Help us welcome the awesome Indighost from Tennessee and their heavy stoner psych vibes, along with Richmond’s newest doom rockers, Lair!
Friday, April 20, 8 PM
420 at G5, feat. Battlemaster, Night Idea, Unmaker, Haircut @ Gallery 5 – $8
It’s always weird to live through a holiday you don’t celebrate, and hipster holidays like 420 are no different. That said, just as you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy getting presents on December 25, you don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool marijuana connoisseur to scarf munchies and enjoy some loud music on April 20th. Rest assured, Gallery 5 will not be checking your bloodstream for THC at the door of this 420 celebration, which will bring you some rad local bands for a very economical price point, and offer you a “munchies table” in the bargain. Sounds like a great Friday night to me.
Battlemaster are your headliners on this bill, and these raging metal masters have been dishing out the triumphant, hyperspeed riffage for well over a decade now. Granted, they aren’t the most active band in the scene — it’s been three years since the release of their last LP, Battlehungry and Swordsworn — but then, what could be more fitting for a band headlining a 420 gig? There’s no rush, man, let’s just rage for now and then grab some eats. I gotta admit, y’all, there’s a lot about this 420 mindset that appeals to me.
Night Idea are a bit more active, dishing out their melodic, psychedelic take on math rock on four separate albums in the past seven years; the most recent being last fall’s Riverless. That said, regardless of their scientific approach to song structure, these guys at the end of the day are just some laid back dudes that want to hang. And you’ll be able to do just that as they serenade you with killer tunes that just might leave you scratching your head if you pay close attention. Local heavy-postpunk group Unmaker and raging hardcore punks Haircut round out a bill that’s a perfect celebration of the most stonerific day of the year. So get there on time; after all, the Cool Ranch Doritos aren’t gonna last.
Wednesday, April 18, 7 PM
The Aces, The Barons, Blush Face @ The Camel – $12 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
People talk a lot about the 90s being back these days, but I think we all need to admit that the 80s revival is a formidable aspect of our current musical culture as well. And not the sort of 80s revival we had a decade and a half ago; that was about fashion. This is about music, and where The Aces are concerned, it’s about good music. This four-woman group featuring two sisters might just remind you of fellow sister act Haim, but The Aces are no copycat; their debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, has a grip of excellent melodies and catchy choruses to deliver to all of us, mixing chunky guitars with the same sort of synth swells that lended secret power to classic singles by 80s rockers like Rick Springfield and Corey Hart. I know, younger readers, you have no idea who those people are. Trust me.
Not that you even need to, because hearing the voices of The Aces will be enough to convince you that this band has a sound you need in your life. Their vocal harmonizing gives the already-incredible choruses of songs like “Stuck” and “Bad Love” an atomic-level power that’ll caress your eardrums and shatter your heart. It’s enough to make me long for days of the Saturday morning American Top 40 Countdown. Casey Kasem has passed on, Madonna is, um, not that good anymore, but The Aces are keeping the dream alive. They’re joined on this trip through RVA by Charlottesville’s own 80s-pop killers, The Barons, who mix musclecar references into their own version of guitar-driven, synth-inflected pop. Irrepressible local popsters Blush Face, who always bring a good time, will take the opening slot, and if that’s not a reason to arrive on time, I don’t know what is.
Thursday, April 19, 6 PM
Boston Manor, Free Throw, Homesafe, Hot Mulligan, Save Face @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
As anyone who’s been paying attention to this column for the past few years will surely be aware, I’m a huge fan of emotionally-driven pop-punk. What’s more, I make no apologies for it, and I don’t think anyone else should either. Which is why I’m encouraging all of you who have even a shred of my love for the genre to hold your head high with pride and head out to Strange Matter Thursday night for this visit from Boston Manor. Despite what the name might lead you to think, this quintet hails from Blackpool, England, and if you listen closely to their 2016 full-length debut on Pure Noise Records, Be Nothing, you’ll hear tinges of that cross-the-pond lineage shining through.
In addition to the obvious emotional pop-punk touchstones, there are hints of underrated (at least here in the USA) UK groups like Funeral For A Friend and Idlewild on tracks like “Lead Feet” and “Broken Glass” — and I for one am certainly not complaining. In addition to this excellent UK headliner, this show also brings us a variety of other emo-pop bands from various locations west of the Atlantic and east of the Mississippi. Nashville’s Free Throw are a bit mellow and jangly, while Illinois group Homesafe has a lot of energy and crunch, bordering on melodic hardcore. Michigan’s Hot Mulligan have that way with witty song titles I’ve always loved (“All You Wanted by Michelle Branch,” “Pluto Was Never Really A Planet Either Even”), while New Jersey’s Save Face get all rock n’ rolly, bringing an almost-grunge influence to their melodic punk riffs. All of it’s rad, though. All of it is worth seeing. Don’t hide from it.
Friday, April 20, 8 PM
Bully, Shellshag, The Smirks @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Here’s some great news for anyone with good taste: Bully are hitting town once again. This Tennessee quartet have been lighting it up for close to five years now, with their highly energetic mix of melodic punk and post-grunge power-pop. Their first LP, Feels Like, grabbed a ton of attention for its striking songwriting chops and predilection for overdriven guitars and angst-ridden screams. Last year’s follow-up, Losing (perhaps the continuation of a sentence begun in the first album’s title?), hits even harder, cranking the angst up to 11 and giving frontwoman Alicia Bognanno plenty of opportunities to scream her head off.
Bully’s performance at Strange Matter Friday night will offer yet another opportunity, and it’d be a wise idea for all of us to station ourselves at ground zero of this impending explosion of rock n’ roll fury. If you’ve ever thought that Nirvana would have been an even better band if they were run by a woman, this is the band for you. Plus, they’ll be joined by minimalist garage-punk heroes Shellshag, who’ve been gracing Richmond with their presence regularly for years and have won over a lot of people in the process. If you don’t know, now you know. Local punk rock killers The Smirks open up with what is apparently their album release show. And look, I know I tell you quite often that you need to get to shows on time. But seriously, if you miss The Smirks’ LP release, you win the blue ribbon for blowing it.
Saturday, April 21, 8 PM
HeadlessMantis, Houdan The Mystic, Lucid Traveler, Mad Habit @ Gallery 5 – $5
This all-local Saturday night special is being brought to you by The Jamwich, a magazine covering regional music of what I’m guessing is the “jam” variety; and Progress Festival, a three-day fest taking place out in Dublin, a VA town somewhere outside of Radford. All of this will give you a definite idea of what this festival-preview night at Gallery 5 will have to offer, but you’d be foolish to write it off accordingly. Because honestly, while I’m no fan of “jam bands” as they are popularly conceived, all of the bands on this bill have quite a bit more to offer than warmed-over retreads of Phish or Disco Biscuits. And thank god for that.
HeadlessMantis is at the top of the bill, and this band has at least as much garage rock running through its swamp-monster veins as prog-psych. They’ll inspire a good deal more headbanging than goofy LSD twirl-dancing. Meanwhile, Houdan The Mystic has some pretty excellent math-rock chops, which they integrate into prog-rock melodies that might please the jam heads but are more likely to keep fans of mid-period King Crimson smiling. Lucid Traveler keep things funky with their instrumental tunes, and while they are probably closest of all these groups to being an actual jam band, they’ll keep the groove moving enough that you won’t want to hold it against them. And openers Mad Habit bring enough pop melodies to keep their psych sound engaging and fun. For a supposed show full of jam bands, this one is gonna be pretty darn unmissable.
Sunday, April 22, 9 PM
Desert Altar, Indighost, Lair @ Bandito’s – Free!
There was a time a few years ago when it seemed you couldn’t get through a week of live music here in Richmond without seeing at least two or three doom metal bands. Even if you were going to indie shows, it was pretty much everywhere. However, lately, it seems like the doom trend is starting to die. This may be bad news to any hipsters who were trying to get famous by wearing denim jackets and copping Fu Manchu riffs from 2001, but it’s good news for those who just want to enjoy good music without all the extra baggage. You’ll have a great opportunity to do so with some bands that might have missed the doom metal trend, but are still really excellent, this Sunday night at Bandito’s.
Indighost is the touring crew on this bill, and this Johnson City, TN crew seems to draw quite a bit of influence from their Appalachian background, as they mix spooky backwoods gloom with their doom-laden psychedelic melodies. Their 2017 album, Sphinx Rider, is the soundtrack for the best Hills Have Eyes-style rural-nowhere horror movie never actually made. At least we have the music, right? Local up-and-comers Desert Altar bring some witchy psych-doom sounds of their own to the bill, as brand new RVA heads Lair crush our heads with some mournfully beautiful sludge. Grab some nachos and settle in for some excellent bleakness.
Monday, April 23, 8 PM
Charmer, Ostraca, Au Revoir, Shy Low @ Strange Matter – $7
OK, before we go any farther can I just give a shoutout to this flyer? Is this really how those “flat-earthers” see the world? Holy hell, my brain is broken. But that’s OK, all will be well once again when this quartet of killer bands takes the stage at Strange Matter Monday night. Of course I’ve never made it a secret that I totally love Ostraca; one of the best bands to come out of Richmond anytime this decade, if you ask me. They only further proved it with the three killer releases they brought into the world last year, highlighted by their second LP, Last. If the idea of passionate, emotionally-driven metallic hardcore that draws equally from black metal, experimental noise, and raging thrash doesn’t appeal to you, then I think you need to come see Ostraca this Monday night and get your head right.
The great thing about this bill is that it not only features one of the best bands making music in this town right now but will also bring us three other groups with their own take on excellent heavyosity. New Jersey’s Au Revoir, the out-of-towners on this bill, bring some epic heavy instrumental jams along the lines of Pelican, or Earthless. Shy Low have been plying their own instrumental post-rock trade locally for a fair bit of time now, but 2017’s Burning Day EP showed us all that the group still have quite a few tricks up their sleeve. And of course, there’s Charmer, whose seemingly sweet name belies this group’s non-stop power-violence attack. On last year’s split EP with Amara, they dished out five songs in around four minutes, and they’ll be cranking ’em out at a similar rate of speed at Strange Matter. Don’t blink.
Tuesday, April 24, 7 PM
Hovvdy, Kenneka Cook, Addy @ Gallery 5 – $8 (order tickets HERE)
I’m still not sure I entirely approve of the whole “two v’s in place of a w” thing that’s been going around for a few years now. That said, I’ve heard a bunch of bands who went with this particular move, and I’ve liked them all. So for now, I’m willing to go with it in the case of Hovvdy. This duo was started by Austin drummers Will Taylor and Charlie Martin to explore their own interest in quiet, hypnotic sounds. Contrary to all the old jokes about drummers not having any musical ability, these two have created a gorgeous world of sound on their brand new album, Cranberry — which ironically features a significant amount of programmed beats. Give the drummer some!
Hovvdy will be joined on this show by Kenneka Cook, who should need no introduction for those who’ve been reading this column and this magazine lately. That said, I’ll offer a brief one: Cook is an amazing soul-funk-pop vocalist who creates incredible music in a variety of formats — sometimes on her own, with programmed loops backing up her vocals; sometimes with bands consisting of the best musicians Richmond has to offer. Which version of Cook’s live performance you’ll get at this show isn’t something I can tell you in advance, but I can tell you that either one is sure to blow you away and leave you begging for more. Addy will open things up with some bedroom-pop solo sounds that will transfer to the stage in unique and interesting ways. This whole bill is worth catching — don’t sleep on it.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows (that take place after the week this column covers–this week’s column has obviously already been written): [email protected] [and yeah, in case you’re wondering, more awesomeness from my cracked and bleeding fingertips is available at GayRVA — come say hey.]
And on April 23 at 7 PM, make sure to join VA music promoters Lucas Fritz (The Broadberry/The Camel), Mark Osborne (Strange Matter/Slimehole), and Jessica Gordon (RVA Shows/Trigger System), for a FACEBOOK LIVE interactive chat. The promoters will discuss the Richmond music scene, talk about their experiences booking bands, and ask you, the fan, what bands you want to see come to town. They’ll be asking some trivia questions to win tickets to upcoming shows and you can leave any questions you want them to answer in the comments section. Make sure to get in on the conversation this Monday!
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Saturday, March 3, 6 PM
Grace Vonderkuhn, Gold Connections, Fat Spirit, Doll Baby @ Hardywood – Free!
It’s a new year, and a lot of musicians are getting a jump on it with brand new releases intended to take 2018 by storm. It’s kinda been an ongoing theme of the column over the past month or so, as a variety of Richmond artists, heavyweights and newcomers alike, have been throwing record-release celebrations intended to let the city know that they’re here and have something strong to offer. The same thing can’t entirely be said of Grace Vonderkuhn, as she’s technically not even a Richmond artist (she hails from Wilmington, Delaware). However, her brand new album, Reveries, was released last week by Richmond’s own Egghunt Records. And while her show at Hardywood this Saturday might not be billed as a record release show, it’s the first chance Richmond will have to enjoy a full-volume live performance showing off everything Reveries has to offer.
There’s quite a bit to be found, too. Vonderkuhn’s live combo is a lean, mean power trio built around her gorgeous vocals and powerful, distorted guitar work. She’s got some killer songwriting and an incredible voice, something that could also be said about Egghunt’s last big discovery, Lucy Dacus. However, Vonderkuhn’s tunes hit harder, bringing a rock n’ roll swagger and a grunge-punk crunch that’ll surely appeal to everyone who still misses the post-Nirvana alt-rock wonderland of the early 90s. Reveries is capable of fitting right into a playlist featuring The Breeders and Liz Phair, but has the tough-girl swagger of The Runaways and The Shangri-Las down as well. What’s not to like?
This stacked show at Hardywood won’t just offer an opportunity to explore the excellent new sounds from Grace Vonderkuhn, though — it’s stacked with talent originating closer to home, starting with Gold Connections. This Charlottesville band has gotten some high-profile props due to frontman Will Marsh’s early work with Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, but one listen to their debut EP from last year will let you know that Gold Connections have more than ample songwriting skills necessary to stand on their own. Their sound is a bit smoother and mellower than Grace Vonderkuhn’s, but overall it’s an excellent pairing. As is the pairing of Fat Spirit and Doll Baby, the two killer Richmond openers who shouldn’t really even need an introduction if you’ve been reading this column for a while. Just go. The show is even free — what more could you possibly want?
Wednesday, February 28, 8 PM
Zaigoat, Lair, NFA, British Sterling @ Strange Matter – $5
I love Strange Matter for a lot of reasons, but their Locals Only series is a big part of it. When I’m putting together this column, the middle of the week sometimes looks kinda lackluster, but if Strange Matter is doing a Locals Only show somewhere in there, I know I’ve got at least one pick locked down. This week is no exception, as the latest LO show (#56 in the ongoing series — keep it up, y’all!) brings us a collection of brand new heavies that anyone who loves metal and punk, definitely including me, can get stoked about. Zaigoat are at the top of the bill, and this brand new band might be considered doom under some lenses but seems more accurately characterized as horror-sludge. I sure am down with that.
Then there’s Lair, who absolutely can accurately be described as doom. This band’s debut EP features two songs and a 22-minute running time, so you know they’re serious as a heart attack. Slow-motion headbangs will be the order of the day when this band hits the stage. Which puts them at the opposite end of the spectrum from NFA, which stands for Not Fucking Around, and they certainly are not! This is the latest loud fast n’ outta control old-school hardcore punk barrage from the dudes who previously brought you Omega Boys and Flickerflame — and if you remember those two powerhouses, you know you’re in for a treat with this one. This gig is rounded out with a set from British Sterling, the latest from a bunch of super old-school Richmond heads who were veterans back when my 40 year old ass started going to shows around here — I’ll go ahead and mention Mulch and Ugly Law, and most of you won’t even know what I’m talking about. Get educated; show up on time to this all-RVA banger.
Thursday, March 1, 8 PM
Conan, The Ditch and The Delta, Gritter, Eldritch @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s Thursday night, and things are getting even heavier over at Strange Matter. Conan is flying in from England, and although Arnold Schwarzenegger is not at all involved, this powerful three-piece will waste no time evoking apocalyptic tales from the Hyborian Age with their brutal, steamrolling metal power. Recently following up their killer 2016 full-length Revengeance with a collection of awesomely grimy demos entitled Man Is Myth, these Brits are fully set to obliterate Strange Matter with a wall of low-end sludge heavyosity. As doom bands go, these guys are actually rather concise, and keep things moving at a relatively non-glacial pace, even as their riffs seem to extend for days. Fans of High On Fire are gonna have a field day with this one.
Meanwhile, fellow touring doomers The Ditch And The Delta come to us from Salt Lake City, which seems like one of the weirdest environments to grow up as a metalhead that I can imagine. From the home base of Mormonism, The Ditch And The Delta bring us a sound that is cleaner and darker than that of Conan, more like early Mastodon or mid-period Neurosis. These two excellent doom crews should pair well together, and they’ll receive capable support from local vets Gritter, whose new LP, Nobody Cares, sees them further refining their take on downbeat NOLA-style sludge metal. The evening kicks off with a set from local newcomers Eldritch, who get points with me for taking a name from HP Lovecraft’s vocabulary list, and for their resemblance to departed sludge-doom legends Burning Witch. This one is gonna rule, friends.
Friday, March 2, 8 PM
Livid, Huntsmen, Desert Altar @ McCormack’s – $7
It’s a doomy week here in RVA, as Friday night finds Between 2 Beers and McCormack’s bringing Shockoe Bottom into the act. Thankfully, Livid — who share a label with The Ditch And The Delta from the last show I wrote about — have their own disctinctive take on this sometimes-repetitive genre, keeping this week from blurring into a single long, sludgy riff. This Prosthetic Records crew hails from Minneapolis and released an excellent LP last summer entitled Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes. This should give you some idea of where this group is coming from; if not as persistently gloomy and depressing as Loss or 40 Watt Sun, they nonetheless have a spooky vibe that mixes intriguingly with their progressive leanings. Fans of Helms Alee or early Isis will get a lot out of this band’s darkly fascinating sound.
They’re joined on this bill by Chicago’s Huntsmen, who are not the long-gone 60s garage band. This relatively new and frankly bizarre band mixes doom vibes with Americana, interjecting elegaic Southern folk reveries into the midst of melodic doom metal songs. Rather than doing so at random or in a jarring manner, the Huntsmen take advantage of the lengthy running times common in the doom metal genre to create smoothly building structures that take their songs from quiet folk beginnings to incredibly heavy crescendos, and sometimes back down into acoustic reveries. Plenty of doom bands have had apocalyptic-folk side projects over the past several years, but the Huntsmen have found a way to integrate these two disparate yet spiritually similar sounds — something I never would have predicted anyone could pull off. In a genre that can sometimes be a bit samey, they are unique, and that’s impressive. Don’t miss them.
Saturday, March 3, 7 PM
American Nightmare, Pissed Jeans, Protester, Cloak/Dagger @ The Broadberry – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Let’s start with an important note: as of this writing, this show is not sold out YET. But if you don’t even need me to tell you why you should care, and somehow forgot to buy your ticket already, skip the rest of this writeup and click that ticket link NOW (or try the facebook event page — there are at least a few people selling tix over there). OK, now that that’s out of the way, let me try to explain to the rest of you why some people are freaking the hell out that American Nightmare is coming back to town. See, this band went away for a long time. One of the bands — if not THE band — to ignite the early 00s hardcore revival, American Nightmare mixed the erudite, emotional lyrics of Wes Eisold with a rage-filled take on Boston hardcore riffage and some 21st century speed to start a new movement within the genre.
The band encountered a series of setbacks in their early years, ultimately being forced to give up their original name by another band that had copyrighted the phrase. However, with their return to full-time action in 2016 (after over a decade apart), they were able to reclaim the name, and just recently released their self-titled third album on Rise Records. The album shows that Eisold and co. haven’t lost a step, incorporating a slightly higher percentage of melody into the same angry riffage and passionate lyrics that made the scene fall in love with them nearly 20 years ago. As if that isn’t enough reason to go to this show all on its own, the fact that they’re joined by post-hardcore sludge-monsters Pissed Jeans, DC straight edge rippers Protester, and veteran RVA garage-hardcore hybrid Cloak/Dagger should be more than enough to get you to pony up the ticket price for this jammer. But act fast! Tomorrow may be too late.
Sunday, March 4, 6 PM
Hate Club, The Death Vacation, Nightcreature, Deli Kings @ Capital Ale House – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This Sunday, Albany invades Richmond, as Hate Club and The Death Vacation roll into town and set up shop at Capital Ale House, of all places. Albany’s always had a pretty unique scene, and it doesn’t require knowing much more than the fact that Self Defense Family hails from that city. That band’s amorphous lineup and unpredictable take on post-hardcore seems to exert at least a little bit of an influence over the whole city, not least because almost every musician in Albany has been in SDF at one point or another. Indeed, two members of The Death Vacation are former members of SDF spinoff band Aficionado — but then, Aficionado were always a pretty strange exercise in and of themselves, and The Death Vacation is pretty far removed from their own former band. At which point, my whole analogy blows apart like a house of cards.
So what the heck can you expect from Hate Club and The Death Vacation when they arrive in RVA? Well, Hate Club have the sort of jangly, poppy sound that derives influence from early 90s slacker grunge crews like Pavement and Guided By Voices, and therefore should be a big hit with the whole Citrus City scene, who are spiritually very much in line with that whole aesthetic. The Death Vacation like to stomp the distortion pedals a bit harder, and therefore are a bit more reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr, only crossed with early Weezer to add that proper note of weirdo pop goodness. Basically, it’s all killer, and the addition on this bill of post-You Go Girls up-and-comers Nightcreature is pure gravy. Get stoked!
Monday, March 5, 7 PM
Wallows, Field Medic @ The Broadberry – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Sometimes I just give bands whose names I don’t recognize a brief listen before writing about them to make sure I’m into them enough to give them my stamp of approval. Then I google them when I’m actually about to write the column and find myself going, “Oh holy shit, I didn’t expect that!” Such is my current situation, where the catchy indie-rock of Wallows was pleasing enough at first listen that I picked them for the show column this week without ever discovering that frontman Dylan Minette is on that Netflix show 13 Reasons Why… until right now. Oops.
But it’s really not a big deal; after all, if Wallows were good when I just thought of them as three random dudes from LA or wherever, they’re still good now that I know one of them is a random famous guy. They’ve got some really catchy tunes that sorta remind me of early Strokes, sorta remind me of Parquet Courts, but mostly just get my feet tapping in an excellent manner. They don’t have an album yet, having only released a succession of four digital singles with themed covers, but those songs give more than enough reason to expect a killer set from this band when they show up to The Camel Monday night. That way, even if the front row is full of blushing teenage girls that only came out to get a glimpse of Clay Jensen in the flesh, there’ll still be some people there to appreciate the music. Which is really what it’s all about.
Tuesday, March 6, 7 PM
Young Scum, Jouska, Strawberry Moon, Cat Duggan @ Sound Of Music Studios – $5
Those days early in the week when it’s sometimes hard to find anything fun to do, it’s nice to find an old reliable friend dishing out the killer jams and giving us a chance to dance, long before the weekend rolls around. That’s the role Young Scum are playing Tuesday night as they head up an excellent bill over at Sound Of Music. It’s been a while since they had some new tunes out — 2016’s Zona EP was the last new release — but those songs haven’t dulled any with age, and at this point it’d be a big surprise if there weren’t at least a couple new rockers the band’s ready to spring on us all. So either way, we win!
The Scummers (actually the most clean-cut nice-looking fellas, but hey, I didn’t name them) are joined on this bill by touring crew Jouska, who like the touring bands on Sunday night’s show are from Albany. Interesting. Their sound is, as you might expect from that previous writeup, pretty unusual, and definitely engaging. It mixes quiet, emotional moments with off-kilter jangle riffs and some outright ambience to bring a unique overall vibe to both their forthcoming Tiny Engines EP, From Elson To Emmett, and to Sound Of Music Studios, where such styles are always welcome. Local openers include ambient pop star Strawberry Moon and folksy strummer Cat Duggan, who are sure to sweeten the pot.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows (that take place after the week this column covers–this week’s column has obviously already been written): [email protected] [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]
Top image by Vivienne Lee
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