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Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp: “Fruition” (Album review by Nicolette L.)

Balladic, smoky, and tender, this series of duets by two greats of the modern avant-garde jazz scene feels more reminiscent of 70’s European free improvisation than one might initially expect. Perelman leads on most of the tracks here, playing lines that despite their fractured syntax maintain a linear, legato-bound cohesion that push and pull like pond waves at low tide. Shipp responds with befittingly deceptive simplicity, through short clusters of notes that reach their dynamic climax just as quickly as they enter, at times briefly matching Perelman’s playing like on “Seven” before soon sputtering off into atonal comping that simmers ever-so-slightly under the surface. On “Two” Shipp commits to laying a groundwork of sustain-pedal low tones while Perelman cries out with long, pained vibratos. Even when Perelman does get louder like on “Three”, it is only for a short moments, and when staccato patterns guide the playing(“Ten”), the emphasis is not on the percussiveness of the attacks of the notes, but instead the fleetingness of the melodic lines. Though perhaps not as immediately exciting as one might go in anticipating of such a collaboration, “Fruition” offers a series of meditative conversations between two players who clearly see the value in implication and restraint.

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Michael Chabon at Comic Con, Shot by Gage Skidmore.

In Conversation with Michael Chabon (Interview by Dexter K.)

I recently talked with multi-hyphenate Pulitzer-Prize winning author, producer, and songwriter Michael Chabon. While he’s primarily known for his literary works such as Wonderboys, and the Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, I wanted to delve deeper into some of his musical influences, along with his collaborations with Tame Impala and Mark Ronson. We started on some of his earliest musical memories. Dexter Kaufmann: You spent many years of your life in Pittsburgh. Was there a music scene there, or an artist you connected with a lot at that time in your life? Michael Chabon: There was definitely a music scene in Pittsburgh. It was kind of emerging out of punk, into the kind of music that nobody was calling post-punk yet. I was in a band that was kind of like that, and I sang. I left, but a year or two later I learned about this thing called grunge, and realized “Oh, that’s what that was”. It was this weird mixture of metal and punk. DK: What was the name of your band? MC: We were called the Bats! Yes, you heard that right, Michael Chabon was in a post-punk, pre-grunge band called The Bats. Before he was writing classic novels, and making Simpsons cameos, he was rocking out in Pittsburgh dive bars. For those who need a refresher, Michael’s simpsons cameo involved an epic fistfight with Johnathan Franzen.  DK: Your novels have been adapted into multiple films. Wonder Boys for example, has a stacked soundtrack. Is there a needle drop in your work that you are particularly proud of? MC: The Wonderboys soundtrack is great. I guess it was Curtis [Hanson]’s idea, since it was a movie about writers, they would feature the work of singer-songwriters primarily like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. When I heard [Bob Dylan] had written a song for the movie I was so excited, and it’s such a great song! DK: Along with your literary and film projects, you do have some high-profile songwriting credits. One that sticks out to me is “Daffodils” by Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker. How did a collaboration like that come to fruition? MC: That was so much fun. I had met Mark Ronson very briefly, and we talked and hit it off. I went back to Berkeley and I just wrote a lyric, with no music. First off, to see if I could do it, and secondly to show Mark that I could do it. That became the song “Crack in the Pearl” DK: How did you meet Kevin Parker? MC: At some point, he brought in Kevin Parker, and I was already a big Tame Impala fan at that point. Two of my boys, Abe and Zeke, love Tame Impala too, and we’d all gotten into them together. Of all the lyrics I worked on for that project, that was the most intimidating. It was one thing with Mark and Jeff Bhasker, we’d all sit around and collaborate, and stuff would emerge, but that song [Daffodils]

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Metric/Secret Machines @ The Fillmore Theatre 10/19/22 (Concert Review by Nicolette L.)

Flashback to 2005 yo! As we entered the Fillmore that night, we were greeted by venue employees who provided us with complimentary thick-rimmed glasses, oversized beanies, and flannels. Talk about immersion! Starting off the night were Secret Machines. First time seeing them live, and I gotta say this band really seems to love Roxy Music. and Gary Numan. And the Human League too! Entering the stage through a dense wall of fog-machine smoke and wild spotlights that illuminated the theater, they exploded with their signature style of spacey prog-rock, laden with larger-than-life choruses. The band has always stood out in the post-punk revival scene of the early aughts mostly due to the influences tending to gravitate more towards straightforward kraut-rock and noise rock. At least they sound like something(Strokes fans beware…)! Those noisy instrumental climaxes were my favorite part of their set, with some really cool, seriously entrancing interplay between the drums and guitars arising through their dedication to repetition. The vocals were also pretty fun! They cut through in the live performance even more than they do in recorded material, and a really prog-inspired theatricality shone in all the tracks they played. Overall a really good way to open the concert! Onto the headliners… I think I’d be ignoring the elephant in the room in denying that Metric were partial progenitors of the “indie-industrial complex” that we’re still somehow collectively stuck in as a society. Their critics tend to decry their music as uncomplicated, brash, and pedestrian, with lyrics reliant on simple refrains and clichéd platitudes likely engineered in a laboratory somewhere in an underground Canadian compound with the intent to foster stadium singalongs. Well, I’m not gonna deny that most of that’s all probably the case. However, and though this may be my own nostalgia and pre-adolescent adoration of the band talking, is that such a bad thing?? Yeah, sure, Metric are probably the AC/DC of “Brooklyn Vegan”-reading, microgreen-sandwich-eating, Portlandia millennials. But dammit if they aren’t really good at it!  They fully played into this image of the stadium indie band. From Emily Haines jumping around stage, guiding the audience with her arm waves, to guitarist James Shaw swinging his guitar neck around at the audience during those all-too-80’s guitar solos(more than one!). They opened with the first track from their newest record, the sprawling 10-minute cultural critique “Doomscroller”. In our dystopian post-COVID landscape, every band is allowed one concept album to talk about how “the internet sucks and stuff”. Bonus points if they make reference some hot-topic buzzword like, y’know. They followed that up by switching back and forth between older hits and newer material. The difference was mostly apparent in instrumentation, with a lot of their music from recent years opting to forego traditional rock instrumentation in favor of synths and other such programmed electronics. The new stuff was unfortunately far less memorable than the old, and that might partially be due to that classic material being such a formative part of my pre-adolescent years(I’d be

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Gorillaz @ Little Caesar’s Arena (Concert Review by Laura T.)

Walking into the Little Caesars Arena and looking at the crowd that had come to see the Gorillaz, you can truly understand how diverse their discography is. From 14 year olds to 50 year olds, dressed in all fashions from scene from Lolita to cosplays of the band members–fictional characters developed by vocalist Damon Albarn.  The opening act was Atlanta hip-hop duo EARTHGANG, who took the stage with a full band and a set of bar chimes that the duo would aggressively use more times than I could count. Their music was whimsical and seemed authentic. They had the crowd super energetic, as they blasted through their songs full of affirmations. Stand out songs were Proud of U, Bank, and This Side. After a smoke-machine-filled gap between EARTHGANG and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn entered the stage to much fanfare. I found the demeanors of the band incredibly rehearsed and dramatic, and felt that they were focused on looking like they were having fun more than interacting with each other. Their two hour setlist was bolstered by three percussionists and a four-piece choir, which both added to the cinematic nature of the music.  As the set continued, Damon and his band became more comfortable on stage, and the rest of the show seemed much more authentic and enjoyable to watch. It was always a highlight when Damon played the piano, as he seemed to melt into its keys and really connect with the music himself.  The two hour set spanned most of their discography, but their 4 song encore was definitely the high point. Playing the songs most of the audience had been waiting for the whole set (Feel Good Inc. and Clint Eastwood), they brought out Bootie Brown and De La Soul. The featured artists were able to hype up and engage the crowd in a way that outshined the Gorillaz, but their performance added immensely to the songs as well. As Clint Eastwood, the last song, closed Sweetie Irie hopped out on stage and played the reggae-dance remix of the song that was popular in British dance clubs. The concert in all was a respectable show that tied together all aspects of the expansive band, but I hope in future concerts the members are able to truly perform earnestly, instead of the robotic style they had. Truly the most memorable parts of the concert were EARTHGANG and the countless guests brought on stage by Albarn.

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Molly Rankin, the lead singer of Alvvays

Alvvays @ Riviera Theater (Concert Review by KSENIYA)

Seven years ago, I bought tickets to Alvvays’ Adult Diversion tour only to have my dreams crushed by the fine print– the show was 18+, and I was thirteen years old. Another two years passed and the band released their sophomore album Antisocialites, the tour for which my  fifteen year old self was also unable to attend. When I turned 18, I prayed and prayed for the release of a third album so I could finally see my favorite band play live. Yes, my favorite band. While this might seem like a hyperbolic statement to make for someone who is fond of so many artists, I can say with certainty that Alvvays’ discography and sound is my favorite, and has been for many years. Unfortunately, my dreams were somewhat shattered when the pandemic hit. Even as transmission plateaued and governments eased social distancing measures, the Canadian border remained closed. The Toronto-based band had no way of touring the states, or even recording music since their rhythm section is American. Everything changed when they announced the release of their third studio album, Blue Rev, and the accompanying tour. I bought tickets to their Chicago show with astonishing zeal, determination, and stealth– I would not let clumsy button-pushing or a slow internet connection stand in the way of me and my jangle pop dream.  The wait was certainly worth it. The crowd at the Riviera Theater buzzed with anticipation as fans gathered for the first time in half a decade to celebrate the band’s reemergence. Indeed, Chicago was just the first stop on their Fall tour, which became evident throughout the show as the band somewhat struggled with sound engineering issues and audio distortion. These issues could also be attributed to the venue’s antiquity– although its 1920s ornamental woodwork was an aesthetic marvel, the overall acoustics of the theater were not as crisp as I would have liked. Additionally, I was standing on the far-right side of the theater, as far as possible away from the lead guitarist. With the way the sound was designed, this meant I heard very little of him, which was a minor let-down given that I couldn’t hear one of the best moments in Blue Rev– the guitar solo at the end of “Pomeranian Spinster.” Besides these minor auditory problems, Alvvays sounded phenomenal and highly rehearsed– a near duplicate of their studio recordings.  The set list did not disappoint– fan favorites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Dreams Tonite” were peppered throughout the show in place of newer, less popular songs from Blue Rev. While I was delighted to hear these older tracks, I wished they had played some of my personal favorites from Blue Rev, namely “Lottery Noises.” The transitions between old and new were seamless, though, highlighting the band’s knack for producing a consistent yet fresh sound across records. Each rendition shared a lush soundscape composed of playful keys, dreamy, layered guitar, understated but impactful drums, and bright vocals sung by Molly Rankin. Tone-setting visuals were

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John Stowell/Dave Glenn & The Hawčaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (album review by Christa V.)

Violin Memory is a collaboration between John Stowell, an excellent jazz guitarist; Dave Glenn, a trombonist; and the Hawčaptak Quartet. The result is a unique ensemble bringing together funky jazz sounds with the smooth sound of a violin quartet. The pieces are also very unique with nine pieces arrangements of Stowell originals along with three Glenn originals and a medley tossed into the middle of the album. The best pieces manage to straddle the different sounds that the ensemble is capable of creating, utilizing the melodic aspects of the guitar or the trombone and incorporating jazzy elements of the strings. “Ghost in the Corner” represents a great use of the trombone, which is featured here, while “I Wish” features the guitar more and involves a trombone/guitar duet. “Lonely Blue Angel” is a jazzier number with a catchy beat and highlights the range of this ensemble. All in all, a very creative project with a cool sound!   Favorite tracks: 6, 8, 12, 17

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VOLA/Voyager/Four Stroke Barion, Netherlands (Concert Review by Jeremy H.)

Every couple of years, my wife and I travel overseas for a few club shows overseas and schedule a vacation around the concerts.  We like to travel to see bands one doesn’t get to see often in the States.  This year, we’d been hoping to see Voyager after their near Eurovision qualifying performance in Australia, and VOLA, the Danish/Swedish heavy prog newcomers. Both shows were at the medium sized venues in their respective clubs, the gigs were played in the 750 person room in 013, and the 650 person ‘Oz’ room in Melkweg, and the venues were packed wall to wall with people.  Both nights we got great vantage points on the balcony rail, and the sound up on the balcony was amazing in both venues.  The opener for the tour was the Reno, Nevada based Four Stroke Baron.  Nominally a duo as per their bandcamp, they toured Europe as a trio, with the guitarist doubling as the singer.  If one had to pigeonhole Four Stroke Baron into a specific genre, it’s pretty firmly in the progressive metal camp, with synth-pop, nu-metal, and 80’s new wave influences.  The band, not having a lot of the stage to work with, was very static, but the bassist had tons of energy. The vocalist was very unique, using a modified talk-box to sing through and processing the vocals further beyond that.  In so many ways, they are the classic opener, a promising new act with some really interesting ideas, but they need a few more albums and performances under their belt before they blossom into something potentially outstanding.   After a 25 minute set, Four Stroke Baron made way for Voyager, self described progressive dance metal from Perth, Australia.   Danny Estrin, the vocalist (and also an immigration lawyer in his day job), can be a vocal clone for Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode more often than not.  Their new-wave synth laden metal, overlaid with chunky guitar riffs from their two guitarists, can be infectious and prog influences aside, immensely catchy.  Their set, a short 45 minutes over 8 songs, covered their new singles (‘Submarine’, and ‘Dreamer’, the single from the Australian Eurovision qualifiers), and no more than two tracks from each of the last four albums. As a long time fan, I was overjoyed to get to see some older tracks sprinkled in the end, including the Meaning of I and Ascension, to go along with ‘Colours’ and ’Brightstar’ off of their last crowdfunded full-length, Colours in the Sun. What stage Voyager was able to use as an opener was framed by a number of LED light poles roughly the size of industrial fluorescent lights that changed colors and synced via computer appropriate to the song being played (rainbow for ‘Colours’, sea green for ‘Submarine’).  Having not seen Voyager since their last set in the US in 2018, I thought they were in amazing form, easily two of the best shows I’ve seen from them.  Finally, on came VOLA, the headliners. They play a distinctive

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Dekmantel days 3 4 + 5 (festival review by Paul S.)

The bulk of the Dekmantel festival took place in the Amsterdamse Bos forest over 3 days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday). With 8 simultaneous stages, some of which are a bit of a hike from each other, and some of the spaces filling up pretty quickly, one has to coordinate and prioritize which sets are worth venturing out and staying for. On all three days, I ended up getting to the forest a bit later than I wanted since I was spending time in the city hanging out with a friend during the early afternoon. Friday I arrived just in time to catch the last 12 minutes of Scorn’s set, which was one of the sets I was looking forward to the most. At least it was worth it, as Mick Harris pummeled the hangar-like UFO II stage with bass, and I was able to get as close up front as possible. Next I caught a bit of DJ Haram, who promised club bangers as long as it was ok if she threw in some weirdness, which meant Bad Brains-style hardcore and trap coexisted with Jersey club. Over at the main stage, Josey Rebelle was playing an uplifting, eclectic housey set, and Anz elevated the vibe further, playing a marvelous set which likely included a lot of her own productions, which are as likely to evoke freestyle/electro as ravey drum’n’bass. After catching some of Joy Orbison’s main stage set, I discovered the amazing Greenhouse stage, a roomy, open-air hut with lots of plants. I caught some of Ugandan/British ensemble Nihiloxica‘s set, an exhilarating mix of high-speed drumming and blown-out electronic feedback. I always appreciate it when electronic festivals showcase a few bands, particularly when they have amazing drummers, and this was an especially welcome change of pace. After that was Legowelt, a Dutch electro master and analog synth fiend who I’d been wanting to see for ages. Following that, I caught some of Aquarian and the Hessle Audio 15th anniversary showcase, but honestly I was really tired by that point and everything was blurring together, plus it was cold and I didn’t bring a jacket that day. I ended up buying a long-sleeve polo shirt at the merch table before I biked back to my hotel. I showed up too late on Saturday for Dopplereffekt’s set, but I did catch some of Anthony Rother, who mostly played Kraftwerk tunes for the portion that I saw. Then electroclash heroes Kittin & the Hacker played, and though I still wasn’t quite close enough to see them, it sounded fine. After that I head over to the main stage to catch Jayda G, who played a very summery set of disco and house favorites, including her own excellent recent singles. Over at the Greenhouse, I caught some of Brazilian jazz-funk legends Azymuth, who were a last-minute addition to the lineup, and I immediately wished I’d gotten there earlier. Could not believe how tight they were, the synth player in particular is a wizard. Fortunately their set went on 15 minutes

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Lisa Hilton: Transparent Sky (album review by Christa V.)

Hilton delivers a masterful album with this creation. The trio of her on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums locks in so tight to the music, yet gives every piece room to breathe. Every song sounds so well put together, and yet they all have a lightness that threatens to whisk the listener away. “Nightingales and Fairy Tales” is an exquisite example of this where the music sounds wistful and dreamy. “God Bless the Child” is one of few covers, rather than an original, but Hilton brings new life and energy to the classic hit. And the title track that closes out the album brings the whole creation together. It’s a wonder that Hilton hasn’t reached a larger audience; don’t let this album pass you by.  Favorite tracks: 3, 5, 10

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Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heatwave (album review by Christa V.

Mhondoro means “the lion spirit” in Shona, a language of Zimbabwe, and this was a group born during the pandemic. Saxophonist Idit Shner, vocalist/percussionist John Mambira, pianist Torrey Newhart, bassist Garrett Baxter, and drummer Ken Mastrogiovanni came together as a parent pod to jam while their kids attended virtual school. The resulting music was so good that the group decided to turn it into a full album! The sound of this group is as diverse as its members, with clear influences from traditional African music influencing their jazz. The opening track has a mantra feel to it with the repetitive percussion and vocals throughout it. This continues in several other tracks, notably in “Mhondoro” which features woodwinds. The final track is peaceful and calming, and is my clear favorite of the album. The vocals are soothing and float above all of the instrumentals, and it keeps the mantra-like aspects going without becoming boring. Definitely interested to see if this ensemble keeps it up and releases more music! Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 7

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Boyle: Psych-Jazz Collage (album review by Nicolette L.)

It is difficult to conceive of Boyle as anything other than an ensemble of at least 8 players, but somehow the entirety of It is difficult to conceive of Boyle as anything other than an ensemble of at least 8 players, but somehow the entirety of “Psych-Jazz Collage 1” was performed and recorded by a single multi-instrumentalist/tape manipulator

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Joji @ Governors Ball (festival review by Ciaran C

Throughout our Saturday Governors Ball coverage, it was clear to both Laura and me that Joji’s performance was a highly anticipated one: from our interviewed attendees saying that they were most excited to see his set to the groups of media personnel planning to cover it, the signs for that traditional, cramped shoulder-to-shoulder festival set that we briefly lost to COVID were all there

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Frederik Meijer Gardens (concert review by Nick S.)

I’ve loved Norah Jones’ music since childhood, and when I got the opportunity to buy tickets to this show at Frederik Meijer Gardens, a beautiful music amphitheater in Grand Rapids, MI, I couldn’t pass it up. Fortunately, getting to see Norah Jones live in concert at one of my favorite outdoor venues was nothing less than a dream come true. We arrived an hour and a half early hoping to secure prime seats at the sold-out show. Thankfully, this effort paid off and we were seated only a few rows back from the stage, dead center. After waiting for about an hour and taking in the gorgeous views offered by the pristine horticulture which decorated the front of the stage, we were then greeted by Norah’s opening act, singer-songwriter Emily King. To say that both I and everyone in the crowd were blown away by Emily King’s immense talent would have been an understatement. She walked on stage with two other musicians who provided a minimalistic backdrop of keyboards, percussion, and guitar. This arrangement allowed King’s personality and most of all her incredible vocals to take center stage. King’s set consisted of around seven or eight of her own songs, which were separated by a beautifully arranged and performed cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. In between each song, King provided anecdotes about each song she performed and repeatedly acknowledged her gratitude towards Jones for giving her the opportunity to perform with such a legendary artist. After seeing King perform live, I’m astonished that she isn’t more well known given her incredible vocal talent and sharp songwriting skills. Though I would have expected nothing less from the opening act at a Norah Jones concert, I was still stunned by King’s effortless talent and stage presence and I will most certainly be checking out her entire discography in the days to come. After King performed her final song, the entire crowd was clearly just as impressed as I was, giving her a raucous applause. We then waited patiently for Jones and her band to grace the stage, enticingly eyeing the assortment of instruments which were neatly placed on the stage. About a half an hour later, Jones and her band walked out, launching directly into the first song of the night. Though the tour was officially commemorating the 20th anniversary of Jones’ debut album, Come Away With Me, the setlist was incredibly varied and balanced across Jones’ entire discography. With each song, I eagerly waited to see which instrument each of her band members would switch to. Her bassist switched between a bass guitar and a double bass multiple times over the entire night. Similarly, her guitarist switched between an electric guitar and a pedal steel guitar which offered an interesting variation in instrumentation between the live and recorded arrangements of some of the songs Jones performed. Jones also frequently switched instruments herself, playing both electric guitar and piano with stunning virtuosity alongside her impeccable singing. Emily King also came back on stage to sing a

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Boris @ Magic Stick (Concert Review by Nicolette L.)

This past Wednesday at the Magic Stick: Boris took the stage with opening act Nothing on their North American tour! Nothing is a band I’ve been aware of for a few years now but it was a pleasure being able to see them for the first time on this tour. Their really compelling mashing of several different styles made for a really moving live performance. To describe their sound in an overly-simplified manner, they kinda sound as if Amenra listened to a lot more Slowdive. Heavy, crushing, but with a wonderful knack for melody, traits of the band which shone through very clearly live. They opened the set with several really intense tracks, displaying drastic dynamic shifts within songs that were nothing short of captivating. The group would cut out for a few seconds, a single instrument strumming a moody chord progression, before suddenly they’d all crash in as loud as ever. Even the pit would take a second to pause in awe at these moments! As the set progressed they brought in slower, more atmospheric songs, it was here where the Slowdive influence really came through. I do sorta wish the vocals were mixed a little higher in the venue. Especially in the quieter moments where the vocals were intended to be at the front of the music, not being able to hear the harmonies between the multiple vocalists was a little disappointing. Nonetheless, they finished off strong with another couple of heavy-hitters. Overall an excellent performance, marred ever so slightly by a few technical issues. Boris was next and let me just say…holy fuck! I don’t even know where to begin. First off to preface, I would like to say that I hadn’t listened to the last two records they put out prior to coming to the show, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into the show, but I was beyond pleasantly surprised with what they showed off here. They came out the gates flying, with one lightning fast track after another, in that very characteristic blend of old-school thrash metal and sludgy doom that they have been exploring on their last few records. The energy was explosive, only heightened by the group’s unbelievable stage presence. Atsuo’s vocals were commanding and anthemic, and he moved around the stage and interacted with the audience with the mythical air that boomers talk about when they bring up seeing the Stones in ‘73. The other members were nothing to gawk at either. Wata and Takeshi were both amazing, bringing the ruckus with their setups. Standing by the PAs through all of that had to have done something to my ears long-term because this might be the heaviest show I’ve ever been to. The variety the group showed off here was really impressive, transitioning very smoothly from song to song with drone metal interludes, and eventually even going into a bit of harsh noise near the end of the set. All throughout they maintained the same energy. All leading

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