour 10-11 years ago. Could be horrible. I can't call it. But I'm glad they're doing it to pay tribute to Ahmet. Nice to see them showing him some serious posthumous love.
Ben Harper and the press: I had an opportunity to interview him a few years ago, and things were fine until I asked him how many children he had (we had been talking about the importance of family). He said that was not my business! Then a couple months later comes the news that Laura Dern is having his baby.
J. Freedom du Lac: Gotta love the moving boundaries.
Jenny from the Block and her salsa-singer husband : Are they as lovey dovey syrupy sweet to each other off camera?
J. Freedom du Lac: I didn't really get to see them in their natural habitat. Though they sure did seem to be enjoying each other's presence after our interview, during their rehearsal. Whether or not they knew I was still there isn't really clear.
About them White Stripes...: During their okay set at the Patriot Center a few weeks back in which it was well-reported that the dynamic duo (actually, solo and a half) had some sound problems, what wasn't reported at all (the wife and I looked for it in blogs/publications everywhere) was the spat between Jack and Meg.
On more than one occasion, Jack seemed to admonish Meg and like a pissed off music teacher asked her to follow the beat by looking at the neck of his guitar and moving it up and down. Meg was noticeably unhinged. It seemed she couldn't keep up after Jack had to abandon songs on more than one occasion because he couldn't hear himself through the amps (or whatever sound problem they were experiencing). Jack would seamlessly move to the next song and Meg appeared lost.
When they came back for their encore, Meg looked deflated and just ready to get it over with. But the kicker was what happened at the very end. Once they were done, Jack and Meg walked up to the edge of the stage. Though, he appeared to be smiling, upon further review he was smirking. He seemed totally dissatisfied with their performance and proceeded to very politely curse-out the crowd.
Unless you were essentially in the front row, it was hard to see it (thus, not many people caught it). But Jack very sarcastically, said something like "Thanks... yeah, thanks a lot, mother-[expletive]." He said it a couple of times. Meg just smiled--uncomfortably.
Maybe they're burned out by adulation. This could account for the slap in the face to fans in Canada, when they literally got a huge group of people to come out for a "surprise," albeit free show, and then proceeded to play one note. Literally. One note. Funny enough, the Canadians (or is Canadiens) chanted "One more note!" to no avail.
J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks for the report. Hadn't heard this version.
I can't imagine it's easy to be the second person in this two-person band.
Emmys: I have always thought that Kayne was a self-absorbed pompous a** until I saw his skit on the Emmy's. I really liked his self deprecating humor. H e just won me over. Just downloaded Stronger.
J. Freedom du Lac: He's still a self-absorbed pompous arse, though. I guarantee you that he'll do something in the next month or so to prove it. But yes, it was nice of him to poke fun at himself. Wonder if he'll appear on "SNL" this season. That could be ... interesting.
Page/Plant: There were two tours: the first (based on the MTV unplugged) with an orchestra was incredible, the second (on the so-so new stuff they did) was ok - like Plant solo with Page as a guest.
J. Freedom du Lac: I saw the first one twice -- in Vegas and in Sacramento. Small sample size, but they were really hit and miss. One very good show, one not so good.
Feist: The opening of "I Feel It All" was played before every movie at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, as the soundtrack to one of the trailers. By the end of the week, people were singing "Bong, bong, bong-bong, bong" to the piano line.
J. Freedom du Lac: And now she's in an iPod commercial. I'm telling you: She's a sleeper pick for a big Grammy haul this year.
sitting at the Warner: I was at the Harper show last night, and didn't mind the sitting. The place really isn't great for standing, actually, considering the fixed rows of seats. Plus, the show was pretty quiet- he mostly played slow and mid-tempo songs, and didn't seem in the mood to really rock the place. The message on the website is that this is a different kind of tour, and asked fans to dress up a little to make the experience special. Given all that, I didn't have a problem with treating the concert more like the symphony and less like the 9:30.
J. Freedom du Lac: One explanation. It was Ben Harper's black-tie affair!
I don't buy it that the venue isn't great for standing because of the fixed rows of seats. The seats at Constitution Hall are fixed, too -- but during the Arcade Fire show, people stood for pretty much the entire thing. That was easily one of the best crowds I've ever seen at a DC show.
Anonymous: Does anyone actually appear on SNL anymore as a career move? Maybe 15 years ago....
J. Freedom du Lac: Sure. I mean, it can't possibly hurt an act like Arcade Fire or the Shins to go on the show, can it? In the case of an established artist, it's a reminder that they're still around and have new product to push.
Washington, D.C.: I was at the Stevie Wonder concert Sunday, and the review in the Post (I realize it wasn't you) was right on. The Sun's review was so lame in comparison. Thanks to the Post for telling it like it is as well as for appreciating the truly amazing. My face still hurts from smiling! nly thing - why aren't back-up singers included in the band count? I counted 11 people, not 8.
J. Freedom du Lac: Stevie gives good show, no? There's always something special about seeing him on stage. He never ceases to impress, if not amaze.
Ashburn, Va.: Do you think that when Bruce sells out in 2.5 minutes, that they'll add another show?
J. Freedom du Lac: Yes. They've already started adding dates in other cities.
Tickets on sale Friday for November's [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center show.
J. Freedom du Lac: Breaking news! Just got an email from the Hollywood Records Publicity folks: Your favorite band (and Weingarten's), the Plain White T's, will be on Leno on Oct. 10.
Fear not: They don't be doing "Hey There Delilah." Instead, they're rolling out a new single.
Set your DVRs.
SNL: But they seem to have the same hosts and the same bands each season. Yawn.
J. Freedom du Lac: Really? Spoon (performing on 10/6) was on last season? I must have missed that.
Re: About them White Stripes...: Wow, that is interesting. I always hate it when I hear a band talk like this, like they're not enjoying it.
Saw the Feelies once, and I was very excited for the show. Right before going in I saw the band standing outside (it was a small club) and I overhead them talking about how they "hate doing these stupid shows." I can understand them getting burned out since they were on tour constantly, but it did bum me out to hear that right before the show.
J. Freedom du Lac: You should have called them on it and asked for your money back right then and there.
Washington, D.C.: Did jenny from the block tell you that she is pregnant?
J. Freedom du Lac: You'll have to read the story. I can't spill my entire notebook in this chat.
Silver Spring, Md.: I saw Bloc Party at DAR Constitution Hall a few months ago, and the 9:30 staff seemed insistent on keeping the crowd seated there, too. By the final songs they'd pretty much given up, though, since it was clear they couldn't keep that many people down. (The band, too, seemed to want the audience to get up and dance.)
J. Freedom du Lac: Interesting. I wonder if that's a 9:30/IMP policy, or something the venues ask them to do.
Fort Myers: At the Frampton show a couple months ago, the enormous couple in front of us stood up and danced. We didn't care (other than the sweat smell, which was pretty strong for an indoor venue), but the old ladies (docents?) were quick to rush over and tell them to sit. Maybe certain venues expect certain decorum?
J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, it's quite possible
Love the idea of docents at a Frampton show. Big fans of the talk box, I'm sure.
Hendersonville by way of D.C.: Last week you told us about Marty Stuart and Co. changing the lyrics to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Stuart getting tag-teamed (rightfully so) by Imus and Cash (on the phone from his estate in Jamaica).
This is a long way to a question, but bare with me...
Not sure if you've read all the notes in the American Recordings Unearthed box set that was put out posthumously, but there's a funny little comment by Rick Rubin where he asks Johnny if he's alright with singing Bob Marley's grammatically incorrect (in the voice of a slave, of course) lines in "Redemption Song" and Johnny said something along the lines of..."Are you crazy?! I would never change Bob's lyrics." Thus, he sang it exactly as Bob did: "Ol' pirates, yes they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ship..."
Of course, there's also the well-known story that Kris Kristofferson tells about Johnny looking at him straight in the eye, while singing "Sunday Morning Coming Down" on Johnny's ABC variety show and singing, "Wishing, Lord, that I was STONED," after the network had asked the man in black NOT to sing "stoned." (Speaking of which, have you given the new 2-DVD set of the Johnny Cash show a spin or nine? Thoughts?)
Finally onto the question...
There is one thing I've always wondered though... why he changed "Hurt" from "I wear this crown of (expletive for poopy)" to "I wear this crown of thorns." Maybe he wanted to ensure radio play? Maybe "crown of S--" was too strong for his Christian sensibility? Any ideas?
J. Freedom du Lac: VERY interesting story. I'll see if I can get that very question answered by Rick Rubin. Might take a while since he's busy saving the music industry and all. But I'm going to give it the old junior college try.
washingtonpost.com: Musicians Say, No Matter What, Nashville Will Be Imus Country
Kanye on SNL: According to Wikipedia (so it must be true)....
September 29, 2007 LeBron James/Kanye West (Season 33, Episode 1; live; season premiere)
Apparently he is subbing for Amy Winehouse.
J. Freedom du Lac: Based LeBron's commercials (and Kanye's stilted appearance on "Entourage"), I'm guessing that #23 will be much better in the skits than Kanye.
Sitting Still: I don't know about the 9:30/IMP rules, but one of my favorite things about the Birchmere is that you get to enjoy hearing the band play instead of trying to deal with BAD dancing and even worse singing. But maybe that's just me. I am a curmudgeon after all.
J. Freedom du Lac: Of course, at a sold-out show in the main room at the Birchmere, it's almost impossible to stand up. No room between the chairs and tables and rails and whatnot. Different story in the bandshell, of course, and they're very smart about who they book where.
Washington, D.C.: Went to the Temptations/Four Tops concert in July at Wolftrap. Of course we were up dancing (we were on the lawn!) but the people behind us weren't so happy and started throwing ice cubes at us and screaming at us to sit down. Luckily the bands eventually told the audience that they should be up and dancing - I'm guessing the old(er) people weren't so happy about that.
J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe they just wanted to shout "Get off my lawn!" in the context of a concert.
Neil Young Tour: Do you know who is in Neil Young's touring band featuring the stop at Constitution Hall in November? Not all the seats are fixed at Constitution Hall. At a Black Crowes show in the mid 90s, we knocked over and removed some chairs because of lame security personnel that want to invoke 1950 concert security measures. This is rock and roll. Ya gotta move.
J. Freedom du Lac: He's apparently going to hit the road with some old friends: Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Rick Rosas (who's played with Neil a bunch) and the great pedal-steel player Ben Keith, who's appeared on a whole lot of Neil albums, including "Harvest" and "Harvest Moon." They're all on the new album.
Silver Spring, Md.: A negative by-product of the Kanye/50 Cent battle, other releases got ignored at retail last week. I really missed Tower last Tuesday. I still buy those round shiny things. Time was limited last week so I went into the Wheaton Best Buy to get the new Go-Team disc. Nearly sprained an ankle tripping over the multiple display cases for Kanye and 50 Cent. The clerk was unable to locate the two copies of the disc he said were sent to the store. His buddy kept leading me to the OK Go section. I ended up buying it on Sub Pop.com. Got it in two days. You're right, I should have just downloaded it - the production sounds like it wasn't meant to be heard on anything but earbuds.
J. Freedom du Lac: You should have just downloaded it.
The fact that other new releases got ignored really doesn't have much to do with the Kanye/50 battle. It has more to do with the big box stores pushing the biggest albums at any given point without paying much attention to pop music's middle and lower classes. And they're also shrinking the amount of retail space that's devoted to music. They're in the business of maximizing sales per square foot, not turning people on to great new music. Sad but true.
New York City: Is it fear of your life, or ignorance that prevents you from skewering the comically insane, obnoxious, criminally glorifying and totally irrelevant Hip-Hop Culture?
Before you try to refute my last point, I spoke with the editors who wrote the story in Forbes and they simply wrote the story because of the money involved - they were totally dismissive of their (the top 10 artists) attitudes, general intelligence limitations, and culture.
J. Freedom du Lac: It's my interest in the music.
But thanks for playing.
Washington, D.C.: With over 30 years worth of material, what one song do you most want to hear the Boss perform live?
J. Freedom du Lac:867-5309.
And with that, I must log off. Central Park beckons. Actually, I have some actual work to do in advance of the Dream Concert.
Thanks for stopping by today. Come back next week so we can discuss the new Rascal Flatts album, k?
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