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Archive for the ‘Phoebe Bridgers’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BRIGHT EYES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #86 (September 28, 2020)

I was never a fan of Bright Eyes.  Something about them just never quite appealed to me.  And since Conor Oberst was so prolific, I got tired of him too.

But then he made better Oblivion Community Center with phoebe Bridgers and I really liked the album and the live show.  So I’ve rethunk Bright Eyes.

They were supposed to play a show in Bethlehem this summer with Lucy Dacus.  I was more interested in seeing Lucy, but I would have certainly gone.

So here’s Bright Eyes with their first new album in almost ten years.

They recorded this Tiny Desk (home) concert with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis at ARC Studios in Omaha, Neb., while Nate sits 1,500 miles away at Lucy’s Meat Market, a well-equipped studio in Los Angeles filled with sweet-sounding vintage keyboards. Singing and seated behind him is Becky Stark, better known as Lavender Diamond, along with their daughter.

The three songs they perform from Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, are intense, with stripped back rawness and lyrics that are not always decipherable, filled with struggle and hope.

They open with “Mariana Trench” in which Mogis is on pedal steel, Walcott is on piano and Becky and daughter sing backing vocals.  Oberst’s voice sounds as strong and confident as ever.

Up next is “Pan and Broom.”  Nate starts the drum machine and then plays the organ.  Meanwhile Mike is playing the Marxophone which is a kind of tiny echoing sounding zither machine.

“Persona Non Grata” is about being insane enough that people don’t want you around. Conor sits at the Moog, while Nate stays on the organ and Mike goes back to the pedal steel.  Oberst plays a cool-sounding solo while Mike plays a pedal steel solo along with him.  It sounds really good.

“Shell Games” is an older song.  Mike switches to the guitar and Nate jumps over to the Casio.  The guitar is quiet but adds a cool fuzziness underneath the synth sounds.  This song also seems to be a bit more intense than the others.

This feels like a stripped down sound, but I don’t actually know what the recorded versions sound like.

[READ: September 26, 2020] “A Logic Named Joe”

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

Murray Leinster was one of the most prolific writers in the heyday of science-fiction pulps. … It reads like a creative exercise in conditional statements, with just a touch of black humor thrown in. … My favorite aspect is the implication that AI is evil because we, humans, make it evil, not because some robot has gone rogue.

The other stories in this collection so far have been more of a detailed explanation of a utopian future.  This story is an actual story–and an exciting one.

It’s a shame that the central motivator of the narrator is a sexist trope, but otherwise the story is really cool and amazingly prescient when it comes to technology.

The story jumps right in and doesn’t fully explain what’s going on just yet.

The narrator works at Logic Company as maintenance worker.  On August 3rd, a Logic called Joe came off the assembly line.  Two days later Laurine came into town, and that’s when the narrator saved the world.

The narrator is married and Laurine is the woman he dated before he met his wife  Laurine “is a blonde that I was crazy about once–and crazy is the word.”  She dumped her exes and even killed one of them.

So, yes, a sexist underpinning to this story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #78 (September 10, 2020).

Phoebe Bridgers is in the White House!

Obviously anybody would be better in the White House than the current squatter, but Phoebe Bridgers would certainly be more fun than any other choices at the moment.

I love that Phoebe fully commits to being in the White House by having her band wear Secret Service-looking suits while she is wearing a very Presidential pantsuit (instead of that skeleton onesie she’s been in since the quarantine began).

For the first two songs she stands behind the oval office desk while Marshall Vore on drums and Harrison Whitford on guitar accompany her.

She opens with “Kyoto” one of my favorite songs of the year.  This more acoustic version loses a little bit of the magic from the recorded version, but that chorus is just so tasty and Phoebe’s voice (and the backing vocals) sound fantastic.

They open with “Kyoto,” a story song based on her first trip to Japan, followed with a sweet version of “Moon Song” and the sad details of loving someone who doesn’t love themself.

“Moon Song” is one of those beautiful songs that is lyrically very powerful but is just a hair too slow for me.  Of course after a few more listens (especially to the lyrics) it will sound perfect, I’m sure.  I had read an article recently about a line in this song

We hate Tears in Heaven
But it’s sad that his baby died

The article said that she originally wanted to say “We hate Eric Clapton,” but decided against it.  But that she really does hate Clapton:

I have such an Eric Clapton rant, because I think it’s just extremely mediocre music, but also he’s a famous racist.

I didn’t know this but apparently during an August 1976 gig in Birmingham, Eric Clapton made racist comments and praised Enoch Powell, inadvertently inspiring the Rock Against Racism campaign.

Wow.  Has he ever made amends?

The song picks up some power by the end, as Phoebe’s song tend to do.

And then comes the kicker, as Phoebe introduces herself with the words “I hope everybody’s enjoying their apocalypse,” the band kicks into her surreal doomsday tune “I Know the End.”

It starts like many other Phoebe songs–slow and thoughtful.  But this one builds and builds.  Midway through the song, they turn off the green screen projector and everyone walks (while the song is still playing) to another part of the room for the end.

And what an end it is: The trio expands to an ensemble

Whitford and Bridgers switch to electric guitar, Vore moves to a full drum kit, Emily Retsas joins on bass (looking bad ass in her blonde hair, dark suit and sunglasses), Nick White adds keyboards and Odessa Jorgensen plays violin.  The song feel so much louder (there’s been no bass so far).  You can feel the tension mounting

And then scattered throughout the screen are videos of Phoebe fans–recording from bedrooms, cars, backyards and trampolines–singing the chorus, air drumming and smiling big smiles.

And at the end everybody

lets out the kind of cathartic scream that has come to define 2020 for so many of us.

Followed by Phoebe’s winning smile.

[READ: September 10, 2020] “Dear Mr. President”

This story is written as a letter to The Honorable George Bush, President of the United States.

It is written by a Marine, Lance Corporal James Laverne.  [He is clearly a loser or a sucker, according to our current president].

He starts the letter with greetings and salutations and a fine memory of when Bush landed his helicopter at Laverne’s station in Iraq.  The men stood at attention for two hours while Bush was in a tent talking with someone.  Then when he came out he spoke to Laverne.  When Laverne said he was from Wisconsin, Bush said “Is cheddar better?” to which Laverne gave a hearty “yes sir!”

Then he tells a story of the time he was attacked.  He and Brecks went into a burned-out building where they’d heard there was sniper.  But when they got there it wasn’t a sniper, it was a dog.  Brecks went to rescue the dog, but when he bent over, someone on the ground threw a grenade onto the roof which blew Brecks to pieces. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: July 31-August 2, 2020] Newport Folk Festival

Last year we took the whole family to two days of the Newport Folk Festival.  It was a fun experience for the most part.  Both kids were exhausted and my son decided he’d rather stay in the hotel than go on the second day.  However, this year he said he;d like to go again, so since the 2020 Festival was cancelled, maybe next year all four of us will go again.

I was not surprised that the Festival was cancelled. But it was still a shock when it happened on April 29th.

Here’s the formal message

Dear Folk-

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before.

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help.

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.

(more…)

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-“Kyoto” (2020).

phoebeI’ve heard this song a bunch and I like it more each time.

Phoebe Bridgers’ songs tend to be sad lyrically (and sometimes musically), but this song just overflows with wonder, melody and (apparent) happiness.

The song starts with a gentle keyboard but soon adds a fast bassline as Phoebe sings quietly.  Then pow, a big joyous chorus comes in.  Horns play a gorgeous melody and Phoebe harmonies (with herself?).  The way she sings “tokyp skies” gets me every time.

When the verse returns it feels a bit louder.  But the song is about her complicated feelings for her estranged father:

With my little brother
He said you called on his birthday
You were off by like ten days
But you get a few points for tryin’

The chorus resumes feeling even bigger and happier and yet the outro, featuring those same ebullient horns:

I wanted to see the world
Through your eyes until it happened
Then I changed my mind
Guess I lied
I’m a liar
Who lies
‘Cause I’m a liar

Phoebe said that this song was originally slow but she was tried of singing slow songs so she punched this one up.  It really reflects the mixed feelings you can have for someone.  And if you don’t care so much about the words, it’s a catchy gem.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “Dancing Bear”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features two pieces of fiction, one memoir and three poems.

The first piece is the memoir, written by Dimitri Nasrallah.   I had assumed that this would be a First Nations piece with a title like that.  But it is far from that.  It starts in Beirut.

The neighborhood where Dimitri grew up was a battleground between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Israel military so his family left for Greece when he was four.

He stayed quiet while they tried to acclimate–they felt covered by the stench of war and wanted to keep a low profile. Then one night his father took the family out to the square.  As they walked around marveling at the sights, he saw a crowd gathered a round a man.

He was showing off a giant brown stanigng on its hind legs, muzzled.  The man made the bear “talk” and dance  Everyone laughed.  But that night Dimitri couldn’t get the sight of the bear out of his mind.  He imagined that he was the bear–muzzled, not wanting to dance.

The next day he told his father that he felt bad for the bear. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS WORLD TOUR (May 26-June 4, 2010).

Phoebe Bridgers is a fascinating person.  She sings the most delicate songs.  Her voice is soft and almost inaudible. Her music is simple but pretty.  And her lyrics are (often) devastatingly powerful.

And yet she is really quite funny.  Both in interviews and in her visual representation of herself.

Her logo when I saw her was a fascinating faux death metal style of her name.  And now with this world tour, you can see in the poster all of the metal bands referenced in the logos. (There’s Slayer in the kitchen for instance).

And then there’s the basic joke of this world tour.  No one can go anywhere, so she is travelling her world: kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom (second concert by popular demand??)

The first show last night raised money for Downtown Women’s Center.

After some introductory talking and even a magic show (!) from Ethan, her producer, she played five songs.  Midway through she agrees that the set was a bit of a downer, especially opening with these two sad songs.

“Scott Street”
“Funeral”

Then it was time for two new songs (and an electric guitar).

“Moon Song”
“I See You”

Before coming to the end, she delayed, because she was having so much fun (and raising so much money).  So she showed us around her kitchen and pitched the kind of guitar she was playing, the kind of capo (quite expensive!), and her Target-purchased kitchen ware.  

She ended the set with a boygenius song, “Me and My Dog ” dedicated to her dog Max who died at the age of 17 last year.

The first night of her tour was a success. Tonight is night two, from the bathroom.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  You can watch it here.

[READ: May 27, 2020] “California Ghosts”

I don’t usually read profiles of artists I like.  But every once in a while, one strikes me as interesting.

Phoebe Bridgers is a pretty fascinating character (see the above part for some details).  So I though this might be an interesting profile.  And it was.

Bridgers was brought up in Laurel Canyon and came of age listening to emo.  I love that the writer has to define emo for the New Yorker crowd, “a sub-genre of punk focused on disclosure and catharsis.”  That’s probably the most concise definition of emo I have read.

She writes that Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) is one of emo’s most beloved practitioners.  Phoebe grew up listening to him and then met him in 2016.  He says when he first heard her he felt like he was reuniting with an old friend.  In 2018 they made Better Oblivion Community Center together.

At Carnegie Hall (where she wore a tea-length black dress and high to Doc Martens), she sang a song with Matt Berninger of The National. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANGELICA GARCIA-Tiny Desk Concert #968 (April 15, 2020).

I saw Angelica Garcia open for Phoebe Bridgers.  Her show started off okay but she totally won me over by the end.  She played guitar, she looped her voice and synths and was really impressive.  She also sang some songs in Spanish.

Well, two years later, Angelica Garcia is very different.

The biggest change is the amount of color she has added (when I saw her she was in a black floral print dress).  She is also embracing her heritage a bit more than when I saw her.  It was present then, but it is way out in front here.

Angelica Garcia decorated the Tiny Desk with colorful fabrics, orange flowers, a fuchsia dress, and a great deal of pride in what she calls her “Salva-Mex-American” heritage. Her song “Orange Flower” got my attention back in 2016, but I thought of her only as a Virginia rock and roller. Not anymore. Angelica Garcia’s music in the 2020s embraces her heritage, her life growing up in Los Angeles, and the ranchero music she heard from her family.

The show opens with a sample of a high pitched voice (presumably hers) saying “I wanna be like her.”  It works as a repeated sample in “Guadalupe.”  In this song

Angelica expresses respect for La Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, singing “I wanna be like her.” Guadalupe inspires her to declare that “power isn’t defined by your physique.”

But power comes from the loud rocking guitars from John Sizemore (what a great raw sound).  Josh McCormick plays big electronic drums, including some electronic cowbells.  In between the power chords, the melody is provided by a quiet and interesting keyboard sound from Ryan Jones

And let’s not overlook Garcia’s impressive voice.  She has power and a lot of diversity in her delivery.  She might even sound better than she did when I saw her.

The middle of the song has a breakdown where she and percussionist Kenneka Cook sing together a kind of scat.  Anchoring all of this is really great bass sound from Chrissie Lozano.

For “Valentina in the Moonlight” Angelica plays the quieter guitar melody (she’s really good).

This song is slower and quieter, a love song.  When the whole band kicks in, the song gets really full, with quiet guitar chords from Sizemore, while Garcia plays the main melody.  You can clearly hear Lozano’s nice bass sound in this song.

Angelica moved to Virginia at age seventeen. The songs she sings at the Tiny Desk, all from her album Cha Cha Palace, reflect the way she was seen, or more to the point, not seen, in her new home. “Jícama” captures that feeling of invisibility:

“Jícama” starts out with cha cha sounds.  Angelica sings with a pronounced accent.  I really like the splash cymbal sounds that accent her song.  When the whole band kicks in there’s a real Tex-Mex vibe  which feels like a children’s song melody, perhaps the best way to get the message across

“I see you, but you don’t see me
Jícama, jícama, guava tree
I been trying to tell ya but you just don’t see
Like you, I was born in this country.”

Angelica Garcia has definitely changed.  And for the better.

[READ: May 2, 2020] Strong Female Protagonist

Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic which is on hiatus (although I don’t know for how long).

We’ve had this book floating around the house for a while and I’ve been meaning to read it.  I loved the title–so simple, so terrific.  I finally grabbed it off the shelf and decided today was the day.

I didn’t really know what the story was about and I found myself very surprised.  This proved to be a superhero story with a difference–a huge difference.  Both the origin story of the superpowers and the exploration of the ethics of superpowers are handled in a very different way.

One oft he big differences right up front was the language–these people say bad words… a lot.  It’s while reading this book that you realize you’ve never heard Superman or Spiderman say “fuck.”  But then these superheroes are not superheroes in the conventional sense. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: March 31, 2020] Soccer Mommy / Tomberlin

indexI was supposed to see Soccer Mommy open for Phoebe Bridgers a few years back.  I felt sick on the way down to the show so I wound up coming home instead.

I loved the name that Sophie Allison had chosen for her project.  Soccer Mommy had released a bunch of songs on bandcamp between 2015-2017. She put out her first “real” album just before I was supposed to see her.  She has since released Color Theory, which is getting rave reviews.  I am genuinely surprised she was able to headline Union Transfer, though.

NPR loves Soccer Mommy.  They also love Tomberlin, who is Sarah Beth Tomberlin.  I saw her Tiny Desk Concert, and thought she was okay.  I gather that her Tiny Desk Concert doesn’t really show what her live show would be like.

I was torn between this show and Vagabon on the same night. I suspect that I’d have picked Johnny Brenda’s over Union Transfer, but it’s also possible I would have just stayed home.  This was the eighteenth show I was interested in seeing in March.  Wow, what a jam-packed month.

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[POSTPONED: March 31, 2020] Vagabon / Angelica Garcia

indexI really enjoyed Vagabon’s debut album.  It had a great indie rock quality, but the fact that Lætitia Tamko is originally from Cameroon gives her music a unique quality that makes it stand out.  I haven’t heard much of the new album, but I have heard she puts on an excellent show.

I saw Angelica Garcia open for Phoebe Bridgers and was really impressed.  She showcased an impressively diverse style of music. She sang in folk style, she later used a looping pedal.  She sang in Spanish and English and her voice was huge.

This was just one option for this Tuesday night and I was genuinely torn between this show and the Soccer Mommy show across town.

I hadn’t gotten a ticket for either of these shows and it’s possible I wasn’t going to go to either.

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SOUNDTRACK: BETTER OBLIVION COMMUNITY CENTER-Tiny Desk Concert #844 (April 24, 2019).

This Tiny Desk Concert marks another one of those rare occasions where I’ve seen a band live BEFORE their Tiny Desk.

I saw BOCC on April 2.   I assume that this Tiny Desk was recorded around that time (bands usually play DC right before or after Philly), but it takes a week or so to get online.

I really enjoyed the BOCC concert, which rocked more than I thought it would.

But I enjoyed this Tiny Desk even more than that because Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers are having so much fun with this show.  Truth be told they had a lot of fun at our show too, but they experiment more here.  They also have lots of experience at the Tiny Desk.

When this fabulous new duo arrived for their Tiny Desk, it felt like old friends coming home. Both Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers are Tiny Desk alum. Conor’s first Tiny Desk Concert came in 2014. Phoebe has come by twice in the past few years, first as a solo artist in 2017 and then as part of another creative and collaborative endeavor with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker as boygenius in 2018. So, unlike the bundle of nerves that often come with an appearance at the NPR offices, this one was fun and, at times, silly, like when Conor Oberst sang into a fake rubber microphone on the other end of a chopstick that was sitting on my desk. But there was nothing trivial about the songs or the collaboration.

The first song starts off fairly seriously.  They play their (only?) hit, “Dylan Thomas” with Conor on electric guitar and Phoebe and backing guitarist Christian Lee Hutson on acoustic.  It sounds great–possibly even better than the record.

when their voices intertwine, there’s a radiance that often feels joyful even while singing words like the ones on their opening number, “Dylan Thomas.”

“I’m getting used to these dizzy spells
I’m taking a shower at the Bates Motel
I’m getting greedy with this private hell
I’ll go it alone, but that’s just as well”

For the second song, “Exception to the Rule,” Conor and Phoebe put down their guitars and simply sing (Conor into that fake microphone).  Christian plays guitar and Emily Retsas plays an omnichord.  As Emily sets up the “toy” Phoebe says, we’re going to set it to avoid choreography.”  Their voices really do sound great together, even with this ultra-minimal backing music.  The chorus is catchy, too!

For the final song, “My City” Bob Boilen himself comes out swinging a plastic whistling tube.

So I was whipping a corrugated, ribbed plastic hose over my head, creating a high pitched siren sound, trying to blend in with Christian’s electronics on “My City.” It was my Tiny Desk performance debut, and I was thrilled to be part of this magical act.

Conor and Phoebe pick up acoustic guitars and Christian plays a pocket piano (I gather).  This song feels the most like a folk song and again, they mostly sing together.  But Phoebe gets a solo verse near the end and that little change make a big difference in the overall flow of the song.

For the most part this is a quiet song, but the buildup for the end is pretty great.

[READ: April 20, 2019] “Brothers and Sisters Around the World”

This story is set in Madagascar.  Michel is a French-Italian white man who is married to the narrator–an African American woman.  They live in Cannes where it is always sunny.  But on vacation they travel the world to get hotter and wilder.  Islands are what Michel prefers.  “Any place where the people are the color of different grades of coffee.”

She says he loves her for all the wrong reasons.  He thinks she has some of that island wildness inside of her, but she grew up in Massachusetts and has a “steely Protestant core.”  Her parents never thought it would last.  But they have been together for eight years and they have a child.

As the story opens, he is telling her about how he drove “those two little whores” on the Zodiac.  “You should have seen their titties bounce!”

She admits:

It’s no surprise to me when Michel tries to share the ribald thoughts that run though the labyrinth of his Roman Catholic mind.  He doubtless thought that I would get a kick out of hearing about his boat ride with a pair of African sluts.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 2, 2019] Better Oblivion Community Center

I’m not often on the pulse of what is trending in music.  Sometimes I’m ahead, often I’m not all that interested.  But every once in a while it converges.  And thus on April 2 I was part of one of the hippest crowds in town.

I got there pretty early as I knew it was sold out (it sold out very quickly).  And I was standing pretty close to Pheobe Bridgers.  Earlier this year, I did not get to see the boygenius shows (they didn’t come close enough to us).  But I have seen each of the women solo twice (this is my second Bridgers show and yes, it counts).

There was a photo-op when you walked in.  A life-size cutout for you to take an ID photo for the BOCC.  I declined to do that, but I did get the fun squeezable stress-house.

The band came out and they started playing songs from the album.  I didn’t know the album all that well (I was amazed at how many people knew all the words), but I’d enjoyed what I’d heard.   I expected a kind of folk-rock show.  I was in no way prepared for how much the show rocked and how much fun the show would be.  There were even beach balls thrown around! (more…)

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