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Alternative to a 'Band'...Tribe Member(s)


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From the 'Contingency' thread:

 

This is why I'd rather be in a tribe than in a band.

 

:D:thu:

 

Mercenary muso. This approach makes a lot of sense. It will be more commonplace in the future IMO.

 

Dedicated bands are cool. Especially for young musos, being in a 'band' is one of the most fun aspects of playing music i.e. fame, money, love connections, etc.

 

Yet, seasoned musos know a band can also be like a bad relationship/marriage unless from experience to keep the BS to a minimum.

 

I'm not a Jazz muso but I've taken liberties with their blueprint. There is a 'book' of tunes everybody knows.

 

Someone finds a gig. That person becomes the 'leader'. They assemble members from the tribe, play and get paid.

 

The upside is no standing rehearsals, limited personality conflicts and subs can be located quickly.

 

The downside is limited arrangements and musos have to develop chemistry on the spot.

 

All of which is a moot point if the music sounds good and the audience digs it.

 

When tribe members find a 'good' gig i.e. pays well and musically satisfying, they end up working like a band. ;):cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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"I'm not a Jazz muso but I've taken liberties with their blueprint. There is a 'book' of tunes everybody knows.

 

Someone finds a gig. That person becomes the 'leader'. They assemble members from the tribe, play and get paid.

 

The upside is no standing rehearsals, limited personality conflicts and subs can be located quickly."

 

I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Band is a four letter word.

 

I'm already married to a wonderful woman, I don't need to be married to 4 dudes.

 

Thumbs up to that. Being in a band is a serious business. But it is not a marriage, even though it is often likened to that dynamic, mostly by people who have trouble staying married...

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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The downside, of course, is you'll be less intimate and musically "familiar" with the "tribe" than you would be with a band. I find it easier to play with people the longer I've played with them for, and an organized band makes for some incredible social and musical bonds.

 

That said, the tribe approach is pretty intriguing. I imagine it'd allow you to be more creative, since you'd be the "leader" and there wouldn't be as many creative conflicts. :thu:

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I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

 

I agree. And musicians bitch that live music is going the way of the dodo bird. Why should anyone else care if the musicians don't?

 

Busch.

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I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

 

I agree. And musicians bitch that live music is going the way of the dodo bird. Why should anyone else care if the musicians don't?

 

Busch.

 

I generally have more positive experiences in this area. Everyone's different, though.

 

 

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I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

 

I agree. And musicians bitch that live music is going the way of the dodo bird. Why should anyone else care if the musicians don't?

 

Busch.

I prefer the music to happen in the moment, and that's hard to get to with a well rehearsed band. It's much more inspiring to mix and match players. It's also much more intense, and you learn a hell of a lot more. If you have a good tribe to draw on, no one can tell that it's NOT a well rehearsed band...

 

To go back to the marriage thing, as a man I love being married to my wife. As a musician, I'm a damn slut who LOVES to sleep around...

A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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I prefer the music to happen in the moment, and that's hard to get to with a well rehearsed band. It's much more inspiring to mix and match players. It's also much more intense, and you learn a hell of a lot more. If you have a good tribe to draw on, no one can tell that it's NOT a well rehearsed band...

 

.

 

Most definitely.

 

I play my best with less rehearsed situations has well. I think a big part, if not all, of the equation, is what level the players are at. Also Jazz/improvisational based music is more conducive to a fly by the seat of your pants type approach. Rock, pop, RnB, Fusion and a lot of 16th note backbeat type smooth Jazz bands benefit from a more rehearsed MO.

 

I came up in bands from when I was 14-25. They were some of the most fun and memorable years of my life---wouldn't trade the memories and experience for anything. Although I think once a musician has gone through that initial apprentice stage, time is better spent on self-improvement to acquire the necessary tools or skills to move forward with their music.

 

On the other hand, if someone is not a pro but a weekend warrior or serious hobbyist, the band can offer that comfort zone to explore or expand their musical aspirations.

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This is how most of the pros operate around here. They are in a number of 'bands' which form as soon as someone books them, then disband. Most 'bands' don't have enough work to keep the players fully employed.

 

Amateurs or weekend warriors are more likely to be in only one 'band'.

 

Michael

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Sounds to me like the drum circles they do on the stip near my house every sunday. Sometimes they're kind of cool for a little while, but sometimes they can really suck, and nobody ever gets paid to do it.

 

I'm in one band, and we do play enough to keep as busy as we want - we have to turn stuff down. It's fun occasionally to play with different people. But "fun" and "polished and professional" are two completely different things. And to me, being polished and professional with good regular gigs and a bunch of guys I know and can count on can be lots of fun as well. Not knowing what to expect from somebody can definitely kill the fun in certain circumstances - especially if they do not live up to your expectations.

Dan

 

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The great jazz combos from 40 - 50 years ago were made up of players who played together for years. There certainly was chemistry happening and arrangements evolved even if they weren't specifically written out. Listen to multiple takes of Bill Evans trio and you hear a lot of similarity between takes. Maybe they didn't rehearse but they were playing together six-seven nights a week. Think of the great Miles quintet from the 1960s with Herbie, Ron, Wayne, Tony. How many years did they play together? Would we have been better off if Miles just had a revolving door policy? I don't think so. I call a leader with a steady group of players a band and jazz history is filled with many great bands.

 

Busch.

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Those jazz combos consisted of extremely talented musos of similar caliber. Between talent, knowing the same tunes and steady gigging, those 'bands' were tight and sounded great too.

 

Actually, Miles Davis had several 'bands' over the course of his life. They were all good in their own right. As a leader, Davis knew which talent to hire and/or develop.

 

A few months ago, I went to Blues Alley to hear a jazz vocalist. The only 'dedicated' muso was the MD/KB player. The other musos just happened to be some of the best local cats. Needless to say, the band was tight.

 

A 'leader' provides the continuity and sets the tone. They are responsible for hiring the best talent i.e. competent musos. If done properly, the audience doesn't know it is an open relationship. :laugh::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Interesting thread. I'm kinda in that situation where in my band we sometime mix and match other musicians depending on the gig and the availability of the players. I've been the really only constant (and tend to get the gigs so I guess I'm the leader??) although our bassist only missed one gig.

 

But all the folks in the "tribe" are people that we've known for around 30 years. So we have the best of both worlds: long-time chemistry and flexible line-ups of members.

"The devil take the poets who dare to sing the pleasures of an artist's life." - Gottschalk

 

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Where I live, these 'bands' are common, particularly in jazz circles. They mostly play hotels, industrials, charity gigs, etc. And as described, Bill books a gig, it's "Bill's Band" and he calls a handful of pieces from a pool of competent players, they go out and make the money. If Fred books the gig, then it is "Freds Band", but the end result is the same.....loose arrangements, long solos, mediocre timing and a mediocre show that fits a need but does not thrill. No one would pay to see it, it is a small part of a larger event. The difference between these 'acts' and a real jazz band that rehearses together is stunning. Most people who hate 'jazz' do so because their experience of jazz consists entirely of these heartless noodling performances.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

 

 

Personally, I enjoy the freshness from playing with members of "the tribe" and also bringing in new members from time to time. Granted, I'm a Jazz muso and we invented the blueprint for this sort of arrangement, but I think a spontaneous collective of talented cats can sound just as great as a well rehearsed combo.

 

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In the days when I was free-lancing for a living, I worked "steady" in about ten different "bands": A ten piece horn band, a 13 piece salsa band, a 7 piece contemporary funk band, a 5 piece blues band, 2 different jazz trios, and so on. I was the first call player in 7 of the bands, and 2nd or 3rd call in a few others. Only 3 of the bands couldn't do a gig without me. The other bands all had other keyboard players who knew the book. All of the bands were built around key people, and were well put together acts. There was a lot of cross-pollination. Some of my friends were in as many as 4 of these acts.

 

In a typical week, I played 5 or 6 gigs with 4 or 5 different bands. In a lot of ways, my playing was at its best then, in part because I was constantly having new musical conversations. It keeps your ears wide open and your ideas fresh.

 

This is the middle ground, I believe, between what Bill@WHS hates about the local casual scene type bands, and 80s-LZ's "polished and professional" band concept.

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Where I live, these 'bands' are common, particularly in jazz circles. They mostly play hotels, industrials, charity gigs, etc. And as described, Bill books a gig, it's "Bill's Band" and he calls a handful of pieces from a pool of competent players, they go out and make the money. If Fred books the gig, then it is "Freds Band", but the end result is the same.....loose arrangements, long solos, mediocre timing and a mediocre show that fits a need but does not thrill. No one would pay to see it, it is a small part of a larger event. The difference between these 'acts' and a real jazz band that rehearses together is stunning. Most people who hate 'jazz' do so because their experience of jazz consists entirely of these heartless noodling performances.

Unless the musos are there for exposure, somebody paid them to show up and play. If not, I can imagine they would rehearse in public. ;)

 

Again, leadership is the difference between a raggedy outfit, noodling away and one that sounds great with or without rehearsals.

 

IMO, Jazz is acquired taste. Most people 'hate' it due to a lack of understanding moreso than 'hack bands'.

 

This is not an anti-band thread. I believe when it comes to original material, unique arrangements and a signature sound, a consistent personnel line-up i.e. 'band' is beneficial.

 

However, for certain types of music, there are musos who can pull it together quickly and sound great on a moment's notice. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I hate bands like that. They mostly suck, they mostly have no life or soul, and there is certainly none of the 'bang' that I get from a well-rehearsed a$$ kicking band. It is working from the least common denominator theory, rather than the 'lets get together and make great music' point of view.

 

As opposed to those bands who rehearse all the time (usually in a 10-1 ratio of gigs). Just cuz it's a band, doesn't mean it's good. I've seen, heard and participated in quick pick-up situations that have smoked. It comes down to the quality of the player and the size of their ears. No amount of rehearsing is going to fix a band full of unconfident, passive players who don't listen to each other. Turns out most (not all) of the really good players I know are working all the time so rehearsal is limited, but they deliver on stage.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Sounds to me like the drum circles they do on the stip near my house every sunday. Sometimes they're kind of cool for a little while, but sometimes they can really suck, and nobody ever gets paid to do it.

 

I'm in one band, and we do play enough to keep as busy as we want - we have to turn stuff down. It's fun occasionally to play with different people. But "fun" and "polished and professional" are two completely different things. And to me, being polished and professional with good regular gigs and a bunch of guys I know and can count on can be lots of fun as well. Not knowing what to expect from somebody can definitely kill the fun in certain circumstances - especially if they do not live up to your expectations.

 

I hear what you are saying, and even agree to a point. But you also operate in a situation where (I would imagine, based on the material you play, and the rig you have set up) there is not a lot of improvisation: the routine of the arrangements has led to (what I imagine is) a very tight, proficient presentation. Having subs in that environment would generally lead to some minor disappointment periodically through the night (as evidenced by your thread featuring the stay-at-home vocalist). I understand it, and get it. But while the consistency in your group is probably very high, the very nature of what you do (with preprogrammed arpeggios or sequences or loops) also dictates there is not a lot of variance, so unless you go and rehearse new segues or medleys, the gig I see in February is likely to closely resemble the gig Id see in November. Nothing at all wrong with that, its a testament to your professionalism that youve built the crowds that you have and have the rapport with clubs you enjoy.

 

Then there is the flip side: the unpredictability of the pick-up band/tribe filled with great players where improvisation is high (and constant, since youre flying by the seat of your pants, as is everyone else), where no one knows exactly what the song ending is going to be until it has shown its face, provides an adrenalizing anxiety that can take the music, and the gig, and the audiences enjoyment, to exciting highs; that combined with the musicians big ears, and the use of same, can produce results that far outweigh those of a consistent, solid band.

 

That is not to say bands are boring; that would be just as ignorant as the criticism leveled against the tribe approach.

 

Both situations benefit from having open-hearted and open-minded musicians with big ears and ability. There are great bands, and there are a lot of NOT so great bands; there are a lot of hack jobbers, and there are a lot of killer tribes.

 

What Im saying is, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

 

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Sounds to me like the drum circles they do on the stip near my house every sunday. Sometimes they're kind of cool for a little while, but sometimes they can really suck, and nobody ever gets paid to do it.

 

Funny: sounds like a LOT of bands everywhere. :thu:

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Bands get a bad name when "Joe" gets word from his wife that her company or social group is having an event. They need entertainment. The wife thinks since "Joe" jams with his friends in the basement, surely, they can knock out the gig.

 

These cats proceed to play the 10 tunes they have been jamming on for 20 years. Best way to get through a 2 hour event is to noodle and play long solos on every tune. The end result is bad wallpaper music and/or folks believing Jazz sounds like a**.

 

OTOH, call a professional-minded muso for the same gig. That 'leader' will pull the charts together and call their A- and B- list musos. No rehearsals may be required depending on the tunes. They will do the hit and sound like they play together 5 nights per week.

 

Steely Dan was never a 'band'. Yet, their records had a consistency. Listen to SD live and the 'band' kicks a**. It changes depending on other commitments but always consists of A-list musos.

 

Many 'bands' arise out of mix of friendship and referrals. As a result, it consists of varying levels of talent at every skilled position. When pulling members from the tribe, their talent level is already a known quantity. The key is being able to pull the cream of the crop for the gig. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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"OTOH, call a professional-minded muso for the same gig. That 'leader' will pull the charts together and call their A- and B- list musos. No rehearsals may be required depending on the tunes. They will do the hit and sound like they play together 5 nights per week."

 

I've never heard this, though I live in a town known for its jazz players and is the home of many jazz greats. All the throw together groups, from 3 or 4 pieces to 20 pieces, do not have the cohesion and tightness of the 'real' bands. This extends to the touring acts too... when a guy, say on the caliber of a Brian Setzer or Harry Conick, like that.. comes into town with his musical director and they rehearse a pickup band for a day and they play here that night and the next night; sure the musicians, who are pros, do a great job..... but when the same artists come into town with their OWN band, the difference is staggering. It is okay to make a buck the way that you suggest, but in terms of a pickup band being really really killer.... nahhh.

 

 

And Steely Dan WAS indeed a band in the beginning. I even worked production on their first tour, which was as an opening act for the Beach Boys. But more than anything, they are and always have been an exercise in perfection. Since it has been Fagen and Brecker, they have chosen their players on a per piece and sometimes on a per solo basis. Pieces are worked and reworked and reworked.... just like a 'real' band. Their recordings are the antithesis of a pickup band.

 

What really bugs me about pickup bands is that they are so generic. Everybody in the room knows exactly what they are going to do. Jazz bands, blues bands, those horrid backing bands that take songwriters money for 'professional ' demos in Nashville, its all the same tired routine. I 'get' it... you can't stretch out or do anything interesting or different, because nobody will know how to follow you. So everyone knows the same arrangement of "Witchcraft" or "Moondance", the timing is locked down, they all know when to start and when to end and whatever happens in the middle will be fairly predictable within a framework that will not leave anyone behind.

 

I was the FOH sound guy for a couple of jazz festivals, one which I did for 20 years. I've been forced to listen to the results of your method ad nauseum. It holds no attraction for me.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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IMO, Steely Dan will always be Fagen and Becker with a pick-up band consisting of A-list musos rather than a self-contained unit i.e. Led Zeppelin.

 

Also, I do not believe the audience feels cheated between a 'great job' and 'killer' performance. They would have to see and/or travel with the artist in order to hear the difference between their performances with a pick-up band and their own band.

 

I agree that a generic, flat, life-less pick-up band sucks. There are many but I've heard some that sounded great. YMMV.

 

I can definitely imagine the frustration of sitting through 20 years of festivals listening to hack 'bands'. Fortunately, I get to leave within a few beers, er, bars. :laugh::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Great thread. My 2 cents:

 

I love playing in a thrown together band, but don't really love going to see them. This is my experience from a Rock/blues perspective.

 

IMHO, in a tribe situtation in order to make a good impression on the leader, the band, and many in the audience, all I have to do is play in the pocket, and play great solos (I tend to get more/longer solos in this situation too.). In a band - I have to know the parts. Maybe it's a horn line that I am playing on Organ, or a signature piano fill on the third verse, but not the first two, or real endings, beginnings and song transitions...

 

Say I show up to a fill in gig and the band leader expects me to know 75% of the arangements, signature licks etc... Well if I show up and actually know 85%, then I have made a good impression. If I routinely play with this leader, he will likely be pretty happy with my 85% knowledge of the stuff. If I never get past that 85% knowledge I still get called.

 

In a band, if I never get past 85% knowledge of the arrangements, I get fired.

 

I haven't even touched on background vocals, which I think seperates the 'meh' cover bands from the 'wow' ones. Maybe you guys are better than me at this, or just don't cover bgvox, but I can't imagine pulling out good background vocals without rehearsing (gigs count as rehearsals - but not as the first rehearsal). My band is doing three and 4 part vocal harmonies, and those need to be rehearsed, at the very least once so we all don't end up singing the same part.

I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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I haven't even touched on background vocals, which I think seperates the 'meh' cover bands from the 'wow' ones. Maybe you guys are better than me at this, or just don't cover bgvox, but I can't imagine pulling out good background vocals without rehearsing (gigs count as rehearsals - but not as the first rehearsal). My band is doing three and 4 part vocal harmonies, and those need to be rehearsed, at the very least once so we all don't end up singing the same part.

 

Very true - true of horn sections too, by the way. Even if they're reading parts, horn players who regularly work together phrase better than guys who just met.

 

BUT... have you ever been in a band where everyone had sung together so much that they could jump into harmony without stepping on each other while "faking" a tune for the first time on a gig. Great fun!

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Good stuff.

 

All I can really add is that location is huge. "Pick-up" bands aren't always possible. My experience living in the Boston area was much different than living in the "dual-college town environment" I'm in now. There are only so many good musician that aren't playing metal in the area. So latching on to the best bass and guitar player in the area is at a premium for me. Not that there is anything wrong with metal :)

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Dave E, the jam band I play with can do that with vocals. Over 20 years together, we can learn new tunes on the spot as long as someone knows the lyrics. The vocals fall in and by the 2nd chorus it sounds like we've been playing it for years. Everyone knows where their range is and we'll each pick out a harmony that is in our area.

 

Steely Dan is far from a pickup band. Do you really think Becker and Fagan are going out on the road with a band and not rehearsing? Or they are using different players in each town, supplied by the local union? No way...

 

I've done fill in work a lot, as there are few keyboard players in my area. One of the bands had decent booking agents, and because they had a "tribe" of players, they ended up losing gigs and eventually disbanding because they never brought the same lineup to a gig. I played 3 gigs with them and there was a different guitar player on every gig and one gig there were 2 guitar players. Another time their keyboard player didn't show up for a gig one of my bands was doing, some outdoor community thing, and I filled in with them on that gig too. They were all good players, had a lot of repertoire, but it didn't have the tightness and cohesiveness that a rehearsed band has. If people are ok putting that product out under their name, that's fine, but that's not how I like to do it. My band is pretty much of the mindset that if one of us can't play, we don't take the gig. I'm about to work in a 2nd guitar player though, because the guy we have now does it for a living (not a weekender like the rest of us) so he sometimes has dates that conflict. But, the sub will be rehearsed in, no walk ons, and it will be 1 or 2 players, not a rotating cast.

 

My jam band never rehearses and we learn new songs all the time, but in that case you have a group of players who have been together for years. The newest member has been with us for 13 years. We can all play so pulling stuff out of the hat isn't so hard, and we all know where each other is going as far as what part of sonic space we're going to occupy. Different than a pickup band, though it is a pickup band in many ways, but it's a consistent lineup that just gets together and has fun.

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