On Stage: ‘Annie’ leads diverse local options

A little something for everyone at area venues this weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times


Annie opens a six-dat run at the Academy of Music, March 17.

The area’s calendar of live music for the next week has something to satisfy almost every taste.

From the timeless music and story of “Annie” to the hardcore hip hop sounds of Twiztid, from the soothing music of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra to the ultra-fresh pop/rock songs of Dylan Gardner, from the folk-tinged rock of Twin Forks to the guitar-driven tunes of Shannon Wright, the variety of moods and styles of live entertainment is impressive.

The signature song “Tomorrow” from the hit musical “Annie” tells you that tomorrow is always a day away.

Forget tomorrow. If you want to catch a local performance of the national tour of “Annie”, you have to seize the day. If you wait for tomorrow, you just might be too late. The show opens March 17 for a short six-day run at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Series.

The original production of “Annie,” which opened on Broadway in 1977, won seven Tony Awards and ran for six years, featured Andrea McArdle as Annie.

The show has gone on numerous national tours and featured notable cast members such as child star Amanda Balon as Annie and television/movie/stage/rock band veteran Mackenzie Phillps as Lily St. Regis.

The current production features Issie Swickle as Annie, Gilagmesh Tagget as Oliver Warbucks and Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan.

“Martin Charnin did this show again,” said Tagget, during a phone interview a few weeks ago from a tour stop in Indianapolis. “He was the original Broadway director. He wanted to return the show to its original roots which are the American spirit of optimism and the importance of the love of a child.”

Tagget did the show twice in Cleveland — most recently in 2013.

“I always played Oliver,” said Tagget, whose other favorite roles are Father (“Children of Eden”), Franz Liebkind (“The Producers”), Billy Flynn (“Chicago”) and Jud Fry (“Oklahoma”).

“I started shaving my head in 2005 for another role. I went from having long hair and a full beard to being completely shaven. I’ve stayed that way ever since.

“The first time I saw the stage version of ‘Annie’ was from the inside and that’s primarily how I see it now,” said Tagget. “I saw the movies but movies can’t compare to live performances.”

In playing Oliver, Tagget has a shaved head on the outside. And, he has to work to get inside Oliver Warbucks’ head.

“Oliver is not a bad man,” said Tagget. “But, he’s a driven man who knows exactly what he wants and has it — until he meets Annie. He realizes that the needs of that child are more important than money.”

The veteran actor, is not surprised at all by the longevity enjoyed by this musical.

“The structure of this show is different than many other shows,” said Tagget. “The main character has the arc and everyone around Annie transforms. It was the Great Depression. Everyone was suffering and here was this little girl with an indomitable spirit. The show is funny but it’s also about truth and love.

“If you really look at the structure of the show, it’s unique. It captures everything in a bottle. The book, music and lyrics are all brilliant. And, it’s more than just a story. It’s about this girl who demonstrates an unflagging can-do attitude. She represents everything that is good about the American spirit.”

Tagget shares his name with Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian king who lived sometime between 2800 and 2500 B.C.  Gilgamesh was a king who was two-thirds god and one-third man.

“As an actor and performer, I’m a storyteller,” said Tagget. “Being named after the main character in the oldest recorded story ever written inspires me.”

“Annie” video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2gD_Gq8chFU.

The performance schedule for “Annie” is March 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.; March 20 at  8 p.m.; March 21 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and March 22 at 1 and 6 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 to $115.50

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Dylan Gardner

Dylan Gardner, who just released his debut album “Adventures in Real Time” on Warner Bros. Records, will be performing March 12 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400,philly.worldcafelive.com).

Gardner, who at the age of 18 is too young to be in the audience at many of his club shows, is a talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who draws much of his influence from the great rock songwriters from the 1960s and 1970s. He lists the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors as particular favorites.

“Ever since I was born, I’ve been attracted to playing music,” said Gardner, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon en route from New York to a show in Boston.

“I was banging on pots and pans when I was four. My dad Mark Gardner played lead guitar in a band and he brought me onstage to sing with him when I was four. And, my brother Mark was a drummer. All that influenced me very early in my life. I was really young when I started listening to the Beatles and other 1960s acts.”

Gardner used his own and his family’s record collections as educational tools and supplemented them with information gleaned from the internet. He has spent the last 10 years of his life obsessed with the art of songwriting, and the internet provided him with the entire history at his fingertips. He taught himself to be a multi-instrumentalist, pro-tools engineer, and bedroom producer.

“I started as a drummer and then went to guitar and piano,” said Gardner. “I play bass on my demos and mandolin — and I dabble with other instruments. I grew up in Chicago and then our family moved to Arizona when I was 14. I was writing songs for no reason on my guitar. My parents heard it and got behind me. I went out and professionally recorded a few songs. I was inspired by the recording process so I turned my bedroom into a recording studio.”

Gardner built a studio in his bedroom (laptop, Pro Tools rig, MIDI keyboard, drum programming machine), put all his clothes in his parents’ room, and turned his closet into a vocal booth. He even moved in an upright Baldwin piano that he got at a Goodwill store.

“I read and learned about the craft of recording music,” said Gardner. “And, I was writing songs every day. I had over 100 songs after a year. I love writing songs. The melody always comes first. The hook gets immediately fleshed out following the trail of the melody. Then, I take it to piano or guitar right away. I attack the song really fast.

“A lot of times, I start with an idea and get it down on my iPhone immediately. The iPhone voice memo is the most useful tool in my pocket. Inspiration for songs comes from stuff that has happened to me, from people and places, from what I see in other people — nothing is off-limits.”

Last year, Dylan put “Let’s Get Started” on Spotify, which included it on a popular playlist called “Smart Is The New Sexy.” Suddenly, the track caught fire.

“It spread by word of mouth,” said Gardner. “‘Let’s Get Started’ had 80,000 plays. I started watching and it was going up 20,000 plays every day. Then, it hit a million. Then it hit two million. Now it’s over four million.”

The meteoric rise did not go unnoticed by the folks at Warner Bros. It didn’t take too long for the huge record label to offer Gardner a contract.

“Warner Bros. saw me as an artist with a career,” said Gardner. “They believed in me. I love Warner Bros. For the kind of music I listen to, they’ve had so many of the acts I really love.

“I recorded the ‘Adventures in Real Time’ album and then released it in March 2014 on Spotify. It was re-issued by Warner Bros. in January with no changes. The album is exactly the same as the original release.

“My brother Mark played drums on the record and he’s my tour drummer. We also have Nick Jozwiak on bass. It’s a really tight band. We perform the whole album. We also do a few covers like the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Vampire Weeked.’ And, we throw in some surprises.”

Opening for Gardner at the World Café Live will be his label-mate Taylor Berrett, one of the brightest new singer-songwriters in America. It will be the final show of his three-show residency at the venue. Berrett’s debut album “Great Falls” was released on Warner Bros. Records on March 10.

“Generally, I like to tell a story,” said Berrett, talking about his songwriting during a recent phone interview. “I get ideas through storytelling — first person or third person.

“Sometimes, third person is more interesting. A lot of times, I’m just creating characters. When I first started, I was just trying to write songs that I thought songs should be about. Now, if it’s not something that’s a unique perspective, I’ll abandon it.”

Video link for Dylan Gardner — https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLrGNSMrqFsUJQ2gfPAZk8XMTjLAjHiMfs&v=j-ZvVm2d5a8&feature=player_detailpage

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show on March 12 on the WCL’s Upstairs Stage are $10 and $12. The Downstairs Stage will host Scott Weiland and his band the Wildabouts. Weiland was formerly the lead vocalist for the Stone Temple Pilots.

Other acts coming to the Downstairs Stage over the next week are John Byrne Band (March 13), Minas (March 14), the Pine Hill Project featuring Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky (March 15) and the Full CarbonGet-Up Cultureal (March 16).

The Upstairs Stage will present Orla Gartland (March 13), Carrie Manolakos (March 14), Giovana Robinson (March 15), Widow Maker Social Club and Civil Holdup (March 16), BarleyJuice (March 17) and Eric Sommer (March 18).

The World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will present an attractive triple-bill on its Downstairs Stage on March 12 with Twin Forks, Lucero and Ryan Bingham.

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Twin Forks

Chris Carrabba began his current band Twin Forks pretty much the same way he started his previous band Dashboard Confessional about 12 years ago. Carraba wrote the songs first and then put a band together.

Twin Forks released its eponymous debut EP in September 2013 and then toured with a lineup featuring mandolin player Suzie Zeldin, bassist Jonathan Clark and drummer Ben Homola along with singer/guitarist Carrabba.

The band eventually evolved as a live band that included Kimmy Baron on backing vocals, Kelsie Baron on mandolin and Shawn Zorn on drums.

“It’s been this lineup for quite awhile,” said Carrabba, during a phone interview last week. “We knew we were on borrowed time with some of the musicians we had because of their other commitments. It’s a continual open door.”

More evolution reduced the number of players by one.

“Right now, we’re a trio — Kelsie, Shawn and I,” said cCrrabba. “Kimmy left the band because she’s having a baby.”

The Nashville-based group is touring in support of its new CD “Twin Forks,” which was released on Dine Alone Records.

“We recorded the album in our garage in Nashville and it came out about a year ago,” said Carrabba. “Nashville is a great city with a lot of culture. And, because of its location, it’s a great city to tour out of.

“We’re touring with two other acts and we had a request from the headliner to keep it down to a stripped-down line-up. Both bands had a lot of gear so we had to keep it small. I take what I learn from these bands and infuse it into our shows.

“As the opening act, we only have a 30-minute set. This is a rare opportunity to preach to the uninitiated. I like the challenge of winning over an audience. It’s tactile.

“With Dashboard Confessional, it started out as a very communal thing. Then, when we started playing sheds and arenas, it became logistically different. I didn’t like the line of demarcation between the audience and the band. With tours like this one, I love the lack of division. I’m having a blast on this tour.”

Twin Forks video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fOXyVWXchLM.

The show on March 12 at the Queen will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other shows slated for the Downstairs Stage over the next week are Carbon Leaf (March 13), the Delaware Humane Association’s Ninth Annual Muttini Mixer (March 14) and Los Lonely Boys (March 17). The Upstairs Stage will have Nora Struthers and the Party Line (March 12), and the Rent-A-Cops and Krush (March 14).

delilah 2

Delilah Rene Luke

Another show on March 12 in Delaware that looks interesting will take place at the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org). The latest installment of the SmartTalk series features Delilah with a talk titled “The Women We Come From.”

Delilah, whose full name is Delilah Rene Luke, is a radio personality, author, and songwriter who is famous as the host of a nationally-syndicated nightly radio program with a listening audience that numbers in the millions.

Described as “America’s radio voice of reason and compassion,” Delilah has 13 children, writes books, poetry, runs a foundation, and is a sympathetic listener to her audience.

A native of the Oregon Coast, Delilah is the founder of Point Hope, a non-profit organization providing a better future for impoverished Liberian refugees living in Ghana. On the day prior to her Wilmington show, she flew back to America from her latest trip to the African nation.

Delilah’s program at the Grand will start at 7:30 p.m. on March 12. Other talks in the series will be presented by international newswoman Lara Logan on April 20 and veteran singer Linda Ronstadt on May 13.

Other shows coming soon to the Grand are “Mike Super — Magic & Illusion” on March 14 and the traditional Irish band Dervish on March 18.

dso david amado

Delaware Symphony Orchestra Music Director David Amado

Another incentive to head a few miles south of the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line this weekend is a pair of concerts by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.

On March 13 at 7:30 p.m. and again on March 15 at 2 p.m., the DSO will perform a program called “Body and Soul” at the Laird Performing Arts Center at Tatnall (1501 Barley Mill Road, Greenville, Delaware, 302-656-7442, www.delawaresymphony.org).

The program featuresVariations on a Theme of Haydn” by German composer Johannes Brahms, “Clarinet Concerto” by British composer Gerald Finzi and “Symphony No. 2” by French composer Jean Sibelius.

“The Brahms pieces isn’t really a theme of Haydn,” said DSO Music Director David Amado, during a phone interview Tuesday morning. “It’s a set of variations — eight variations and a finale. It’s one of Brahms’ most popular works.

“In all of Brahms’ music, no other pieces fit this mold. It’s about 20 minutes. The rest of his works are giant pieces. It’s a nice opportunity to hear Brahms work through material in a piece that is not symphonic in length. It is symphonic in scope but not in length.

“Each variation has a different feel. With the variations, it allows Brahms to visit many moods and character. It’s constantly changing so it is a challenge.”

The first half of the show also features “Clarinet Concerto.”

“This is a mid-century piece by an English composer with very beautiful language,” said Amado about the composition from 1948. “He uses dissonance to provide tension –just clarinet and strings. It’s a very lush sound palate in three movements. They are beautiful tunes. It’s a very friendly piece — not harsh at all.

“The whole piece is pervaded by a sense of melancholy — which is good for this time of year. It features Charlie Salinger, who is our principal clarinetist. He suggested it last year. I found the score and did some listening. I’m very appreciative that Charlie found it.”

The second half of the concert showcases the Sibelius composition.

“This was the second of seven symphonies that Sibelius wrote,” said Amado. “It’s his most popular symphony — the one that is performed most often. It represents an amalgam of traditional symphony values. It’s Sibelius’ sense of how a symphony should function. His later symphonies were more Sibelian.

“The second symphony is more balanced. Sibelius was interested in writing music that felt natural and organic. You can feel that in the second symphony. Sections that would have been delineated are blurred. It’s a big piece — 45 minutes long. Fortunately, it has many movements.

“One of the many things I love about Sibelius is his abandonment of formal values. The music has a natural way of unfolding. It doesn’t require a listener to have a degree of scrutiny.

“It is incredibly appealing music. It has a direct connection to your emotions. It’s very accessible — but it requires a degree of patience. The piece is all about building expectations. And, when the expectations are achieved, it’s momentous.”

Tickets for the concerts are $60 and $80 on March 13 and $60 on March 15.

On March 15, you can travel to the opposite end of the musical spectrum by heading to Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com) to catch the “Get Wasted With Twiztid Green Beer, Bud n’Blood Show.”

twiztid 2


Formed in 1997, Twiztid is a duo featuring Jamie Madrox and Monoxide Child (a.k.a. Jamie Spaniolo and Paul Methric). The two former members of the group House of Krazees departed that group and formed Twiztid in 1997.

Now, almost 20 years later, Twiztid is still going strong with more than 20 albums in their catalogue. The two rappers’ most recent album is “The Darkness,” which was released on their own label Majik Ninja in January.

“We’re going to be out about six weeks touring ‘The Darkness,’” said Monoxide, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Michigan.

“Initially, the tour was something different. Me and Jamie were very critical. We didn’t know how the album would be perceived. We were going to call the tour something else because if people didn’t like the record, they’d still come to the tour. We’re like that with every record. We’re very self-conscious.”

Their worries were unfounded.

“The Darkness” debuted at Number 29 on the Billboard Top 200 charts, making this album their 11th album to land on the Top 200 charts since the inception of the group in 1997. It hit Number 2 on Top Rap Album Chart, Number 4 on Top Independent Album Chart and Number 17 on Top Albums Chart.

“It debuted in the Top 30,” said Monoxide. “That was insane. We’ve already done some live shows for ‘The Darkness.’ We can do the whole album start to finish and it will go over well live.

“We’ve never played it safe. Safe isn’t forever and we want to be here forever. It’s no fun to be safe. This is our passion. Every record has its time and some are ahead of their time. We’ll never been content. We saw a lane open up and we took it.

“We finally have our own studio so we can work when we want. We recorded ‘The Darkness’ in three weeks. We’re extremely efficient in the studio because we were used to doing albums quickly because to the high cost of renting a studio.

“We knew the beats but nothing was written and we had no concept. We just went in and designed it. Once you get the concept, it’s pretty much just putting it all together. We finished the songs and then went to the chalk board and picked the order for the songs to be on the album.”

“The Darkness” was Twiztid’s first album on its own label. Prior to Majik Ninja, the duo released its albums on Psychotropic Records, a label run by Insane Clown Posse. The first new signee on Majik Ninja is Blaze Ya Dead Homie, which is the opening act for this weekend’s show.

“We’re still friends with Insane Clown Posse,” said Monoxide. “They really helped us in the beginning. When we came out with them, we saw them at their pinnacle and they walked us into everything they did. We still do Gathering of the Juggalos every year with ICP.”

Gathering of the Juggalos is an outdoor rap festival in the Midwest organized each year for the last 16 years by Insane Clown Posse. It will be held this year in July in Thornville, Ohio.

“We started our own label because it was time,” said Monoxide, who was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in the Detroit area. “Initially, it was just going to be Twiztid and see where it’s going. But, we realized we wanted something bigger and more. It’s not just about me and Jamie anymore. It’s so much bigger.

“It opened for us. It was a parting of the Red Sea and ‘here’s your lane.’ 2015 will be our time to fill it. We’re going to watch this grow and grow. It’s all about survival. We grew up hard on the east side of Detroit. We grew up with about 40 kids and 30 of them are either dead or in prison for life. Where we grew up, it was survival every day.”

Twiztid’s concert at Reverb will get underway at 5:30 p.m. on March 15 with Thira, Whitney Peyton and Blaze Ya Dead Homie opening the show. Tickets are $17.

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Shannon Wright

Another show slated for March 15 is Shannon Wright’s concert at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

Wright travels to the beat of her own drum — and travels at her own chosen pace.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist, who has lived in a number of locations in the south including Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Atlanta, released her debut album “Flightsafety” on Touch and Go/Quarterstick Records in 1997 — an album on which she played almost all the instruments.

Since then, she has released eight more albums — “Maps of Tacit” (2000), “Dyed in the Wool” (2001), “Over the Sun” (2004), “Yann Tiersen and Shannon Wright” (2004), “ Let in the Light” (2007), “Honeybee Girls” (2009), “ Secret Blood (2010) and “In Film Sound” (2013).

The last time she toured in America was after the release of “Over the Sun,” an album she recorded with legendary recording engineer Steve Albini.

“I haven’t toured in the states in 10 years,” said Wright, during a phone interview last week from her home in Atlanta. “I was on Touch and Go. When the label closed down, I didn’t want to do it anymore.

“I’ve been on the road in Europe for the last 10 years. In Europe, people go to music shows a lot and clubs there treat you well. I recorded ‘In Film Sound’ in Louisville (Kentucky). I toured it in Europe many times but never here in the states.”

“In Film Sound” featured the rhythm section of Shipping News members Kyle Crabtree on drums and Todd Cook on bass. It was released in America in 2013 on Brooklyns Ernest Jenning Record Co.

“I’m touring with the two guys that played on the record — just a three-piece band,” said Wright, who is known for her distinct and intense guitar sound, insightful lyrics amnd furious live shows.

“The songs are pretty much the same as we recorded them. But, songs always do evolve in some ways after they’re played live for awhile. We recorded the album live — all three of us playing in the same room together. I added vocals later — and a few other little things. So, we can play them all live.

“When I was writing the songs for the album, they all came out at the same time. Writing just depends on the mood. I start on guitar or piano and songs just come. There are no themes. I just write from an honest perspective of what I feel at the movement.

“With this record, I wanted to record it live. It’s definitely more important to me that the honesty is there. When I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t play. It just comes out on its own. If it’s not something that naturally comes out, I’m not interested.”

Wright isn’t worried whether or not her fans will still be there after she spent a decade in Europe without performing in America.

“The kind of fans I have — they tend to be very faithful,” said Wright, who didn’t start playing guitar until she was 20. “Still, it’s very interesting to me that the fans have stayed.

“With this tour, I’m not really worried about sparking an interest. We’re just going to go, play and enjoy ourselves. I’m just looking forward to playing music.”

The show on March 15 at Boot and Saddle will start at 8 p.m. and will also feature Young Widows and The Austerity Program. Tickets are $14.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Better Than Bacon on March 12, The Buffalo Chip and the Heard along with Naked Blue on March 13 and Beyond The Pale on March 14.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host the Jost Project with Gina Roche on March 13 and “In the Round with Craig Bicjkhardt and Thom Schuyler” on March 14.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host Slave Dog and Overfield on March 13 and Sliding Delta on March 14.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Angaleena Presley on March 13, Melvin Seals and KGB on March 14, and Steve Kimock and Friends on March 15.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Josh Oliver with Emily Mure on March 13 and Michael Braunfeld with Matt Harlan on March 14.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will host Ben Abrams, Kevin Feeley and No Stranger on March 13 and The Jumping Juvies and Laela Johnson on March 14.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Tommy Emmanuel on March 13 and Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield on March 14.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Jason Boland & The Stragglers and Cody Canada & The Departed on March 12, the Glengharry Boys on March 13, Dave and Phil Alvin on March 14, and the Richie Furay Band on March 15.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) will present Matthew West on March 12 and the Blue Man Group on March 13.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org) starts the run of its latest production “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on March 14. The play, which won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is a comedic story that was also a hit film.

A satire of big business and all it holds sacred, it follows the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch up the corporate ladder from lowly window washer to high-powered executive. Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

The Rainbow Dinner Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.RainbowDinnerTheatre.com) is presenting “Squabbles” now through March 21. Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain.

Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-$55.

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