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Kendal Calling 2014: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Martin’s Day 1 roundup from
Kendal Calling 2014 is here.

There’s no doubting the scale of The Ramona Flowers‘ ambition – theirs is all big reverb and hanging guitar notes, large-scale emoting and words like “bittersweet”. There’s a common comparison with U2, which is fair enough, but in comparison the Flowers seem a touch lightweight: at least U2 managed to write about politics before moving on to songs which can be played at weddings. ‘Brighter’ is a spacey affair which manages to tick all the boxes of swirly, effected guitar, emo-pained yet meaningless vocal meanderings and a stadium-friendly drum track. Does the world need another bunch of U2 wannabes? Probably not, but the experience is pretty exhilarating while it lasts. Steve Bird is a strong frontman – which basically means he knows how good he looks and plays up to it – and the rest of the band bang out the massive tunes with competence and enthusiasm. If, like Professor Peach, you “like ’em big”, then The Ramona Flowers are where it’s at.

Amber Run (another set, another meaningless two-word band name) belong to that most dreary of genres: Quiet-Loud-Folksy-Rock-With-Big-Crescendos-And-Wide-Eyed-Faux-Innocent-Vocals. Even if this was your very first introduction to the wonders of live rock music, you’d still be forgiven for thinking “is that really it?”. ‘Spark’ has a pointless refrain of “let the light in”, repeated ad nauseum – a defining feature of the QLFRWBCAWEFIV genre. ‘Noah’ has all the other tropes – mildly ironic orchestral baubles (in this case, xylophone) and vowels stretched to the very limits of decency. They’re not as irritating as Eliza and the Bear, although that’s like saying syphilis is preferable to AIDS. Both to be avoided as much as practically possible.

We Were Evergreen do their thing, which is to be very funky and French indeed. We’ve covered them before at Deer Shed Festival (read about this year’s appearance here), so there’s no need to go into detail about their virtues again here, except to say that TGTF had a chat with them afterwards, so watch this space for that.

Thank goodness for Findlay, who can be relied upon to be a proper rock star. There’s more attitude in her slight frame than any number of mopey, reverbed boy bands. ‘Your Sister’ is even more acerbic live, the minimal band (another example of the current superfluosity of bassists) rocking hard to an ancient blues riff over lyrics heavy with innuendo. She breaks out the overdrive microphone for ‘Greasy Love’, which is still a very naughty piece of music, its references to sweaty sex just about as raunchy as rock gets right now, and its music is as dirty as its lyrical content. A new track called ‘Stoned and Alone’ is unleashed with the order, “if you’ve got a spliff, smoke it now!” to the raised eyebrows of security staff; what a rebel. If there’s a girl doing better blues-rock than Findlay right now, call the Guinness Book of Records.

Catfish and the Bottlemen pack the Calling Out tent, punters squelching around in boggy puddles on its periphery, desperate to catch a glimpse of a band that are shaping up to be the next big thing in mainstream rock. The stars were all aligning for their Kendal performance – their album about to drop, it was frontman Van McCann’s birthday, and he’d just exclusively revealed to TGTF that he’d like CATB to be bigger than Oasis. Fair enough. And on the evidence of today, their trajectory is indeed inexorably upwards. Their songs are adventurous yet simple: big choruses, hooky melodies, modestly sweary of lyric yet innocent of eye. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, no novel song arrangements, no obscure instrumentation, just a wall of guitars and an endearing mixture of humility and genuine cool from McCann. Back in March last year, TGTF declared “anyone pondering the future of British guitar music should add Catfish and the Bottlemen to the list”. Come 2014, not only are they on the list, they’re fighting hard to be at the top. Care to bet against them?

With their run of festival performances this summer, Suede have pulled off one of the most profound comebacks in recent memory. Not only are they generally regarded as being, if not quite the inventors of Britpop, then certainly the trailblazers, they have managed to resurrect a career that was in danger of becoming a footnote in pop music history – a blazing start followed by a long tail of increasing mediocrity. No longer. Following their superb comeback 2013 album ‘Bloodsports’, Suede have crafted a live show utterly worthy of a headline slot at any event in the world. Even (whisper it…) Glastonbury. Mumford and Sons? Give me a break.

After an appropriately long wait, a shadowy figure emerged from the depths of the stage to the mournful piano strains of ‘The Next Life’, a hugely brave move in front of a Northern festival crowd known for its rowdy enthusiasm. Impressively, the crowd was hushed and reverent as Brett Anderson knelt, almost foetus-like, his cracked falsetto hypnotising them into silence. A beautiful moment of Kendal history. But in a blink it was gone, replaced by a romp through 20 years of Suede history. They played more than half their debut album but just a single track from opus ‘Dog Man Star’, perhaps reinforcing this author’s opinion that, good though ‘Dog Man Star’ is, it’s ‘Suede’ that is a true pop-rock masterpiece, with the perfect combination of punk, pomp and peroxide, and much more relevant in the live arena.

There’s four tracks from ‘Coming Up,’ demonstrating just how valuable the first Oakes-written Suede album is to their back catalogue. The move to single-word song titles (‘Filmstar’, ‘Lazy’, ‘Trash’) neatly summarises the fresh, efficient, to-the-point Suede 2.0 which emerged from the ashes of the ‘Dog Man Star’ sessions – such songs are remarkably fizzy, electronically-enhanced shocks of guitar pop that still sound fresh and vital today. We also get this writer’s favourite ever Suede song, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, never released on a non-compilation album, but a perennial live favourite, a dystopian singalong with a similarly worrying video.

There really isn’t a comparable story in pop to that of Richard Oakes. Plucked from nowhere as a schoolboy with a penchant for playing Suede songs in his bedroom, his mimicry of Bernard Butler was astonishing then, and his ability to write original guitar parts in the true Suede style is nothing short of a musical miracle even now. His recent portliness may not be true to the skinny Suede style of old (Anderson, however, remains as sticklike as ever), but is at least a visual reminder of the years that have passed since his joining. Despite what many longstanding fans may want to believe, Oakes has been in the band almost three times as long as his predecessor, and is the true sound of modern Suede.

The high-water mark for Britpop reunions is arguably Blur’s performance at Glastonbury in 2009, with perhaps an honourable mention for Pulp at Primavera in 2011. The difference here is that Suede aren’t just doing a one-off gig or two, this tour has been going for the best part of a year, featuring several festival appearances. This a proper career reboot, and with a new album slated for 2015, Suede are proving that they’re not happy simply with inventing Britpop. They want to reinvent it too.

More from Martin on Kendall Calling 2014 will be on TGTF soon.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2014: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 11th August 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Camping with kids at festivals is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Despite running around all day, playing swingball in fits of glee, they rarely fall asleep anywhere near normal bedtime yet paradoxically wake at the crack of dawn, as the first glow of sunlight forces its way through increasingly stuffy canvas. Which would explain the weary expressions on the faces of parents in the queues for coffee and bacon sandwiches early Saturday morning at Deer Shed festival. Plenty simply hadn’t bothered to get dressed, waiting in line in pyjamas and Crocs for the calories and caffeine which would finally drag them into the realm of the waking.

As good a place as any to eat breakfast was the Big Top tent, with Paul Cookson and Stan Cullimore for company. Stan used to be in The Housemartins, so he can play the ukulele and now sings songs for kids rather than blather on about how good Hull is. Paul Cookson used to be a teacher, so knows how to handle a crowd of over-excited children, and trades in performance poetry when not accompanying Cullimore on the ukulele. He has one particularly memorable routine in which he impersonates his teenage daughter’s head-shaking, hand-waving putdowns: “Wha-eva, major loser!” Elsewhere, the Stan sings a song about the virtues or otherwise of his musical partner’s digestive system, which of course brings the house down. A great way to banish the cobwebs.

Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls do a good job of convincing people to buy their début album ‘Pink Fur’. Its scuzzy, incessant grooves infected with gothic despair are ironically just the ticket to really launch into Saturday PM. The shadow of Nick Cave hangs heavy over them; indeed, the male-female interplay recalls Cave and Minogue at their most lugubrious. After all that, how bad can one’s life be in comparison? Dublin’s Raglans do exactly what you might expect of a few likely lads equipped with guitars from Ireland’s party city. Upbeat, jolly ditties, delivered with irrepressible enthusiasm. Their song entitled ‘White Lightning’ might raise queasy memories of last night’s cider-induced hangover, but apart from that, they deserve full marks for kicking the Main Stage into life.

With nothing of interest to follow on the Main Stage, it’s to the comedy tent to witness Wes Zaharuk (yet another name misspelled in the programme). His brand of shambolic, power tool-assisted slapstick comedy has the power to have an audience in tears of laughter in short order, and gives any manner of ideas for mayhem to errant toddlers. A whole toilet roll is unravelled in someone’s face using some sort of power blower, and a lucky lady gets to feed Wes a banana. From behind. Without looking. It’s unclear how he gets away with it, but give praise to the god of slapstick that he does.

Happyness are the perfect mid-afternoon tent band. Their chilled-out obscurantist rock proves how effective the power trio lineup can still be. Their songs have a deceptive superficial simplicity in which hides all manner of clever guitar work and surrealist lyrical content. ‘Refrigerate Her’, anyone? The irony of their name versus their faux-glum onstage banter doesn’t go unnoticed, either. With their début album now released, Happyness deserve increasing recognition for their West-Coast-by-way-of-South-London vibes – and they’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately Catfish and the Bottlemen are indisposed, so Bleech play for the second time in 2 days. Which means that We Were Evergreen’s upcoming claim to Deer Shed fame – that they’d be the first act to play the main stage twice – is cruelly usurped by fate at the last possible moment. Which makes it even more inexplicable when the compere introduces “We Are Evergreen [sic], the first band ever to play the Main Stage twice!” just after Bleech had finished playing their second Main Stage set. Evergreen’s name had been misspelled throughout the catalogue and lanyard – one would imagine that a band that had played before would have better name recognition than the others, but apparently not. Anyway, a bit of a low point, credibility-wise.

What wasn’t a low point was We Were Evergreen’s actual set. Fortunately, the Parisian three-piece multi-instrumentalists can remember their own name and what to play. They’ve taken their time releasing their début album ‘Towards’, but the wait has been worth it. They’re complete antithesis of a guitar band: yes, they have a Telecaster and a ukulele, but they work in deference to the song, instead of the song being an incidental excuse for six-stringed excess. It’s impossible to overstate the songwriting efficiency that goes into a song like ‘False Start’: its funkiness is off the scale, there’s hooks galore, and the whole thing hangs in the air with a citric freshness of style for which merely being Gallic isn’t sufficient explanation. The closer ‘Belong’ has a climax of such theatrical intensity that it leaves the crowd in raptures of applause. There isn’t enough time in universe to get bored with it. We Were Evergreen deserve widespread acclaim, as do Deer Shed for hosting them twice – let’s hope they get their name right third time around.

Summer Camp play the “In the Dock” stage, which is a tent, but they surely would have worked just as well on the main stage, such is the power of their funkily intense pop music. Indeed, Summer Camp are perhaps the perfect intelligent pop band, with just the right blend of sugary melodies, acerbic observational lyrics, and a decent slug of wig-out when they’re really powering on. There’s some cuts from their recent ‘Beyond Clueless’ semi-soundtrack album, but the greatest acclaim is reserved for their back-catalogue classics – ‘Better Off Without You’ from ‘Welcome To Condale’ is received like an old friend. Elizabeth Sankey is a woodland diva, her tremulous soprano lending an air of dignity to the acerbic lyrics, whilst Jeremy Walmsley’s ’80s retro grooves ensure that any joints that may have become stiff in the evening breeze are well-loosened in anticipation of our headliner.

And so we come to Johnny Marr. In part 1 it was already established that Mr Marr is the most successful Deer Shed headliner ever, and outlined the reasons for it. Suffice to say that to these ears, seeing Marr live is actually superior to seeing the Smiths in their pomp: Marr’s voice is adequate but nothing spectacular, which leaves the music and songs space to breathe – the whole isn’t dominated by a preening diva flouncing around. Having said that, Marr is a surprisingly good mimic, his tone and inflection an impressive imitation of Morrissey’s, and indeed Neil Tennant’s for that matter. He played a decent mixture of solo songs, Smiths classics, one or two from Electronic, and a fine rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’. The enormous crowd gave a rapturous welcome, and even though this was surely a modest crowd by Marr standards, it was perhaps one of the most appreciative. It turns out an elder statesman headliner is perfect for the of-a-certain-age Deer Shed demographic. The mind boggles as to where this could lead – there’s no dearth of ex-singers or guitarists from respected bands which were active over the last two or three decades, any of which would be a perfect fit for Baldersby Park. More on this topic in part 3…

Keep it here on TGTF for the conclusion of Martin’s time at Deer Shed Festival 2014 coming soon.

 

Live at Leeds 2014 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 7th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Live at Leeds has 24 venues, each with an average of 12 slots during the day. If my maths is correct, and assuming one has a Star Trek-style transporting machine which enables instant travel between one venue and the next, that means there are 24 ^ 12, or 36,500,000,000,000,000 different ways to schedule one’s day. Clearly a task that even the most musically-informed maths whiz would find a challenge. Thankfully, the lovely people at DIY had come up with such a tasteful and diverse lineup for their Brudenell Social Club residency, that such venue-hopping became almost entirely unnecessary.

TGTF’s day began with a very pleasant walk in beaming sunshine to the Faversham on the edge of the Leeds University campus, in a quest to kick everything off with a native Leeds band. Marsicans have got riffs and jangles and lovely Yorkshire-accented vocals, hooks you could hang a greatcoat on, all mixed together to generate the musical equivalent of an enormous grin on a summer’s day. They’ve got a single out, ‘Terrapin’, which is generously available for free, which is matched in jollity only by their previous release ‘Chivalry’, whose enormous singalong chorus is, if anything, an even more diligent earworm.

The walk from the Faversham to the Brudenell Social Club is a stage-setting experience in itself. The settled sandstone calmness of campus life gives way to tired yet still noble multi-storey brick terraces. Many residents sit on their front porches, smoking whilst taking in the sun. A 19th-century school has been demolished, leaving only rubble and temporary fencing as a bleak reminder of its proud history. Perhaps it’s the wrought-iron shutters across front doors and windows, or the scattering of dog-eared independent supermarkets, minicab firms and backstreet garages, which all conspire to create a distinctive atmosphere of, if not menace necessarily, then lives lived in complete indifference to the shiny artifice of Leeds’ city centre, lives in which concerns about protecting oneself from crime, or of how to pay the electricity bill, take higher precedence than another new shopping centre, or indeed the niceties of contemporary independent music.

Those few souls living in Burley or Woodhouse who are indeed partial to decent live music every night of the week are fortunate, because that is precisely what the Brudenell provides. The place is as aesthetically unattractive as venues get: architecturally lumpen, with a circular auditorium which does nothing for the acoustics. The interior bears the hallmarks of many an enthusiastic amateur DIYer. How appropriate for today’s residency. The PA in the main room is deafening – always bring ear plugs. But there’s no doubt that it’s also a deeply funky place, imbued with a century’s history of bacchanalia, repurposed as a live venue despite its physical shortcomings with more respect than any number of cookie-cutter chain pubs have for their former banking halls.

Ten minutes is all that TGTF gets of Bearfoot Beware, and it’s enough to determine that this self-confessed mathy three-piece can do tunes, funk, and boot-stamping riffs in equal measure and to an equally high standard. Imagine if Red Hot Chili Peppers were still good and decided to mix their loose funk with complex, bordering on atonal, guitar work, replete with diminished fifths, and theme their songs equally unconventionally. ‘My Love is a Seagull’ is a prime example: there’s two or three intense guitar themes, a bizarre hula drum interlude with all manner of swirling guitar effects; the final minute of instrumental call-and-response has bassist Ric Vowden bouncing and throwing shapes – as do, if they have any soul at all, the audience.

The biggest crowd of the afternoon is drawn for Parisian trio We Were Evergreen (pictured at top). And theirs is the trickiest set to describe. Imagine Manet’s A Bar At The Folie Bergère, then further imagine the late-19th century beat combo which might supply the background music: at once providing beautiful harmonies, a touch of twee sweetness, yet bathing in a decadent groove that is both inspired by and further encourages their city in its bohemian, bourgeois excess. Then bring those minstrels into the present day, equip them with looping pedals, synths, and a ukulele, and you are getting close to We Were Evergreen’s sound.

There’s a touch of Röyksopp in the way Michael Liot’s gentle delivery combines with the electronic beats and toy-like synth melodies, and in the rhythms that gently build to a danceable crescendo. But the songs don’t descend into by-numbers euphoricism: there’s solid songwriting chops on display. ‘False Start’ has a rock-solid chorus, complex, almost obscurantist lyrics, and a surfeit of beeps and bleeps to keep the most ardent electronica fan happy. Their debut album ‘Towards’ was essentially released at this gig – it’s officially out on the Monday hence but copies are on sale here – on the evidence of this performance it’s shaping up to be one of 2014’s essential purchases.

Coasts breeze onstage in a whirlwind of white denim, Doc Martens and wild-eyed charisma. In case one was in any doubt, they’ve brought a palm tree to reinforce their self-confessed trop-pop credentials. But that’s only half the story. With their big melodies and shape-throwing frontman they’re bidding for the affections of Hollyoaks viewers, The 1975 devotees, and any girl who cares to wear denim hotpants in the spring. Musically there’s nothing new about the sound – Fenech-Soler have been doing this Balearic-indie for years – but fair play for trying to breathe new life into this dance-related genre, even if it means that despite five members they still rely heavily on backing tracks to reinforce the dancefloor-friendly beats, one of which inevitably goes catastrophically wrong mid-song.

‘Rush of Blood’ relies on familiar saccharine tropes – “you took the beat in my heart / the words in my mouth / kept me out of the dark / you put the taste on my tongue / the life in my soul / give me air for my lungs”. Smitten, isn’t he? Their live performance reflects these motifs, the drama dialled up to 11 from beginning to end. The faux-sincere intensity does, frankly, wear a little thin after a while, with little in the way of dynamics to maintain interest across the whole set. Much like a takeaway burger, one’s hunger is quickly satiated by the carefully-engineered sensory button-pushing, but when it’s over all that’s left is a guilty, greasy aftertaste.

If Coasts are the class jocks, then Jarbird are the shy, retiring, bookish geeks quietly planning world domination from their perfectly-ordered desks right at the front of the class. In utter contrast to what’s gone before, they deliver fragile four-part harmonies and delicate instrumentation – live electronic drums vie with synth and the most skeletal of Stratocaster work – to create something quite unique and of a compelling, delicate beauty. Recent single ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ evokes a deep sense of yearning melancholy, whilst somehow still remaining optimistic and uplifting – an impressive feat of composition. Clearly still a young band, they have an endearing humility to their presentation that comes as a refreshing change to those who clearly yearn for nothing less than to make themselves enormous in the music business. Jarbird, precisely because they let the music speak for itself, deserve to do very well indeed.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s riveting account of Live at Leeds 2014.

 

Preview: Live at Leeds Festival 2014

 
By on Friday, 2nd May 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

Live at Leeds is one of the most intense examples of one of the most intense of gig-going events: the one-dayer. Leeds boasts more than its fair share of fine venues, and Live at Leeds brings them together under one banner for 12 hours of fine new music. Your brave correspondent has attempted to listen to every one of the over 200 artists on offer – and failed. Therefore here’s a list of what stands out as a possible way to negotiate the myriad of combinations.

The Brudenell Social Club has a strong offer all day. We Were Evergreen (3 pm) trade in Parisian twee-pop blended with indie tunes: a fine, summery start. And after that, because the Brudenell has two stages, it’s one band after the other, every half hour. No time to even visit the bar. Dive In are from Glastonbury and offer chiming melodies and a voice uncannily similar to Brian Molko, if he was full of happy pills. Coasts have the nerve to call their latest single ‘A Rush Of Blood’ – and although there is a touch of Coldplay in some of their soaring choruses, they’re unlikely to be confused with the London behemoth: there’s a nice discordant solo in ‘Stay’, and ‘Wallow’ is almost like Bastille with big guitars. A mixed bag then, but certainly one worth assessing live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68yQl4VRiBQ[/youtube]

Jarbird bring some admirably minimalist electronica overlaid with a lot of twisted, vocodered singing. And with a song called ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ betraying a humourous cynicism, what’s not to like? Happyness, despite being from London, bring sunshine-on-a-string Americana – ‘It’s on You’ properly chugs like the Lemonheads, chock full of classic melodies and a college-rock slacker sensibility; ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ is a slow-burner, with a lazy bassline sketching out a groove and slurred vocals about drawing letters on one’s person. As you do. Woman’s Hour are a bit like a cross between Wild Beasts and The xx – which gives them a lot to live up to. They sound capable of it. With their debut album coming in July, now is a great time to check them out.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS5paNae-ss[/youtube]

From smooth electropop to guitars – both Creases and Primitive Parts supply lo-fi riffing and retro rock ‘n’ roll beats. Primitive Parts clearly have one or two Graham Coxon records in their collection. Onwards: I can’t stop playing ‘Hiroshima’, a fine example of orchestral pop from Norway’s Highasakite. Ingrid Helene Håvik’s vocals are stunning, framed beautifully by the delicate instrumentation.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLQqTaSg-nI[/youtube]

The 8 pm hour provides a dilemma – whether to make the 10-minute walk to The Packhorse to catch TGTF favourites The Orielles; perhaps a taxi ride to the Belgrave Music Hall to see the suave chamber delights of New York’s San Fermin, coming over all Tindersticks and Hem; or to stay at the Brudenell for an increasingly noisy night, kicking off with Montreal’s hard-riffing duo Solids. Indeed, the picture of where to be and what to hear becomes increasingly distant and hazy as the night draws in. Several hotly-tipped acts will have already been missed: Courtney Barnett, Flyte, Arthur Beatrice, and the headliners are either heavy-ish (Pulled Apart By Horses, Catfish And The Bottlemen (pictured at top), The Hold Steady), or poppy-ish (Clean Bandit, King Charles). Leeds’ very own I Like Trains set up a homecoming gig at Leeds Town Hall, celebrating 10 years in the biz.

In short, there’s something for everyone, and nobody can see everything, so it’s probably best to go with the flow and not worry too much about it. Or just spend all day at the Brudenell. See you there…

 

Video of the Moment #1090: We Were Evergreen

 
By on Friday, 11th January 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Paris band We Were Evergreen have a quirky new video for their track ‘Leeway’, the title track of their latest EP out now. The song is adorable too. Watch the video below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8EJ255O2OE[/youtube]

 

To Kill a King releases charity holiday compilation ‘Ralph’s Balcony – The Collection’ in aid of London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital

 
By on Wednesday, 12th December 2012 at 10:00 am
 

London’s To Kill a King – who landed at the #8 position on our readers’ 10 for 2013 poll – have put together a special compilation for the holidays for a great charity.

‘Ralph’s Balcony – The Collection’ was initially conceptualised by lead singer Ralph Pelleymounter as a video series featuring collaborations from the likes of Bastille, Emily Wood, Maud in Cahoots, Holly Walker, Melodica, Melody, and Me, The Title Sequence, Youth Imperial, Professor Penguin, and We Were Evergreen that all took place up on the balcony of his 15th floor Shoreditch flat.

The accompanying album is now available for purchase on their Bandcamp at the price you name. All profits go to London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. As someone who personally spent a lot of her childhood in and out of children’s hospitals, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one charity worthy of your generosity this holiday season. For a taster, you can watch below the video for track #19, which featured in episode XX of Ralph’s Balcony.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3_TWoskKV4[/youtube]

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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