A TALE OF TWO BASSES | MOE. & PANIC

moe. | 07.14.01 | Merriweather Post Pavilion | Columbia, MD
Single Set (2 hours): St. Augustine, Can't Seem to Find, High & Lo ~> Brent Black ~> Head*, Spaz Medicine, Spine of a Dog ~> Buster, Plane Crash**
E: Godzilla
* Tom Sawyer tease
** Meat Tease

Widespread Panic | 07.14.01 | Merriweather Post Pavilion | Columbia, MD
Set I (1 hour): Going Out West, Disco ~> Give, Picking up the Pieces ~> Pleas ~> Jack* ~> 1 x 1 ~> Wonderin, Stop-Go ~> Porch Song
Set II (1-1/2 hours): Big Woolly Mammoth ~> Dear Mr. Fantasy** Greta ~> Driving Song ~> Little Lilly ~> Driving ~> Love Tractor ~> Drums ~> Bears Gone Fishing ~> Red Hot Mama, Red Beans E: This Part Of Town ~> Mr. Soul
* Jack intro Jam similar to Mind Left Body Jam
** Hey Jude tease

There was a fight this weekend. A huge one. It shook the town of Columbia to it's foundations, and left most of the witnesses with their jaws floored. It was fought on stage, not with fists, but with musical notes. Both competitors gave it their all, and when the dust settled, there was a new Bass Champion. This is their story.

I heard about the Widespread Panic and moe. show a couple of months ago, and I went nuts. This combination of the two, is something I have been hoping for, since I first saw moe. live on Halloween of this last year. I have been a Spreak for the last six years, and it was WSP who comforted me during my painful times, when the loss of Jerry Garcia's music seemed too much to bear. It seems like so long ago, and Panic has blown up a bit but they will always be Home for me. As for me and moe., they are just what my doctor ordered. A breath of fresh air. A new taste sensation. A kick Ass combination of Jam/Metal/Rock and humor, that has always brought me to that special place we all love to go to. A show with both of these bands on the bill, promised to be something for the ages. Tickets were bought, plans were made and then it was only a matter of waiting a couple months for the event to happen.

When the day came it could not have been nicer. The weather was a mild 83 degrees when I woke up Saturday, and not expected to go much higher. Our drive to Columbia was easy going and full of anecdotes. Chris was driving, Sean was navigation and Lisa and I kept ourselves busy making fun of the two of them. We checked into our hotel around 12:00, and met up with some other Panic Kin that were coming into town. This was too be a long day and night of music, so we all kicked back and relaxed as long as possible.

We hit the lot's for the MMP around 2:30, and it was already dusty and packed. A lot of crap has gone down in these lot's in the past, so 5-O was in the house so to speak. Not much of any vending was available, so my craving for Parking Lot Grilled Cheese would have to wait. I took this time to discuss my idea for a new super group. Four men on acoustic guitars, very much like Crosby Still's Nash and Young, except it would be John Bell, Keller Williams, Warren Haynes, and Bill Nershi. Think about that one for a while... Ahhh the soul, the harmonies, the acoustic jams... I think my head would pop off for real. But one can dream.

We went in to the venue around 4:00, in order to get a close spot for moe., and we were very successful. How about center stage, three rows back!!! We had a perfect view of the whole stage area, and the sound was just right. After the WRNR 103.1 D.J.'s (Alex & Scott) tossed a few shirts out to the crowd they introduced moe. and the hootenanny began.

"St. Augustine" started the set off with it's catchy cowboy shuffling intro that lingered about, gaining momentum like a clackity old boxcar leaving the station. This little engine that most definitely could, built up a head of fire and steam before the drop of the opening chorus. "God is light, Light is good, God is good." So simple, so true. It was definitely on. One interesting thing I noticed during St. Augustine, was Mr. Dave Schools on the right side, leaning on an amp just checking out the band. He would be out three or four times during the rest of moe. set, and he always seemed to be checking out what Rob what up to... Hmmmmmm? The middle jam, was a little aimless, but Chuck and Al, pulled it all together with some nice leads from the both of them. They have great call and return style, and the leads had a nice slide twang to them. "St. Augustine" is a great song for an opener, as the opportunity for tension and release is large. The day was off to a rousing start and as the first song ended, I knew it was going to be special.

"Can't Seem To Find" was next and while it was well played, it did not take the energy from the first song, and build on it. Things went a little flat at first, but it evened out, and eventually brought you in to it. Al ended with a strong lead, and Rob started to get a little more aggressive in his bomb dropping, probably to tease us for what was to come later. There was some funny on stage banter between Rob and Al, about the dexterity of Al's fingers, and weather or not he used laser picks, to which Al replied, "It's the special tips I wear on my fingers, to narrow them, and you know, I am a professional!"

"High & Low" is fast becoming a favorite of mine, and seeing it live only quickened up the pace. This song will fool you. It starts out sounding like it's going to be a love ballad, then ends up in some very strange places. The low-end rumble was officially under way at this point. Also there was a flange like effect, distorting Chuck's soulful vocals for the chorus. This song went completely out there. They threw it against a wall and checked out what stuck. Evidently the part that stuck led into "Brent Black." However, Sean commented that it has been a common pairing in the past.

"Brent Black" is a good vehicle for exploration. It is definitely it's own beast, but if I had to draw comparisons with another song, I would liken it to Phish's, "Fluffhead." It has that story telling feel to the lyrics, and the grooves are filled with ups and downs that twist you into knots. There was a huge tension buildup from the guitarists, and then at the breakdown when Mr. Derhak usually comes in and thumps the snot out of you, Vinnie and Jimmy took a solo on drums. Rob then will come in with his unique thunderous style of play and drop the funk. Well, he teased us at first with just drips and drabs of his low-end. The solo was slow and low, and didn't take off quickly. It was built step by step with a definite destination in mind. After a couple of minutes of this Thorazine solo, the beast burst forth in a string of notes that punched holes in the fabric of time around me. The rumble in my belly was not the result of an empty stomach, it was Rob hitting me with a floury of notes. He is very strong on the bass. Every sound that comes out of his speakers is full of attack and weight. He pulled off a killer slap style jam, completely slapping and popping the crap out of his bass. A nice guitar jam wound out of Rob's depth, and brought things to another boil, before fading back into a sublime jam reminiscent of an "linear out there jam" found in "Recreational Chemistry." This too faded away in some notes that sounded like whale song. Before it faded completely Al, I believe, brought things back to life with some power chords, that turned out to be a slow intro to "Head."

"Head" used the energy from the previous song to bring things to a new level. After the initial grungy power chords, and the first couple of choruses, the band narrowed their sound down into a narrow beam of vibrating particles. The jam that arose from this was a thing of beauty. It was the sort of stuff that binds the universe together. Another thing I barely noticed until listening to the show at work, there was a definite "Tom Sawyer" tease tucked into the jam. This little segue of "High & Low" > "Brent Black" > "Head" contained many amazing moments, and sealed the deal for most newbies around me. Being so close, I felt I was seeing moe. for the first time.

I believe it was during this lull, that moe. introduced themselves to the crowd, and Al told the crowd not to worry if they were wondering why they didn't see John Bell on stage, it was just moe.

Next up was "Spaz Medicine." This is one of those songs I recognize right away, yet always forget the name of. This time was no different. A good version, nothing ground breaking, but there is something about just letting go and riding with the music that makes all songs seem stellar while you are witnessing them live. Rob was now completely dropping bombs with reckless abandon.

"Spine of a Dog" is always a treat to hear. It's quirky beginning hides an infectious grooves that makes even the ardent non dancer shake their butt. It was a pretty standard version, complete with the usual middle steel drum jam. Even knowing it was coming, it still took off with some nice island sounds as Jimmy worked his kit to perfection. This guy is a real treat to see play drums. The jam quickly went to the nether regions, as the intertwining guitar lines knotted themselves into a nice musical bracelet. Rob kept the low end assault up, as he methodically pumped out the bass line for all the anchor to. After a few nice peaks, Rob slipped in the familiar "Buster" groove, and the moe. train headed in that direction.

"Buster" was very well played. The train continued clacking along, and the harmonies were perfect. Yes I like "Buster," but my real question is when the hell am I going to see a "Rebubula?" Anyway, the "Buster" was a nice counterpoint to "Spine," and it's a paring I have witnessed a few times before.

Just before the start of "Plane Crash," Al mentioned the next song, was about "Peace, Love and Understanding" and they immediately dropped into the intro.

"Plane Crash" is what called to me, in my first exposure to moe., so it hold a special place in my heart, however, I do not mind telling people if a version was under par. If you are wondering how this one turned out, well... IT SMOKED! The wall of Evil Hippy Sound that was built up, put that old one over in China to shame. Rob's semi silly lyrics are still very poignant, and mix with the driving rhythm to send me through a wide range of emotions during this ride. I am not a fan of flying myself, so I can definitely relate to the song on that level. The true beauty of this song is the vast weight of it... A small city could run on the energy generated by the musicians on stage. Rob's attack was relentless. Every atom in my body was rearranged by this super intense version. I feel they were digging deep into their collective bag of tricks, not only to win over some new fans, but also to keep Panic on their toes. The guitarists were throwing their notes back and forth between them, like it was the only lighter at a five man session!!! Deep in the middle of the jam, I detected a "Meat" tease, but it didn't last long. several times I thought they would go back into "St. Augustine," but I had to be hearing things. "Plane Crash" ended with the usual trippy return to the chorus, and Rob kept his vocals as strong as ever. This was a huge ending with the feeling of a door slamming shut. The crowd was going wild as far as I could see it, and the guys on stage were all smiles.

This appeared to be it, but I was hoping for an encore. They deserved it. They played a single set for two hours and it felt like they just started. They sounded great and had a lot of energy. The crowd must have felt the same way, because there was a loud roar for them to come back out. After a couple of minutes, moe. reappeared and thanked us for coming out, and for our appreciation.

"Godzilla was a definite call to arms from moe. Great choice for a cover. The crowd was really into it. In my opinion, Rob and the boys, were calling Widespread Panic out, in a friendly competitive sort of way. I know that moe. has played the song before, but I'm sure they know that Dave Schools is Godzilla in human form! Not only that, but Dave always has several Godzilla dolls on his amps. moe. called their hand and left if for Panic to fold or raise the bid..... Round 1 over... Rob Derhak looking strong.

Yet another clue for me that this was an evening of low-end, Primus was played during set break. They were playing the Pork Soda disc, and it too kept the bass lovers happy. Daylight was still upon us, so we made our way out of the growing mass of people that was pushing towards the front of the pavilion. Out on the lawn, (about midway back, center stage) we kicked back and tried to make sense of what just went down. I looked for a few familiar faces but surprisingly I did not see anyone I knew. All the while the latent effects of Rob Derhak's bass made it's way through my synapse's, jumping from cell to cell, like a prison break.

It seemed like no time had passed before the house music stopped and Widespread Panic took the stage. The crowd was foaming at the mouth in anticipation for the first song from the good ole boys from Georgia. The scene was set for another evening of having a good time, and living the moon time. Man there is nothing like a Panic show!!!

With the boys on stage and the great big love beast poised to spring from it's cage, J.B. stepped up to the mic, and gave a thanks to moe. for their inspiration, at which point, Dave let out a "Godzilla" tease just as the ceremony was about to begin.

"Going Out West" started things off in a very eerie way. The slow buildup crept into your head and slowly worked up that ominous Panic magic, until it exploded into the main theme. I like this song, but at the time I felt it was not the best choice to open with. Halfway through it, as often happens, Panic grabbed my legs and pulled me in, and I was kicking up dust with my heels with the best of them. J.B. was preaching to me, and the Dave Schools Quartet were backing him up. The sound was loud and clear, which is something I have had issues with for a while. It just about killed me to have to run back to the bathrooms during the opener, but nature called and the lines were so crowded during the break, this was my only chance.

From deep in the bowel of the MMP Bathroom, I could hear "Going Out West" fade away, and "Disco" start. Running with blinding speed (Yeah Right) I made my way back to my spot without missing the first change. "Disco" is great for firing up the crowd, this one was a little sloppy, but it was so full of momentum that it still performed it's task. That of working the crowd into a sweaty and body shaking grin. While there was nothing out of the ordinary in his playing, (for now) Dave's bass was very present in the mix.

Next, Panic served up a track from the new album called "Give." Standard rocker, nothing fancy here. The lyrics are great and I chuckle every time at the chorus line.

"I know this may sound funny but, how dare you show up on time!"

That's hilarious. How many times have you silently said that to someone?

J.B. handles the vocals for this tune and he wrapped his smokey BBQ voice around it like a champ. The 6 headed Hydra was close to making it's appearance, as the energy level rose and spread out over the inside of the pavilion and then crested and smashed into the lawn people.

From the ashes of the "Give" explosion, "Picking up the Pieces" poked it's head out and settled things down for a bit. Great placement in my opinion. The sun was on it's way down. The soft lighting lent a sense of mysticism and timelessness that showed in the faces around me. Piece's is like a spell, and incantation. A calling out to a higher power in a sacred serene and beautiful way. Not ferocious and twisted like a Papa Legba invocation. By this time, the sound man was earning every penny. While J.B. could have been louder in the mix, DAVE was all over the place. Thunderous and subtle. His runs were tight and clean wether he was playing in the pocket or taking a step to the front. Most satisfying was his precise harmonics he was plucking in place of the last few notes in picking his chords. The interplay and communication between JoJo, Dave and Mikey was astounding, and Mikey capped things off with a very strong solo. Nothing unusual, but very full tip of your tongue meaning. The groove found a peak, and the slow beginning sounds of "Pleas" started to come to the forefront.

"Pleas" IS Widespread Panic. By that, I mean it's one of those songs that is a blueprint for what Panic is about. Lyrics with soul and meaning, that will trip you out if you run them through your brain pan. An infectious groove with the signature WSP time changes that make you feel as if your stepping back or forward in time. That lingering lead that wails into your brain like the fire truck from that old Tom and Jerry episode, were they are trapped in the toy store with Spike all night. This "Pleas" had all these things and much much more. Except for an increased low-end rumble, and JoJo banging the paint of his racks, the beginning of this monster was pretty standard. By the time the middle jam picked up, The six headed Hydra was created and Widespread Panic ceased to be. You know... The music played the band. I have never heard an ending for Pleas like this before. In fact, Panic seemed to be exploring new territory to me. Very dark and mysterious, almost a tad bit malicious. Mikey's Wah, Wah, literally bent the fabric of time around me and let me see myself dancing without a mirror. When this jam started to sputter, it wound down into a descending chord progression eerily similar to "Mind Left Body Jam." (although my friend PeeWee will beg to differ) I have heard this particular jam before and it was right before a Jack, so I was silently praying for the Jester to be awoken. This went on for a few measures and gave the spinners a new direction to rotate in.

"Jack" woke up from the murky depths of this jam as I predicted and WSP began to testify. "Jack" is a mystery. An enigma. Conjuring up images of rusty knights and wizards with lizards. The delicate beauty of a queen, with her dreaming king. Dogs, Biscuits and that damn deck of cards... Not 52, but 54... You see, you can't forget the Joker's... Jack and myself! Hallelujah. The band was in the zone at this point. Anything they did worked. "Jack" successfully took the atoms of Pleas, and began a process of fission that split the energy of chaos, into narrow and manageable beams of order. J.B. pleading voice, guided me through the idiosyncratic images that are brought forth in this song. Dave was huge. Sunny made use of a plethora of toys he has at his fingertips, and Mikey was on the money as well. Again, J.B. needs to be turned up louder. By the time we got to the kitchen to see what Jack was cooking us, the intensity of the song, matched the intensity of the crowd. Soul Biscuits's were served my friend. I was completely in full on panic mode, and I had no idea what could happen next. So, when my friend Rich, who was standing next to me, whispered in my ear, "here comes a 1x1", and they started playing it, I closed my eyes and gave myself to the band.

"1 x 1" was raging. This is a very rare song for me. I have only seen this one three or four times. In fact my first one, was at my first show, and it has been a while since it has made it's way back around to me. JoJo showed us the spirit of the Fess, and pounded out the song with a fury. Aside from some strong backup vocals, Dave continued his dropping of monster bombs, as the rest of the band kept the train on the rails. As the end jam worked it's way back from the abyss, JoJo set up a nice segue into "Wonderin."

"Wonderin" was nothing special. Good singing by J.B. and standard playing by the whole band. There was the typical middle jam, but I must still comment that Dave Schools was completely dialed in. He was attacking the bass, and making it his bitch. Low-end chasing the lead guitarist instead of the other way around. The band had not even finished working the last bit of Wondering from their instruments before Dave, started up the soul stirring intro to "Stop-Go."

"Stop-Go" transformed this band into Dave & The Spreadette's. He own's this song. Try and forget the lyrics chock full of meaning for a second. Dave was out of control. As the band built a foundation of melody around him like stacked bricks, he used his bass like an evil mason bricklayer to cement the walls into bomb shelters. Only to bring them toppling down with another sweep of his hand. The Bass jam was a monster. Dave's fingering is superb. The sounds he pulls from the Modulus are amazing. He used a new type of effect for a portion of this jam, and brought his notes to an underwater playground. Then the lighting fast fanning that occurs at the peak of the jam simply brought the walls down. All plugs were firing, all cylinders were clicking, and the crowd was bouncing around like monkeys. At the end vocals after the major bass breakdown, the theme of the song turned to the reggae type of feel that has shown up in a few Stop-Go's over the past couple of years, and Mikey thread a couple of nice solos through the rubble on stage.

There was a "Porch Song" tacked at the end of "Stop-Go" and a very sloppy one if I may say so. In fact it was just about a train wreck. Well, how could it not be after that mega "Stop-Go?" Dave could not seem to come back down from the star he was orbiting, and it was all J.B. and Mikey could do to get the words out. JoJo even seemed intent on doing his own thing, as he was playing a couple of steps ahead of the rest of the band. Now don't get me wrong, I love "Porch Song," but they should have just let Dave take the "Stop-Go" further out and finished it with that one. The Porch being a fast one, didn't take long to finish and the band decided it was time to take a break.

I couldn't believe it was still daylight at set break. There wasn't much of it, but you could still see clear enough to see the looks of awe on the faces around me.

As the band came back out and took the stage, we started throwing out song names trying to call the second set opener. After a few evil notes from Dave, I was about to call for some "Thought Sausage," but just before I did, I had a moment of clarity. Before I could even register what I was doing, I blurted out "Big Woolly Mammoth," and damn if then didn't start into it. For the record, my friend Brian started calling me BWM back in 95 after witnessing my big hairy self cutting a rug to the song in question. In the following years, I have shed many coats, and grown a lot of brand new one's. The one thing that has stayed the same is this song's power to fill me with the spirit that IS Widespread Panic. A very solid version, made even better with a renewed attack by none other that Davezilla himself. The crowd around me were totally in to it. The sound was even louder than the first set. JoJo was solid in belting out the lyrics and all team members worked this hairy beast to the limit. It was extremely well played, but nothing in the way of improvisational material. It's a shame, but I think that BWM is just waiting for some exploratory passages that will give it escape velocity.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy" was up next and flowed right out of BWM. Dave continued his epic performance on bass, and J.B. took this chance to put his vocals to work. All members were playing off each other and trying to keep up with Dave's energy. I was a little surprised that Tears of a Woman did not segue the two together. It was a good choice for a cover and the audience seemed to eat it right up. They ended it with emotion, as Dave thundered out the refrain from Hey Jude on his bass. The crowd ate it up.

"Greta" pushed it's way out of "Mr. Fantasy" like a sumo wrestler. From the first note, this song was used as a launching pad for the sick jam that would come. Above average version, with great unity in the changes. I found myself dancing around like a madman and ended up slipping on the hill and falling on my butt. From the ground I just kept dancing, not even bothering to get up. I could hear every little note that was coming from the stage and they all fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Greta's already strong end jam was even stronger. It hit mach two and showed no signs of stopping until the whole thing collapsed into itself. From the dust and debris, Sunny let his birds, chirp and whistle. He let his snakes rattle their tails, and even let Santa shake his jingle bells.

"Driving Song's" intro is unmistakable. It's like awakening from a dream to find out that your are still sleeping. The subtle sounds from the whole band create a mood of timelessness, and bring up images of big Buicks cruising down dust roads. This is old school Panic at their finest. This is their Dark Star! It can come from anywhere, it can go anywhere, and in between just about anything can happen. With the sound so clear and loud, this Driving hit all the right buttons on me. I was under it's spell. Lucky enough to know that the Journey Is The Prize, I gave myself to it and took the ride. After working through the beginning and middle sections, it opened up slightly but did not get to far out there. Well, it was only the bread, and if the meat turned out to be special, it can enhance plain bread.

The meat of the choice ended up being "Little Lilly" and it was okay, but not my initial choice for a Driving Sandwich. The band did what it could with it, considering it odd placement. Again, Dave pulled this one through by some tasty rumbles and some just right picked notes.

As "Little Lilly" gave itself back to Driving Song the band downshifted and snaked it's way through a standard version with nothing really worth mentioning except how "Love Tractor" just appeared out of an up tempo section, instead of the dreamy and fading part that usually give us the next song, or fades into drums.

"Love Tractor" is easily the song of the night for me. It took me completely by surprise and put me in orbit. The band was giving it their all. Get the tapes to even have a clue about Dave's playing in this one. The thump of his notes as he punched out the groove stayed with me for the rest of the week. Even now, I have no trouble recalling that inhuman playing. The whole band was getting off, on his relentless attack. It was finished all too soon, and the whole thing collapsed into drums.

Drums gave me a much needed chance to rest. I love drums, but I feel it's a good idea to relax a little bit, so I can give it my all for the end of the show. One thought in the front of my mind was Todd's solid playing all night. He is a rock. This came to me as I realized that Todd didn't really go for his during drums. He kind of took a laid back approach.

Dave & Co. came back out a little before the band, but surprisingly nothing worth noting happened. They fooled around with a few themes before settling in on one they could all live with.

"Bears Gone Fishing" oozed it's way out of the jam and re energized the crowd. It was a little sloppy but full of vigor. JoJo was trying to lead the way, but it was impossible to deny Dave that coveted spot. J.B.'s voice was still strong as growled out the vocals. He even managed to slip a few "Red Hot Mama" lyrics into the mix, but never truly developed an improv J.B. Rap, that I was hoping for. With everything set up for a an impending RHM, I grabbed Lisa and started dancing with her.

"Red Hot Mama" turned on like a light bulb. Perfect segue from Bear's. The crowd was in overdrive. Lisa and I danced like freaks and I professed my love for her on that crowded Maryland hill. This one-two punch out of drums brought things to a boil. By the end of RHM, I was almost out of gas from dancing so hard. I knew there would be another smoker following this one, but I wasn't sure I could make it.

JoJo started things up next with one of his special piano intro's he is so great at. At first I heard "Blackout," but after a few measures, it became apparent that JoJo had something on the stove. "Red Beans" was perfect to end the show with. Old fans love it, and new fans find it's aroma irresistible. Full of kick-ass jams that can move buildings, this song kept the energy high all the way to the end. Need I say it again, Dave's bass playing polished this song so well, it could have turned a chunk of coal into a diamond. (Get It?) As I looked at the crowd around me it was apparent that I was not the only one with Widespread Fever! With a rousing finale, the band played the last few notes left and then left the stage.

After a couple minutes of cheers and hollering, the band made it's way back for the encore to an appreciative crowd.

The first encore was "This Part Of Town," a Mikey ballad with awesome lyrics. It was a little slow for an encore on a night like this, but since I have been really getting into Mikey's lyrics, I was happy to hear it. Besides, I needed the rest, after the workout I just went through. A very mesmerizing version, clearly showing the band's ability to handle the deep and heavy ones as well as the rocking jamming ones.

"This Part Of Town" gave way to a fiery rendition of "Mr. Soul." J.B. worked his vocal magic, and Dave pulled out all stops for the last song, and hit the deep deep notes. Mikey had a great solo, that wound itself around the rhythm played by J.B., while JoJo colored and filled like it was the first song of the evening, and not the last. The last notes of Mr. Soul spewed out of the speakers and like that it was over. J.B. thanked us for coming and wished us a good night, and the house lights came up.

I was flabbergasted. Things had worked out perfectly. The two bands played above average and gave me my money's worth. The showdown of bass virtuosos was a tough one. Could I decide who the champion was based on this night alone? It was tough, but in the end I did pick the winner... ME!

That's right, I won. I was able to see my two favorite bands on the same bill playing their hearts out. My friends and I are healthy enough and lucky enough to live in a country were we can hit the road and go were we please without showing someone identification papers. It was a gorgeous summer night with the woman I love.

Yes sir, I won!

Now... Do yourself a favor and Go See Live Music!

Ron "Big Woolly Mammoth" Crowell
JamBase Reviewer/Evolutionary Reject

[Published on: 7/20/01]

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