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Archive for the ‘WXPN 88.5 FM–Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[POSTPONED: August 23, 2020] KT Tunstall / Christine Havrilla

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Initially, KT Tunstall wasn’t going to play Ardmore Music hall when she scheduled her Spring tour.  She had a date at SOPAC in NJ in March and a date in Sellersville in May.

With the rescheduling of her shows, she added a show at Ardmore Music Hall, sponsored by WXPN.  And there’s a really hopping poster attached to it.

Of all the advertising for her shows, this one certainly looks the most exciting.  This rescheduled show was on the same date as my Wilco / Sleater-Kinney show, so I wouldn’t have gone…but with the Wilco show cancelled earlier, it was a possibility,

I had forgotten about KT Tunstall.  I had her first record and then didn’t realize that she had had a couple of other (big) hits since “Suddenly I See.”

Her name has been popping up all over the place lately and each time I saw her name I wondered if I should check her out.  She’s touring with Hall and Oates this summer and she seems to be doing a lot of local shows as a headliner.  All of this repetition has me thinking I might go see her.  But mostly I’m intrigued by how much her name is going to show up in these posts soon.

Christine Havrilla is a folksinger who sounds a bit like she could sing with the Indigo Girls.  She’s from Philadelphia and apparently if she’s with her band Gypsy Fuzz she rocks out harder than solo–although the song I heard veered a bit into country.

seller

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SOUNDTRACK: RunHideFight-The Key Studio Sessions (August 23, 2018).

I listened to the single from RunHideFight and then found this live-in-studio session from 2018.  This session is about 20 minutes long with 9 wonderful garage rocking songs.

Lead singer Geeta Dalal Simons is the driving force behind this band.  She writes the songs and she plays a double neck 12 string guitar/12 string sitar.

Geeta Dalal Simons singer for RunHideFight grew up in West Virginia.  She says, “As a first gen, Indian American woman; I was busting up all kinds of cultural/gender norms by not finishing a pre-med track, having a green Mohawk and tattoos, playing in punk bands at skate parks, openly dating before marriage.  I was so angry and I desperately wanted to be heard and seen by a world which resisted that.”

Music was her outlet, continuing through her move to Philadelphia and her immersion in its indie community during the 90s and early 00s, when she played with Khyber regulars Swisher, Los Angeles, and Rockula. She stepped back from the scene for about a decade when she had children, but returned last year with a vengeance to form RunHideFight, a project born out of Simons’ heartache at her mother’s passing, her frustration at Donald Trump’s election, and the generally frayed-nerve state of the world.

“He’s A Jerk” sounds even better live than it does on record.  “Big Muff Pie” has a great slow bass line from Christine Weiser (who has a terrific bass sound all through this recording).  “Because I Love You” sounds even more raw than the recorded version.  “Get Lost” keeps the original songs rocking in this garagey sound.

The “Send Me a Postcard” cover (original by Shocking Blue) has a weird (funny?) intro from John Terlesky.  It’s a catchy cover and has a nice moment for drummer Jon Kois to get a (very) little solo.

“Eat My Heart Out” has another cool moment for Kois when the toms almost overpower the song.

Geeta introduces “What Are You Talking” over a fantastic bass intro from Weiser.  It’s simple, but it sounds great.  She says, “I’m gonna sing you a little song about what it was like growing up in West Virginia, looking like me.”

Simons’ family is of Desi heritage, and she grew up in a region that is — to put it bluntly — kind of blindingly white. And not the most tolerant, either.  The racism she experienced as a young person was once again out in the open, and on the aforementioned “What Are You Talking?,” Simons directly confronts her own experience — culminating in a howling recollection of a classmate bullying her over her brown skin, saying “hey girl, how are you ever gonna wash all that dirt off your hands?” In the song’s cathartic conclusion, the taunt is screamed to a hammering rhythm: “that’s not mud / it’s just you.”

It’s a fantastic song.

“Mom of the Year” has an abrupt ending which segues into the final song, a cover of The Saints’ “Lost and Found.” which even gives Terlesky a chance to sing.  And at four minutes it’s the longest song of the set.

The most recent update on the band that I can find is from June of last year.  Perhaps they’re on a long hiatus.  I’d definitely see them live if t hey played out again.

[READ: July 1, 2020] Cinderella Liberator

Rebecca Solnit rewrites the Cinderella story in this fantastic book for children and adults.

I love the introduction of the stepmother.  She made Cinderella do all the work because

even though there was plenty for everyone, and plentty of people to do the work, her stepmother believed there was not enough for everyone.   And she wants the most for her own two daughters.

On the plus side, because Cinderella has to do everything, including the shopping, she grew strong and capable and she became friendly with everyone in the marketplace.

Then comes news that the king’s son–Prince Nevermind–is holding a ball (“which is what they called dance parties in those days”).  The sisters get all dolled up for the ball but Cinderella was not invited (“there is nothing worse than not being invited”).  When she finished helping them, she said I wish someone would help me.  And there was a knock at the door and a little blue woman was standing there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #46 (July 7, 2020).

I first became aware of Chicano Batman (what a great name) a couple years ago either from WXPN or from a Tiny Desk.  I didn’t know they’ve been around for ten years.

They have an interesting mellow psychedelic sound that seems to center around Bardo Martinez’ soft croon.

they’ve crafted their musical identity with layers of sound, from vintage organs to the most nuanced of funk grooves.

Although I feel like their music is pretty recognizable, the blurb says that their new album Invisible People

is a major shift in their group sound. As you hear in songs like “Polymetronomic Harmony,” their sound is now much denser, with full-on references to a variety of influences, including the 1973, Herbie Hancock funk-jazz classic Head Hunters, which makes a walk-on appearance in the stack of vinyl just behind guitarist Carlos Arévalo.

“I know It” starts the song in perfect style with Bardo playing guitar and singing along to the melody he’s playing.  There’s a funky bass line from Eduardo Arenas and the soft echoing guitar chords from Carlos Arévalo.  The time changes at the end of the verses are a nice touch.

Bardo introduces the band and then for “Moment of Joy” Bardo switches from the guitar to a great retro-sounding keyboard.  Carlos plays a slow echoing guitar as the band lays a groove around them.

“Color my life” opens with great sliding then high note bass from Eduardo with scratchy wah wah from Carlos and clicky drums from Gabriel Villa.  Carlos plays some unexpectedly wild buzzy guitar solos throughout and then ends the song with another sound change for the guitar before the song abruptly ends.

“Polymetronomic Harmony” opens with a pretty guitar intro and thumping bass.  The song just feels like it’s building to something and after a fake out with soft keys after the first verse, the song takes off with roaring guitars and the propulsive rhythm section.

This is a really fun set and I’ll bet they are great live.  They were scheduled to play in Philly during the quarantine.  I’m definitely going to have to check them out next year.

[READ: July 11, 2020] “The Birthday Present”

I wanted to like this story more than I did.  It had an intriguing premise but it seemed to get lost in the musings of the main character.  Some of what she thought about was interesting, but I think it could have been much shorter.

Ariel has been married to Roberto for many years.  She is younger than he is (she is his second wife). Things have gotten steady and calm in their marriage.

She has classic American beauty–she is tall and solid–which is something of a novelty in Italy.  Roberto’s friend Flavio had often pursued Ariel but had recently given up.  He now liked to give her a hard time instead.  She had been talking to Flavio and he suggested that she get Roberto a prostitute for his fifty-fifth birthday.  He wanted to see how she would react (she was believed to be an American prude), so she told him she thought it was a great idea.  And she called the woman he had jokingly suggested.

Ariel believed wholly in fidelity.  But she she was Roberto’s second wife.  He had a few indiscretions during their marriage.  But she felt this would be an interesting gift.

She would make a date with Roberto for dinner.  But she would arrange for two prostitutes to show up and dine with him.  And then they would all go back to Flavio’s apartment to do whatever they wanted.

On his birthday, their children greeted him as is tradition–waking him up early and jumping on him.  Ariel gave him a package that he was not supposed to open until dinner–it contained money and silk underwear.  The underwear was to go to the woman he liked better.

Then she had the whole day to herself.  She never once had misgivings about her plan.

She drives around, checking out the prostitutes who line Italy’s streets–she felt badly about them being there when she first arrived in the country.  But she has gotten used to them.  There were one or two that she slowed down in front of to really look at–they were very pretty.  She wondered about the women who were with her husband.

He called her at 8:15 to say his surprise had arrived, They weren’t dressed for a fancy restaurant and he did not look forward to eating with them.  But he thanked her for the present.

She spent he rest of the evening in her own head and then was pleased at how clean he smelled when he arrived home that night.

I’m not sure what I expected from this story but it was too meandering.

 

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: SUDAN ARCHIVES-Tiny Desk Concert #979 (June 22, 2020).

sudanSudan Archives at Johnny Brenda’s was a show I had really wanted to see.  When I realized she was playing there the show was already sold out.  Then Coronavirus came in and shows were starting to get cancelled.

A friend of mine went to this show (she had gotten tickets early) and said that so few people had actually shown up that they were letting people in.  I was torn about going but I had been out of work for the whole week already and it didn’t seem safe.

It was the last show I could have gone to for a long time.  It was also the last Tiny Desk Concert for the foreseeable future.

By the time Sudan Archives arrived at NPR in Washington, D.C., on March 11, everyone was concerned about the coronavirus threat. So we sanitized the desk, the mics and the cameras. We also kept our distance.

When the show was over and the small, socially-distant crowd of NPR employees dispersed, our crew began to wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes. Our incredible audio engineer, Josh Rogosin, started to set up for what we thought would be the next Tiny Desk show, the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera p r i s m by Ellen Reid and Roxie Perkins.

Josh Rogosin remembers the day clearly. “After the Sudan Archives concert, I optimistically went about setting up for a string quartet plus an eight-person choir and two vocal soloists, plus harp and conductor,” he told me. “About halfway through my set-up, our boss gathered us around the Tiny Desk and made the painful but obvious decision. No more Tiny Desks until further notice.”

It’s a shame that that is such an unforgettable part of this show because the 13 minutes of Sudan Archives are wonderful.

Normally–at least at Johnny Brenda’s, she played solo with looping pedals and acoustic and electric violins.  But for the Tiny Desk

She came not with an array of electronics, but with violinist Jessica McJunkins, violist Dominic Johnson and cellist Khari Joyner. The new arrangement at the top of “Confessions” was the perfect tension queller.  And those arrangements also heighten the lyrics. Listening again three months later, three weeks into police brutality protests, the words — “There is a place that I call home / But it’s not where I am welcome / And if I saw all the angels / Why is my presence so painful?” — take on new meaning.

“Confessions” is the song that’s all over WXPN.  This version opens with opens with a lovely string section arrangement–evidently new for this show.  Then as the cello plays the deep part (I love that a cello can keep rhythm this way) the other three play the familiar super catchy sliding melody.  Her voice sounds very clean and she is clearly smiling throughout (you can hear it in her voice).

“Glorious” is clearly inspired by traditional Irish music, but a bit more slinky.  The melody and rhythm that she plays in the lead sounds so trad and yet she sings with a very not-Irish style of singing.  It’s a great juxtaposition.  It’s fun to watch her groove as she plays it’s very danceable–especially for a string quartet.  And her soloing is pretty great with some really fast hammer-on soloing.

She says that this is the first time she is playing with the trio.

The last song is “Not For Sale” which she says is one of her favorite songs.  I love that as she’s getting the trio ready she does a kind of mindless guitar solo noodle–a fast solo including bending a bent string.  The song starts all pizzicato and she kind of raps part of the lyrics–another great juxtaposition of musical styles.

I’ll bet she was great live.  I hope she comes back around before too long.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “The Peace Lily”

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

The last piece is a poem. It is about a peace lily.

She bought it at Thrifty Foods for $4.99.

She was inspired by its poker-green leaves and flowers which looked like studded Jacobsen Egg Chairs.

She brought it home and put it on a sunny bookshelf.

Within a week, its leaves
had black spots.  A second
week saw its flowers gone.

She got advice from her mother and the internet.  She took the advice and it gave her one flower

which drooped before
ever really blooming

If anyone has ever failed to keep a flower, this sentiment is right on:

To say the peace lily died
would be an understatement.
like a famous connoisseur
of death, it took its time:
every last leaf withered
into a black ash that stuck
on the shelf

It was all the more frustrating because the more she did to see it thrive

the less interested
it seemed in living

Until finally, you reach the point where you’re happy it’s out of your life

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[POSTPONED: March 27, 2020] KT Tunstall / New Reveille [moved to February 12, 2021]

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When it was announced that KT Tunstall was going to play SOPAC, my first thought was probably, huh, she’s still around?

Then over the last few months I’ve been seeing more and more about her.  I also feel like her name keeps cropping up in local venues.

After listening to a live show of hers on WXPN, I realized that she’s really good (and released songs I didn’t realize were hers).  I had no intention of going to this show but with all of her shows rescheduled and the new one being moved to next year, this might be a nice show to go to.

New Reveille is an Americana/bluegrass band from North Carolina.  They’ve got banjo, fiddle and a ton of attitude.  While they are definitely in the country vein, I think the bluegrass and the rockingness (they cover The Killers live) makes them a potentially fun live band.  For the three shows in the area, she has three different opening acts.  This one might be the most fun.

sopac

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[ATTENDED: February 7, 2020] Garcia Peoples

I saw Garcia Peoples on New Year’s Eve eve at a Phish after party.  The show was great with them playing their new 30 minute song “One Step Behind” as well as a few others.  For that show, their original bassist Derek Spaldo was in town (after this Philly show I talked to Tom Malach and he told me that Spaldo lives in Chicago and tours with them when he can–sometimes they are a six-piece band).  That show was great.  It was the second time I’d seen them playing a short set and I really wanted to catch them as a headliner. So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle (even if I’d only seen them a month ago I wanted to check them out again).

When I arrived the place was pretty empty, but by the time Garcia Peoples went on, it had filled in nicely.  I was intrigued by the diversity of ages in the crowd–a lot of old Dead-heads and a few younger frat boy types as well as a lot of (drunk?) women.  I am also pretty certain that Chris Forsyth was in the audience.

The crowd was responsive and really appreciative whenever the guys played some impressive soloing (which was often).

I was intrigued to see that Spaldo was not with them this time but bassist Andy Cush was.  Cush played with them when I first saw them.  This means that there are two guys who know the bass parts to their songs. Pretty cool. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: J.S. ONDARA-Tiny Desk Concert #937 (January 24, 2020).

WXPN has been playing J.S. Ondara quite a lot since his album came out.  And while the DJs would often give some details about his life story, he gives a bit more here.

J.S. Ondara’s journey to the Tiny Desk is a fascinating one. From his home in Nairobi, he listened on his sister’s radio to American artists, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Bob Dylan. He wanted to be a folk singer, so he moved to Minnesota, Dylan’s home state.

In between songs he narrates his life in a wonderfully comically understated style.

Ondara told us his story. “I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called ‘the Tiny Desk Contest.’ And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I’m not quite. I’m not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’d just written that song, ‘Lebanon.’ So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn’t go quite in my favor. So I figured I’d find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen] all around South by Southwest. (I actually didn’t do that part.) I was thinking about it. And now I’m here. The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest. It’s on me, not you, I suppose, I should have written a better song.  But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about the climb.’  I can’t stop quoting that song, it’s one of those words even when I don’t want to.”

“Lebanon” is a slow ballad with Ondara’s unique singing style (S. and I genuinely didn’t know if Ondara was a man or a woman upon hearing his song “Saying Goodbye” because his voice is so multivaried.  I really like the passion of the lyrics and how it is countered with the slowness of the music.

In the water, fire
I’ll go wherever you go
In the valley, in the canyon
I’ll go wherever you go
Hey, love, I’m ready now
Can’t you see this riot
Inside of my veins
Hey love, I’m overcome
By desire
How must I wait?
Up next is “Days of Insanity” with this fascinating lyric

There is a bear at the airport, waiting on a plane
There is a cow at the funeral, bidding farewell
There is a goat at the terminal, boarding the C-train
There is a horse at the hospital, dancing with the hare
Somebody call the doctor, from the university
Somebody call upon the witch and the wizardry
Somebody call the rabbi, the pastor and the sheikh
Coz we are coming on the days of insanity
The days of insanity.

In talking about this song he says it is such a rich time to be a folk singer in America.  He wrote the song while making the record.  He was watching videos of kittens and puppies as he does every night before bed and the video suggested watching Stephen Colbert with John Mulaney.  Mulaney took a trip to Japan and described things in America as being like seeing a horse loose in a hospital.  It’s like something no one’s ever seen before.  Ondara encourages us to watch the clip and he is right–it is hilarious!

“Saying Goodbye” is the song that’s been getting the airplay.  It’s passionate and powerful and when he sings in the higher register it really is otherworldly.

This live version is quite a revelation.  His delivery is different–much more slow and deliberate.  But he can still hit that glorious high notes..

Amazingly, Tales of America was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Americana Album (not bad for a guy from Kenya).  Sadly it didn’t win.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Five

It took Maihack seventeen months to make this book!  He says that sixteen of those months were spent growing the bear on his author picture.

This story is action-packed with some fascinating twists and turns.  Consequently, seventeen months is a long time to go between books.  Fortunately, Maihack’s quality of illustration and storytelling has maintained its high standards.

The book opens with a flashback to the moment when Cleo first disappeared from Gozi while they were having target practice (back in book 1).

The actual story has followed Cleo on her adventures.  But now we see what happened to Gozi.  He was attacked by … someone … and imprisoned.  Gozi believes that whatever happened to Cleo–it was her choice not to return and help him.

I have to admit I was more than a little confused as to just what happened next, [Gozi explains things later on].  IN the montage of events, there’s a spaceship and lots of cats (I suspect that if I had read the other books more recently this would be more clear).  In whatever happened, Gozi is badly burned and the pain never goes away.  He was wrapped in bandages but that didn’t really help at all.  Then we see exactly what happened to make Gozi tun into Octavian and to agree to use the Lion’s plasma to carry out the ruin of the galaxy. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 6, 2019] Steve Page Trio

I saw the Steven Page Trio about a year ago in Philadelphia.  When he announced that he was touring some more and coming to Bethlehem, I grabbed tickets for me and S. right away.

S. doesn’t really know his solo stuff at all, but she is a fan of BNL and has always said how much she liked his voice, so I thought it would be a fun, relaxing, seated event.

We were so close, we were literally right next to the stage.  When you’re standing, its a coveted spot, but when you’re seated, it’s terrible!  Luckily, they moved Dean Friedman’s giant monitor out of my way so I could actually see them all.  But in hindsight, sitting a few seats back would have been far preferable.

The weirdest thing is every time he picked up or put down his water bottle I thought he was going to talk to me (he didn’t).

I love being up close, the angles were just all wrong.  Any pictures I took were going to be of Steven’s crotch (!).   Fortunately, the vocals sounded fine.

I have learned from past experiences that seeing an artist a few months apart often means the same or a similar setlist.  And that’s what happened here.  Although when I look at other recent shows I see that he seems to have a kind of rotating setlist of some of the songs.  I saw that the night a few nights before us was amazing with “Alternative Girlfriend” (the song I really wanted to hear!) and “Someone Who’s Cool” an Odds cover!  They also played “Manchild,” my favorite new song of his and “Break Your Heart” both of which I have heart before but, come on, they are awesome.  Incidentally Odds opened for Steven Page in Canada.  Once again I wish I was above thee border not for political reasons. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOOTERS-“All You Zombies” (1985).

WXPN played this song on the day after Halloween and the DJ said she couldn’t believe they hadn’t played it as part of their Halloween show.

It made me laugh about what people consider a Halloween song (and I know I need to let up on this).  Like so many other songs, the simple fact that there’s a monster reference in the title does not make the song a Halloween song.

Indeed, this song is about as far from a Halloween song as you can get.

The song itself is catchy as anything.  A great guitar riff and some tension-building synths support these rather dramatic lyrics:

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh
Yeah, he tried to set him straight
Looked him in the eye,
“Let my people go!”
Holy Moses on the mountain
High above the golden calf
Went to get the Ten Commandments
Yeah, he’s just gonna break ’em in half!
Interestingly, there’s no real chorus to the song.  The “All you zombies” part follows the same musical and vocal pattern.  The third verse is, like the first, Biblical.
No one ever spoke to Noah,
They all laughed at him instead
Workin’ on his ark,
Workin’ all by himself
Only Noah saw it comin’,
Forty days and forty nights,
Took his sons and daughters with him,
Yeah, they were the Israelites!

The Hooters guys say there was no explicit message to the song.  A 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-writer Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) said

We really weren’t thinking at all when we wrote it. We were working on something else, and, true to the spirit of the song, it just came to us, like a vision. We were sitting there working on another song, and all of a sudden we started singing, ‘All you mmm-hhhmm-mmm.’ Then I heard something about Moses in my head, and I started singing, ‘Holy Moses.’

We just chased it down. We stopped what we were doing to go after this thing, and an hour later, the song was written, start to finish. We’re still trying to really understand the song. People ask us what it’s about, and while there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, the weird thing is we didn’t consciously put it there. Who knows? Maybe in some bizarre way it came from somewhere else through us.

Interestingly, it got banned on several stations and there were some Christian stations that refused to play it.

So, not Halloween-related at all, but super catchy and lyrically unexpected.

Also interesting is that Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish, with Eric writing “One Of Us” another religiously themed song.

[READ: September 2, 2019] Dead Weight

I haven’t read a graphic novel by Oni Press in a while.  They were once my go-to comic book publisher.

Then they stopped doing single issues and started publishing only graphic novels.  Nothing wrong with that but I had been collecting single issues back then, not books, so they fell off my radar.  I have to get them back on my radar because I really do enjoy their books.

I didn’t know what this was about, but the title and cover art appealed to me, so I grabbed it.

This story is set at a fat camp–Camp Bloom.  We meet many of the kids who are there for the summer as well as the counselors who are there to help them get through the summer. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 29, 2019] Man Man

I saw Man Man open for Gogol Bordello back in 2014.  I really enjoyed them and at that time I wrote:

It was an insane and wild show from start to finish from crowd to band and I would absolutely see them again.

It took five years for Man Man to play anywhere near where I was again and there was no way I was missing this show–seeing them headline in their home town was the icing on the cake.

I had assumed that Man Man would be the wildest act on the bill.  So it was amusing that they followed Sun Ra Arkestra–who has been doing wild for over fifty years.

Like Sun Ra, the guys in Man Man were all wearing decorative ponchos.  But unlike the Arkestra, all of their ponchos matched–indeed, so did all of the clothes under the ponchos, down to the fact that they were all wearing the same shoes. (more…)

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