New York City Music Delights

How do people living in New York City find the time to work when the music and dance experiences on offer seem endless? That’s what I asked myself daily as I struggled to fit in the bare necessities of sleeping and eating while fulfilling my one and only New York commitment: soaking up as much live music and dance as possible. 

I rose to the challenge, managing to fit 50 music and dance events into four happy weeks. Some I wouldn’t choose again if I had my time over. But any disappointments at the time didn’t matter. Knowing that the next day in New York and every one after would bring many more, is a blessed thing and a heavenly feeling for any beaver on the beats.

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Choices Choices Choices

Getting on top of the live gigs and parties on offer and selectively choosing between them is key to finding yourself the most sublime of musical experiences in whatever time you have there. Of course if you’re actually living in New York City it’s a different story. Missing out on one act because you’ve chosen another on the same night, or because you have to work, isn’t a big deal ‘cause the one that got away this time will play another show soon enough.

In The Summer Time

If you are music-holidaying then it’s best to pick a Summer-time visit. Festivals, concerts, parties, dance comps and other music events happen all year round in New York City. But like most places in the world the warmer months bring a whole lot more. And lots are free. Checking out the programs for Summerstage, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, Northside Festival and Blue Note Jazz Festival is a great start.

Kamasi Washington live concert - Northside Festival 2017

Kamasi Washington & The Next Step at Northside Festival 2017

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Plan To Be Gluttonous

So many shows you want to get to, some of them the same night and only 24 hours in a day. Yep, it’s tough. But you can fit more into one day than you think. Lots of venues have early and late shows to choose from in a night. The same artist is often playing both. Short and long term artist residencies are common so you might have multiple nights to catch them. Parties and dance comps happen at all different times of the afternoon and evening. 

Know what’s on when, be organised and you can move from one event to the next with gluttonous ease.

Cross Its Boroughs

Geographically speaking New York City isn’t actually that big. But the cultural diversity found between and within its different neighbourhoods is incredibly rich and beautiful. Getting a feel for its many flavours and discovering your favourites by checking out music events all over the city is super-rewarding.

Higher end clubs might be your thing. You’ll find plenty in hoods like the Meatpacking District. Jazz heads will find lots of choices in West Village and Greenwich Village. You can place yourself in a more uptight environment at venues like Blue Note or the Village Vanguard; or go for a friendlier, freer, less pretentious vibe at venues like Smalls or its nearly sister club Mezzrow.

Happier in outdoor music spaces? Then head to a joyous weekend party on Coney Island Boardwalk. Or hang out in Central Park and wander between African drummers and dancers, Summerstage concerts, a men’s doo wop group and dance skaters.

Robert Glasper Experiment - SummerStage 2017

Robert Glasper Experiment at SummerStage 2017

To check out hip hop’s birth place get to The Bronx for a dance competition. Party an afternoon away with Puerto Ricans in a Spanish Harlem park. And get your skanking fix at a reggae gig in Jamaica, Queens. Dress up and cross city lines for a concert at New Jersey Performing Arts Centre. Or maybe you’re brave enough to make your way through the freaky of Times Square for a live show at BB King.

If you’re comfortable amongst a privileged, hipster crowd then choose gigs in the super-gentrified Williamsburg. To experience a broader reflection of Brooklyn’s diversity get to a family friendly, good vibes concert at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

Bilal live concert - New York 2017

Bilal at Celebrate Brooklyn 2017

Venues Matter

Consider venues when you make your event choices. A venue and the people it brings, no matter what the band sounds like, can make the difference between a good and a bad music experience.

If you don’t want to be in a crowd of people talking so much it’s hard to hear the performance; or trying to dance on a sticky floor with alcohol spilled across it, you’ll need to give some venues a miss. I went to three frustrating gigs like that at Brooklyn Bowl before I reluctantly had to cross it off my options list despite its great program of acts.

Son Little live concert - New York 2017

Son Little with Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl

If you’d rather be in a space where people around you are there to actually listen and appreciate the music; where it’s simply understood or you’re expressly asked not to use your phone, you’ll find joy at venues like Smalls, the Village Vanguard and Blue Note.  For a totally unique experience of that kind, check out regular open mic nights like All That Hip Hop Poetry & Jazz at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.


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The Seasoned and The Fresh

Long-beloved artists who’ve been making and performing music for many decades won’t be around to do so much longer. You might want to prioritise their shows over those of younger acts while you still can. Sometimes those choices will pay off. Sometimes not.

Making the mission to Only In Queens Summer Festival to be amongst all corners of the world hearing George Clinton and the all-ages members of Parliament Funkadelic kill it on stage again, was the perfect choice.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert

Paying dearly to sit through the tackiness and cheese of tassled, sparkly, bikini-clad dancers fawning over Ronald and Ernie Isley as they performed at The Isley Brothers concert was not.

The Isley Brothers live concert New York 

It’s Your Thing by The Isley Brothers

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Turns out after all that my most rewarding New York event choices were to check out the fresh sounds, many of them improvised, being created by more contemporary acts – especially the ones playing in more informal, laid-back venues. Kris BowersJoel Ross Good VibesKeyon Harrold, Robert Glasper Experiment, Taylor McFerrin with Marcus Gilmore and revered Tiny Desk winners Tank and the Bangas were amongst them.

 

4 Am by Taylor McFerrinEarly Riser

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Tank and the Bangas live concert - New York

Tank and the Bangas at Blue Note

Party Picks

Parties put on in bars and clubs. Neighbourhood block parties. Rooftop parties. Parties on Coney Island Boardwalk. Parties in city parks. Vinyl Parties amongst the neon lights of Times Square. New York City is a music and dance lovers’ delight for its choices of dope parties. One of your best chances for finding them is to regularly check events posted on DanceDeets. And of course when you find a DJ you’re into, follow him or her to their next gig.

Visual arts lovers could wisely choose to start their Tuesday night at the Delancey for Collage NYC. There you can dance to killer DJs as New York City artists create musically-themed artworks before your eyes.

Collage NYC Live Art Tribute to 2Pac 2017

Inbox Full

Discover all your choices by keeping a check on social media sites for upcoming shows by your beloved artists; and subscribing to venue and event mailing lists until your inbox can’t take no more. 

These here sites will give music-holidayers a heap of choices to start filling their New York City Summer days and nights: Governors Ball FestivalNorthside FestivalSummerStageBlue Note Jazz FestivalBRIC Celebrate BrooklynHot 97 Summer JamBrooklyn Academy of MusicAfroPunkBrooklyn BasedNew York Live ArtsBrooklyn Bazaar –  Do NYCThe Joyce TheatreJazz at Lincoln Centre92yLe Poisson RougeSmoke Jazz ClubSmalls LiveMezzrowRed RoosterZinc BarThe McKittrick Hotel –  Fat Cat – 55 BarArlene’s GroceryBowery ElectricNuyorican Poets CafeThe KitchenBB King BluesMinton’sNational SawdustBirdland Jazz ClubSymphony Space –  Brooklyn Bowl Blue Note Jazz ClubHighline BallroomCielo – DanceDeets.

“The Music Capital of the World”

One time in Colombia a musicologist told me that Bogota is the music capital of the world. Now for sure Bogota has a rich and thriving music scene. But I had to doubt his statement in light of what New York City is famous for offering.

I’ve now been music-holidaying in both cities and am sure he was wrong. Even if there is such a thing as “the music capital of the world” New York City must trump Bogota and most, if not all world cities as being It, surely? Every scene, every music genres and every type of event is available for the taking in New York – seven days and nights. So I’ll never figure out how its music loving residents find the time to work. But I know it’s a heavenly-sublime city for any beaver on the beats to live in or visit.  

Breakdance battles - Brooklyn, New York 2017

 

Get your glimpse here of a tiny handful of the countless New York City music events that went down in Summer 2017.


Check out more videos by clicking on the artist/event name:

George Clinton & Parliament FunkadelicThe WhispersKamasi Washington – Keyon HarroldBen Williams bass soloTalib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch & The Soul Rebels  – Alice SmithBilalKris BowersSon Little with SouliveGriz with SouliveCover Story Doo WopThe Isley Brothers  – Taylor McFerrin & Marcus GilmoreRobert Glasper ExperimentKarl Denson with SouliveTank and the Bangas  – Joel Ross Good Vibes – Lesedi Ntsane  – Break 4 Justice Dance BattlesFinal Dance Battle – LGNDS: The Return

 

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Badbadnotgood Live – Immeasurably Above and Beyond

The members of Canadian quartet Badbadnotgood are young- and give me hope for the future of music. Each has stunning instrumental chops. Five studio albums on and they keep creating fresh, innovative music seamlessly and sublimely blending jazz with hip hop and subtle elements of funk, rock, Latin and more. And I’ve just discovered from one of their sold-out Australian shows that the live Badbadnotgood experience is immeasurably above and beyond the studio version.

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

Their Brisbane gig at Max Watts was 100% instrumental except for occasional spoken words by Alexander Sowinski from behind the drums, affirming how blessed everyone was to be there celebrating music and life. Sufficed to say every musical moment was mesmerising; and all together it was that kind of crazy-amazing live experience you walk away from feeling inspired and happy to be alive.

Get a teeny-weeny video glimpse here of the diversity of sounds created on stage at Max Watts and check out two sample tracks below from the latest album IV.

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

IV (2016)

Badbadnotgood – “Speaking Gently”

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Badbadnotgood –  “Confessions Pt II “

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Of course you can buy IV and the band’s previous albums in their best-sound-quality formats at your local independent music store. And most sublimely you can find your own live Badbadnotgood experience soon at a venue near you.

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Son Little Live And Intimate In Small City Brisbane

U.S. artist Son Little (aka Aaron Livingston) was the newest addition to my Live Music Bucket List after instantly falling in love with his self-titled debut album released last year.  Finding that long-awaited live experience amongst a handful of people at a tiny venue in small-city Brisbane, was a surprising and a blessedly intimate opportunity.

Son Little live in concert 2016

Son Little live in Brisbane

He performed solo on the Black Bear Lodge stage with a microphone, three guitars, effects-pedals and a laptop in tow. The set included most tracks from the debut album as well as a few new ones- each a fresh, subtly-different journey to the recorded version; all sung and played with raw, honest emotion undoubtedly seen and felt by everyone there.

I ain’t gonna sugar-coat it though. This show could’ve been magnificent, but wasn’t. It should’ve been because Aaron Livingston is a super-talented, one-of-a-kind artist in the contemporary music world. He writes, plays, sings and produces bluesy, soulful, jazzy (non-boxable), instrumentally-sparse songs infused with the essence of glorious musical days gone and stamped with a modern sound that is distinctly different to and recognisable from everyone else. His voice and the ways he uses it especially make it so.

But unfortunately the first of his Australian shows just didn’t flow as it should or reach its full potential. It’s hard to say why, exactly – but more than once Son Little told the crowd he was tired, a broken string put one guitar out of action during the gig and most annoyingly, the competing noise of non-gigging people talking in the venue’s adjoining bar was hard to ignore.

Despite that lack of flow and overall feeling of the gig’s looseness, it was a special pleasure to experience Son Little performing in such an intimate environment: to hear his unique vocal tone traversing both the gravel and the sweet and be impressed by the diverse ways he uses that vocal instrument; to hear him tell stories between sets and exchange banter with members of the crowd at large and individually; to hear his guitar chops and the improvised sounds created on the guitar pedals- including distortion levels hard to find outside of a Parliament-Funkadelic show.

And despite having now experienced Son Little perform live, he’ll stay on my Live Music Bucket List for now ’cause I need another. I know that in a different time and place the experience will be that kind of crazy-amazing we’re all looking for at live shows of beloved artists.

For a taste of the live experience had by folks in Brisbane last weekend, check out this video footage of Son Little performing “O Mother” at Black Bear Lodge.

For a compressed-mp3-taste of Son Little’s studio creations, listen here to sample tracks from the debut album.

Son Little - Son Little (2015)

Son Little (2015)

Son Little – “You’re Love Will Blow Me Away”

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Son Little – “Carbon”

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Son Little – “Go Blue Blood Red”

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And finally, click here to add the full Son Little album, of decent sound quality, to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection – importantly, whilst thanking and supporting the music-maker in the process.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 – All Along The Jazz Continuum

Melbourne International Jazz Festival has again succeeded in bringing some of the world’s greatest musical innovators to perform on stages throughout Melbourne over 10 days; creators from all along the jazz continuum – some whose music we’ve known and loved for our entire lifetime so far, others whose new music we’ll benefit from knowing better and may very well love for the rest of our lifetime to come.

Amongst the 129 festival events making up the musical feast on offer, opening weekend saw performances by the Robert Glasper Trio and Gary Bartz Quartet; as well as a screening of the film Miles Ahead– which has only just arrived in a few Australian cinemas.

The final days of the festival feast, the ones I was blessed to experience first-hand, included live performances by “modern masters” Eddie Palmieri and the Wayne Shorter Quartet – and contemporary “jazz explorers” Snarky Puppy and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life. Every single musician who performed with those groups, representing 60+ decades of music, was an absolute delight to hear live.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet

Puerto Rican-born Eddie Palmieri has over 60 years experience as a piano player, composer, bandleader and innovator in Latin jazz and salsa music. His performance at Hamer Hall stunningly showcased the full breadth and depth of that experience.

He began his MIJF show with a piano solo of “Life” – a deeply moving song written for his wife before she passed. From the first of every magnificent note he played during those first few minutes I was completely immersed in the experience; present in the heart-wrenching emotions his playing stirred up inside me.

Those feelings quickly turned to joy when Eddie Palmieri’s seasoned band joined him on stage for the second song – beginning an upbeat, energetic party that didn’t stop until the last beat of the encore.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Eddie Palmieri Septet at Hamer Hall

Jonathan Powell on trumpet – Louis Fouche on alto saxophone – Vincente “Little Johnny” Rivero on congas – Camilo Molina on timbales – Nicky Marrero on bongo/timbalitos and Luques Curtis (the youngest in the group) on bass.

When the party started many sitting in the theatre crowd were quick to grab the rare opportunity to move onto the dance floor created front-of stage for this show only.

Appreciators of the group’s musicianship got to watch the hands, feet, faces and smiles of the seven musicians on stage up-close and in awe. Dedicated salsa dancers became frustrated at the lack of space to dance “salsa-proper” with a partner. But most people got to dance exactly how they wanted – salsa, Australian-Style – ie. any way they feel to. This inspired Eddie Palmieri to say something I wasn’t surprised by – “You don’t dance like any other crowd I’ve seen before”.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Check out video snippets from the show here:


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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life 

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life shows is one of countless examples of Melbourne International Jazz Festival keeping its finger on the contemporary music pulse; always maintaining a revolving door of interconnected performing artists ready to share their new music projects. Having performed at the 2015 festival with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz  Marcus Strickland went home to the U.S. and finished recording his new album Nihil Novi with Bob Power, Meshell Ndegeocello and Twi-Life. In their good judgment the festival brought him back in 2016 to share those new sounds with Melbourne audiences.

Marcus Strickland live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland at Bennetts Lane

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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life performed four intimate shows at Bennetts Lane: featuring Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Charles Haynes on drums, Kyle Miles on bass and Mitch Henry on organ and keys.

Mitch Henry live concert with Twi-Life 2016

Mitch Henry at Bennetts Lane

The connection between these five musicians and the inspiration they gleaned from playing together was palpable. They share a lot including a long personal and professional history together; experience in composing and producing as well as playing, and importantly; a shared view that music is music – an expression of themselves and the combined sum of all their many musical and other influences- free from the limitations of genre labels, expectations and boundaries imposed by others.

All that matters is that they express their voices in music – and that people feel it. And judging from the good-vibes mood and big smiles on everyone’s faces (including mine), I’d say Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life most definitely achieved that in abundance at Bennetts Lane.


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Marcus Strickland audiences got the special bonus of hearing he and Twi-Life perform a beautifully-haunting new song by Keyon Harrold called “Lullabye” (video footage of the first half of the song below). And folks who made it to the Arts Centre for MzRizk’s daytime interview with Strickland and Harrold were played a recording of another new killer track from Keyon Harrold’s forthcoming album, featuring prolific hip hop producer and vocalist Georgia Anne Muldrow. 

Keyon Harrold live concert 2016

Keyon Harrold at Bennetts Lane

It seems only natural that the revolving festival door will bring Keyon Harrold back in 2017 to perform his new album live.  

Click on these links to read interviews with Marcus Strickland and Keyon Harrold in the lead-up to Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016.

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Snarky Puppy

I’m not gonna talk about the music Snarky Puppy played at The Forum– except to say I appreciated it and the musicianship with which it was played. Check out a tiny video snippet from the show yourself:

Instead I want to share something else I appreciated about my Snarky Puppy experience. And that’s the encouragement bandleader and bass player Michael League gave the crowd throughout the night to make the right choices in supporting music and the artists who make it.

Snarky Puppy concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael League at The Forum

It began with Canadian support act Michelle Willis. She was accompanied by League on bass and Mark Lettieri on guitar – with League introducing her as a talented independent artist they kidnapped to bring on tour with them so people could hear her music.

Michelle Willis live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael Lettieri & Michelle Willis at The Forum

More encouraging words came during Snarky Puppy’s set when League took time to talk about the ways people choose to consume music today, the importance of supporting artists by going to their shows and buying albums – and the efforts the group makes to support independent artists through their own GroundUP Music Label.

Hopefully it ended up with everyone buying a Snarky Puppy, Bill Laurance, Mark Lettieri, Charlie Hunter or GroundUP compilation cd on their way out of the venue. If so they would’ve been in the foyer with the band to hear and smile at the “woh-oh-ohhh-oh-oh-ohhh” melody from the song “Shofukan (We Like It Here)” which a group of fans coming from the show spontaneously broke into.

Listen here to a dirty mp3-only sample of a Snarky Puppy song from their latest album Culcha Vulcha– and buy an uncompressed, hard copy of the complete album here.

“Grown Folks” by Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha (2016)

Culcha Vulcha (2016)

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Wayne Shorter Quartet

Joining Wayne Shorter on stage at Hamer Hall on closing night of the festival was Brian Blade on drums, Danilo Pérez on piano and John Patitucci on bass.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Hamer Hall

The one and only word I need to describe the 90-minute musical journey with the Quartet that followed is exquisite.

It was a joy to see and hear the pleasure and inspiration all four musicians took in listening to each other, playing and bouncing off each together and in connecting – with each other and by consequence, the audience.

Check out some video snippets from the show here:

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Future Modern Masters of Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Every live music experience I had at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 left me feeling happy, high, energised and inspired…as live music experiences should. Blessed am I and every other festival participant for their own experiences.

I’m certain many of this year’s performing artists are making music now that will be known, loved, remembered and cherished for a very long time to come, maybe even forever-after. I guess that in 20 years+ time some of the “modern masters” programmed at future festivals will be the “jazz explorers” performing in these years now. That makes me excited about all Melbourne International Jazz Festivals still to come.

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland & Keyon Harrold at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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D’Angelo Live In Australia – One, Two, Three, Four

After experiencing the first three of D’Angelo’s four incredible Australian shows, I was mysteriously left feeling less than fully satisfied. It didn’t make sense when D’Angelo and The mini Vanguard touring with him had just delivered flawless, stunning performances to Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay Bluesfest audiences.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

#1 – Melbourne’s Palais Theatre

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

# 2 – Sydney Opera House

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

# 3 – Byron Bay Bluesfest

 

 

 

 

 

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D’Angelo, Every Time

D’Angelo’s phenomenal vocal range and delivery as well as his skills on piano and guitar, are unquestionable. They are simply and absolutely sublime to hear live – every time.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

So is Michael “D’Angelo” Archer’s joyful high energy and super-smooth, confident engagement with the crowd. Man or woman, even if you only care about the sounds of music, who out there wouldn’t blush if D’angelo looked you in the eye and pointed at you while ever-so-naturally singing “I feel like makin’ love to you” in his voice from on high?

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

At all his Australian shows D’Angelo undoubtedly demonstrated he’s a musician, artist and performer of equal wonder to the legendary R&B, funk and soul artists who influenced and shaped him. Some of them he payed tribute to in his sets (“She’s Always In My Hair” by Prince, “Red Hot Mama” by Funkadelic and “Brent Fischer Interlude” by Black Messiah collaborator Brent Fischer). D’Angelo does all those artists and their music justice, and then some. And how many contemporary artists can we say that about in 2016?

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

No I don’t think my slight and mysterious dissatisfaction was about D’Angelo’s performances. They made me smile from ear to ear in awe.

The [mini] Vanguard 

Did I miss hearing the distinctive bass sounds of Pino Palladino, the live horns and the gorgeous complementary female vocals of Kendra Foster or Joi Gilliam usually heard with The Vanguard? Sure I did. But their absence alone wasn’t leaving me with that feeling.

Because technically the seven insanely-skilled musicians on stage with D’Angelo played and sang almost flawlessly. Although he appeared nervous or daunted at times, Pino’s son Rocco Palladino did an admirable job on bass. And any opportunity to hear Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples or Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals…is a blessed one I would gleefully take any time. They all killed it. And I appreciated hearing every note they played and sang on Australian stages.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Chris Dave (l) – Isaiah Sharkey (m)

Jesse Johnson - D'Angelo & The Vanguard 2016

Jesse Johnson

Rocco Palladino with The Vanguard- Bluesfest 2016

Rocco Palladino

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Bobby Sparks (r)

Jermaine Holmes - D'Angelo concert 2016

Jermaine Holmes

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Red Middleton (l) – Chris Dave (m) – Isaiah Sharkey (r)

Looking Back

Was it the group’s set-list choices that left me wanting more? Maybe a little. In my world every song they played is a “Beloved Forever-After Song”. It’s true that all were arranged and delivered in funked-up, rocked-out, soulful brilliance. And hearing each one made me happy.

But a set made up of “Brown Sugar”; three/four jams on other artists’ songs, four/five songs from Voodoo (“Devil’s Pie”“Chicken Grease”“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”“Left & Right”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”); and only three from Black Messiah (“The Charade”“Really Love”“Back To The Future”/ “Sugah Daddy” at Bluesfest)…curiously felt like a look back to the distant (albeit magnificent) past.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Objectively the set choice might’ve been the safe bet when playing to Australian audiences made up of admirers from different D’Angelo eras. But for disciples who love every song he and his collaborators ever created, but appreciate the group’s artistry even more since the release of Black Messiah; and for newer disciples (including many young musicians there) because of Black Messiah, only hearing a small part of that album felt strange. Especially after they spent the past year promoting it through North America and Europe on The Second Coming Tour.

DAngelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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“Aint That Easy” – Black Messiah (2014)

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“The Show”

Maybe my mysterious feeling was about being delivered a “show”. I guess when you reach the professional playing levels D’Angelo And The Vanguard have, with their intense tour schedule performing show after show in different cities, having a pre-formulated, programmed “show” for perfect and tight execution on cue by a lot of musicians and crew might be more necessary, or pragmatic, or safer.

But the flip-side to that is a loss of organic spontaneity – musically and otherwise. As an audience member I still crave that spontaneity no matter how incredible the show is. No matter how amusing it might be to see D’Angelo mimic kissing a woman “way down there”; or how much I like seeing he, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey come together with their guitars in those moments. It makes me wonder if creative artists performing on stage also crave it at some point on their touring road.

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

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Fourth, Final, Full Satisfaction

Whatever the mysterious, probably unreasonable thing that left me feeling not-quite-full after three incredible D’Angelo shows, it disappeared and mattered not once the the fourth and final Australian show happened on Saturday night at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

# 4 – Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Finally and inexplicably all seemed as it naturally should be at a D’Angelo gig. With everyone seemingly vibin’ on the experience, together. The set-list was nearly the same but as a Byron Bay sider might say: there was some indescribably-different type of musical and energetic magic that happened at Saturday’s closing show…leaving peeps there connected, loved-up and on high. It was created collectively by everyone there of course, hopefully felt by them too.

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

Everyone at Melbourne, Sydney and Bluesfest shows (and others around the world) had their very own experience of D’Angelo And The Vanguard live. Maybe it was nothing at all like mine. Surely it was special.

Leave a comment if you want to share yours – we wanna hear it!

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

Visit Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more photos from these & other D’Angelo And The Vanguard shows; click a link for individual shows: London Roundhouse (2015) –  Melbourne Soulfest 2014 Brisbane Soulfest 2014; and check back here soon for Byron Bay Bluesfest’s dream main stage line-up with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington & West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote.

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Hiatus Kaiyote Dropping You Into It

Just like I thought as few words as possible should be said about the new Hiatus Kaiyote album Choose Your Weapon in order to do the music and its makers justice, I think the less words said about Hiatus Kaiyote’s live show at Brisbane’s Woolly Mammoth, the better. To experience is the goal.

Early in their set during ‘Shaolin Monk Motherfunk’, when Nai Palm sang to the crowd to “Drop into this”, the direction was unnecessary. Already by then, the very first sounds of music created on stage by Nai Palm, Paul Bender, Simon Mavin, Perrin Moss and the group’s regular three Australian-based support vocalists, had well and truly dropped us into It. With no way out.

Nai Palm - Hiatus Kaiyote live concert 2015

Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote) at Woolly Mammoth

‘It’ of course being the truly Multi-Dimensionalfantasy journey this music takes you on with its multiple rhythmic, melodic and stylistic changes that make no sense to many- but perfectly-divine sense to the room full of Hiatus Kaiyote music appreciators so comfortable and joyous being taken to a space outside the dreaded Square.

There was just no jumping out of that wondrous musical journey; and absolutely no desire to anyway.

The rest, all the details about Hiatus Kaiyote’s show…(the setlist, exquisite jams and solos within songs or the pleasure in hearing the live raw vocals of Nai Palm which sound like no other in the world except for some newly-developing female vocalists I’ve heard recently who could only be described as sounding like Nai Palm, for example)…don’t matter for you.

What matters is that you find yourself the experience of Hiatus Kaiyote dropping you into your very own multi-dimensional fantasy adventure, with its killer soundtrack played to perfection.

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert 2015

Folks in the U.K, U.S, New Zealand and Europe get their chance soon when Hiatus Kaiyote head back overseas to continue touring the new album. Check out the dates here – more music and past live shows by Hiatus Kaiyote here – and, one more sample track from Choose Your Weapon to get you on your feet towards your local record store to buy the full album if you haven’t already.

“Laputa” by Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon (2015)

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic Live: Outta The Funk With The Funk

The word funk has different usages today. Last Friday I was in a deep funk – having had one of the longest, most horrible days of my life.  I didn’t think anything could shift me out of that funk. But when George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic came on stage and started playing at London’s Electric Ballroom, I was reminded (and relieved) that music could. And music did. Funk music in all its wonderfully malleable, distorted P-Funk forms did.

George Clinton live concert - Electric Ballroom, London 2015

George Clinton live at Electric Ballroom

George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic collective, no matter who its individual members at any given time, has always been an entertaining beast of immense individual talents and strengths combined. It is still that beast in 2015. And when George Clinton and 17 other artists create and share a feast of P-Funk sounds and visuals with you during 2+ hours, well, you (even you in the deepest of life funks) can’t help but smile at the goodness of it, feel grateful for it and get down to it.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert- London 2015

Alongside George Clinton front, side or centre stage at any or all given moments during the London set were the stunning musicianship of Blackbyrd McKnight and Ricky Rouse (guitars) – Garrett Shider (guitar & vocals) – Lige Curry (bass & vocals) – Jerome Rogers (keys/synths) – Greg Thomas (trumpet & vocals) – Bennie Cowan (trumpet & vocals) – Benzel Baltimore Cowan (drums) – Patavian Lewis, Tonysha Nelson, Brandi ScottTra’zae Lewis-Clinton, Trafel Lewis and Thurteen (vocals)…plus one more cat making fleeting appearances amongst the chaotic brilliance of the All-in tracks – who naming for us, will win you a First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate cd-set or George Clinton’s Autobiography sent to your home (promise it’s true).

Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

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From the wonderfully wild and energetic Shake The Gate medley showcasing the talents of the younger P-Funk generation (“Pole Power”+“Baby Like Fonkin’ It Up”+ the sultry, soulful “Meow Meow” featuring Brandi Scott)…

Tra'zae- Parliament Funkadelic live concert 2015

Tra’zae Lewis-Clinton

Garrett Shider- Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

Garrett Shider

 

Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Tonysha Nelson (l) & Patavian Lewis (r)

Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Trafel Lewis

Thurteen - Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

Thurteen

Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

Brandi Scott

 

Meow Meow – George Clinton & Funkadelic – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (2014)

 

– to the mesmerising guitar solos of long-time members Blackbyrd McKnight and Ricky Rouse in “Maggot Brain”

Ricky Rouse - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Ricky Rouse

DeWayne Blackbyrd McKnight- Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

Blackbyrd McKnight

– to the sweet performance of the Kandy Apple Redd song “Vanish” by George Clinton’s granddaughters Tonysha Nelson and Patavian Lewis…

Tonysha Nelson- Parliament Funkadelic live concert 2015Patavian Lewis - Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

– and renditions of the greatest-known Parliament/Funkadelic hits like “Flashlight”, “One Nation Under a Groove”, “Bop Gun (Endangered Species)”, “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep”

Greg Thomas - Parliament Funkadelic live concert 2015

Greg Thomas

Steve Boyd- Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

Steve Boyd

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– to the acrobatic appearances of Sir Nose (aka Carlos McMurray) – the superb foundation of it all created by Benzel Baltimore Cowan on drums and Lige Curry on bass – the delightful horn-lines of Bennie Cowan and Greg Thomas throughout – and undoubtedly also to the sound engineering magic of Dwayne Dungey

…we were purely and simply funked up and entertained, good and proper, as you’d rightly expect to be at a Parliament Funkadelic show.

With George Clinton there in every moment- singing, dancing, facilitating, encouraging or just simply hearing, feeling and appreciating the sounds and energy created by everyone in the room with him.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert- London 2015

At only two other live shows have I seen so many different generations of people in the crowd. The first was George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic in Sydney, the second George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at Bluesfest 2015. Whether in their late teens or 60s they all knew the words to Parliament/Funkadelic songs spanning so many decades – and it was the youngsters gleefully shouting when they saw each well-known and revered P-Funk artist arrive on the Electric Ballroom stage for the first time.

DeWayne Blackbyrd McKnight - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015That broad fan base is of course a testament to the very long time George Clinton and his collaborators have been alive and making music, but also to the timeless goodness of that music; and their ability to adapt to the changing times, to stay relevant (ie. keep making awesome music and playing their instruments brilliantly) whatever the contemporary musical landscape may be.

One of these days when we no longer see George Clinton on the Parliament Funkadelic stage jumping up and down and humping speakers like he so admirably does now at 75 years old, or when members of the older Parliament/Funkadelic guard like Blackbyrd McKnight put down his guitar, the Parliament Funkadelic beast will be a different one for sure.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert - London 2015

But it will be a beast nonetheless…able (and hopefully willing) to carry the torch and continue delivering funk/rock/soul/jazz/hip hop fusion in new and evolving forms to future generations. It appears that George Clinton and his musical cohorts past and present, dearly-departed and alive, have all seen to that.

George Clinton live concert - Electric Ballroom, London 2015Garrett Shider - Parliament Funkadelic live concert, London 2015

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Nneka Live & With Love In The Eutropia Sanctuary

I’ve discovered that when in Rome in the Summertime, the good-vibes, open-air, artistic sanctuary of Eutropia Festival with its killer line-up of music artists seems like the only place in the city to be. Also that when in any part of the world at any time there’s a live Nneka concert to be found, that is most definitely the place to be.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Nneka live at Eutropia Festival 2015

Having loved Nneka’s unique fusion of soul, reggae, Afrobeat and hip-hop music for a long time and having made it my [very-out-of-the-way] mission to get myself to Rome to finally have myself the blessed live Nneka experience, my hopes and expectations for her Eutropia show were incredibly high.

What Nneka and her four-piece band gave (their All), and what the audience received at the gig from the moment they stepped on stage until the last note of the encore played nearly two hours later, went far above and beyond all those hopes and expectations.

with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015Gros Ngolle Pokossi with Nneka live at Eutropia Festival 2015with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015The five artists with their combined talents, performed nearly all songs on Nneka’s recently-released album My Fairy Tales as well as a handful of her most well-known tracks from Soul Is Heavy and No Longer At Ease.

Despite the serious lyrical content of those songs, one dedicated to “all the refugees who’ve drowned at sea just trying to find a better home, and all the blood shed for religion”, the music and its delivery lifted the Eutropia crowd higher, higher and higher again. As Nneka herself pointed out to the Eutropia crowd, to constantly battle against the world’s injustices is tiring – and to throw love back at those causing the suffering is a much more productive and uplifting exercise. From start to finish positive energy and love were undoubtedly flowing to and from the stage.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Both seeing and hearing the young but seemingly old-soul Nneka, open her self-described (‘Halfcast’) “big lips” and “big mouth” to sing her politically and spiritually charged lyrics with the most truthful and naturally flowing emotions from heart and soul, with her incredible voice, mesmerized me like no other female artist has done before in the live arena except for the divine Erykah Badu.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Get a glimpse of the very special live Nneka experience with this here footage from her Eutropia show. The first song ‘Shining Star’ is a single from her 2011 album Soul Is Heavy, and the second ‘Babylon’ is from the new album My Fairy Tales.


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You can also listen below to a compressed mp3 version of the track ‘Book of Job’ from My Fairy Tales, two more here (‘Believe System’ + ‘Local Champion’) and songs from past Nneka albums here. Remember you deserve to hear and have the hold-in-your-hands, uncompressed hard copies in you music collection to love forever after, and in whatever form you choose to get them, Nneka and her musical collaborators deserve your financial support.

Nneka - My Fairy Tales (2015)
Book of Job by Nneka – My Fairy Tales (2015)

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Concerts in the good-vibes sanctuary of Eutropia L’Altra Città Festival 2015 continue until September (check out the program here). If you can only get to one, be sure to make it the George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic show tonight 🙂 .

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Protoje & The InDiggNation Live In Amsterdam – Ancient Future Tour 2015

About this time two years ago I was in Jamaica on the hunt to find Protoje’s then-new album The 8 Year Affair. Finding a Summer show on his island home wasn’t an option because Protoje and The InDiggNation were touring Europe. I’ve watched their busy tour schedules since, waiting patiently for a chance to catch a live show.

I finally got it at Amsterdam’s Melweg last week – on the tail end of their tour of the now-new third album Ancient Future (released in March this year) – and amongst the collective’s shows at venues and reggae festivals throughout Europe including Mighty Sounds, Lakesplash, Summerjam, Sunrise Reggae & Ska, One Love and Summer Vibration.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

Protoje live at Melkweg

Was I satisfied with my long-awaited live Protoje and The InDiggNation experience? Most definitely and completely. They quenched my thirst for wicked contemporary roots reggae music – and today that’s not an easy thing to do.

I love the sounds, quality, essence and musicianship levels of old – and cringe when I hear bands all over the world doing those sounds and the artists who made them an injustice by unsuccessfully trying to replicate them and creating bad, bland reggae music in the process. But I also want reggae music that sounds fresh, unique, diversified and has an edge to it.

At their Amsterdam show (like on the albums) Protoje and The InDiggNation collective delivered all those sounds I crave from both the past and present, made every part of my being smile with joy instead of cringe – and demonstrated live what an all mighty justice they’re doing for Jamaican and worldwide reggae music. My one of only three passing thoughts at the gig (great live music takes you out of your head) was “I haven’t heard live reggae music this wicked since Sly & Robbie”.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

The humble and gentle Protoje himself with his unique hip hop vocal flow that gets my body moving every time, is just one part of the goodness of the live experience. The others, equally as important and talented are their sound engineer Greg Morris plus the seven core members of the InDiggNation on stage with Protoje: Peter “Kongz” Samaru (drums) – Lamont “Monty” Savory and Kevin “Zuggu” Patterson (guitars) – Paris LaMont Dennis (keys & vocoder) – Danny Bassie (bass) – Shenae Wright and Keiko Smith (background vocals).

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At Melkweg the crowd got the extra-special treat of hearing the absolutely stunning live vocals of young Jamaican diva Sevana when she joined the group on stage for three songs – two from Ancient Future (‘Love Gone Cold’ & ‘Sudden Flight’) and her own first single (produced by Protoje) ‘Bit Too Shy’. Sevana’s presence took the show to new heights again.

Sevana + Protoje & The Indiggnation live at Melkweg, Amsterdam 2015

Sevana with Protoje & The InDiggNation at Melkweg

The heavenly vocals of Zuggu in place of Ky-Mani Marley on ‘Rasta Love’ were another highlight amongst the gig’s many.

The Indiggnation live concert at Melkweg, Amsterdam 2015

The second of those three passing thoughts was that Protoje and The InDiggNation seemed a wee bit tired. Totally expected given their relentless tour schedule – and it didn’t stop them from delivering a killer show that brought a whole lot of happiness to everyone there.

A few times during the set Protoje thanked the Amsterdam crowd for taking the time to come out and listen. My third and final thought in response was “Kind words, but seriously? Man, thank you all for bringing your music to us”.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

Anyone with a thirst like mine for wickedly-diverse, fresh, unique contemporary reggae music with the qualities and essence of old, needs to find their own sublime live Protoje and the InDiggNation experience. I’ll take another one, and another, wherever and whenever I can. In the meantime we can all keep dancing to our beloved hard-copies (digital if you must) of Ancient Future, The 8 Year Affair and The 7 Year Itch.

Listen here to ‘Sudden Flight’ (featuring Sevana and Jesse Royal) and check out video footage below of Protoje and The InDiggNation performing ‘Protection’ and ‘Bubblin’ in Amsterdam (all three tracks from the new album Ancient Future, which you can buy here).


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D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Then & Now – Night & Day

The difference between D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s concert at London’s Roundhouse on Monday night and the last concert of theirs I heard is like Night and Day.

The last was nine months ago when they performed at Soulfest 2014– “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, hip hop and jazz festival”. At that time and for the previous decade, live performances by D’Angelo – or any news of D’Angelo – were rare, almost non-existent. We had no idea then that Black Messiah and the ‘Second Coming’ of D’Angelo were imminent.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

I raved about the seemingly phenomenal goodness of those Australian shows. But with hindsight and the experience of D’Angelo and The Vanguard in London this week I see things a little differently.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at London Roundhouse

Sure the 2014 shows were magnificent – but really, that was for the rare opportunity to experience the incredible musicianship of each and every one of those long-beloved funk and soul artists on stage performing their craft live. The reclusive D’Angelo first and foremost of course – joined (amongst the rest of The Vanguard) by Jesse Johnson, Pino Palladino and Kendra Foster.

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But what I saw clearly in London this week when D’Angelo & The Vanguard graced the stage and started playing (albeit an excruciating 90+ minutes late due to flight delays), is the epic transformation that’s taken place for them since Soulfest. With the release of Black Messiah, considered a wondrous musical gift by, well, everyone who knows anything 🙂 , and 30+ live shows later, D’Angelo & The Vanguard are now a different, much much stronger beast than ever before.

For starters the 11-piece group now includes horns, glorious horns care of Keyon Harrold and Kenneth Whalum III. And as of this month veteran soul diva and long-time friend of D’Angelo, Joi Gilliam brings her talents to The Vanguard posse, taking the place of Kendra Foster on back-up vocals.

Joi Gilliam - D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Joi Gilliam

But above and beyond that, the greatest transformations are the profound connectivity and tightness of the group evident in every sound and movement made; and the visible changes in their leader D’Angelo.

Gone is the timid, slightly nervous, restrained D’Angelo I saw on Soulfest stages reacquainting himself with performing to the world – and avoiding ‘Brown Sugar’. Enter D’Angelo on the Roundhouse stage – completely and utterly comfortable, confident and happy in his human and musical skin, doing what he loves to do and what (it seems) he was naturally born to do before the vultures of the music industry, the press (and the public too) sent him to face his demons and retreat for way too long: to bring absolute joy to the people of the world through music.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Both the Roundhouse and Soulfest shows ended with ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ – and the opportunity for all (D’Angelo too from behind his piano) to hear and appreciate the individual sound of each player and vocalist in turn, and acknowledge their contribution to the show before leaving the stage. Of course I wanted them to stay and play on and on, and on some more.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

On my way out of the Roundhouse my smile got even wider after hearing a guy tell his friend his only disappointment about the show was that D’Angelo played some of his old songs [only two I think – ’Brown Sugar’ and ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’] instead of more of Black Messiah (we did get ‘Sugah Daddy’ ‘Ain’t That Easy’, ‘Really Love’, ‘Betray My Heart’ and ‘The Charade’). Turn back the clock to Soulfest when it drove me crazy to hear people complaining D’Angelo didn’t play ‘Brown Sugar’.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Betray My Heart – D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

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My only disappointment was that another spiritual, sublime, superb D’Angelo & The Vanguard experience had come and gone again so quickly – and wasn’t coming to London again a week later as planned because of cancellation of the Eventim Apollo show.  The fact is that no number of live D’Angelo & The Vanguard shows will ever be enough – and I’m grateful for the glorious one I got this week.

Check out a few short snippets from the Roundhouse show here…

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When I got the post-Parliament Funkadelic-blues in April, I consoled myself by buying a ticket to D’Angelo’s Roundhouse show. The tables now turn and my consolation for next week’s cancelled D’Angelo show comes via the live P-Funk experience that awaits me in London on August 7.

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