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Gnoomes, The Shacklewell Arms, London

Last Thursday I got to see a band that was once arrested for looking suspicious because they were wearing denim jackets and hats (and for being high, mostly); Gnoomes introducing their new album MU! at The Shacklewell Arms.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it on time to catch the first band (Terravi), so I sat down at the bar area with a beer and cheesy chips (damn good, btw) to wait for the second one. The venue was surprisingly empty for a Thursday night, so there was nobody standing between me and the guy who suddenly dropped his entire drink after reaching his table and I got to witness it all (and point and laugh).

The second support band was Japanese Television, which I’d missed in other occasions so this was a pretty lucky line-up for me. Instrumental psychedelic rock tends to bore me after a bit, but these guys have some unique spookiness in their sound that keeps you alert and curious, like a crocodile dentist.
They weren’t very engaging with the crowd and each of them seemed to be on their own little planet, but the crowd was absolutely loving it. Harry Dean Stanton (yes, he’s dead) was standing nodding at the very front, approving of their performance. If you think you’d enjoy music that sounds like the soundtrack for a cheap-budget space ghost movie, make sure you check them out at their EP launch this July at The Waiting Room (Stoke Newington).

And then it was Gnoomes’ turn. They weren’t wearing denim jackets or hats and they looked dead serious; especially their newest member Masha (synths).
MU! is an adventurous yet spotless album, and they performed it beautifully. Their sound was intricate and deep, enough to make this man next to the stage shake and make praying motions (really intense and creepy).

One of the things that made their sound so detailed and diverse was the ridiculous amount of pedals lined up in front of the guitarist; rampant during songs like 'Ursa Major' and 'Utro', more melodic and Tame Impala-like for 'Glasgow Coma State' and very melancholic '90s sound for my favourites, 'Sword In The Stone' and 'How Do You'.

It was clear that the addition of a new member had made them much MUCH better, giving each of them the opportunity to develop and enhance their sound, and I bet the crowd could tell; it was a perfect gig. They don’t seem to have any more gigs planned in London for now, but do yourself a favour and go see them next time, and check their album out in the meantime! 

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Ex Hex, Village Underground, London

Tuesday evening, after a long bank holiday weekend of gigs, blacking out and having my phone stolen by some piece of shit, I head to yet another gig at the Village Underground.

I arrive sweating, with crippling period cramps as the first guest band starts playing.

Berries made me feel like I was secretly watching three high school girls playing Guitar Hero in their bedroom, the kind of girls who sit at the very back of the classroom with their headphones on, engraving “<insert teacher’s name> STINX” on the walls; not the drummer though, she looked like she’d carry a unicorn backpack. This doesn’t mean they sound like newbies though, they’re pretty damn talented and know how to get the crowd moving. The singer/guitarist constantly emanates this infectious and engaging feeling that she’s having a great time, whilst the bassist remains serious and cool, and then we’ve got the drummer … who’s shaking her pastel pink locks and can’t quit smiling like a shelter puppy that’s just been adopted, while banging the drums like a beast that’d shred that puppy into pieces, tiny pieces.

And speaking of drums, we move onto the next set. I watch in excitement as the stage is set up with two drumkits facing one another, I’m all hyped up about the previous band and can’t wait to watch more loud, crazy, thunderstorm drumming. My buzz dies as I see the performers climb onstage; they look like they sell delicate handmade jewellery on Etsy. I try to remain positive and stay at the front, but as soon as they start I realize my assumptions were right. They play softly and cautiously, for what feels like forever, until one of them starts chanting and it all starts feeling like a summoning of some sort. A Theon Greyjoy type guy (+100 cheeseburgers) at the very corner behind the speakers (he can’t even see the band), begins headbanging like he’s having a seizure and doesn’t stop until the performance ends. There were a few more intense parts that reminded me a bit of Islet, but overall it really wasn’t my thing.

As I wait for Ex Hex (@exhexband) to finally get on stage, some tall inconsiderate piece of garbage comes to stand right in front of me, so I release a silent but loaded burp and blow it his way. The lights go off, I sneak in front of him and the crowd starts screaming in excitement.

Ex Hex hit the stage like when someone runs the curtains open after an entire hangover morning of eating leftover fried chicken in the darkness and comfort of your bed, brighter and louder, WAY louder than the rest of the bands. RIDICULOUSLY LOUD. I start wishing I’d brought earplugs, and I remember those I saw earlier hanging from the photographer’s neck, covered in yellow wax and hair. CLEAN YOUR EAR HOLES FILTHY. Back to the show, Mary Timoty looks like she’s just been crying backstage and is ready to actually hex an ex. Betsy Wright’s rocking a shiny white western fringe shirt, matching with the bassist. And Laura Harris is there in the background, almost invisible due to the smoke and lights, wearing a rather casual red outfit like she forgot they’d all agreed on white.

They deliver an astonishingly vibrant and energetic performance song after song, going through their first album and the more recent It’s Real. The crowd, mostly formed of +50 tall bald gentlemen, loses it to 'Rainbow Shiner' and 'Cosmic Cave'. Two women close to me (both dressed like Brett Anderson), start moving side to side together to 'No Reflection' and everyone joins them. The old man at the front, in his military jacket full of patches and pins (he’s at EVERY gig) has got a massive smile on his face. It’s a weird mess in there but everybody seems to be loving the gig and having an amazing time. I’d say make sure you catch them while you can in their remaining EU tour dates.

Conclusion:
1. Ex Hex were brilliant and they went waaay over my expectations.
2. Drummers are weird.
3. Pro shark week tip: You won’t give a shit about your cramps at a great gig. If you do, it’s either not good enough or you’re not dancing hard enough.

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Gwenno, The Usher Hall, Edinburgh

 

As usual when I rock up to these things, my name never seems to be included on the press list.  I usually find my way via a PR group and Musos' Guide editor. Somewhere between Liz, Christian and Kenneth, Cassandra got a bit lost. And as usual, I end up standing there as if I’m trying to get away with something. As I waited, I saw a few stragglers come in, hoping for tickets to see Manic Street Preachers. I was getting to see them for free. But I honestly wasn’t that fussed as it was Gwenno I had my sights on.

Last year, I had the delightful privilege of seeing Gwenno perform at the Hidden Door Festival.  ¾ length trousers were in evidence (on every performer, so it seemed.  It was the zeitgeist of fashion). She wore Chelsea boots (fashion accessory also sweeping from high street to closets) with such style that momentarily, I wanted to be as cool as her. I looked at her and not only admired her ease with herself and her stage presence but also the way that she glided around her keyboard and effortlessly danced about it, not missing a beat or a note. Oh and yes, she is also good at singing.

Fast forward to Sunday past and here she was again, performing in Edinburgh. This time the joint was much classier - with its constant maintenance and numerous ushers, funders, moolahs from high ticket prices and a host of premium shows. To be honest, I liked the performance space and performance itself better at the Leith Theatre. She seemed to fit that space better – or perhaps it was a better fit for her and her troop of 3 back up people.

She skipped out onto the stage (stage right) and all was blue. For the entire show. Which meant I couldn’t get a decent picture to save my life. She was wearing a white button up dress with her crew dressed in black t-shirt and jeans. After song three, Gwenno stated that, “These are my Druids – magical creatures.” It was unfortunate the crowd was quite thin at this point as I felt the people waiting to see MSP were missing out. There wasn’t much chat from Gwenno, however what she did say was well-chosen and just enough to guide us to the heart of her songs sung in Cornish.

“The old saying is a true saying. The old man who has lost his tongue has lost his lamp.” So here we learn how important this language is to her.  What a risk, what a brave thing to release an entire album in a language most of us do not know. It mattered to her and so she did. It is clear that her upbringing of living with a Cornish speaking father and a Welsh speaking mother had a tremendous influence on her. She went on to say that, “In a fair society, we tend to do the right thing. In an unfair society, Fascism sets in.” Cue big cheer from the crowd. 

What I liked about Gwenno’s performance was that it wasn’t all flash and big gestures. It was sincere, heartfelt and down to earth. It was a refreshing change from other gigs that use all the flashy lights and high tech gadgetry to enchant us. Here we were treated to something much more (don’t use the word authentic…don’t…don’t …argh….it’s over-used)….authentic. 

She ended her set saying the final song was about the greatest invention ever: Cheese. Cheese never sounded so good. She taught us some of those magical words and we sang our way to the end of her show. And then she skipped off the stage.

 As I had my seat for the entirety of that evening’s entertainment, I decided to stay on to see MSP. 45 minutes later I burst out of The Usher Hall (still another 45 minutes left of their set). Seeing the golden spring light reflected on the buildings and feeling grateful for my good decision to leave, I felt I had learned a deep truth about myself: I am not a fan of Manic Street Preachers.

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Body Type, MOTH Club, London

I don't know what they're putting in the water over in Australia (it's sharks, seriously stay on land if you value your life) but whatever it is, it's making its way over here. 150 years ago if I someone asked you to name one Australian band you'd obviously say something like The Vines, Tame Impala, Cut Copy, Van She but more recent fledgling artists are pushing their way through the breach. You're probably hearing most notably Q award nominees Amyl And The Sniffers who have been playing the SHIT out of London this year with a mix of free/low-priced shows but they're not the only ones making waves and crossing over on them too, keep your eyes on the horizon because something's afoot. 

Youtube algorithm algorithming in the background as I'm ironing (I fucking hate ironing) a crease into my jeans a track pops up which pricks my ears up. Body Type's (@bodytypeband) track 'Stingray' (arguably the best model of the Corvette ever made) charged its way through my speakers and down my hearing tubes. Pausing the song I wasted no time opening my browser to answer my question whether (one you should be asking yourself too) they're playing near me anytime soon? They were indeed at my beloved MOTH in a few weeks. I fired off a message to their label with no luck but after a few days we reached out to the sirens themselves and within hours we'd heard back from their promo-team, we're in. 

Or were we? At the door I hear those fearful words striking terror in the hearts of any and all reviewers, 'you're not on the list'. After a bit of tap dance though I get a thumbs up and moments later I'm inside watching the band's soundcheck. At the bar Sophie (guitars/vocals) and Georgia (Bass/Vocals) shimmy up next to me unassumingly awaiting libations as well. 'Oh wow, you're Sophie and Georgia, right?' I wrench my neck skywards because not only are they giants in music but in real life too. They were and I thanked them for helping facilitate access to the show but they wave this away with a flick of the wrist and a toothy smile thanking me for being there, first class people all the way. 

The girls bow out of our convo and filter through the crowd listening to the support acts and engaging with their friends and fans, which there are a lot of. The gig didn't sell out but the venue was far from empty and even had A-list support from Dream Wife duo Alice and Rakel providing tunes between sets. Opening acts complete, the girls take the stage and form a scrum around Cecil (Percussion) and start to play backs to the crowd one by one turning to face us. What we're met with is a well honed performance full of energy and hidden messages wrapped behind smiles tied together with glances eye locking  members of both the audience and band. You feel yourself wanting to engage and have fun because they are. The group don't work well just because they've rehearsed their music, they are their music and come off more as close friends (gang) than band members. I can't help but notice just how in tune they are with one another. The set is filled with '80s hair metal headbanging showmanship including the classic trope of back to back bass vs guitar shred showdowns between Sophie and Georgia, spoiler alert we're all winners when this goes down. What you can expect these righteous ladies to deliver are the echoes of deeply tense minimal surf scales that'll keep you moving and hanging off every riff seeped in moody tones propped up by lyrics like, 'your tender touches in the night time, I can't sleep' on tracks like 'Insomnia'. Body Type's penetrating performance will overcome and tear down any barriers between you just as it has between them, Annabel (Vocals/Guitar), Sophie and Georgia can often be seen and heard singing in unison or chiming in to support the lead into the chorus, or the chorus itself. 

To say my experience watching Body Type was a fun and enjoyable (getting me out of my seat on more than one occasion) is probably the understatement of the century. I felt a connection, the kind you see between the girls themselves. This teases you out of your shell and over to their camp and it's a look, which I feel personally, really lends itself to not only between band member and audience or band member to band member but is the fundamental underlying property to their unique sound. Some groups you go to see but other groups see you and that's the case with Body Type. If it's not Georgia's cheeky smile, which she flashes at me breaking out of bad ass bass boss mode catching me firing off a snap (turned out blurry, sorry!), it's Sophie's heartfelt message to the audience on their second last song of the night. 'Every ounce of love in our hearts goes out and into every empty space in your hearts'. I'll leave you all with a few lyrics from a track that's on heavy rotation on my playlist currently 'Uma', "All for one, and one for all, I couldn't loose you any longer, I'm naked, shark attack!". Sharks, I knew it. 

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The Wild Weekend, Palmanova, Mallorca

 

Photographs - Rebeca Ulken (@rebeca_ulken) 

From the very moment The Wild Weekend 2019 was announced there was no question as to whether I would be attending. Come hell or high water - I would be there! Having already attended the first two of the three previous Wild Weekends; two Las Vegas Grinds (run jointly between Tom Ingram and Josh & Babz Collins), and numerous Frat Shack nights back in 1990s, I say this with hand on heart, no other events of this ilk have ever compared to theirs. In a scene now saturated with garage/surf/beat festivals, there is certainly an abundance to choose from. However, the previous Wild Weekend/Frat Shacks were never just about the bands - there was always something else, something special - or am I looking nostalgically through rose tinted specs? Also I think they were also one of the first clubs in the UK to present garage/surf/beat & trashy rock ‘n’ roll together (I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, good readers). Prior to that it was a choice between Rockabilly and Mod nights - neither of which were ever that appealing (to me), lest one wore the wrong shoes.  

The fourth Wild Weekend, this time located in Palmanova, Mallorca, got off to a cracking start with mystery band (although it didn’t take much to work out who) the inimitable Das Clamps, as delightfully Bad Taste as ever - I love these girls, they encapsulate off the wall humour and kick-ass tunes all whilst looking deadpan glam. A few hours later it was off to Tito’s nightclub in Palma - an opulent Art Deco establishment for the first of the themed night’s - tonight’s being Hollywood Glamour. None of the weekend acts were on offer tonight, instead we are granted the dubious pleasure of the Velvet Cabaret. A tassle-twirling troupe of burlesque bombshells, backed by a cod rock ‘n’ roll band that had more camp than Maplins, indeed there was definitely a touch of the Ted Bovis about them. Still, the drinks measures were muy grande, which helped to smooth the way, and good fun was had by all.

Day two gave us ‘Trash Talks’, the first in a series presented by Lowbrow Artist and Tattooist - Sunny Buick. Sunny gave a compelling presentation of the history of Lowbrow art, which she did in three different characters. It was a real privilege to hear her talk - where else would you hear this? She was both informative, and tres stylish. The next talk was presented by Domenic Priore, Pop historian, Dj and TV producer no less, who chose to bestow his audience with The Rise and Fall of LA’s Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier. Unfortunately I missed out, as the sunshine was calling, but I hear from a friend that it was fascinating. A very affable and interesting man indeed.

Band time! and onto one of the bands I’d really been looking forward to - purveyors of the ‘North 7 Action Sound!™’ Cee Bee Beaumont. Following a few (shall we say) technical hitches, they prove once again that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with (delving into my memory banks for a comparison as to when I last saw them play - 20 odd years ago?). Perfect musicality is boring right? They played with more oomph than a band twice their size. Their overall sound was impeccable. Another band that stood out, that hadn’t played together for 17 years (announced Babz) was the long awaited return of The Diaboliks - still as full of attitude as ever, and sounding terrific, all delivered with that tongue in cheek naughtiness which the crowd lapped up. Great to see Dan, Babz, Anya and Sophie back together again.

Plenty of mid-20th century miscreants were to be found on Friday evening, at the ‘Villain’s Hideout’. The night was in full dubious swing with a cohort of baddies such as Penguin’s G.O.O.N.’s, from She-Devil on Wheels - The Man-Eaters MC, Bad Cowboys, creepy child psychopath Rhoda Penmark from The Bad Seed, Bonnie & Clyde, and Medusa to name but a few (I certainly felt inadequately dressed in my ubiquitous robbers mask). Norway’s The Scumbugs didn’t have any problems fitting into the villainous surroundings with their big bug heads, bad attitude and bonkers stage show; Mummies-esque full throttle instro ‘Shrimp Nose’ being a highlight for me. Next up The Go-Devils from Japan made their boot mark - right in the middle of our foreheads. Certainly as ferocious as their cover of ‘Get Off The Road’ (from She-Devils on Wheels (1968)) plus a mixture of other well known ‘60s Girls in the Garage covers, as well as their own, joined on stage at one point by Mad “Motor” Matty, and... I won’t say anymore about that. You had to be there.

Fancy a suitcase swap meet around the poolside whilst being serenaded by Ugly Things DJ’s Anja & Mike Stax and Tony Tyger? Yes please! What a civilised way to spend the afternoon. Saturday daytime also bought us more Trash Talks from Dominic and King Khan. Ozzie pop-punksters Thee Cha Cha Chas were definitely a welcome hangover cure and full of light-hearted bounciness, all very engaging. Unfortunately I missed some of the local afternoon bands (I needed to utilise the Spa), plus The Men From SPECTRE and The Loons, and later that evening, The Breadmakers. (That’ll teach me for overindulging at the Villain’s Lair - oops).

Which leads us to Saturday night’s ‘Technicolour Freakout!’ There was an unfortunate cancellation by Screaming Lord Stax - due to their bassist falling off stage earlier in the day. But fear not, The Ogres (featuring Phantom Surfer Johnny Bartlett) were a stone-aged riot. Plenty of all-American Frat-Rock standards with a touch of the ‘British Invasion’ about them (read those pesky Liverpudlian mop-tops); however, the highlight was definitely Bartlett paying tribute to Dick Dale at the end of the set with a fast and furious version of 'Miserlou' - pertinent of course, and loved by the crowd. Cee Bee Beaumont ended the night or started the morning at 2.30am (once again with feeling lads?) and were much more together than Thursday’s performance, and again proved that keeping it simple (two guitarists and a drummer) really works - no frills here, just a gritty solid wall of guitar - hard AF!

Sunday, and the gentle sound of Laurent Bigot’s Glamrock Stomp could be heard poolside, followed by a Ramones sing-along to ‘Rock and Roll High School’, both of which I avoided (nothing personal - sorry!). Later on at the last of the ‘Trash Talks’ Lluis Fuzzhound showed his fabulously fun mid-20th century style animations. If you’re a fan of Hanna Barbera and ‘60s cartoons, then check out his work - it’s very cool indeed. The rescheduled Screaming Lord Stax was monstrously marvelous - I’m SO glad I didn’t miss them. Their version of Sutch’s ‘She’s Fallen In Love With A Monster Man’ was gloriously creepy and kooky - the all important part sung by Anja Stax - thank you! It’s been an ear worm ever since.   

Wrapping up the weekend, and an obvious favourite for me were Les Kitchenettes, who performed on the outside stage at the hotel. They have both ‘60s pop sensibilities a la Yé-Yé, and that effortless ‘60s Parisian cool. They also have plenty of bite, and are not shy with unleashing the fuzz when needed. Ludo and Lucille are real stars of yesteryear, and their energy radiates through to the crowd. I have a feeling that it’s going to be very difficult to top their performance this evening...

Johnny Bartlett and The Crab Shack Shakers serenaded us through dinner with some very much welcomed and desperately needed (by me at least) surf. Ending the evening headliners The Tandoori Knights, who amongst their members have Bloodshot Bill and King Khan, served party time Rock ‘n’ Roll on a spinning plate, and for those who could muster up the energy, dancing and whooping was the order of the evening.

All in all, a fantastic weekend. I hear that there is talk of Wild Weekend 5, possibly in 2021. I sincerely hope that is true. Babz and Josh did it again, with knobs on. Lastly a mention to the fantastic array of DJ’s over the weekend who played the most danceable tunes, and to the Go-Go girls for adding their provocative presence - it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Why not follow Debbie on instagram @ms_sheringham_boom ?

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Lambchop, EartH, London

 

Having a bit of Lambchop (@lambchopisaband) on an Easter Sunday, what could be more traditional? Inside of EartH, a huge venue which more closely resembles a derelict space dock consisting of a massive berth where space freighters dry docked whilst selling space spice. Fever dreams aside the acoustics of its high and far reaching ceiling are superb being practically three storeys above the ground at their highest points. Unlike most groups I've seen in recent months which spread out and utilize every bit of stage space Lambchop by contrast bunch together, like the herd animals of the Serengeti. Clustered together in the middle of the stage are dual drumkits, a grand piano, steel guitar and tall stool with 'Lambchop' stickered on the back of it. Atop the stool resides a closed tan and weathered '40s era suitcase having seen considerable mileage. What's inside the case you ask? Well unlike Pulp Fiction's glowing mystery we'll soon collectively discover 12 lyrical treasures reside within.  

Shortly after nine Kurt (Vocals/Guitar) and the gang make their way on stage and to their instruments in an unhurried pace. Their manner reminds me of the way a group of long time friends might sit around an old table for an evening meal. Everyone's familiar with the setup after years of ritual and ready to eat with a relaxed air, think alfresco dining in the Mediterranean. The members look as varied as their instruments, some in blazers and button down shirts in smart/casual footwear while others are in blown out jeans, faded t-shirts and rundown sneakers. There's a woodcraft hobbyist meets suburban garage band vibe going on .

Kurt sports his usual 'CO-OP' trucker hat and thick framed glasses as he leans into the mic, "we're just going to play some music for a while" kicking off the informal set with 'The Air Is Heavy' and 'I Should Be Listening To You' (thanks Setlist FM!). I'm sitting cross legged at stage level about 15 feet away from the band. As always the instruments and tones are perfectly balanced with each lending to the other in a series of  perfectly timed hand-offs. This is the second time I'm seeing Lambchop sitting down. The last time was nearly 7 years ago to the day. In March of 2012 I caught them at The Barbican ahead of their 11th album release, we're now at album 13 and one thing still remains true, the band is consistently brilliant. Both times I remember thinking what perfect and beautiful control the musicians have over their instruments while making it look effortless. Last time the drums (a 1 piece) were front and center, this time (both drum sets) at the back. At The Barbican the drummer started playing, I was in the middle of the second row from the stage and remember seeing the drum sticks moving but hearing no sounds until they wanted me to, this time was no different. Over my shoulder I hear a pair in hushed tones say, "you have no idea how complicated what they're playing is." He was right, but it didn't stop me or them from enjoying ourselves because Lambchop don't over-complicate the matter. The music and lyrics lend themselves well to both music aficionados and appreciators alike.           

As you'd expect the performance went off without a hitch, 25 years worth of practice'll do that for ya. There were however a few conversations about an errant pigeon that seemed to concern the band and staff however the sky rat never made an appearance and to the best of my knowledge no one was dropped on. The acoustics as previously mentioned were absolutely excellent. Although only using a fraction of the massive stage at EartH their presence reverberated off ceilings and walls alike filling the vast auditorium completely. In terms of personal preference I've got a few bones that need picking. I think Kurt has one of the loveliest voices in the biz and superb control over its range and hushed tones. That being said why he'd go and put it through the equivalent of a cheese grater using processing effects for a large majority of the gig for reasons I cannot fathom. Maybe he's like the rest of us and isn't a fan of the sound of his own voice? Doubtful but I'm clutching at straws here racking my brain trying to understand why. For the finale 'Up With People' he's got the processing turned up to 11. Sitting as close as I was you could clearly see even Kurt himself put off by the sound. He quickly stands back from the mic and turns the processor's dial way down. Processed vocals on this dudes magical pipes are like face tattoos, maybe, but you know probably not a really great idea. Also, they did not play 'Is A Woman' the first track I ever heard by them which will always hold a special place in my heart.

Aside from that I could not ask for a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon. I got to sit down and listen to some glorious tunes from a couple of legends and even heard a few hilarious jokes from Tony Crow (Piano/Vocals) who assured Kurt that everything was under control because even though he was high he also practices high, so it's cool. Kurt mentions something about heading home after this tour to get back to friends and loved ones and maybe even some 'action' to which Tony replies. “My sex life is like the song 'Freebird', it's a 5 minute solo. Life goes on, we get older, nothing we can do about it", sage advice. Some music, bit of humor throughout the evening involving a couple of birds, a bit of wisdom and that's a wrap.

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