RUSH Rocks HP Pavilion in San Jose – Clockwork Angels Tour

For the 14th time in my life,  it was with absolute pleasure that I got to see Rush in concert. Looking back to my first Rush concert, Grace Under Pressure in 1984, this band never ceases to amaze me. And amaze me they did on Thursday November 15th. It is very difficult for me to actually pin point a certain tour that I would call my favorite. But with many highlights, Rush keeps coming back with something a little bit better each tour. While attending the Time Machine Tour with my daughter, whose concert was her first, was very special for me being it a Rush concert, I would have to say Clockwork Angels tour is probably one of the best Rush shows I have ever seen.

Many surprises, pleasant surprises, on this tour. The entire first set of the show, Rush did not play one new song. They stuck to the classics as a bit of a warm up leading to the second half. Opening with one of my all time favorite songs, Subdivisions Rush played many classics following such as Big Money, Force Ten, Body Electric and Analog Kid. Also in the first set was Grand Designs, Territories, Bravado, Where’s My Thing? and Far Cry.  Now I mentioned many surprises. One such surprise was drummer Neil Peart’s drum solo coming early  in the first set during the song Where’s My Thing?. It was a short drum solo but pleased the crowd none the less. When Peart started his solo I turned to my brother and looked at him and said, “Wow, this is kinda early”. But it was a preview of what was more to come. Peart also did a drum solo in the second set during Headlong Flight and Manhattan Project. It was something different from Peart doing 3 mini drum solos instead of one long one as he is usually accustomed to doing.

Yet another surprise. After the intermission and right before the start of Caravan, a small 8 string orchestra set up behind Peart’s drum set.  This is the same stringed orchestra that performed on the Clockwork Angels studio album. Let by conductor David Campbell who has done work going as far back as the 1970’s working with Carole King, Art Garfunkel and Jackson Browne to working with rockers Evanescence, Def Leppard and Aerosmith to name just a few. Kicking off the second set with Caravan, it was something else to see more musicians on stage with this trio.  The strings stayed on stage and played 13 songs in a row with Rush. What an experience watching this unfold live.  Off the Clockwork Angels album, the second set consisted of Caravan, Clockwork Angels, The Anarchist, Carnies, The Wreckers, Headlong Flight Wish Them Well, Seven Cities of Gold and The Garden. Here are a few videos of the tour with the strings orchestra playing Caravan and The Garden.

After The Garden, came Manhattan Project where Peart played his 3rd and final drum solo.  After the solo came another one of my favorites, Red Sector A followed by YYZ and The Spirit of Radio. The encore were the classics Tom Sawyer and 2112/Temples of Syrinx. This was such a powerful show and if you missed Rush on their Clockwork Angels Tour and they come back around to your area,  I highly recommend to check out the show.

Kevin J. Anderson releases "Clockwork Angels" hardcover book with Neil Peart

 

 

A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme.

In a recent interview, Anderson talks about his experience working with the prog rock legend and what we can expect in his new book.

 

Your relationship with Rush and Neil Peart goes back a few years. Can you tell us how your friendship started?

Neil and I have known each other for more than 20 years. My very first novel Resurrection Inc. (1988) was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure — which I acknowledged in the book. I sent copies off to Mercury Records, expecting they would vanish into a black hole somewhere, but about a year later I received a letter from Neil telling me how much he liked the novel, and we struck up a correspondence, met in person, and have done plenty of things together over the years, but Clockwork Angels is our most ambitious project yet.

You’ve mentioned that Rush has been a major influence on your work. How so?

Ever since I was a kid in a small town in Wisconsin, listening to Rush (which I chose from the Columbia Record Club because their covers looked cool, even though I had never heard them), I found that the stories in the songs inspired scenes and ideas in my mind. Their concept album 2112 is a science fiction dystopia; “Xanadu” is a big fantasy epic based on the Coleridge poem; “Cygnus X-1” and “Hemispheres” together are a science fiction epic. But the Rush songs didn’t just tell me stories; the lyrics and music made me think of my own stories, and I liked to think of them as the soundtracks to what I was writing.

Fans of Rush will be thrilled to discover a number of clever references and homages to the band sprinkled throughout the story. What is it about Rush fans that sets them apart?

Rush fans are very devoted; they are not casual listeners who pick up a song or two. They immediately buy the whole album and listen to every track. When Clockwork Angels was released, it immediately became the #1 bestselling album in North America…and the band has been together 38+ years. The library of songs (20 studio albums now) is so rich, covering so many thematic landscapes and so many moods, it was a large treasure chest for me to draw from. The Rush lyrical references sprinkled throughout the novel are natural extensions of the prose, not shoehorned in with a big grin and a wink. If you catch them, you catch them, but if you don’t get the references, it should not affect your enjoyment in any way.

Neil and I plotted this story from its inception; he approached me with his own ideas for scenes and characters, and he knew the lyrics he was writing, so we built the world, the storyline, the villains and heroes around the songs; but it also had to work as a novel, too. Clockwork Angels should be an enjoyable steampunk fantasy regardless of whether or not you’re a Rush fan.

After Neil and I had mapped out the blueprint of the novel, I wrote drafts of the chapters and sent the roughs to Neil every day, and he read and commented, usually within hours. Some scenes he suggested; others he wrote himself. (Neil has published several of his own books and is an accomplished author in his own right.) We went back and forth, sometimes with a dozen emails a day. He was so pleased with the finished manuscript that he offered to read the unabridged audiobook himself-so if you listen to the audio, it’s his voice carrying the words.

Collaborations are now something you’re quite experienced with. What are the most pronounced benefits of working with another creative force? How do you resolve creative differences?

Some writers prefer the solitary experience, being the sole arbiter and inspiration behind a story. I like the “let’s pretend” aspect of collaborating, bouncing ideas back and forth, building one idea upon another, drawing the best from my partner’s imagination as well as mine. My most frequent collaborations have been with Brian Herbert (on the Dune novels and the Hellhole trilogy), my wife Rebecca Moesta (the Young Jedi Knights series, Crystal Doors, and Star Challengers), and Doug Beason (numerous high-tech thrillers). Collaborators have to choose each other well, someone to work with, someone whose intellect and experiences will complement your own. After talking through a project, exchanging ideas, being open to other ideas, we really don’t have any creative blowups…we always try to steer through to a finished book we’re both proud of.

My other collaborators were experienced novelists, but Neil brought a different perspective to the table, approaching it as a lyricist and musician. His insights and images made the story blossom in ways I would never have been able to do myself.

Clockwork Angels takes place in a hyper-regimented dystopia. How did the steam punk elements help you convey the “clockwork” nature of this world in a way that conventional science fiction could not?

Even though the Watchmaker makes certain that every tiny detail of society is rigid, on schedule, and well planned — sort of a Big Brother figure — the land of Albion isn’t a particularly unpleasant place. It’s bucolic, clean, colorful…you don’t really see steampunk and dystopia together. Neil in particular thinks it isn’t a repressive or bad place to live…but the regimented rules could feel like a straightjacket to a dreamer. On the other hand, we try to convey that the opposite end of the spectrum, the “freedom extremist” Anarchist, is just as unpleasant.

The steamliners, the alchemy, the lost cities, the pirates, “magical” Clockwork Angels, the Watchmaker all give this story a sense of wonder and high adventure that you don’t see in grim dystopias.

Alchemy plays an important part of your world-building. What was it like being able to infuse this element into your story?

Neil was fascinated with the history and beliefs of alchemy and spent a lot of time researching the various aspects so we could include it into the world-building. “In a world lit only by fire…” Clean and abundant energy as well as readily available gold — that would radically change the economic and social landscape, allowing the Watchmaker to create his perfect world and meet the needs of all his citizens. We added the Alchemy College, the backstory of the Anarchist, and the extensive mines in the mountains of Atlantis.

How do the struggles and desires of your protagonist, Owen Hardy, compare to your own? Is Owen more like you or Neil?

Many Rush songs are about dreamers struggling to find an outlet for expression against tough obstacles or repressive societies (“2112,” “Red Barchetta,” “Middletown Dreams,” “The Enemy Within,” “The Analog Kid,” “The Body Electric”), an independent explorer going to see what’s beyond the horizon (“Cygnus X-1/Hemispheres,” “The Fountain of Lamneth”)…that’s by no means a complete list.

For myself, I grew up in a very small farming town, dreaming about becoming a writer and seeing the world someday. I can definitely relate to Owen in a very deep and personal way. There’s a lot of my upbringing in his character, and a lot of my grandfather in the frame story (with Owen as an older man). One of the key lines in the album is “In a world where I feel so small, I can’t stop thinking big” — and I think that sums it up perfectly.

What are the modern day analogues to the Watchmaker and the Anarchist?

The Watchmaker and the Anarchist are opposites, and both are relevant. Some people insist on absolute Libertarianism, with utter freedom and no safety net, which might work in a theoretical sense but can only function if everybody accepts responsibility. Others don’t want to think for themselves and want all decisions made for them, to let the safety net wrap them up like a mummy so they forget how to be individuals. I want to emphasize that the Watchmaker is not portrayed as evil — he’s just more extreme and stifling than a dreamer can be comfortable with. But not everybody’s a dreamer.

We have one small scene in the carnival with a fabulous contraption called the Cage of Imaginary Creatures, with colored-glass portholes for viewing. Customers peer inside to see what their imagination inspires; one frumpy woman demands her money back in a huff because “there’s nothing inside!” And for her, alas, it is the truth.

What’s next for you? And do you have any further plans to work with Neil and Rush?

Released simultaneously with Clockwork Angels is the first in my new “Dan Shamble, Zombie PI” series, Death Warmed Over, a humorous horror series about a zombie detective solving cases with monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. I’ve already written the first three of those books, and they were enormously fun and entertaining; next week is the reissue of my steampunk alternate history The Martian War, in which a young HG Wells and his college professor head to Mars to prevent the War of the Worlds. Brian Herbert and I have our next original novel, Hellhole Awakening, out in February, and I’m just starting a new trilogy set in my Saga of Seven Suns universe. So, plenty busy.

Rush are just embarking on a full US concert tour for Clockwork Angels, which will then lead into a European tour, and then (my guess, at least) another US tour leg. Neil and I loved working on this project and I expect we will do something together in the future, but no definite plans yet. (It took us 20 years to figure out this one!)

You can find out more about Kevin J. Anderson at his website.

 

Ken's Halloween Retro Pick – "Trick or Treat" (the movie-1986)

Ok, normally when I do a “Retro Pick” it is usually of a band from a long time ago. This time around to celebrate the spirit of Halloween, I decided to do something a little different. So my Retro Pick on this Halloween is the 1986 metal movie, “Trick or Treat”.  Metal was booming, to say the least, in the 80’s and it didn’t stop at just music, it ended up in theaters as well.

Trick or Treat is a 1986 horror film by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, and Lisa Orgolini, with special appearances by Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne. For those of you who may not remember, or may not have even been born yet in the 80’s, lead actor Marc Price is the actor who played Skippy on the TV series “Family Ties” with Michael J. Fox.  Skippy was a nerd on the show and it was cool seeing him transformed into a metal head in this movie.

THE PLOT…High school outcast Eddie Weinbauer is writing a letter to his hero, metal musician Sammi Curr. He puts the letter in an envelope and starts doing his chores. He watches the news at the same time when he hears the worst words to ever reach his mind: Sammi Curr has died in a mysterious hotel fire. He is completely devastated. He goes to his friend “Nuke” (Gene Simmons), a DJ who knew Sammi Curr personally. To take Eddie’s mind off the death of his idol, Nuke gives Eddie the only copy of Curr’s last and only unreleased album on an acetate disc.

Once back home, Eddie falls asleep while listening to the record and has a strange dream about the fire that killed Sammi Curr. When he wakes up he finds that the record is skipping and after listening to it for a few seconds he comes to realize that there is something not right about the words the record is stuck on. Having previous experience with hidden lyrics, Eddie plays the record backwards but receives more than he imagined: Sammi Curr speaking to him from beyond the grave.
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Devil's Spotlight: Sequester releases "Ancestry" EP

Back in April 2012 I spotlighted Canadian “band” Sequester. The band consists of one member, Ryan Boc. Boc is the vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer.

In early October 2012 I received an email from Boc who saw my post I did on Sequester. I thought this was so cool, I mean you just never know who is looking at That Devil Music let alone it be someone you are writing about. I thanked Boc for taking the time to write to me about the posting.

In the mean time he gave me access to Sequester’s new album, Ancestry. Boc delivered again with4 new songs, A Feral Apparition,  Niseag, Bonnie Dundee and Skye Boat Song. All four songs are very different in their own way which is something I really liked.  While I enjoyed all four songs, A Feral Apparition and Bonnie Dundee really stood out for me.  A Feral Apparition was total metal with Boc not missing a step. Bonnie Dundee is traditional Scottish folk music with a nice metal touch.  Skye Boat Song is more of a ballad compared to the other songs with great piano and acoustic guitar playing.  The variety of music between all of these songs made me wanting more.  While it must be totally time consuming to just record one song being the sole musician after listening to the Ancestry EP, these 4 songs made me wanting more.

 Solo SEQUESTER musician, Ryan Boc

On Sequester’s website, Boc talks about the new songs on Ancestry (from September 22, 2012)

“So with the album coming out soon, I thought I’d do a brief summary about the songs and the album as a whole. As mentioned before, this is a Scottish themed album titled Ancestry, which is referring to the ‘Niven’ side of my family. With that in mind, I would like to dedicate this work to my granddad, Albert Niven, who cannot be thanked enough for all his support over the years.
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Ken’s Retro Pick – HURRICANE (1988)

Hurricane 1980s heavy metal rock band originally featuring current Foreigner lead vocalist Kelly Hansen (vocals/rhythm guitar), Robert Sarzo (guitar), Tony Cavazo (bass), and Jay Schellen (drums). Cavazo and Sarzo are the younger brothers of Quiet Riot’s Carlos Cavazo and Rudy Sarzo.

Hurricane released four albums: Take What You Want (1985), Over the Edge (1988), Slave to the Thrill (1990), and Liquifury (2001). Over the Edge was their most successful album featuring their only top 40 hit (at 33), “I’m on to You” in 1988 (written byJeff Jones).

Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow introduced Robert Sarzo and Tony Cavazo in the early 1980s. After deciding to form a band, Sarzo and Cavazo recruited singer Kelly Hansen, drummer Jay Schellen and guitarist Michael Guy. With little label interest, the band decided to release a mini-album themselves, Take What You Want. The album and constant touring led to them getting a major label deal.

In 1986 & 1987 they opened for Christian metal band Stryper on their To Hell with the Devil album tour. They were soon signed to Enigma Records, the same label as Stryper.

In 1988, the band released their major label debut album, Over the Edge. Propelled by a powerful, yet melodic hard rock sound, the album dipped into the top 100 (at 92) on the album chartsand featured a cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen,” as well as the band’s most successful hit, the Jeff Jones-penned “I’m On to You.” The title track, “Over the Edge” was also released as a single.

In 1989, Sarzo left the group and was replaced by ex-Lion guitarist, Doug Aldrich. This lineup recorded the album Slave to the Thrill, which was released in 1990. While Allmusic hailed the record as the band’s most “focused” album, its success paled in comparison to its predecessor. Noteworthy, however, is the fact that the album’s relative lack of success could also be attributed to changing musical climates (indeed, the topic of which Hurricane album, Over the Edge or Slave to the Thrill is better remains heavily debated amongst Hurricane fans). Shortly after the release of this album, Aldrich moved on to House of Lords and the rest of the group quickly disintegrated with the onslaught of grunge.

Here is their popular “I’m on to You”…..

Ken's Retro Pick – WILD DOGS (1983)

In the summer of 1981, Jeff Mark, Mick Zane, Pete Holmes and Matt McCourt teamed up to perform in Portland as the Ravers, promoting McCourt’s release of  “I was a Teenage RocknRoller” on Matchbox Records.

Guitarist Mark, drummer Holmes, vocalist McCourt and bassist Danny Kurth were asked to record a few songs for a recording class at Recording Associates. The first session produced “Fugitive of the Law”, which also featured local guitarist Kip Doran. The second session produced “We Got the Power”, “Runnin Away”, and “Tonight We Rock”. The third session proved to be the turning point. Drummer Pete Holmes was lured away by the band Black ‘n Blue and was replaced by Jaime St. James, Black n Blue frontman. The next session yielded “The Tonight Show”, “Life is a Game”, “I need a Love to Call My Own”, “Two Wrongs” and the song that brought them to the attention of local FM radio station KGON, “Born to Rock”.

McCourt saw a one time news segment on the new Music Television (MTV) about Shrapnel label president Mike Varney, who was searching for unsung guitar heroes. Jeff Mark was known as one of the most notable guitarists in Portland. McCourt took notice and sent Varney a demo of their recording sessions with Recording Associates. Varney offered an appearance on his compilation series. The band originally named themselves DMZ, but changed it to Wild Dogs after being inspired by two old hound dogs that the band passed daily, on the stairwell at their practice studio.

After the release of US Metal Vol 2, the response and demand for Wild Dogs increased, evidenced by local and international fan mail, and interview requests by fanzines. McCourt suggested to Shrapnel that they take the band with the best response and produce an album. Varney suggested Wild Dogs since there was most of an album recorded. However, Jaime St. James left the band to join Black n Blue in Hollywood, so the band was left with the task of finding a drummer. McCourt placed ads in the local newspaper, managed to get airplay on a local radio station and persisted at getting the demo played at local clubs during band breaks. McCourt recruited local whiz kid, 16 year old drummer Deen Castronovo to join the band. The first album was released and the band had it’s first gig on August 20, 1982 in San Francisco at The Stone, with Culprit and Varney’s band Cinema, leading to another MTV news segment. The following week the band played in Seattle, sharing the bill with TKO, Rail, Atom Bomb and Myth (Queensryche). They later toured with Slayer, Metal Church, Anthrax, Dio, Raven and Girlschool. Wild Dogs became known for its live show. With McCourt’s use of spiked baseball bats, blow up dolls and other props, and Castronovo’s twirling and stick juggling showmanship, the band earned its wild, bad boy reputation.

Wild Dogs has experienced numerous line-up changes. McCourt is the only original and constant member of the band. Several attempts to reunite most of the original band members have failed, most recently in July 2010. McCourt has kept the band active for 29 years, playing local and regional shows and international festivals with various band members. He continues to reproduce CDs and do interviews for fanzines and radio stations.

Here’s my favorite song, “Life Is Just A Game”. Give it a listen I think you will enjoy it.

Ken’s Retro Pick: EZO (1987)

 

As we all know during the 80’s there were a plethora of metal and rock bands from all different countries. EZO was formed in 1987 with former Loudness singer Masaki Yamada and former Loundness drummer Hirotsugu Homma.  Their self-titled debut album was released in 1987 on Geffen Records and co-produced by Gene Simmons of KISS fame. Songwriters from the Kiss’ entourage contributed heavily to the songs of the album.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from EZO, “Destroyer”…..Enjoy

Ken's Retro Pick: ALCATRAZZ (1983)

Those who know me, know I am a HUGE Graham Bonnet fan. Dating back to his days in Rainbow and The Michael Schenker Group I have been a follower of Bonnet. In 1983 he put together Alcatrazz. This all-star line-up consisted of Bonnet on vocals, guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen who had recently left American band Steeler, Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo from New England and Clive Burr of Iron Maiden fame. Burr was reportedly only in the band for a week, and left upon discovering that the band was going to be based in the United States, as opposed to his native England. Burr was soon replaced by former Iron Butterfly drummer Jan Uvena, who had just left Alice Cooper’s backing band. Shea dubbed the group “Alcatrazz”. For the first album, the bulk of the material was written by Bonnet and Malmsteen, with Waldo contributing writing to several of the tracks.

The band’s debut album “No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll” surfaced in late 1983 on Rocshire Records. MTV gave decent support to the lead single “Island In The Sun” which showed a heavy Rainbow influence. Despite the commercial nature of the song, it barely received any radio play. The album still spent 18 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at No. 128. A second video was released in 1984 for “Hiroshima Mon Amour” which became very popular in Japan. Creative differences between Malmsteen and Bonnet surfaced while on tour. Due to this and his admitted desire to begin a solo career, Malmsteen quit in 1984 and formed his own band Rising Force who signed with Polydor Records. Rochsire then put out “Live Sentence”, a concert recording from the recent tour of Japan. A live video concert was also produced. Malmsteen tried to prevent the release of the album but failed. A few Rainbow covers were included, including the classic “Since You Been Gone”. The album would reach No. 133 in the US. Waldo replaced Malmsteen with Steve Vai, former Frank Zappa guitarist, despite resistance from Bonnet, and the band signed with Capitol Records. The group worked on new material and then headlined another tour of Japan which introduced Vai to the fans and allowed them to play new material from the upcoming album.

Here are a few songs from Alcatrazz, “Island in the Sun” and “God Blessed Video”

While I've Been Away Here Are Some Bands I Finally Started Listening To.

Man, this second half of the year has been brutal in terms of finding the time and then the motivation to write anything up. Fortunately there hasn’t been much in the way of news for me to get behind much on and the new releases that I’d want to check out have been light. I do have a few albums that have released that I’ll be reviewing here shortly but in the meantime I have not been idle in listening to music. In fact I have decided to check out three artists that have had a long existence and notable fanbases but I have neglected or just flat out ignored until now. I expect to get some blow back from these groups but hey better late then never I guess.

First up as you can tell by the banner is Devin Townsend. This will probably be the biggest wtf out there of why have I not listened to the guy before. Well it’s pretty simple actually, I never liked Strapping Young Lad much and when artists go solo from a ‘main’ project they tend to stay with familiar territory most of the time and I had no interest in checking out his stuff. What got me to change my ways have been the various songs over the past couple of years that have been on the Devin Townsend Project that seemed very atmospheric and proggy and then this video got released.

When my 13 year old even digs on a song and laughs at a video then I need to check out more stuff, ya know? So I get it now why there has been so much fanboyism over the past few years. I do have to say I’m still not a fan of his whole body of work but there have been a few albums that I have dug quite often of late. Devin has so many styles and changes things up so much that you can’t help but anticipate what he has coming up next. Expect a review for the new album Epicloud here soon if I don’t get pulled away again.
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While I’ve Been Away Here Are Some Bands I Finally Started Listening To.

Man, this second half of the year has been brutal in terms of finding the time and then the motivation to write anything up. Fortunately there hasn’t been much in the way of news for me to get behind much on and the new releases that I’d want to check out have been light. I do have a few albums that have released that I’ll be reviewing here shortly but in the meantime I have not been idle in listening to music. In fact I have decided to check out three artists that have had a long existence and notable fanbases but I have neglected or just flat out ignored until now. I expect to get some blow back from these groups but hey better late then never I guess.

First up as you can tell by the banner is Devin Townsend. This will probably be the biggest wtf out there of why have I not listened to the guy before. Well it’s pretty simple actually, I never liked Strapping Young Lad much and when artists go solo from a ‘main’ project they tend to stay with familiar territory most of the time and I had no interest in checking out his stuff. What got me to change my ways have been the various songs over the past couple of years that have been on the Devin Townsend Project that seemed very atmospheric and proggy and then this video got released.

When my 13 year old even digs on a song and laughs at a video then I need to check out more stuff, ya know? So I get it now why there has been so much fanboyism over the past few years. I do have to say I’m still not a fan of his whole body of work but there have been a few albums that I have dug quite often of late. Devin has so many styles and changes things up so much that you can’t help but anticipate what he has coming up next. Expect a review for the new album Epicloud here soon if I don’t get pulled away again.
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