Tag Archives: Staples Center

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Staples Center – December 28, 2011

….”Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets…”

I had another interesting story (well, to me anyway…) connected to seeing Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.  I thought it was 1982, but after an internet search I suspect it was April of 1983 when Bob Seger played the Forum in LA.  I had tickets, but I also had a job at KEZY radio that required me to be at work at 10pm.  I begged and shuffled and was able to coax that I could arrive at 11pm.  But, anyone who live around here knows you how long it takes from Inglewood to Anaheim.  So, I went to the show…and spent the whole night checking my watch, pushing it to the very last moment and finally leaving about halfway through the show to head to work.  “Oh well I thought….I’ll see him next time he comes through town….”

He didn’t return until 1987 and I missed it.  I missed the shows on the tours in the 90’s as well.  Then, he pretty much retired from the road.  Life moved along…A 2007 tour came up, and I was on the road when the LA show happened….so, I missed it.  It seemed as if I’d never actually see a complete Seger concert.

Then, a few months back he scheduled a show at Staples Center for December 28th.  I hate Staples Center, it’s not a very good place to see any concert.  But, this was finally my chance to see a full show.

Bob and I are both a bit older and an attack of grey hair has done it’s evil work on both of  us.  But, I figured that I’d close my eyes and as long as the music and the show was good, it didn’t matter that we might both be older, grayer and a little more “filled out”.  I bought a nice single seat near the mix console at the rear of the floor and crossed my fingers I’d get a decent show that would live up to my memories of that half show 28 years ago.

First up was an opening act named Frankie Ballard.  Seemed like a nice kid….but, why does a kid from Michigan talk like he’s from Alabama?  I suspect it’s because he’s being sold as a “country” artist.  That new sort of country…the one that’s more pop and has very little in common with someone like George Jones or Waylon Jennings.  The kid and his band we competent players in a bar band sort of way.  In fact the two best songs of the set were covers….”Pink Houses” and “Fortunate Son”.  Mid-set he played his new single “a bunch of girls” and it was basically “Kenny Chesney” lite…(and since Kenny Chesney is basically Jimmy Buffet lite) it was the musical equivalent of of a third generation cassette copy of a song.  He fell back on the crutch of mentioning the headliner a couple times (as well as “the troops”) to get a few rousing cheers.  Basically, it was brief and not really offensive, but nothing that makes me think he’ll end up more than a footnote in my musical memories.  He was however very punctual…on stage at 7:30 and off at 7:59….so, he’s got that going for him I suppose.

Seger hit the stage at 8:30 exactly and tore into “Roll Me Away”…let me just say here…the man rocks f0r someone who has 15+ years on me.  He sounded great and no eye closing was required.  Yeah, he’s gray…but he looked healthy and really seemed to be using every tool in the toolbox to involve the crowd.  From the start this was not a band there for a payday (like say Kiss was the last time I saw them).  This was a rock and roll band near equal to might E-Street band.

The anchor at the center was Don Brewer (of Grand Funk Railroad) who is rock solid after all these years and kept the steady pulse that the rest of the players could build on.  Those players, (some who have worked with Seger going back to 1969) are uniformly tight and talented…just like the guys on E-Street are.  In fact, I was thinking during the show how both Seger and Springsteen built their bands with a standout sax player (in this case Alto Reed, since 1971).  Reed provided a number of highlights, with the most memorable being his excellent work on “Turn the Page”.

Bob may have some moments where his voice shows a tad bit of age, but generally it was stronger than guys I’ve heard who were half his age.  And 50 years of stagecraft and practice allowed him to cover flawlessly by doing things like having a quick crowd sing along…which the full house was eager to cooperate with, generally at the top of their lungs.  It wasn’t a young crowd, but it was one of the more enthusiastic group of over 40’s I’ve seen.  Much of the crowd were on their feet dancing and singing for the entire near two hour show.

There were three moments that stand out in my mind which totally made the night for me.

The opening of “Roll Me Away”  was so perfect that I nearly shed a tear.  So many years of waiting and to be rewarded with such a great sound brought back a whole range of memories and emotions.  From those first notes I knew it was going to be a good show.

The segue between Travelin’ Man on into “Beautiful Loser”.  To me this is the centerpiece of the “Live Bullet” album, which may be one of the most perfect live albums ever recorded.  (That’s not just my opinion, lots of critics rank it as #1 as well).  While on occasion some of his lyrics can be a bit cliche’d, “Beautiful Loser” features this:

He wants to dream like a young man 
With the wisdom of an old man 
He wants his home and security 
He wants to live like a sailor at sea 

Beautiful loser 
Where you gonna fall? 
When you realize 
You just can’t have it all 

The transition between them and a lifetime of listening to those songs flow into each other was something I didn’t think I’d ever hear live.  And it was perfect.

The last was the first encore which opened with “Against the Wind”.  As I listened to this song, my thoughts turned to my friend Jeff who we lost a few years back.  He had Detroit roots and we saw a lot of Detroit based acts together back when we were both “young and strong”.  I thought about how much I wish we could have seen this show together, and how much has changed during all those years that have “rolled slowly by”.

It was a fitting song to cap a show that I waited a long time to see.

It really ended up being one of the best shows that I saw in an eventful year of concerts.  It was a really nice way to finish the year.

Set List: Roll Me Away/Trying to Live my Life/Fire Down Below/Main Street/Old Time Rock & Roll/Rambling Gambling Man/Going Back to Birmingham/Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser/We’ve got Tonight/Nutbush City Limits/Come to Poppa/Her Strut/Real Mean Bottle/Turn a Page/Sunspot Baby/Katmandu  Encores: Against the Wind/Hollywood Nights/Night Moves/Rock & Roll Never Forgets

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Wrapping up 2010

Wow, where do I start….

As evidenced by the previous posts I had a pretty amazing year of concert-going.  A near lifelong quest completed, an epic show I’d missed 30 years ago revisited.  A music oriented couple weeks in London.  Countless HOF members of the Rock Hall of Fame….heck a ton of them in just a single week.  Shows with good friends old and new.  Hard to even wrap my head around the whole thing.

Here’s the list:

Keb’ Mo’ – Coach House – Jan 14

The Blasters, John Doe, Rumble King – Coach House – Feb 20

Peter Gabriel – Hollywood Bowl – May 7

Styx, Kansas, Foreigner – Citizens Bank Arena – May 19

Richard Thompson – Royal Festival Hall – June 19

Green Day, Joan Jett – Wembley Stadium – June 19

Elvis Costello – Royal Festival Hall – June 20

Glastonbury – June 23-27

Jackson Browne – Albert Hall – June 29

Jack Johnson – O2 Arena – June 30

Laura Marling, Fanfarlo, Peggy Sue, Smoke Fairies – Hyde Park – July 1

Hop Farm – July 2-3

Jools Holland – Kew Gardens – July 6

Barenaked Ladies, Kris Allen, Angel Taylor – Greek Theatre – July 22

Blondie, Gorevette – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 8

Rush – Irvine Meadows – August 13

Al Yankovic – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 14

Scissor Sisters – DAR Consitiution Hall – August 23

Neil Finn – Largo – September 11

Muse, Passion Pit – Staples Center – September 25

Gorillaz, N.E.R.D. – Gibson – October 27

Bonobo – Music Box – November 26

Roger Waters – Staples Center – November 29

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 13

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 14

Twenty three shows and two festivals in all.  I don’t think I could even pick a “best”.  However a few things to note do occur to me.

Worst sound, Scissor Sisters.  Horrible mix that completely left the vocals out, and it’s not like I had a crappy seat, I was in the 5th row.  Really guys?  Totally detracted from an interesting performance.

Only show I left early, Jack Johnson.  It was okay, but very one-note.  I like his studio stuff, but in a huge arena it was lost.  Put the same show in an intimate venue and I might have loved it.  Add to the experience that I was a bit sick that night and it was just not a compelling show.

Most disappointing, Muse/Passion Pit.  Passion Pit left me cold and Muse after all the hype just didn’t live up to expectations.  Lot’s of copped riffs and wasted technology that didn’t go anywhere.  If you want to use technology look to Gabriel, Waters or even the Pet Shop Boys.  This was “sound and fury that signified nothing”…

Most intimate, Neil Finn.  The Largo is magic when Neil plays there and the September show was no exception.  An obscure setlist that actually added to the special feeling of the evening.  You knew even while watching this was the sort of thing that would never be duplicated.  Jackson Browne in the acoustic tent at Glastonbury was a close second.  While the masses grooved to Stevie Wonder….Jackson held court for a few hundred lucky folks and spun magic with his sidekick David Lindley.  Moving and unique almost sell short just how very special a way it was to end my Glastonbury experience.

Surprises…How awesome Gorillaz were in LA after disappointing in Glastonbury.

Bonobo, Midlake, Hot Chip, Fanfarlo, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Magic Numbers, The Bees….none of whom I knew before 2010 and who all get extensive spins regularly on my ipod now.

How great Rush could be at doing “Moving Pictures” after being somewhat average the other time I’d seen them previously….this show made up for that one in spades.

Disappointment….U2 having to cancel in Anaheim and Glastonbury…(of course it does give me a couple shows to look forward to in 2011 already…)

Well, that’s it…another year in the books, and an amazing one at that.  Curious to see what 2011 (and beyond) will bring?  But, it’ll be hard for any year to reach the heights of 2010 for me.

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The Wall Pt.2

So, as promised, my review…

The first show at Staples had left me a little empty to be honest.  It was cool…but not really as cool as I’d hoped.  The album source material was as strong as ever, the band was tight and note perfect.  But, something was missing for me.  I read lots of other reviews that uniformly raved about the show.  I spent days trying to sort out exactly what I thought and why.

Then, two things finally bubbled to the surface that put it very much back into focus.

First, I went alone…this usually isn’t a problem for me and sometimes is almost the best way to see a show.  But, this wasn’t a typical show.  And ironically enough, seeing a show that’s all about being disaffected and cut off from the world is not the best idea to see alone…(duh?)  It was a show to be shared, discussed and experienced with people because it surely provokes thought and discussion from all political and religious points of view.  So….my bad, I shouldn’t have gone alone, (well, I did have 30 years of ghosts along for the ride, but we all have a few of those everywhere we go, don’t we?)

Secondly, Roger had recast the piece to make it more universal.  Admirable, and worth talking about later in the review.  But, in the context of a thirty year wait…not exactly what I wanted to see.

I somehow wanted to to be 30 years ago again…for Pink to struggle with his demons and finally be exposed as human.  But, that wasn’t the show I got.  I got a nuanced take on the all too common pain of senseless loss and killing in the name of a variety of causes.  Truly, a very different take on the material that at first to me felt like why I was a bit let down by the show despite it’s technical wonders.

So, with these thoughts, I went to the Honda Center exactly two weeks later to see the second of my three shows.  From the same show I got a very different experience.

First I went with a close friend from childhood.  Someone who loved the material as much as I did and with whom I’ve shared a lifetime of experiences.  Right off the bat I had someone now to share the cool stuff with, to nudge when something cool happened and to talk to at intermission.  It opened it up for me the same way the reviews I’d read had.  I started to recognize things in it that were different, not for the sake of being different but for very specific artistic reasons…okay, a bunch of the wow reappeared for me.

Second, I was in the 12th row.  Suddenly the wall was even bigger, the scope was even grander yet paradoxically I could see faces and nuance that I couldn’t see from the back of the hall (even in a decent seat there.)

Third, I’d seen the “wow” tricks already, and I could focus more on story, plot and music.

I realized from this that the wall is one heck of a piece of art…and as such it’s meaning can change with context, time and the audience’s experiences they bring to it.  Suddenly the changes to make it more universal made more sense to me.  The voices and sounds (not just music, but effects too) drew me in.  I watched Roger up close as he inhabited each of the voices at the trial, as he strutted as a dictator and as he ran at the wall to shatter it at the peak moment of “Comfortably Numb”.  I realized that I was seeing the result of thirty more years of life experiences from someone who I think has written some of the most insightful lyrics in rock music.  It was like having Charles Dickens read one of his early stories to you, or having Mozart conduct an orchestra of something he wrote as a child.  You may not get the exact original copy given to you that day….instead you’ll get something that has evolved and reflects the additional life experience they bring back to the piece when they revisit it.

I figured out, I wasn’t ever seeing “Pink Floyd” doing the wall….that happened once and will never happen again.  To have simply trotted out the original production and tried to copy it would have been a cheat of the audience and nothing that a “tribute band” couldn’t have done just as well.  This was a new piece of music and theatre and it needed to be evaluated as such.

And yes, I found it thought provoking and moving.

I challenge anyone with a heart to watch the footage during “Bring the Boy’s Back Home” of returning soldiers holding their children and not get a lump in their throat.  Of course, that was a scene that Roger was personally denied by the death of his own father when he was a small child and a subtle point made amidst the greater sweep of the story.  Roger made a effort to hold up a mirror and show us the pain and loss caused violence, war and blind trust in any group, country or institution.  A point he can clearly speak from personal experience about.

Technically, it was one of the two most advanced and amazing touring shows I’ve seen.  Te other being U2’s current 360 tour.  But, they are as different from each other as they are ambitious.  While U2 reached for sheer spectacle by going completely over the top and building a stage that may never be equaled.  Roger used the technology in a more specific and direct way to emphasize and illustrate the story he wanted to tell.  I loved both shows and both are so far beyond with anyone else is doing that I’m not sure how long it will be before anyone comes close to these technically.  Either show could have been done on a bare stage, but both were enhanced by the technology involved.  And I think ultimately, the Waters show will resonate longer with me as a work of art than the U2 show which was just “cool” to see.

I should mention that I saw it a third time from back closer to where I sat at Staples on the second night in Anaheim (and the last night of the US tour).  But, by then I saw it through different eyes and perceived it differently.  I could watch the grandeur and yet have fixed in my minds eye the closer nuance I’d seen the night before.  In fact, it’s one show that I think almost had to be seen from more than one spot to truly understand.

Some of the hightlights:

The opening is spectacular and over the top with bombast, fireworks and crashing planes.  It teases the audience who are simply there for a “rock show”….then it all drops away to the delicate sounds of “The Thin Ice” to set the story and give context by showing not just the loss of his father (the first photo) but of so many lives lost since then around the world.  Powerful.

A wonderful reading of the song “Mother” highlighted by Roger singing a double track vocal to a huge projection of himself singing the song in 1980 at Earls Court.  His biggest nod to the past and history of the entire piece.  His spoken comments making it clear that he feels he’s very much grown, learned and changed from the younger man who created the piece (with the rest of Pink Floyd) all those years ago.

As mentioned before, “Vera” and her empty mocking promise of “…we’ll meet again, some sunny day…” which then gives way to the projections of returning soldiers as “Bring the Boys Back Home” plays.

“Comfortably Numb” finds Roger pacing outside the now completed wall as his reality distorts and twists finally opening up to a blaze of color and emotion.  But all of that is really just a masking the underlying pain.

The rush of the last portion of the show where the dictatorial Roger struts on the stage to “Run Like Hell” only to realize that he’s gone too far and needs to “Stop” the madness he’s swirling in.  This leads to “The Trial” where he sings each part, recaps the story and is sentenced to be exposed while backed by Gerald Scarfe’s original animations blown up even larger and covered the whole width of the wall.  When the wall finally falls it’s as spectacular a moment as you can imagine, the subwoofers rumbling around the hall and the bricks cascading down in front of us.

The last coda where the band comes out to play “Outside the Wall” and Roger made comments about his state of mind now as opposed to when he wrote the piece so long ago.  It’s actually the perfect ending and makes sense in the context of what’s come before to end on such a personal and human note.  It felt like his way of reaching out from behind the material and sharing with the audience a moment he couldn’t have when he was an angrier young man in 1980.

I guess the biggest thing is this was a concert that was all about thinking, reflection and telling a complete story.  It was in a different class from pretty much anything else that I’ve ever seen.  Once I finally “got it”…I really “got it”….a terrific experience in a year full terrific experiences for me.  Just an amazing year.  And, yes…I’m now over the regrets from missing the show in 1980.  We all have to learn to put the past away and this show was my lesson to let it go.

A few photos tomorrow on my next post.

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The Wall (finally) Pt.1

So, in 1980 I was working at the Warehouse Records in the Huntington Center.  I had a former manager and friend by the name of Fate who ran the Westminster Mall store.  When I heard about Pink Floyd coming to perform the Wall in concert I called my friend Fate (yes, that really was his name).  You see he had a connection…a friend at Columbia Records and that friend could often set him up with really good seats for concerts.  And, Pink Floyd was on Columbia.  We discussed it and Fate said not to worry, he was sure he could set us up with some good seats.

The tickets went on sale and there were long lines, but I didn’t worry.  I had my connection and knew that I had a seat.

A couple days after the on sale date I got the call.  He was able to get a couple seats, but in the allocation of all his friends who needed seats…I was left standing like the kid when the music stops in a game of musical chairs.  He was very apologetic, he even brought me a program from the show afterwards.  But, as a poor college student in the pre-internet days I was at a loss as to how I could get a ticket (short of a scalper, which was out of my budget.)

So, I missed the show in 1980

In the back of my mind, I told myself I’d see them another time.  But, there wasn’t another time.  Fate, egos and lawsuits came into the picture and Pink Floyd broke up.  They reformed with three of the four members and I saw them in Atlanta in 1987.  I saw David Gilmour on a solo tour.  I finally saw Roger Waters in 2000, twenty years later.  Then at the Hollywood Bowl with Nick Mason doing Dark Side of the Moon.  I saw Gilmour once more with Rick Wright.  I even saw a “tribute” version of the band do the Wall.  But, I’d never really gotten the experience of seeing Roger, the main writer perform the entire set.  This was one of the few really attainable concert “misses” in my entire history of seeing shows.  The big one that got away…

So, in May when the rumors of a Wall tour came true I eagerly snapped up tickets to the LA and the Anaheim shows.  (Plus the added Anaheim show a few days later).  I’ve waited another seven months with tickets in hand for tonight…the moment when I’d finally see the Wall performed by Roger Waters.

I’d have loved it to be all of Pink Floyd, but that became unlikely with Rick Wright’s passing a few years ago.  So, Waters and the Wall were to be my ‘make-up ” show for 30 years of waiting.

I recount all this because as you can see…there was pretty much no way this could ever live up to the expectations built up over 30 years of waiting, of listening to the show on official release and on bootleg.  I knew every word and every nuance of the of the music.  I even had some of the visuals in my head from photos, the Berlin concert and the program.

I drove up early to Staples Center and walked to the ESPN Zone for dinner.  Grabbed an easy chair and watched part of the Monday night football game.  Giving myself plenty of time I headed across the street to the center and braved the long lines to get in.  (Metal detectors, really drag the process of getting inside).  Once inside I checked out the extremely overpriced merchandise…$45 t-shirts….I’m sure that the tickets cost less than that in 1980.

I grabbed my seat and waited for the prompt 8pm start that was promised on the ticket….

(I wrote all of the above the night after seeing the show at Staples.  Now I’m less than 24 hours away from seeing it a second time.  (and a third time on Tuesday).

I’ve decided to post this and withhold my review until I’ve seen the show again.  I came away from Staples with some specific impressions, but those have changed a bit over the past couple weeks and I think I’ll wait until I’ve seen it again to put it all into perspective.

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Muse at Staples Center

I passed on Muse at Glasto to see Nick Lowe, a snippet of the Pet Shop Boys and Midlake.

I knew they’d be in So Cal and figured that I had tome to see them here if I decided it was a good idea.  Frankly, with a few exceptions of songs most of their CD’s I’d listened to had left me cold.  I just couldn’t really get into them.  I wavered and passed on the Thursday night show in Anaheim.  But, on Friday I read a rave review in the local paper.  He compared them to U-2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Pearl Jam and Green Day amongst others….wow.  Everyone seems to rave about them.  He basically said this is the last time you’ll see them short of a stadium.  Quite a hard sell.  He even compared the opener “Passion Pit” to Hot Chip, La Roux and Phoenix.

So…with that in my head, I popped onto Ticketmaster and up pops a really great single seat…

So, I pull the trigger and buy a ticket for Saturday night at Staples (a venue that I really dislike as well).

I arrive a bit early, but all the restaurants are jammed.  So, I opt for a concession stand pizza and diet soda.

Passion Pit hits the stage at 7:30pm…by 7:51pm I am completely tired of his “minnie mouse” voice and their bland offering….sadly for me the set lasted another 21 minutes….

Sorry, but having just seen Hot Chip, La Roux AND Phoenix at Glasto I have to say…I’d prefer any of those three to this group.  They were nice and humble sounding when they talked, but sort of like Owl City in the same bland way.  Actually, I’d prefer Owl City and their lightweight electro-pop fare to these guys.  Sorry, I’m sure you are good ernest kids…but I hope that they all finish the college degree as a fallback option….

Muse, Muse, Muse….

What can I say?….

I was amazingly disappointed after all the build up.  First there was a video display of escher like guys climbing stairs endlessly on the large LCD rigs above the stage.  After a bit of that they opened the show with a massive display of ego.  Literally placing themselves on pedestals above the stage and also doing a kubuki drop….(Very 80’s Def Leppard guys, but not that well executed.)  Of course, “Not that well executed” was a major theme for me in regards to their show.  They had a lot of cool toys and underused and misused most of them.  Aside from the kubuk drop, they had lasers (ELO used them much better back in 1978! on the Big Night tour), stage elevators (ditto with ELO in 1978), LCD walls/curtains….(seen much better stuff from Tom Petty, Green Day and numerous others), Video content itself…(Rush, Green Day set the bar here).  Even the wardrobe was derivitive!  Matt Belamy had a stage costume ripped almost directly off from Chris Issac.

I compared them (unfavorably) to Rush who I saw last month.  Both are power trios, both try for epic songs and both live very much on their stage reputations.  Rush had some awesome video content, great lighting and some cool tricks with the lighting rig, a sense of humor, terrific musicianship…the whole package.  Muse seemed to be missing each of those elements.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned U2 yet?  The review that I had read compared them very favorably…and I don’t see it.  Technically U2 created shows on the last few tours that were above and beyond anything anyone else is doing.

Muse is not doing that, they are just hashing up a bunch of half-baked stuff that others have done better…which leads me to their actual music…

Here are some of my exact notes:

3rd song…Dick Dale riff…

Supermassive Black Hole…Tom Morello riff and solo…

Hendrix Star Spangled Banner intro…Led Zep riffs on the outro…

Direct Queen rip off….

Mix of Queen and U-2 riffs on this one…

Cover of “House of the Rising Sun”

This one sounds like Dazed and Confused dropped onto a Judas Priest song…

Hey, why not some Iron Maiden riffs on this one before we’re done….

Now, for example when I’ve seen Green Day they did an awesome set of covers that paid an obvious homage to those who’d come before and influenced them.  Beatles, Stones, Who, Otis Knight…it was a great stew of songs and done with style and humor.  Muse on the other hand “borrowed” all those riffs  but delivered them in a pompous and self important manner that I found very off-putting.

Guys…I saw Queen in their prime and you’re not them, nor Zep, nor the Who and while I never saw Hendrix…I’d have to say you guys are barely another version of Frank Marino and Mahogny Rush (See Frank could play a mean Hendrix riff too).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the folks around me were all thrilled and digging the whole show.  They were also mostly kids who I doubt have been exposed to the giants these guys are standing on the shoulders of.

I tried to sum it up to Julie when I got home and this was what I came up with….

Lets say you have a talking horse.  That’s an amazing thing and people will come from miles to look at, and hear him talk.  But, after a while a talking horse will have the novelty wear off, then he’s just another voice talking; and you hope he will have something interesting to say.  I never found that core of anything interesting to say buried anywhere in this show.  So, I was just left with a talking horse, interesting for a minute…but not worth my time once the novelty wears off and I can tell that there’s really nothing there of any lasting importance.

Thousands of Muse fans I’m sure disagree with me, but I’d suggest a they dig a little deeper and listen to some Hendrix, see a U2 show…Or watch a video of Queen in the late 70’s.  I’d do any of those before I’d head back to a Muse show.

Looks like I made a good choice at Glastonbury to skip them, and a bad one to second guess myself and waste an evening on them here in So Cal.

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