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The Alan Fox Band: Persistence Pays Off

By Johnny Griffith

If you’re a fan of live music in East Texas, then you’ve most likely come across the Alan Fox Band (AFB) at some point along the way as they’ve been one of the stalwart musical collectives in this region for the past decade and a half.

They started in 2000 from the remnants of the band “Sidekick.” Alan Fox spent the next decade looking for the right combination of talent and personality to find a group of world-class musicians capable of putting out quality music. The current lineup consists of Alan Fox, Donnie Pendleton, and Donny Hart sharing responsibilities on lead guitar and vocals; Greg Cagle on bass and vocals; and Terry Salyer on drums.

Not just content to be another local party band, AFB has been extending their reach over the years to become one of the most successful regional blues/rock bands and has even garnered recognition nationally, winning awards in the highly competitive music meccas of Los Angeles and Nashville.

Along the way AFB has crafted a powerful twin-guitar sound that few bands attempt these days, and even fewer succeed at accomplishing. Alan Fox and company translated this sound into a loyal fanbase and rewarded that support with two previous album releases: “Never Learn,” a four song EP; and “JuJu Ear Rub,” a full length album released in 2008.

The blues/rock powerhouse band has recently released their latest offering, “Coal Black Sky,” and we were able to sit down with Alan and Donny to catch up on what AFB has been up to:

Johnny: You guys have been at this, individually and collectively, a long time in East Texas and beyond, and still produce a quality entertainment product. What is the secret for the AFB’s continued success?

Donny: I think that our sustained success is due to the fact that we’re not kids anymore. Things that might have derailed a band when we were younger just roll off our backs now. I think that we understand that, at our age, we won’t get many more chances to start over. We are more selective and seasoned now.

Alan: We all share a common goal. We at AFB want to have a quality product for our fans for generations to come.

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Johnny: To that point, you’ve been racking up the awards the past couple of years, some in markets well removed from your home-base area. How did AFB get the exposure necessary to beat out what is undoubtedly a ton of local bands in the LA and Nashville markets and showcase the high quality of talent we have right here in East Texas?

Donny: We have to give credit for this to our record label, Mesquite St. Records, and to Alan Petsche and Victor Erwin particularly. They have provided us with an avenue to record and promote our music in a much wider area than we could have ever dreamed of 10 years ago. The awards are just proof that, in the era of internet music, there are no boundaries. If you are willing to put in the time to create and produce your art, your promotional opportunities are limitless.

Alan: There is a lot of great talent all over the world. Thanks to the support of our fans locally and regionally, the 23rd Annual Music Awards was dependent on our fans logging in and voting. In Nashville, we were selected from more than 5,000 bands by a select group of Music Industry Reps. with our single “Riverboat Man” being played on Country Blast Radio and the Josie Radio Show, who chose us to receive their award.

Johnny: AFB has been together since 2000. What would you say your crowning achievement has been, to this point, in the 16 years since coming together?

Donny: The achievement that I am most proud of is our brand new record, “Coal Black Sky.” It is the strongest recording we have ever made, front to back. It has everything you want in a rock album: great guitar work, melodic vocals and harmonies, and a super tight rhythm section. Thanks to our producer, Mike Gage, and engineer, Doc Davis, it has a sonic quality that we have never been able to achieve before.

Alan: I think the growth from where we all started individually to where we are currently as a band could easily be considered our crowning achievement. We’ve had a lot of changeover through the years, and it took us a while to find each other at the right time in our careers that allowed for the success we’ve enjoyed.

Johnny: What has been the biggest challenge over that same span?

14523135_1294678227238713_1101334298052333704_nDonny: The only thing that I can think of as a “challenge” for the band is the fact that we are rather spread out geographically. Alan lives in Carthage; Terry in Longview; Greg in Palestine; Donnie in Lake Worth; and I live in Arlington. No matter where we meet, someone is going to have to do some driving, but we accept that as our reality and a necessary evil, and carry on without complaint.

Alan: I’ve always felt the largest obstacle to overcome, was finding the right combination of musicians that wanted to be more than just average.

Johnny: What do you guys look back and laugh about the hardest when you’re sitting around telling stories?

Donny: Anything having to do with Greg (just kidding). When we get together, we laugh nonstop. We truly get along well as people first, as well as musically. The true measure of a band’s longevity is how well you get along when not on stage. There is not any one particular thing that we laugh about; it is literally just about everything.

Alan: We constantly are joking and laughing. This is one of the best things about AFB. We believe in getting the job done, but have fun doing it.

Johnny: Tell us a little about the new album, “Coal Black Sky.”

Donny: “Coal Black Sky” has something for everyone. It has high energy rockers. It has party tunes. It has bluesy tunes. It has reflective moments. It has GREAT guitar work. It has lyrics that mean something. It has rich harmonies. And it has a song about a volcano!

Alan: “Coal Black Sky” is our labor of love. I must take time to thank the Petsche Music Group and Mesquite St. Records (Alan Petsche owner, Victor Erwin president, and Doc Davis, Jack Watkins, Bill Testa, Delbert Raines, and more) these guys knew we could do this all along. With the help of Mike Gage as our producer, AFB as a band decided to co-write the entire album except for “El Cabrone” (Donnie Hart) and “Never Learn” (Donnie Pendleton, Donny Hart, Brian Christian). This was a time-consuming effort, that actually turned out to be the best decision that we made overall. It took us over two and a half years to write and record this project, but I feel it was time well spent as the final tracks are as Mike Gage says, “All Killer! No Filler.”

Johnny: Which track do you feel captures the essence of AFB?

Donny: Trying to pick a favorite song you’ve written is like trying to pick your favorite child. I find much to like in every one of them. That being said, I would have to say that “The Path” captures where we are in our lives. The first time that I heard the rough tracks, I knew it would be special.

Alan: Personally, I don’t have a favorite song on “Coal Black Sky.” Every time I listen to it, I love it all. It flows very well from first to the last.

Johnny: Which track seemed to come together almost effortlessly, and which track was the one that had you guys ready to pull your hair out in production?

Donny: “Redemption” was a song that came together almost immediately. We wrote it on a Saturday and recorded it on Sunday. We wrote the lyrics while the rhythm tracks were being laid down. It just came out like “boom.” I think the one we had to tinker with the most was “Ride.” We had several versions of it before we got it right. I love the way it ended up though.

Alan: “El Cabrone” and “Never Learn” recorded quickly because we had been performing these songs before we walked into the studio. “Ride” was the one that was a little sketchy. Donny Hart and Greg Cagle were writing the lyrics as Pendleton and I were finishing up guitar tracks.

Johnny: Listening through the tracks, I can immediately pick up threads of great bands from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s woven into some of the riffs and structures. Would you describe this album as a tribute to those classic sounds or a statement that they still have relevance in the modern musical landscape?

Donny: I would have to say both. We are children of the 60’s and 70’s, and our music reflects that. We cut our teeth with the music of the 80’s, and our music reflects that. I will refrain from ranting about the state of creativity in modern music, but I would like to say that our music sounds authentic because it IS authentic. It was made by people playing instruments and using their own voices. Though it was recorded digitally, we wanted it to feel analog. It was Gage’s idea to put the scratchy record sounds at the beginning and end of “Redemption,” but that was the vibe we wanted the whole record to have. And yes, it is still relevant, if not essential.

Alan: AFB grew up listening to great compositions that are still being played today on classic rock stations. The southern rock and old school blues were great influences in our riffs and creations. I don’t see a tribute to classic rock with “Coal Black Sky.” I see brand new southern rock or even new country. AFB didn’t write songs with a specific genre in mind. We wrote from the heart.

Johnny: As 2016 draws to a close, what is on the horizon in 2017 for the AFB?

Donny: Touring! Meeting new people and turning them onto our record for as long as we can. We are looking forward to 2017 as the year that AFB meets the rest of the world.

Alan: AFB has some very exciting plans in the 2017 that we all hope will come true.

Johnny: What impression do you hope someone seeing an AFB show for the first time takes away from the show?

Donny: The initial thing that I would like people to take from our show is that we are good musicians making good, worthwhile modern/classic music without gimmicks. That we can put on an energetic, dynamic performance every night. And that you can still be an overnight success after 50!

Alan: I feel that AFB is very personable as individuals and as performers. We hope that our fans can leave with a great feeling inside as our music touches them to leave them with a positive and warm feeling that no matter what is happening in their world as an audience, that they can walk away feeling better that when they walked in to hear the show. This is how great music touches us all.

For more info about the Alan Fox Band go to alanfoxband.com, facebook.com/alanfoxband, or reverbnation.com/afbalanfoxband.

 

Bands

In Case You Were Wondering:  We Have Your Dog

ben wheeler

By Johnny Griffith

One of the great things about live music is the spontaneity you can get in a show you don’t get from an album. The freedom to let the music take over and drive the performance is something magical you just don’t get anywhere else. That being said, there’s nothing worse for me than walking into a show by a new band and two or three songs in, having the realization that the next hour or two of your life is going to be listening to, essentially, minor variations of the same song or being able to predict exactly what you’re going to hear next. Sure, if I’ve got a favorite band, there may be certain songs I want to hear every time I see them, but a great band knows how to keep the same set list fresh night after night.

Enter local Tyler band We Have Your Dog (WHYD). Now, besides the uniqueness of the name, this six-piece band delivers fresh treats night after night and is anything but predictable. With sweeping vocals, an eclectic mix of capable musicians on stage, and a refusal to fit into anyone’s idea of predictable, WHYD is one of the more exciting live acts you can find on a stage in the area. We sat down with the musical collective this past month to see exactly what’s up with my dog.

Johnny: So, who exactly has my dog and what is their musical background?

WHYD: Well, We Have Your Dog is made up of the following:

Cosmic Kenneth, who studied voice for multiple semesters at TJC and is a naturally talented singer/songwriter. 

Havaan, also a singer/songwriter but mostly self-taught with a few private lessons here and there to further her skill. 

Peabody Coltrane on guitar. He is a classical guitar player who graduated from UT Tyler with a formal academic study of music. 

Jackie Chernobyl is also on guitars. He is a self-taught guitar player who was classically trained on piano at an early age. Chernobyl channeled all his natural talent into the guitar and is most obsessed with making manipulation of feedback and molding sounds through FX pedals. 

TheMind on the bass. A classical guitar player studied at UT Tyler and TJC with a formal academic study of music. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is currently obsessed with mastering the bass. 

Haddad on drums. He is a self-taught drummer/percussionist. Volcanic with natural talent, Haddad is a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in banging things. 

Johnny: Where did you find my dog?

WHYD: Kenneth, Haddad, TheMind, and Chernobyl have been playing together and in different projects since high school in the early 2000’s. Peabody and Havaan joined the band much later in the college years – around 2012-2016.

Johnny: When did the idea of actually looking for my dog first happen?

WHYD: Like we mentioned before, we had been in different projects together off and on for years, but specifically came together with the purpose of WHYD around 2015 and our first official show was at Click’s in Tyler on October 22, 2016.

Johnny: So, What’s the story with my dog’s name?

WHYD: We Have Your Dog’s name was put together out of the will to subvert the listeners expectations. We like to let the music speak for itself, rather than try and define a style of music according to the name. 

Johnny: When and where did you first find my dog?

WHYD: Our first gig was a party we threw at our house in October of 2015. We wanted to get a soft feel for our music and how it would resonate with some folks we knew. The results were us refining our show for an October release in 2016 at Click’s Live. We had not added Havaan at this time. 

Johnny: Your sound and presentation is a bit out of the ordinary for this area, how have you found the reception to be with local dog catchers?

WHYD: We find that folks who are interested in listening to music love us! Folks who just want background music, not so much. We’ve always followed the philosophy of “Do your own thing.” We Have Your Dog is always trying to refine our live show and at the end of the day, we do what makes us happy. 

Johnny: How did that dog sound evolve over the life of the band or was it pretty much the goal from inception?

WHYD: Our sound is ever evolving. One thing we want to stay away from is the cliche of “that band is good but all their songs sound the same.” We don’t have a particular sound in mind other than what starts to craft itself on the palette in the jam room. Our goal is to have all our members feel free in the creative process and the other members to back them up. All musical genres and styles are welcome in WHYD! 

Johnny: About how many dogs are being caught a month, on average, by the band currently? 

WHYD: We’d like to get to playing at minimum once a month! However, at this moment (Winter 2019) we are taking minimal gigs while we record our upcoming album “What Have You Done?” as well as rehearsing new tracks for our new live show coming Summer of 2020. 

Johnny: Do you primarily have dogs in the Tyler area or do you branch out to other areas often?

WHYD: Lately we have been staying in the Tyler area. As much as we love traveling, we like getting paid even more. So far clubs like XL’N and Click’s Live treat us well enough that we stick around this area. We do love playing in Dallas and Longview when we get the opportunity though. 

Johnny: What has been the most memorable dog to date?

WHYD: We are always proud of our shows where we jam with our local counterparts Post Profit or Gypsum and The Travelers. Whenever we can, we make sure to share the stage to feature with each other on particular tracks. Those are always memorable shows, but our most memorable would probably be The Band Wars Competition that we competed in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Johnny: Have you guys caught any dogs in the studio or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

WHYD: We are current working on  several albums/projects. “What Have You Done?” is our main project; and “Sex, Money & Murder” is a concept and side project that we are creating.

We do most of our studio work in house. We do all our own tracking, then we have been contracting third party folks to mix and master. We’d like to give a shout out to Dejour Productions who have been really involved with our sound and how it will be portrayed. 

We have some stuff available on Spotify, ITunes, GooglePlay, Amazon and ALL the audio streaming services. We also have them available on BandCamp for a more personal purchase. Currently we have two singles: Kenneth lea, “Bite the Bullet;” and Havaan lead, “Equilibrium.” 

We also have a forthcoming duet entitled “The Don” from a concept album we’ve been placing together on the side. 

Johnny: So let’s say I want to come find my dog. What can I expect at a WHYD show?

WHYD: When someone comes to see WHYD, they will experience a diverse and evolving show. We want our audience to experience multiple feelings and experiences as they progress through our presentation. Our goal is that nobody can listen to one or two songs and feel as though they know what’s coming the rest of the show.

Follow WHYD at:

wehaveyourdog.com 

facebook.com/wehaveyourdog/

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Bands

Feeling The Groove: Señor Gringo

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By Johnny Griffith

We’ve all had THAT moment when we’ve been out enjoying ourselves and our friends and family on a patio somewhere on a gorgeous day. The food is delicious, the wine is perfect, the weather is the stuff people in Wisconsin dream about … and as you are sitting back enjoying everything, you notice a band about to play and think the moment couldn’t get any better.

And then they start to play.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not the right band for THAT moment.

And it’s because they’re NOT Senor Gringo, who seems to always be right for the moment.

The Tyler-based quartet is a musical force that isn’t afraid to think outside the box and bring just the right blend of Latin-infused jazz and rock to venues around the area that require a little more finesse to the set list than raw power. With a lineup full of seasoned musicians, Senor Gringo definitely has the musical prowess to bring the precision and consistency to the stage that is sure to please those who are wanting something a little different from the norm and love to sit down and just enjoy the music. With a mix of originals and covers, everyone is sure to find something that pleases while listening to a Senor Gringo set, and a lot of old favorites with a new twist are sure to surface as well.

I recently had the pleasure of catching a set at Taco Fest in Marshall back in September and I’ve been trying to catch them for an interview ever since. We were finally able to sit down this past month and talk a little bit about the origins of the band and to get to know Senor Gringo just a little better.

Johnny: So let’s get to know everyone first, what is the current line up of the band?

Senor Gringo: Senor Gringo’s lineup currently consists of Alex Blair on bass, Don Elbert on keyboards, Keven Ewalt on drums and percussion, and Richard Callahan on guitar.

Johnny: Okay so how did you all you meet?

Senor Gringo: We have played together in various bands over the years. The music scene in East Texas is pretty close actually, and we’ve all been involved with some project together at one time or another.

Johnny: Playing together over the years is one thing, but when did the idea of Senor Gringo actually first start taking shape?

Senor Gringo: Well, about seven years ago, Tony Marsh, who is a past guitar player, had this idea of starting a band that played music similar to XM Watercolors, where the nylon acoustic guitar plays melody versus traditional vocal music. The rest is history from that point.

Johnny: So what about the name? It’s pretty recognizable. How did you guys come up with that?

Senor Gringo: Well, we came up with that name because of the Latin influence and the fact that most of us are older, seasoned musicians. It just kind of stuck after that.

Johnny: Do you happen to remember when and where the first Senor Gringo gig was?

Senor Gringo: Absolutely. We were the very first band to play Lago del Pino here in Tyler.

Johnny: So you guys have one of the more unique sounds in this area with the Latin-infused groove that, in some cases, evokes threads of Santana as well as others. How have people in East Texas responded to what Senor Gringo is doing?

Senor Gringo: Well, truthfully, it all depends. If we are playing a Country bar, it isn’t necessarily so good, but most of the venues we play do appreciate our talent and the fact that we are different. I would say one of the most consistent criticisms we hear is we are mostly an instrumental band and they just don’t get enough vocals. More times than not, though, the listeners end up staying longer and really focusing in on the music.

Johnny: So is Senor Gringo staying busy around East Texas currently?

Senor Gringo: It definitely depends on the season as to how much we play. In the spring and summer, we can play a lot, but in the late fall and winter it dwindles down to about one or two gigs a month.

Johnny: Where would you say Senor Gringo’s home base really is? Are you primarily in Tyler, or have you branched out to some surrounding areas?

Senor Gringo: Currently, most of our gigs are Tyler area specific, although we do play Jacksonville, Athens, Longview, and Marshall. We are always open to more areas as the opportunities come.

Johnny: What would you say has been the most memorable gig to date?

Senor Gringo: A few years back, we were playing an outdoor summer festival down in Athens and it ended up being one of those magical gigs! We were on a large stage with an amazing sound system, a fantastic audience, and we were just on fire! {[It was] easily one of those moments that sticks with you.

Johnny: Has  Senor Gringo done any studio work or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

Senor Gringo: We actually have done some studio work in the past, but at present there are no future recording plans. We are doing strictly live shows at the moment

Johnny: So if you had to sit down and explain to a potential first timer to a live show what the experience was about to be like, how would you describe it?

Senor Gringo: We’d say they are in for a completely different type of experience for East Texas. They’re about to hear a combination of original and contemporary Latin-flavored jazz-rock played by talented musicians with the ability to improvise and flow with the crowd.

Follow Senor Gringo on the web at facebook.com/RockinLatinJazz/.

 

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Lost In Space: Gorgeous Jetson

Laid Back Rockers Gorgeous Jetson

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

 

By Johnny Griffith

There is a band from Tyler that you can absolutely get lost in. I mean the “sit back and just ride the soundwave across the infinite universe” kind of lost in. I mean the sort of lost where you start peeling back the layers, and find more layers, and then realize there are more layers underneath that. Whether it be diverse and ever changing guitar riffs, strangely soothing vocals that take you on fantastic voyages, foundational drums and bass that are precise and on point, or the keyboards filling in the gaps with expansive and ethereal sounds…Gorgeous Jetson opens the door to a new sonic reality for the duration of their show.

Helmed by Marc Beevers on lead guitars and vocals, Gorgeous Jetson is rounded out by Ian Power on bass, Logan Strong on guitars and backing vocals, Jed McNeil on keys/synth/backing vocals, and Gamaliel Quezada on drums. I was able to catch up with Marc this past month to find out more about the band and how they click.

Johnny: Let’s start out with the basics. How did the members of Gorgeous Jetson come together?

Marc: So I’ve known Jed since high school. Our schools were rivals and we were both on the drum line. We also looked a lot alike in high school and everyone made a big deal about how we looked alike, so we ended up meeting several times at ball games. I graduated high school early and got an apartment of my own, and there were always tons of people there so that’s how I met Ian. He was another young kid just trying to figure stuff out like me and we hit it off immediately. We’ve been pretty close for about 11 years now. Later on, Jed and myself formed a band called Babe, and I met Logan at one of the last shows that I played with Babe. He actually played in Babe after I left the band. Finally, I met Gammy back in early 2017 at an art show. After talking over a cigarette, I got his number because he said he played drums. 

Johnny: So knowing a bunch of musicians and coming up with the idea of a band like Gorgeous Jetson are two different things. When did the idea first take shape?

Marc: The idea of the band came up in 2015. I went to rehab for a little over a month that year for alcohol and substance abuse. I was still in Babe at the time, but while I was in rehab I decided I wanted to start a project that I had creative control over so when I got out, I told the guys I would be leaving Babe. It wasn’t anything personal, I just wanted more control when it came to the style of the band. 

I asked if they would still play with me under my direction, so Babe became Gorgeous Jetson for two shows. After those first couple of shows, circumstances for me changed and I ended up moving to Midland and those guys went back to Babe.

Johnny: So the name is fun and, honestly, is one of the reasons I first listened to you guys. How did that idea come to be?

Marc: I thought up the name while I was still in rehab. There was a wrestler in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s called Gorgeous George who, essentially, was the first Hulk Hogan…the first flamboyant hero. I like playing with words and making odd phrases like Gorgeous George Jetson. That eventually just turned into Gorgeous Jetson. 

It’s super catchy, I think, and I think that’s important. I think a catchy name can be click bait for sure. For example, our most popular song on the internet right now is my least favorite I’ve written. I know it gets clicks just because the song’s title is “Buddha on Quaaludes.” When you see that, you just have to see what it is simply because of the song’s title. It’s almost an involuntary reaction, so putting some thought into something catchy like that is an important part of the overall equation as well.

Johnny: When and where did Gorgeous Jetson first strut their stuff?

Marc: Technically the first gig was in 2015 at the DIY Spot with the old Babe lineup. With this lineup of guys it was in March of 2018 at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. Some folks at Stanley’s heard I had got this group of guys together and asked us to play a gig the following month. We only had like three songs at that point, so they really lit a fire under my tail to get to writing before that show.

Johnny: Your sound is a complete departure from what gets the most real estate in this area, which tends to be some variation of country or hard rock with the occasional blues band thrown in the mix. How have local crowds responded when you break out with your music?

Marc: We’ve had nothing but good responses from our local venues and audiences. I think people like a break from the Texas blues and Texas country. As far as having a different sound than what people are used to, it makes me laugh as to who people compare us to. I’m talking about the people who only listen to top 20 hits. I’m so glad that they like us; I just really don’t like the bands they “think we sound like.”

Johnny: Speaking of that sound, how did that evolve? Was it something you had wanted to play for a while or was it a definite choice in a definite moment?

Marc: The style is evolving for certain. I don’t wanna play the same kinda music forever. We really have a variety of mellow, spacy, and ambient songs. At the same time we have several chaotic, aggressive, almost unnerving at times kind of songs. I like so many different styles of music. I think it’s important that my guys and myself continue to push our limits of playing and what we feel comfortable playing. It only makes us better. 

Johnny: How often are you guys getting to play at the moment?

Marc: We’re currently playing 2 or 3 gigs a month. We are trying to focus on mostly out of town shows at the moment. We just don’t want to oversaturate our home town and have people get tired of us. It helps make it more special when we do play a local show.

Johnny: There are some pretty decent recordings out there of Gorgeous Jetson. Where did you guys do that work and is there anything new coming up?

Marc: We recorded 4 songs with Christian Diebert at GoodShed studio in Canton in 2018. That was our first demo and it’s on all major streaming platforms. 

We recorded our last single with Yacht Country records, Aka John Hetherington. 

We are currently in the process of recording a new song now that should be up by the end of the year. The new song is called “Pet Detective” and it’s a little more mellow than our previous songs. 

Johnny: What can a first-timer expect at a Gorgeous Jetson show?

Marc: It’s really kind of hard to explain our sound. I get bored easily so I enjoy putting in key changes and changes in time signatures frequently. Abrupt changes like this make me very happy. My favorite description of our music was from Meredith Crawford: She said, “Gorgeous Jetson songs are like a washing machine full of colors.”

Check out Gorgeous Jetson on the World Wide Web:

www.gorgeousjetson.com  

facebook.com/gorgeousjetson

instagram.com/gorgeousjetson

 

 

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