A ‘VALENTINES IN OVERTIME’ WEEKEND STARTS HERE AND NOW

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), February 13, 2020

 It’s Valentine’s Day, and all around the romantically walkable beaches of our fair Shore, thoughts turn to candy kisses and cardboard Cupids; the sweet swirl of the sauvignon, and the scent of Sunoco station roses; the prix fixe menus, and the pure peer pressure of participating in a “romantic” ritual designed to make the unattached feel like…

Sorry folks, that’s Anti-Valentine’s talk — and that’s the purview of music promoter Megan O’Shea, whose Anti-Valentine’s Day Songwriting Contest hosted its third annual competition this past Wednesday at the Asbury Hotel. But beginning tonight, February 13 — and continuing on through a four-day “Valentine’s Overtime” interlude of concert events and variety vaudevilles — it is all about the Love.

Here on the first V-Day of the Roaring Twenties, what better way to kick off the festivities than with a Valentine’s Day Eve Massacre, set to take place tonight in the basement of downtown Asbury Park’s Bond Street Complex. Going up at 8 pm, the FREE subterranean spelunk showcases the intriguingly moody pop electronica of Blaise, along with Bronco 2, The Skinny Dickies, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and the nextbigthing known as kqhyt kqhyt.

Meanwhile over at the oceanside Langosta Lounge, a special Thursday night Galentine’s Day free-for-all highlights the new-ish New Attitude, a supergroup of singers (Postmodern Jukebox vocalist Brielle Von Hugel, Virginia Cavaliere of Six Appeal, and Shore stage sensation Bre Cade) who team up to channel “badass lady icons” like Chaka, Aretha, Whitney, and Adele with full band in tow.

Valentine’s night itself finds impresario, humanitarian, restaurateur, entrepreneur and eternal entertainer Tim McLoone assembling his band The Shirleys for a specially themed show at Tim’s eponymous Supper Club on the Asbury boards — and February 14 wouldn’t be complete without the contribution of the aptly appellation’d DJ Tyler Valentine, commandeering Asbury Lanes for an “Emo vs. R&B” dancefloor showdown that’s FREE of charge.

Frequenters of the Jenn Hampton-era Lanes know Angie Pontani as the undisputed superstar of the region’s New Burlesque scene, with the Jersey-born mistress of classic striptease/ bump ‘n grind dance emerging as impresaria of her own touring Burlesque-A-Pades performance troupe. More than just a leering cousin to old-time vaudeville (or a slightly less pierced version of hipster sideshow revivalism), the burlesque/boy-lesque dancers, comics and specialty performers of Angie’s company are on display Saturiday night, February 15, on the big stage of House of Independents, when Angie joins The Maine Attraction, Ben Franklin, emcee Murray Hill and other guests for a Burlesque-A-Pades in Loveland encore event.

When we last interviewed Southside Johnny Lyon, it was in his now-traditional role as master of ceremony for Asbury Park’s Independence Day interlude — a role that the Jukes generalissimo balances each year with his “Mr. New Year’s Eve” gig at Red Bank’s Count Basie stage. On Saturday night, Johnny returns once more to his Stone Pony spawning grounds for the “third time’s a charm” in another calendar-guy context: as blues-belting Cupid for a special Valentine’s weekend show. Meanwhile back at Mr. McLoone’s, Asbury’s own songbook sensation Chris Pinnella is joined by a 12 piece orchestra, performing “re-imagined versions of songs by The Beatles, Jeff Buckley, The Who, The Righteous Brothers, Elvis, Billy Joel, Elton John and more.”  

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LIVE, LOCAL & LOYAL, RIGHT HERE IN MUSIC CITY

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), November 14, 2019

 LOYALTY! It’s a concept that only truly functions as a two-way street — mind you don’t get thrown ‘neath one of those passing buses — and one that arguably attains its highest calling in that special relationship between singer/ band and audience. And, as Jeff Warshauer puts it, “in a time where 40,000 tracks get uploaded to Spotify every day and music is being relegated to the background, it is very important that we facilitate a deeper connection between artist and fan, and elevate the local music scene.”

Here along the Monmouth County Shore, that epicenter of the NJ music community (where sounds are a cash crop and principal export), the emergence and influx of new musical acts in recent years (added to an already substantial scene’s worth of veteran acts) fairly cries out for a reliable guide — and with that in mind, Warshauer developed Asbury Park-based Live Music Loyalty as a mobile app that focuses on “helping musicians connect with their fans and grow their audience” — a mission accomplished via comprehensive live music listings, detailed artist profiles, and an option that encourages fans “to check in to events so artists know who come see them play” (there’s also a recommended playlist each week, spotlighting tacts who are locally based, or who’ve paid a recent visit).

Having made its mark, with remarkable momentum, upon the scene’s screens, Live Music Loyalty takes its next quantum leap into the brick and mortar meatworld, with a pair of (concurrent but connected) multi-band “takeover” events this Saturday night, November 16. Beginning at 9:30 pm, the hallway between a pair of sister saloons on the Asbury boardwalk (Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge, and Asbury Park Yacht Club) is the two-way street that allows access to two stages worth of “Scene by the Sea” sounds, with Langosta serving up ace showband Secret Sound, plus the Mike Montrey Band and Matt Cook — while APYC sets sail with The Shoobies, Natalie Farrell, and The Foes of Fern. There’s no cover charge, and proceeds from purchases of products from drink special sponsors Last Wave Brewery and Shipwreck Rum go directly to the youth music education programs of the Asbury Park Music Foundation.

As Warshauer explains it, “Asbury Park is such an unbelievable community, and we need to make sure our artists don’t get drowned out by the noise” — but if ever a scene kicked up a glorious noise of its own, it’s this one; a year-round bash that spans the genres and the generations, and that anymore refuses to abide by the tired old concept of the “off season.”

Embedded within the evolution of the present-day scene is the phenomenon of the musician turned impresario/ promoter/ ringmaster of their own branded events — and the coming nights offer two exciting examples at live music venues in Long Branch. Tonight, November 14, the Freehold-based folks behind the fast-growing surf/ tiki label Hi-Tide Recordings (that’s Magdalena O’Connell and her husband, Black Flamingos drummer Vincent Minervino) return to Whitechapel Projects, as they welcome Rochester, NY’s retro pop trio The Hi-Risers (with some set-up spins by the ever-enigmatic DJ Hi-Tide). Then on Friday, the forever Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore — that’s Greg Macolino’s Brighton Bar in wild West End — gives the floor to pioneer punk/crunch/skronk drummer Reg “Satana” Hogan, as the veteran pacesetter and recently minted promoter showcases a bill toplined by the buzzed-about band Shut Up, and featuring Reg’s own recent project, the trio 19DRT.

Another homegrown performer whose skills in both nightclub/concert and theatrical settings have served him well as a showman — the ever-industrious Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato — takes the Stone Pony stage on Saturday night, as frontman for the latest feather in his career cap; a little combo known as Everyone Orchestra. Under the baton of Matt Butler, it’s “a blissful, masterfully conducted, fully spontaneous explosion of live music created by a rotating cast of world renowned musicians” — in this case including such awesome instrumentalists as pedal-steel paragon Robert Randolph and sought-after session guitarist Vernon (Living Colour) Reid. Check our music listings on page 31 for particulars — and check in around town that night for no-cover sets by local lights Quincy Mumford (Robinson Ale House) and Alex English (Soundbooth Lounge at The Asbury Hotel).

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THE TIDE IS HI, AND THE TIME FOR TIKI SOUNDS IS NIGH

L-R; The 5-6-7-8s bring the Woo-Hoo sings…Eddie Angel spreads his wings (in The Neanderthals, plus his Guitar Project),…and Deke Dickerson puts some torchy twang on the strings, as the re-imagined HI-TIDE SUMMER HOLIDAY brings the coast’s biggest celebration of surf/ tiki/ retro culture back to Asbury Park on August 16-18.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 1, 2019

When the stars aligned, and all the elements were in place — as they were on a memorable afternoon and evening in August of 2017 — few summertime events made better use of their seaside setting than the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival. Parked on the Anchor’s Bend bar’s beachtop bandstand just off the good ship Convention Hall; the Atlantic waves at its back and the panoramic scene alight with passing ships, planes, drones and various heavenly bodies, the East Coast’s largest ever such gathering was a cool communal cocktail with a vibe that was both ambitiously international in scope, and as intimate as the most relaxing lantern-lit patio party.

Even when the elements didn’t completely get their act together — as in 2018, when excessive heat and threatened storms forced an indoor relocation to the ConHall floor — the AP Surf Music Fest still stood tall as the region’s only event of its kind; a celebration of a burgeoning worldwide instrumental music scene (and of the retro-rocketing “tiki” culture that tags along for the ride) that proved the Jersey Shore could compete with the likes of this week’s Tiki Oasis confab in San Diego. And, perhaps most impressive of all, the whole thing was the briny brainchild of two young visionaries named Magdalena O’Connell and Vincent Minervino.

For its sixth annual edition, the Festival returns under a new name — The Hi-Tide Summer Holiday, a nod both to the Hi-Tide Recordings mini-empire founded by the Freehold-based couple, as well as to the thematic expansions and logistical changes in store for the slate of happenings that kicks off with an afternoon Meet-Up at the Bend next Friday, August 16.

Speaking between turntable spins at The Wonder Bar — where he, Magdalena and colleague “DJ Devil Bat” preside over a deck-top Tiki Tuesdays series in August — “DJ Hi-Tide” allows that “we picked up a few learns from last year…one of them is the fact that you plan all year round, but you never control the weather!”

“Another factor is that the boardwalk and the beach have gotten really popular in recent years,” Minervino continues, adding that “it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to block out an area of the beach for a ticketed event.”
With the additional caveat that the old festival format “was just a very long day…for us, the bands, and the audience,” Vinnie Minnie ‘n Mags re-imagined the old family recipe as a weekend-long affair “broken up into smaller events, spread out over a couple of evenings,” and centered largely around the various concert stages, rooftop spaces, lobby-level lounges and poolside patios of the Asbury Hotel and Asbury Lanes complex. Also on tap are late-nite record hops, scholarly seminars, and mixology demos at such “satellite” locales as Anchor’s Bend and downtown’s Little Buddy Hideaway — and while surf in all its reverb-drenched glory remains the active ingredient in the potent cocktail (thanks to the participation of 30-year veterans The Insect Surfers, SoCal’s Jason Lee & the R.I.P.tides, and Impala out of Memphis), the menu also boasts the retro-rootsrock ravings of Missouri’s Deke Dickerson and Canada’s Bloodshot Bill; the lilting luau tones of Philly’s Slowey & the Boats; the rockabilly exotica of California’s Hula Girls, and not one but two great all-female bands from Japan: The 5-6-7-8’s (famed for their appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1) and Lulufin the Woo Hoo.

“By expanding beyond just strictly surf, we’re tapping into a wider fanbase,” explains Magdalena, who devotes herself full-time these days to the management of the couple’s fast-growing record label (in addition to their previously established Big Slick Pomade line of hair products). “It’s gonna be quirky and fun.”

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THE ASBURY PARK THEATER CO. SALLY’S FORTH

TV legend Sally Struthers is the special guest host — and Broadway actress-singer Carter Calvert headlines the eve’s featured musical talent — whn the new Asbury Park Theater Company makes its bow with a Friday fundraiser at The Asbury Hotel.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 1, 2019

As the iconic hard-hatted Construction Worker character of The Village People — a role that he’s performed countless times in the latter-day edition of that disco-era institution — William Whitefield can be said to truly know what it takes to put on a show; both the choreographed spectacle that plays out to the crowd, as well as the brick ‘n mortar, hammers ‘n nails, elbow-grease reality required to present and sustain the whole grand illuson.

These days, the longtime resident of Asbury Park is trying on another hat — that of producing artistic director for the Asbury Park Theater Company, an ambitious new entity that makes its public bow this Friday, August 2, with a special fundraiser show at The Asbury Hotel.

As the veteran actor, singer, producer, director, composer and arts administrator tells it, “people come here for the culture, but an established theater has been a missing piece…we aim to create a professional theater company for this community, for Asbury Park.”

To make that happen, the Construction Worker teamed up with the Cop — Robert Angelini, the retired law enforcement professional turned multi-tasking player on the area’s stage scene. Angelini served as a founding board member (and artistic director in its later seasons) of ReVision Theater, the professional company that once upon a time staged some memorable entertainments at various bars, bingo halls, basilica, and boardwalk landmarks in the earlier years of the century.

“Both Bob and I are actors and directors, and we have an understanding of what it takes to put on a show,” says Whitefiled, whose tenure as executive director of the Algonquin Arts Theatre saw him play an instrumental role in the establishment of that Manasquan mainstay’s popular Broadway Series of self-produced musicals. “We really wanted to do something here in Asbury Park, and we believe that we’ve got a grip on what’s good for the city.”

With a handful of other professional stage concerns operating in nearby locales like Red Bank, Long Branch and Ocean Township — and with another fledgling troupe of pros (Boardwalk Theater) having announced plans to bring an original musical on the life of Rosa Parks to Asbury Park at some point in 2020 — the APTCo principals look to stake out a distinct streetcorner in which, as Whitefield says, “the idea is to do cutting-edge stuff…we’re not looking to do family theater.”

“We want to keep it edgy, keep it rock and roll, along the lines of what ReVision used to do,” says Angelini. “In addition, we’d want to do small cast plays; the sort of current things that other companies don’t touch.”

Having been formally founded mere weeks ago — and having just been accredited as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — APTCo is hardly positioned to announce an inaugural slate of productions. But, ready or not, the company prepares to make its first big splash with Friday night’s event, a benefit concert (presented under the semi-Sondheimy title A Little Musical Night) that’s headlined by some familiar favorites from Algonquin seasons past.

Of course, most immediately familiar is the event’s host, Sally Struthers. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress who gained fame as Gloria on the groundbreaking sitcom All in the Family (and the character’s self-titled spinoff) previously worked with Whitefield and his Manasquan team on hit stagings of Always, Patsy Cline — and the event inside The Asbury’s ballroom space reunites her with her co-star in that two-woman show, Broadway veteran and frequent Algonquin guest artist Carter Calvert.

“When we found out that Sally was going to be in the area, and that we had the opportunity to snag her for the evening, we said that’s it; we’re going to jumpstart this thing,” Whitefield explains. “We’re getting ready to jump into the deep end.”     Continue reading

FIFTH ANNUAL PROMENADE’S A DAY TO MERM-EMBER

Jenn Mehmaid is front and center at last year’s Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids, the family-fin event that returns to dry land this Saturday, June 29. (Photos by Mermaid Studio)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), June 27, 2019

As Jennifer Mehm tells it, she was living far from Atlantis — and thousands of miles from her native Jersey Shore — when she got the notion of bringing her lifelong love of “Mermanity” to finny fruition on the streets of her then-hometown of Sacramento.

“That first year was more like a flash mob than a formal event, because the town wouldn’t give us a permit,” she says of the California city’s Promenade of Mermaids for which she served as founder (or flounder?). “Then all of these people started showing up…and now here they are, in their ninth year, with a big annual happening!”

Upon returning to the Asbury Park area a few years later, the woman known from coast to coast as “Jenn Mehmaid” also returned to her original vision of a fun and family-friendly outdoor event; one that would fold her passion for those “beautiful and exotic” legendary denizens of the deep into a celebration of our seaside setting, in all its colorful diversity and inclusive spirit.

Thus was born the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids, an event that’s become a summertime staple since its first inquisitive incursion onto dry land in 2015 — as well as a worthy companion to the generations of grand Baby Parades, elegant Easter Parades, and world-record Zombie Walks that have made the herringboned hardwoods of the famous boardwalk the place to be for walkers, marchers, runners, strollers and rollers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and stages of decomposition.

When the Promenade assembles for its fifth annual edition this Saturday afternoon, June 29, it will boast its signature mix of marching mer-people (and pirates, and sea creatures, and shorebirds) with eclectic music, exotic dancers, unique handcrafted merch, and literal basket-loads of fabulous prizes, courtesy of some of the greater Asbury area’s favorite purveyors of goods and services. It will maintain the vibe with a series of post-Prom meet ‘n greets, special film screenings, and “happy hangover” pool parties — and it will also take things to the next sea-level, when it sets up its base of operations for the first time across from the Convention Hall complex, on the spacious expanse of Bradley Park. It’s there, under the quizzically stony gaze of Founder Bradley, that attendees will find the event’s Registration Tent, where prospective promenaders can sign up to walk the boards between the hours of 12 and 2 pm (while there’s no charge to participate in the march, a $10 registration fee qualifies entrants to compete for the prize packages in various adult, child, and group costume categories).

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IT’S MUCHO MONGO, WITH NO WAITING, THIS MEMORIAL DAY

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), May 23, 2019. Photos by Bob Schultz, Heather Morgan

As music fans, we kind of like to think of our favorite groups as band-mates in the most genuine sense; a bunch of longtime friends, or literal family members, who share a bond (and a crowded van) that no outsider could ever truly comprehend — even when that high-mileage van is traded in for a luxury tour bus, or custom-painted Gulfstream.

If you grew up watching The Beatles in Help! or The Monkees on their old TV show, you might have gotten the mistaken impression that, when the show is over, the band members come home to their own shared quarters; a zany clubhouse situation where pretty much any wacky thing can happen. But no one who’s at all serious about the music business actually lives like that — do they?

Meet Waiting For Mongo, a combo that you’ve likely encountered if you spent any time around the bars, bistros, boardwalks, big-room auditoriums and beachtop stages of our Shore. As purveyors of precision-drillteam funk and jamband jazzoid excursions, the seven-piece lineup boasts not only some lifetime friendships, but two sets of siblings. Citing Asbury Park as a home base — and staking out pockets of fandom from Louisiana to Vermont, via that trusty van (well okay, two vans; “one for the people and one for the gear”), the band has put their own stamp on the scene within a relatively brief bunch of years, although as T,J. McCarthy observes, “it feels like we started this a long time ago…we have a lot of emotion invested in this band…and for the past 2 or 3 years, we’ve all lived in the same house in Farmingdale.”

Speaking on behalf of the his fellow musicians — while being quick to point out that “there’s no main leader here…everybody has their own significant role to play in the band” — the bassist and vocalist explains that “if anything, the house has made us closer…we’re more aware of the personal chemistry, and how it affects the music…we always play our best when we get along great.”

“Then there are times when we were angry with each other, when the dishes weren’t done…typical roommate stuff…and the music came out sour,” he continues. “You don’t want that sort of thing to ruin the music and the fun…but at the end of the day, we are all about each other’s best interest.”

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IT’S A 3-DAY, V-day WEEKEND IN ASBURY TOWN

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, February 14 2019

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day — the candy kisses and the cardboard Cupids; the sweet swirl of the sauvignon and the scent of Sunoco station roses; the prix fixe menu and the pure peer pressure of participating in a “romantic” ritual designed to make the unattached feel like they’re little more than…

Whoa, wait a minute now…that’s Anti-Valentine’s talk, and that’s an avenue that was explored to fine effect just this past Wednesday, when the Asbury Hotel hosted its Anti- V-day songwriting competition. But beginning tonight, February 14 — and continuing on through an extended interlude of concert events and variety vaudevilles — the venues in and around Asbury Park have you Casanovas covered in style, with a choice of entertainments (ranging from hyper-current to classic retro) that are all about the Live and the Love.

Among the most highly visible of the weekend’s events are not just one but two major manifestations of the modern art of Burlesque — a Burlesque-a-pades in Loveland revue that commandeers the stage at House of Independents this Friday, and a NJ Burlesque Valentine’s Show that returns to the Asbury on Saturday. Scroll it down for more details on these exemplars of the art form’s “newly re-energized, multi-gender encompassing, even empowering next wave.”

Following up on that theme of everything old being new again, the Valentine’s interval is a time in which the classic sounds of Great American Songbook pop, vintage soul serenades, and timeless jazz jams come once more to the fore — and it’s no coincidence that all of those genres have been well represented at the Brown Performing Arts Center, the intimate storefront space operated by elegant crooner Bill Brown at 312 Main Street in downtown Asbury.

A little too intimate, it can be said, to meet the demands of V-day’s romantic rush — so with that in mind, Brown has re-teamed with the more spacious Mister C’s Bistro on the Allenhurst waterfront, programming a three-night dinner/show residency that finds the singer holding court there on February 14 and 15. Then on Saturday the 16th, Bill’s buddy Bobby Valli (pictured) — brother to Jersey Boy-for-all-seasons Frankie, and a seasoned performer in his own right — closes out the stand, with available seating for any of the three shows ($69 per person) reserved by calling 732-531-3665.

Upside Tim McLoone’s Supper Club on the Asbury boards, one of the greatest non-rock albums of the classic-rock era is celebrated in style on Friday night, when Asbury’s own Chris Pinnella (himself profiled in these pages back in December) channels the legendary Chairman of the Board in a special salute to Sinatra at the Sands, the Rat Pack artifact that found Ol’ Blue Eyes singing, swinging and swaggering at peak powers, backed by fellow Jerseyan Count Basie’s band (including a next-generation arranger by name of Quincy Jones). The 8 pm event — for which Chris has shared that he won’tbe recreating Sinatra’s sign-of-their-times comic monologues — has sold out as we post this, but fans will be able to reconnect with Pinnella as he honors a regional music master of a different era, Billy Joel, at the Asbury Hotel on March 23.

Valentine’s Day proper finds the Supper Club stage playing host to an altogether different act: From Blue to Greene, the acoustic duo that pairs singer-songsmith-guitarist Austin Vuolo with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kaela Fanelli. The 6 pm dinner/show event ($49.95) represents the first of two opportunities to catch the twosome this weekend, as they take it downstairs to Robinson Ale House on Saturday night. Continue reading

MERMAIDS JUST WANNA HAVE FIN, AT 4th ANNUAL PROMENADE

Scenes from the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids include (clockwise from top left): 2017 crowned King Brett Colby of Asbury Park with royal entourage; special “mer-guests” Merman Christian and The Harlem Mermaid; event founder Jenn Mehmaid (at far right) leading the procession; catching rays on a boardwalk bench; the Gypsy Funk Squad in action (photos by Mermaid Studio).

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, June 28 2018

When you’re a kid, mermaids are something beautiful and exotic,” says Jennifer Mehm, the Shore area native whose self-professed inability to outgrow a lifelong fascination with those fabled finny folk of the sea has seen her find her calling as the founder, the face, and the fervent ringmistress of the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids, the open-air event that returns to the city’s boardwalk on Saturday afternoon, June 30.

Speaking during a break from her perfectly normal (and not terribly exotic) surface-world career as anexecutive assistant, the Asbury area resident known as “Jenn Mehmaid” explains that “the appeal probably has more to do with not fitting in…a sense of living life between two worlds, a celebration of freedom.”

Scheduled to set sail shortly after 2 p.m., the colorful procession of costumed mermaids and mermen (and pirates, and seahorses, and shellfish, and jellies) takes to dry land for its fourth annual edition, as a celebration both of our city’s seaside heritage and its welcoming spirit of diversity and community. Repositioned this year to the end of June from its previous perch in August, the event is a relatively recent addition to the yearly slate of outdoor concerts, carnivals, parades, foodfests, and fundraisers on and near the Asbury waterfront — although, as Jenn correctly points out, it’s a happening that’s perfectly in sync with the spirit of summers past.

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