AT MONMOUTH U, A FAB FOUR-DAY FORAY INTO A BRIGHT WHITE ALBUM

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, November 8 2018

It’s “the anti-Sgt. Pepper” if you will; an audacious, ambitious, eclectic piece of work that “if you surrender to it…batters you around like a shuttlecock” — and that “looms large as a big, brash, bold statement.”

The words are those of Kenneth Womack, Ph.D — Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University; award-winning author and critic; in-demand lecturer, and internationally recognized authority on the history, the lasting legacy, and the cultural influence of a little band called The Beatles. And the not-a-Pepper in question?  That would be the album also called The Beatles — a two-disc touchstone that marks the 50th anniversary of its release here in November 2018, and that remains known — due to obvious optics, and lack of any other formal christening — as The White Album.

Even if you’re not accustomed to big, brash, bold statements that arrive in deceptively plain, blank, “no frills” packaging, there’s no denying that the 1968 double-LP remains the great white elephant in the room for a couple of generations of music fans and cultural observers — an inviting canvas that would come to be embraced by both people-pleasing politicians and murderous Mansonites, and a cheerfully challenging opus that dispensed with the candy-colored psychedelia of 1967; re-establishing the Fab Four as a cohesive band, even as it laid the groundwork for the group’s quickly onrushing End of Days.

Beginning TODAY, November 8, and continuing in an extended weekend of events through Sunday, November 11, Monmouth University hosts The Beatles’ The White Album: An International Symposium — the latest in a successful series of academic conferences sponsored by the Bruce Springsteen Archive and Center for American Music at Monmouth; the resource whose director, Eileen Chapman, is both a longtime figure on the Asbury Park music scene and a current member of the city council.

Although The Beatles never played Asbury Park (they did perform a Philadelphia concert that was produced by Convention Hall event promoter Moe Septee), the music-mad city makes its presence felt here on Thursday’s opening day, with a Rock and Roll Walking Tour of local landmarks conducted by authors and Boss authorities Jean Mikle and Stan Goldstein. It’s an encore presentation of a featured attraction from several of the Springsteen-themed conferences hosted previously at Monmouth (including last spring’s salute to Darkness on the Edge of Town), with tickets ($35; see Monmouth.edu/the-white-album) still available, and the two-hour tour commencing at 1 pm from The Wonder Bar (Ocean and Fifth Avenues).

From there, the action moves to the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth U, where the school’s auditoriums and public spaces host an impressive array of Beatles experts and collaborators, as well as an assembly of Shore-based musicians who are raring to share their own musical perspectives on the album of the hour.

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IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF NOVEMBER 8-14

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, November 8 2018

SOUNDS: The Duprees at Tim McLoone’s 

Their catalog boasts “My Own True Love,”  “Have You Heard,” and what might just be their finest few minutes on record — that travelogue pledge of undying love, “You Belong to Me.”  Some 60-some years on, The Duprees don’t just belong to the ages (or to that know-it-all “oldies” collector in the track suit who wouldn’t cut you a break on that scratched-up single by the Jive Five) — but to the here and now, as the doo wop quartet has never stopped delivering their sublime little slices of streetcorner soul to a multi-generational public that’s hungry for harmony. On Saturday, November 2, the veteran vocalizers take it topside to McLoone’s Supper Club for some smooth slow-dance Saturday night sets of favorites from the Fifties, the early Sixties, and both-ways beyond. Available tickets for the 8 pm show start at $40, with seating reserved at timmcloonessupperclub.com.

STAGES: ANNIE at Axelrod PAC

Andrea McArdle, the original Little Orphan Annie of the Tony winning 1977 Broadway original, returns to the hit musical (this time as mean Miss Hannigan) in a new production at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Ocean Township. Performances at 8 p.m. on November 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17; at 2 p.m.  on November 10, 11, and 17; at 3 p.m. on November 18, and at 7 p.m. on November 11. Reserve tickets ($46-$56 adults, with discounts for seniors and students) at axelrodartscenter.com. Check upperwetside.wordpress.com for our archived Coaster interview with McArdle on the new production.

STAGES: HAPPENSTANCE at Jersey Shore Arts 

The prolific collective La Strada Ensemble Theater returns again to the third floor cafe space at  Ocean Grove’s Jersey Shore Arts Center, with a program of four short original “plays about rolling the dice” (by Tom Cavanaugh, A.J. Ciccotelli, and Emmy winner William Mastrosimone) plus a cast that boasts Lite FM radio personality Christine Nagy (pictured at left). Performances are November 9 (8 pm) and November 10 (2 and 8 pm); reserve tickets ($25; senior and student discounts) at lastradaensemble.org or 732-455-2748.

STAGES: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at Monmouth U

A clever pastiche of 1920s Jazz Age tunefests (and the fans who love them), the Tony winning 2009 meta-musical (with songs by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison) comes to the Lauren K. Woods Theatre in a production from the Department of Music and Theatre Arts at Monmouth U. Professor Sheri Anderson directs a student cast, with performances at 8 p.m. on November 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 and 17, plus 3 p.m. matinees on November 11 and 18. Reserve tickets ($20; free for MU students) at http://www.monmouth.edu/arts.

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IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF NOVEMBER 1-7

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, November 1 2018

SOUNDS: Anderson East at the Stone Pony 

Okay, so his name’s not Anderson East (it’s Michael Anderson; not to be confused with the guy who plays The Man from Another Place in Twin Peaks). And — despite his Nashville base of operations, and his tendency to be romantically linked with contempo-country recording artists — the Alabama native is more akin to a pop/rock/R&B singer who also happens to get nominated for Americana music awards. Whatever categorical pigeonhole he’s deftly dancing around at the moment, there’s no denying that Anderson East has worked his way up to the bigs from the perceived hinterlands of the DIY scene (thanks in no small part to some great exposure on the hit soundtrack to Fifty Shades Darker) — and when he makes his Asbury Park debut this Friday, November 2 behind his latest album Encore, it’ll be Brookdale Public Radio 90.5 The Night (and not Thunder 106) that welcomes him to the Stone Pony stage. Grizzled veteran “Nashville underdog” Travis Meadows makes for an interesting choice of opener for the show that opens the door at 7 pm, with tickets ($20 advance; $25 d.o.s.) still gettable from the box office window or stoneponyonline.com.

SOUNDS: Waterfront Duo at Patrick’s Pub

There’s the Asbury Park music history that gets celebrated in sprawling New York Times stories — and there’s Leon Trent, a man who’s been writing his own personal SOAP saga since long before The Boss ever graced the cover of a dentist-office newsweekly. A west-side wonder and a member of The Broadways — the 1960s Asbury/Neptune vocal group who released two singles on the nationwide MGM label — Trent truly achieved his musical destiny when he formed the eight-piece Waterfront in the 1970s. Known as much for his “fashionable and flashy” sartorial style as for his mastery of the “kick ass funky horn band” sound, the seemingly ageless entertainer continues to cover the waterfront well into the new millennium, transforming a corner of your favorite local watering hole into an arena for some classic R&B stylings (and literally hundreds of decades-spanning pop hits). On Friday night, the format is Duo — and the arena is Patrick’s Pub in Neptune City, the neighborhood tavern located at the Stop & Shop plaza just off Route 35. There’s no cover charge to take in the music — and no stopping the man who “turns a song into a show, and quickly becomes the audience’s onstage friend.”

SOUNDS: Billy Hector Electric Explosion at Langosta

“All I ever wanted was to play guitar for a living,” Billy Hector told us in an interview that appeared in The Coaster this past August. “…and I win!”  The Shore blues-rock legend whose career spans some six decades continues to make his presence felt up and down the Shore; both acoustically in settings like the recent Asbury Undergound Art & Music Crawl (as well as a regular gig at Belmar’s Ragin’ Cajun), and in plugged-in contexts that constitute no less than an Electric Explosion. Such is the case on November 3, when Hector, joined by his rhythm section of Sim Cain and Wilbo Wright (and who knows what manner of guests who come in from the cold) get behind the hitching rail of the Langosta Lounge stage for some Saturday night sets that promise to draw from the guitarist’s ever-deepening database of record releases (including the very recent long-player Some Day Baby) and his mapmaker’s mastery of the Chicago blues/ classic rock crossroads. Sounds start at 9:30 pm, with no charge for admission (but plenty of ee-lectrical charge in the air).

SOUNDS: Gypsy Funk Squad at the Yacht Club 

The finny faithful who attend the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids each year know them as the World Fusion/ Belly Dance Troupe that keynotes and heralds the colorful annual procession atop the boards (and beneath the warm summer sun). But the strolling street performers of NJ’s own Gypsy Funk Squad have also been known to stay put in one place when need be — and on November 3, the eclectically acoustic traveling carnival makes a rare indoor (and autumny-weather) appearance on the boardwalk, when Jack, Ohannes, and their crew of musical mer-persons dry-dock at the AP Yacht Club for some Saturday night sets that kick off at 9:30 pm. It’s a special Black Light Party that’s guaranteed to put a glow in that off-season/ set-the-clocks-back gloom — and there’s no cover charge, as always.

SCENES: Asbury Park Vegan Social  

It’s a Fat Cat Fiesta, hosted by one of our favorite creative culinary best-kept-secrets — Crust & Crumble — inside one our favorite downtown hangs, Shoppes at the Arcade (the ever-eclectic mini-mall located between Cookman and Lake Avenues at Bond Street). Going on Sunday afternoon from 12 to 4 pm, the happening offers up an all-vegan Fat Cat Sandwich Bar catered by Chef Luke and his C&C crew, plus a craft beer/ wine tasting, and live music courtesy of Brendan & Chris (pictured) from the sought-after event/party band Enjoy! All this plus a custom t-shirt, for a $45 ticket — with proceeds dedicated to the nonprofit Three Little Kittens Animal Rescue. There’s a Cat Costume Contest and “cat games” as well, so call 732-776-7767 to get social for a kittenly cause.

SOUNDS: Tuesday Night Record Club at Monmouth U

Returning to historic Wilson Auditorium at Monmouth University on November 6 is the Tuesday Night Record Club, the series that offers music fans a chance to share their perspectives and passions on some of the greatest albums of all time, in a listening-party setting (presented in partnership with The Grammy Museum) featuring moderators, guest panelists and fellow fanatics. This time out, the topic is the ultimate white elephant in the room — the 1968 double album THE BEATLES (aka The White Album), itself the subject of an ambitious International Symposium of words, music and activities that runs from November 8-11 on the Monmouth campus (and about which much more to come in this space). Put the headphones down and get sociable; admission to the 7:30 pm keynote event is FREE (register through eventbrite.com), and it’s followed on the schedule by December 4 exploration of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

None of which is to suggest that we’ve forgotten the sold-out events starring LIFETIME (Saturday night at House of Independents) and ELVIS COSTELLO (Election Night Tuesday at the Paramount Theatre) — they just didn’t seem to need our help! But don’t YOU forget to set those clocks back for a bonus hour in the wee-hours ‘twixt Saturday night and Saturday morning…don’t forget to change the batteries in those smoke alarms…and don’t forget to check the November 1 print edition of THE COASTER, for the deep-dish listings of music, movies, comedy, theater, art, and Sex Toy Bingo (when applicable)!

A HAPPENIN’ HALLO-WEEK, IN AND AROUND ASCARY PARK

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 25 2018

Let other towns lay claim to being the area’s capital of Christmas cheer; home to the longest running St. Patrick’s Day celebration; scene of the most star-spangled July Fourth display. With dozens of venues in which to dance the witching hour away — and plenty of world renowned boardwalk and boulevards on which to strut one’s carefully costumed stuff — Asbury Park has a lock on the days and nights leading up to the Eve of All Hallows, making the seaside city that so famously “came back from the dead” the undisputed headquarters of Halloween festivity.

It’s an interlude that sounds an early-October keynote with the Asbury Park Zombie Walk, the annual lurch previewed in these pages a few weeks back. And in between there are events like this past Saturday’s Haunted Carousel Dance Party, the gala-ghoul benefit for local charities from which images can be seen at ahauntedcarousel.com. But from the moment the sun goes down tonight, October 25 — and on through the moment the clock strikes midnight on November 1, the Day of the Dead — both the legendary haunted landmarks and the shiny new haunts of the greater Asbury area are where the sights, the sounds, and the seriously fun cosplay can be found.

CONCERTS

On the Asbury boards, the major concert event in the season of the witch is Convention Hell — and in this year’s edition of the Hall-rocking happening, the venerable venue welcomes the jam-circuit juggernaut Pink Talking Fish, a band that — as the name implies — triangulates a tribute to the collected works of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish. On Saturday night, the four-piece group and friends will be saluting Floyd’s epic album Dark Side of the Moon in sound and light — and joining in the spirit of dress-up fun are three local favorites portraying acts who appeared at Convention Hall in summers past: Wild Adriatic (as Led Zeppelin), Waiting For Mongo (as James Brown and his Famous Flames), and The Burns (as Jim Morrison and The Doors). Doors open at 7 pm, with tickets ($20 advance; $25 d.o.s.)  at the box office or via apboardwalk.com.

While the Convention Hell show is open only to concertgoers age 21 and up, fans of all ages can take it over to the headquarters of the Asbury Park Music Foundation (in the Lakehouse complex on Lake Avenue) on Saturday night, where from 7 to 11 pm the annual Diamond Concerts Halloween Show presents a bill headlined by the up-and-coming Brick Township-based band The Ones You Forgot. Continue reading

STREET LEVEL UNDERGROUND, DURING 12th ART & MUSIC CRAWL

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 11 2018

With the townies, the tourists, and the Twitterverse still buzzing about Sea.Hear.Now — the manageably major music/ art/ surf event that attracted gorgeous weather, well-behaved crowds, and high-profile jam-mates to a very late-season Asbury Park waterfront a couple of weekends back — one could be forgiven for feeling “all festival’d out” for the time being. But if you’re among those still searching for the heart of the scene — here at a time when boardwalk concessions start to close (and parking spots start opening up) — believe what those guys in that band said, when they proclaimed that “it’s just gone underground.”

This Saturday afternoon, October 13, marks the 12th edition of the twice-yearly Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl, and if you’re only just learning about it now, that’s because this celebration of the energy and spirit of the city’s creative community is often encountered in the most delightfully unexpected of places — places like the retail shops, eateries, salons, bakeries, gyms, repurposed lots, and even office spaces of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue corridor and business blocks beyond.

Founded by Patrick Schiavino — artist, gallery owner, curator, promoter, entrepreneur, vanguard Asbury Park developer, and unabashed lifelong fan of sight and sound and spoken word — the event seems a fair alternative, and a far cry, from the grand scale, sprawling ambitions and headline-making headliners of the big festivals. It’s strictly-storefront downtown instead of high-profile waterfront; hyper-local instead of bi-coastally national; as compact in both space and time as it is expansive in its vision of community and culture. And, rather than inviting celeb surfers to ride the Atlantic waves, the Crawl offers sidewalk-surfers a smorgasbord that encompasses more venues — and many more purveyors of music, poetry, prose, visual art and standup comedy — than in years previous.

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CHEER THE WALKING DEAD: ZOMBIES WALK AGAIN, IN 10th ANNIVERSARY FREAK-OUT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 4 2018 (photos courtesy Michael J. Booth)

Like those famous swallows returning in springtime to the belltowers of Capistrano, the seaside landmarks of Asbury Park play host to a similar spectacle in the fall — similar, that is, if you substitute undead hordes of zombies; lumbering and lurching by the thousands onto the herringboned hardwoods of the famous boardwalk, and summoned to this place at the edge of a chilly autumnal sea, by an all-consuming hunger for “BRAINS!”

Returning rain-or-shine to the city’s beachfront and boulevards this Saturday, October 6, the Asbury Park Zombie Walk occupies a special space on the social calendar. Born as a grass-roots “underground” phenomenon — one that’s since been approved by the city government and embraced by the Chamber of Commerce — the event represents a somewhat melancholy marker between the end of the extended Local Summer season, and the Hallo/Holiday interlude beyond. Artier/edgier (and stage-bloodier) than your typical small-town Halloween Parade — yet still entirely family-friendly — the Walk remains at heart “a really fun, cheap way to kick off the Halloween season,” in the words of Jason Meehan.

A photographer by profession when he and his then-wife Christina made their home in Asbury Park back in 2008, Meehan was a monster maven and horror fan who professed to being “insanely jealous” when he learned of a massively successful Zombie Walk that took place in Atlanta — an event that drew thousands of fans from all over the map, to a living and (yes) breathing homage to those hungry-for-brains creatures who’ve been affectionately dubbed the “working stiffs” of the monster kingdom. Energized by the realization that literally anybody could become a perfectly passable zombie, the Meehans announced their first-ever Zombie Walk in 2008, armed with little more than a stack of flyers and the “viral marketing” tool that is MySpace.

The decision to use Asbury Park as the host venue was a no-brainer, so to speak — the city that had been given up for real dead not so many years prior had “the architecture and the ambience,” as well as a surplus of (soon to be demolished) structures that spoke to the once-bustling resort’s bleakest times at the tail end of the previous century. While the event organizers didn’t count on much more than a handful of family and friends, that first Walk exceeded expectations with some 400 to 500 participants — and when the follow-up 2009 event drew an estimated 1,500 members of the walking dead, the man who would be Zombie King had the not-at-all crazy notion to go for the Guinness. Continue reading

SEA.HEAR.NOW MUSIC/ART/SURF FEST PUSHES THE SUMMER ENVELOPE

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, September 27 2018

If you somehow thought that the season of the top-down, open-air entertainment event ended when the calendar flipped to Fall…if you assumed that the era of sprawling music festivals was a thing of the past here in a bustling, busy, ever-evolving Asbury Park…and if you’re adamant that parents and teens would NEVER share a minivan ride to the same destination concert attraction, then “See here now, buddy” — a certain Music, Art and Surf Festival is primed to prove you wrong on all counts.

Going up this Saturday and Sunday on three outdoor stages (two by the sea; one beneath the watchful gaze of the Founder’s statue in Bradley Park), as well as the northern stretch of Asbury Park’s boardwalk and the September swells of the Atlantic Ocean, the inaugural Sea.Hear.Now Festival aims to summon a level of excitement that evokes the WNEW beach concerts of decades past, or the Warped Tours and the Bamboozles of more recent memory — in a way that’s a lot more in sync with the community, a lick less crazy/crowded, and in the words of co-producer Danny Clinch, “a little more family.”

“Family” in this case is an acknowledgment of the generation that grew up on those legendary festivals, and a nod to the fact that many of these young old-timers are still dedicated concertgoers, even as the next generation stakes out some sonic turf of its own. With an eclectic bill headlined by pro surfer turned soft rocker Jack Johnson, and emo-ey California alt-rockers Incubus, it’s a rain-or-shine affair that spotlights a sampling of some of the Asbury area’s standout performers (including Neptune City-to-Nashville native Nicole Atkins), alongside veterans like Blondie (still a great live act, thanks to the core of Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and super drummer Clem Burke) and Social Distortion — and, as Clinch touts it, such hyper-currently hot bands as Highly Suspect and The Menzingers.

For Clinch — the photographer, artist and blues harpist whose images of Bruce Springsteen, Tupac and other music legends have shown a deeply rooted affinity for the American creative spirit — the ambitious event represents an increased commitment to Asbury Park that exploded in recent seasons with the opening of his Transparent Gallery; the exhibit space (and merch/music shop, and intimate venue for small-room concerts, book signings, lectures, or what-have-you) that beckons from the Kingsley Street side of the Asbury Hotel.

It’s also a major expansion of the Sea.Hear.Now brand for Danny and his local producing partner Tim Donnelly, whose previous presentations in Asbury Park included a smaller-scale surf-centric event in 2011, as well as a 2012 followup that took place a week before an even bigger event named Sandy (the pair also produced a post-Sandy “On the Beach” benefit at the Paramount, headlined by My Morning Jacket). For this weekend’s festivities, Clinch and Donnelly joined forces with C3 Presents, the Texas-based nationwide promoter whose major endeavors have included the Austin City Limits Festival and Lollapalooza.

“We’ve made a lot of friends in the industry, and we got to the point where we thought that we could produce something really special for Asbury Park,” says Clinch. “The city really embraced it, too…we’re coming in with a specifically curated rock and roll event that’s a good manageable size, and we’ve worked very well together with Mayor Moor and his crew.”

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ASBURY PARK PORCHFEST STOOPS TO CONQUER

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, September 20 2018

Never underestimate the prominence of the PORCH in the evolution of American music. Long before an enraptured young Elvis learned the secrets of the old bluesmen on the wooden steps of Tupelo, MS, the front and back porches of this great land were the laboratory, the rehearsal studio, and the fantasy concert hall where generations of blue-note benders, country pickers and rocking-chair crooners worked out their magic to an audience that often consisted of a sleepy old hound-dog and a couple of chickens.

Even today, there’s something unique about a porch-bound jam; a thing that works at an altogether different pace than a suburban garage rave-up, or a friendly-competition freestyle on a city streetcorner. It’s a two-way form of communication too; one that draws inspiration from the passing parade, even as it draws in an audience of stop-look-and-listeners from all over. With that in mind — and with the additional knowledge that Asbury Park is home to a whole lot of pretty impressive porches — a group of musically minded neighbors have assembled a recent addition to the town’s action-packed cultural calendar; a little thing called PORCHFEST.

Call it an “anti-festival” if you will; a city-spanning music event that swaps the big outdoor stages and scale of happenings like Bamboozle or All Tomorrow’s Parties — plus Sea.Hear.Now, the inaugural edition of which goes up next weekend here in Asbury Park — for a stay-at-home vibe, and a street-level view of some purely homegrown talent.

That said, the second annual Asbury Park Porchfest stoops to conquer…by connecting the myriad music makers of our own big (front) yard with a passing parade of casual, committed, even delightfully accidental listeners. Going on this Saturday, September 22 from 1 to 5 pm (with an official kickoff set for 12 pm at Booskerdoo, inside the Shops at Sunset on 1321-A Memorial Drive), the event spotlights more than 70 bands and solo performers in a walkable itinerary that showcases 18 of the city’s grandest and most inviting porches — a matchup of venue and vaudeville that, in the words of festival founder Jordan Modell, “fits in perfectly with the spirit of Asbury Park.”

A co-chair of the Asbury Park Homeowners Association, the nonprofit entity that organizes and produces the relatively laid-back late-summer event, Modell was previously involved with the Porchfest project hosted in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain; a successful offering that presented its fifth annual edition this past July.

Like that Beantown brouhaha (and any of the dozens of sister Porchfests that have sprouted up from coast to coast), the local event owes its inspiration to an idea that took root in the collegey community of Ithaca, NY back in 2007. Asbury Park — with its bumper crop of musical talent, its reputation as a magnet for arts-minded endeavors and the artists who create them, and its side streets packed with beautiful old Shore “cottages” — was simply made to order for a happening that Modell calls “a truly amazing mix of music, culture, and history.”

“We’ve got almost double the number of bands this year than we did in 2017,” adds Modell. “We’ve also added porches — and we’ve made a real effort to include a lot more locations on the west side, a part of town that a lot of visitors to Asbury Park have never really been familiar with.”

As the festival founder explains, the organizing committee “got an overwhelming response” from musicians and homeowners who wanted to be part of the 2018 event — and while the roster of participating properties has grown beyond the membership of the Homeowners Association (including two local lodgings — the Hotel Tides and the Asbury Park Inn — among the list of private homes), “we’d love to be able to get up to 20 or 21 different locations on board in the future…that way, everyone who wants to play would be able to play.”

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