On Stage: Sarah Borges makes return to Philly

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By Denny DyroffEntertainment Editor, The Times

Sarah Borges

Last year, Point Entertainment brought Sarah Borges to Philadelphia for a show at MilkBoy Philadelphia as the opening act for the Bottle Rockets.

The show by the Boston-based rocker was hit. She went over big-time with Bottle Rockets’ fans and made a strong impression on the show’s presenters.

“The show by Sarah Borges at MilkBoy was the best rock-and-roll show of 2018 in my opinion,” said Point Entertainment’s Jesse Lundy.

The show- and the fans’ reaction – was so nice, they’re doing it twice. On January 24, Point Entertainment is bringing Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles back to Philly for a show at Dawson Street Pub, 100 Dawson Street, Philadelphia, http://www.dawsonstreetpub.com/).

When Borges straps on her guitar and starts to sing, she rocks out. There is country, punk, blues and rock in her musical DNA, but it is the rock element that stands out the most.

Borges, who arrived on the national music scene in 2005 as the lead singer of the Broken Singles, has gone from frontwoman to solo act, to frontwoman again. Back in October, Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles released their sixth album – “Love’s Middle Name” — on Blue Corn Music.

The last time she played town, she was backed by her producer Eric Ambel on guitar along with the rhythm section from the Bottle Rockets.

“This time, I’m bringing my band,” said Borges, during a phone interview last week from her home in the Boston area. “I’ve got my long-time partner Binky on bass, Alex Necochea on guitar and Jed Williams on drums.”

She’s collected shiny things, including

Borges’ CV includes an Americana Music Awards nomination, multiple Boston Music Awards, and song credits on TV shows Sons of Anarchy and The Night Shift. The veteran musician, who is a resident of Taunton, Massachusetts, recorded “Love’s Middle Name” with Ambel in Brooklyn.

Ambel is a highly-respected performer and producer whose credits include the Bottle Rockets and Steve Earle & the Dukes. He was the founding guitarist for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

“We recorded it last year with Eric on guitar, Binky and two different drummers,” said Borges. “And, I sang and played guitar. We made the album in multiple sessions at Cowboy Technical Service, which is Eric’s studio in Brooklyn. I’d make demos and then we’d go into the studio.

“There are two covers on the album and the rest are all originals. I wrote all the songs not long before we went to record them. I definitely work better when there is a deadline for writing. Usually, I come up with the music first. I try to think about what kind of songs that we didn’t do yet.

“Then, after the music is done, I’ll add the lyrics later. With the lyrics, I’m just telling a story about something that comes up in my head. There are definitely some creepy songs on this album – and some murder songs.”

One common denominator in Borges’ songs – they all rock hard.

“The album dropped on October 12 and we only played a couple new songs the last time,” said Borges. “We were opening for the Bottle Rockets, so we had a shorter set – a 45-minute set. I had to give a representation of all my songs for the new audience. Their new album and my new album came out the same day – and we’re fans of each other. Bottle Rockets have a rabid fanbase. Both the band and their fans were so kind to us.

“In my shows now, I’m playing a lot more songs from ‘Love’s Middle Name.’ We’ll be touring in East in February and March with our sights set on a European tour followed by a West Coast tour. We need to do the full album cycle until we go back in the studio to record again.”

Borges’ old songs and new songs are all characterized by musical intensity.

“We love playing good, fast rock songs,” said Borges, who graduated from Emerson College with a degree in radio. “We keep evolving but we also keep playing some of the older songs.

“In the set list, there are three songs from ‘Silver City,’ which was my first album in 2005, and a few from ‘Diamonds in the Dark,’ which came out in 2007. With so many songs I’ve recorded, it’s hard putting together a set list.”

Video link for Sarah Borges – https://youtu.be/1cL0p9sC3tA.

The show at the Dawson Street Pub will start at 8 p.m. Other upcoming acts at the venue in Manayunk are Seth Aaron Band on January 25 and Pitchfork on January 26.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) is a favorite destination for touring musicians. The sound is great. They get fed gourmet food from the adjacent Washington House. The theater is comfortable. Most importantly, the fans are great. Sellersville isn’t near anything (except maybe Perkasie, Silverdale or Trumbauersville – you get the picture). So, fans in attendance have made it a destination – a trip planned in advance rather than a spur-of-the-moment decision made on the evening of the show.

The Sellersville Theater is also a favorite destination for music fans. They appreciate the great line-up of talent hosted each month by the out-of-the-way venue – a line-up characterized by quality and variety.

That variety is in evidence this week with a quintet of headliners from different genres – a singer-songwriter-rocker, a bluegrass band that has been around for more than four decades, a top-flight Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute act, one of America’s best young jazz singers, and a rocking, blues-influenced power trio.


It all starts with Lissie.

Lissie has played shows at venues all over the area but there are a few still on her bucket list. The Sellersville Theater has a long and impressive list of acts who have graced its stage but Lissie is not one of them. That will change on January 24 when Lissie makes her Sellersville Theater debut.

Lissie’s career path has not followed any norms.

Rock musicians from all over the country migrate to California on a regular basis. Or, they might venture off to one of the country’s other hot spots for musicians such as Austin, Brooklyn or Nashville.

If you’re a musician from the Midwest and have been able to break free from the gravitational pull of the nation’s heartland, chances are you’re not heading back anytime soon to the “I” states – Illinois, Iowa or Indiana. Lissie is the exception to the rule.

A while back, Lissie left her home in Rock Island, Illinois and moved to Colorado to attend Colorado State University. Then, the talented singer/songwriter/guitarist headed to Southern California to pursue a music career there. But she never abandoned her down-home roots.

Now, Lissie, whose full name is Elisabeth Corrin Maurus, is back in the Midwest — living on her own farm in northeastern Iowa.

“I was in Ojai (California) for seven years,” said Lissie, during a recent phone interview Wednesday. “Prior to that, I was in Hollywood for five years. I moved to Ojai because it’s in the country – away from the Hollywood/L.A. scene. Before I lived in Hollywood, I was in Colorado for a few years. Ojai was nice, but I missed the Midwest – so I went back.”

Lissie’s latest project is “Castles,” her fourth full-length album. It was released in March 2018 on Lionboy/Thirty Tigers. Additionally, the album’s hit single “Best Days” hot the Top 10 on Triple A Radio.

Lissie’s relocation to the Hawkeye State informed her new album.

Written predominantly from Lissie’s farm in northeast Iowa, “Castles” represents a new openness in her approach to songwriting and recording. Having moved out of the music industry machine and back to her native Midwest, the grounding she found living and working on a farm ushered in a period of exploration. “Castles” is a portrait of an artist who has always been on the move and is finally creating a sense of permanency.

“I started writing songs for ‘Castles’ in 2016 and spent a year working on the album,” said Lissie. “The song ‘My Wild West’ was about leaving California, going back to the Midwest and buying a farm.”

The album was also informed by some painful, personal problems Lissie had experienced in recent years.

“Going into the writing of ‘Castles,’ I had been in this confusing and painful relationship,” said Lissie. “I knew that it wasn’t going to work out – that it was unhealthy. Emotions and words were coming in real time as I dealt with that relationship.

“I sang my feelings around the house. It allowed me to create in a natural way – out in nature planting trees and gardening. Music was a byproduct of the environment. Other creative activities informed my ability to write from a stream of consciousness.

“It was very much a cathartic experience. I re-evaluated what I want – to use my music to chronicle my experiences…which are also universal experiences. I’ve found that audiences can relate to the songs.”

Fans from around the country consistently tell Lissie how relevant the songs are to their lives.

According to Lissie, “It’s the record people always wanted me to make but I couldn’t really make it until I got to be in charge. Before I was trying to please too many people. It stopped being fun. But eventually you get to the stage where you accept yourself for who you are. I’m not trying to keep up with anyone else. If I can make a living doing something I’m passionate about, that’s a good life.”

Lissie received help on “Castles” from old friends like Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) and Martin Craft, Jim Irvin, Julian Emery and Curt Schenider (who worked in a large capacity on her previous album “My Wild West”), as well as new collaborators like producers AG and Liam Howe.

“When I moved back to Iowa, people expected an acoustic album,” said Lissie, who also appeared in the most recent season of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” television show.

“It was the opposite. I used more technology than ever. I emailed tracks to my producer in London. Later, I went to London to add to the tracks. I also recorded some tracks in L.A. It was piecemeal – but, it gave me a lot more freedom.”

Lissie has toured a lot in support of her latest album.

“I toured the states, dis a European tour and played festivals,” said Lissie. “Now, ‘Castles’ is wrapping up. I’ve made four studio albums in 10 years.

“In April, I’ll release a new album – a piano/vocal album. It will have re-interpretations of my songs from the last 10 years along with a few covers. In February, I’ll start releasing songs from it.

“I recorded a lot of the album in Berlin. When I was on tour in Europe, I’d stop in Berlin for a few days. Two different guys played piano on it. All the Berlin tracks were recorded at Martin Craft’s studio there.

“My live shows with the piano stuff won’t start until April. My shows in January and February are solo acoustic shows – a one-woman band. It’s nice to just let my voice have space to breathe. I want to just do what makes me happy.”

Video link for Lissie – https://youtu.be/YgyuYgoamfo.

The show at Sellersville, which has Maggie Pope as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $39.50.

On January 25, the Sellersville Theater will present a concert by the legendary bluegrass band Seldom Scene.

Seldom Scene

“We visit the Sellersville Theater every other year,” said Seldom Scene guitarist/vocalist Dudley Connell, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“We love the venue. They feed us great food and the audience is great. The audience knows the band. They know the material. They have songs they want to hear, and we try to accommodate.”

Fans will get to hear new Seldom Scene songs.

“The Scene’s first record for Rounder Records is coming out in March,” said Connell. “We just finished mixing the last song on Saturday and it’s now getting mastered.

“This album is kind of a big deal for Seldom Scene. It’s a departure from what we’ve done in the past. It’s a record of old folk tunes – singer/songwriter stuff from the 60s and 70s…the time of Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan and John Prine. We’re just digging back into the realm of singer/songwriters from that era.

“Those songs were so well-written back then. A lot of songwriters from that era were true storytellers. We tried to stay true to the songwriter’s version and, at the same time, add our own twist – to come up with Seldom Scene interpretations. Of all the records I’ve ever recorded, this was the most challenging – and the most rewarding.”

Seldom Scene has been playing Americana music a long time – longer than the term “Americana” has been in existence. The band formed out of the weekly jam sessions in the basement of banjo player Ben Eldridge. These sessions included John Starling on guitar and lead vocals, Mike Auldridge on Dobro and baritone vocals, and Tom Gray on bass. Then mandolinist John Duffey, was invited to the jam sessions at the time when Auldridge arranged for the group to play as a performing band. Each of the band members had a job during the week. So, they agreed to play one night a week at local clubs, perform occasionally at concerts and festivals on weekends, and make records.

The band’s first home scene was the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, Maryland, where it spent six years before starting weekly performances at The Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, there are no original members left in the lineup. Seldom Scene kept a nucleus of Auldridge, Duffey and Eldridge through 1995 when Auldridge left and Duffey died of a heart attack.

The line-up of Eldridge (banjo, guitar), Dudley Connell (guitar, vocals), Ronnie Simpkins (bass), Fred Travers (dobro, vocals) and Lou Reid (mandolin, guitar, vocals) held steady until recently when Eldridge retired.

Eldridge began his musical career with The Heights of Grass and then continued professionally with groups such as The Virginia Squires, Tony Rice Unit, and Emmylou Harris’ The Red Dirt Boys.

“Ben is still around but he left the band in January 2016,” said Connell, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“He was just tired of the road. He’s 78 and being out on the road was getting to be a burden for him. He’s still playing music but not with any band.”

Life on the road can be a challenge – even for a band of young musicians. “One of the things that has kept this band together is that we don’t go out on bus tours together,” said Connell. “We don’t have to go for weeks smelling each others’ feet. We can get nice hotel rooms.”

Connell plays a variety of guitar styles and provides powerful lead vocals for Seldom Scene – a band that has a reputation for challenging the boundaries of bluegrass. Connell’s musical virtuosity has pushed the group beyond these bounds.

He has become a fan favorite for his renditions of traditional songs like “Old Train,” folk ballads such as “Blue Diamond Mine,” and blues songs like “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” Connell is a former member of The Johnson Mountain Boys.

“I’ve been with Seldom Scene for 23 years now,” said Connell. “This is the longest-running lineup we’ve had – up until Ben left. Rickie, his replacement, is a great player.”

Seldom Scene’s debut album was “Act I” in 1972. The band’s most-recent full-length is “Long Time….Seldom Scene,” which was released in 2014.

“We recorded ‘Long Time’ at Bias Studio in Springfield, Virginia,” said Connell. “We don’t do a lot of writing ourselves, but everybody has a say in what we play and what we record. It’s really democratic.

“The last album had Dylan songs and old standards. Anything is fair game — from Bruce Springsteen to the Stanley Brothers. And, we have recorded a few originals. The bluegrass community is a pretty tight community and we’ve been around it for years. We play bluegrass our way and it’s been a success. We really mix it up in our live shows. We go back to ‘Act I.’ We do the whole catalog.”

Video link for Seldom Scene — https://youtu.be/4Y_ySz30ACI.

The show at Sellersville, which has Midnight Flyer as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

JD Simo

On January 30, the Sellersville Theater will present JD Simo. In August 2018, Simo blew the roof off the venue with his blistering set and he’s coming back to do it again.

Simo grew up in Chicago’s North Side and began playing guitar before he even started elementary school. In 2006, he moved to Nashville, where he established himself as the lead guitarist in the Don Kelley Band. This led to Simo’s employment as an in-demand session musician.

In 2010, he joined bassist Frank Swart and drummer Adam Abrashoff to form the rock band SIMO. The band spent much of 2011 on tour and released its debut album in November 2011. SIMO’s third and final album was “Rise and Shine” in 2017.

“The old band – it had run its course with that particular lineup,” said Simo, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “A year ago, I had my first solo tour opening for tommy Emmanuel here in America. I had never done that before. It was a very liberating experience. I’d walk onstage and do whatever I wanted to do.”

Since then, Simo has been recording and touring with his own band – including a tour that is headed this way.

“We just left this morning,” said Simo, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “We’re riding now. The tour starts Thursday in Rhode Island and Nashville is a long way from Rhode Island. But, it’s all good. Once we get to Rhode Island, everything is close. We’ll tour the Northeast and then do the South.

“We’ll be in Europe for a few weeks and then come back to do the Southwest and the West Coast. Fortunately, we’re playing the Sellersville Theater on this Northeast swing. It’s one of the nicest venues in the country.

“The band is just a trio. It’s pretty much always been a trio. I have always preferred the trio format. When Buddy Guy was touring in the 60s, it was always a trio. When Magic Sam toured, it was always a trio. Playing in a trio is pretty wide open. It’s fun. And, it makes it really easy to improvise. You can really get out there.

“Every night is different. We don’t work with a set list and typically don’t play the same songs every night. And, every song is open to where its going to go. We have 20-30 songs in regular rotation. A few follow similar structures. The rest are really wide open and can be different every night. Every show starts with an improvisation.”

Simo is touring in support of his new album “Off At 11.” Produced by Simo with his co-manager Michael Caplan, the album features eight tracks that are laid out on the record like a musical journey through a land populated by acid rock, traditional blues, folk, soul, free-form jazz.

“I made the album throughout last year at my home studio – old school style,” said Simo. “I wanted to make an old school blues record. And, I wanted to go to Mars. When I was touring in Phil Lesh’s and told him that, he said – JD, you can do both. The Phil Lesh & Friends band always does a lot of improvisation.

Video link for JD Simo – https://youtu.be/J1guSRTv-78.

The show at Sellersville, which has Chronic Wolf as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theatre are Lights Out (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons Tribute) on January 26, and Jane Monheit on January 27,


Just over a month ago, instrumental jam band Lotus gave its fans an early Christmas present – a surprise release of a new album titled “Frames Per Second.”

Now, the band, which is based in Denver, Colorado and Philadelphia, will be in Philly for a pair of shows on January 25 and 26 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

Even though this is the band’s first area show since the release of “Frames Per Second,” the live sounds of the album have already been floating in the ether in downtown Philadelphia.

The all-instrumental 19-song studio album and accompanying documentary were tracked live at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia with cameras rolling. The project was designed to showcase Lotus in a pure, raw form — live in the studio. Norwegian space-disco and psychedelic rock are just some of the sounds that influenced the expansive audio and video project.

It was the 14th album by the quintet — Mike Greenfield (drums), Jesse Miller (bass, sampler), Luke Miller (guitar, keys), Mike Rempel (guitar), and Chuck Morris (percussion).

“Some of us still live in Colorado where the band first started,” said Luke Miller, during a phone interview last week from his home in Denver. “Mike G and Jesse are living in Philadelphia.

“In summer 2017, we got together and started rehearsing songs. Then, we got together later that year in December for two days rehearsal and four quick days in the studio.

“We chose to do the project in Philadelphia because all our gear is in Philly and there are good studios there. Our usual recording process is smaller, and we’ve used Miner Street Studio. This time, we used Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown.

“The songs were all written by the time we went in the studio in December 2017. Most of them have sections that are improvised – but they’re contained in the structure. For this one, we wanted to do something that would reflect our live performance – doing it in the studio.

‘It was challenging to get a good take because everyone was playing at once. On our previous album, there was a lot of collaboration and it was done track-by-track. This was the antithesis. The album and the video were recorded simultaneously.

“We recorded it digitally and did at least a couple takes on each song. There wasn’t too much editing. The shortest track was ‘Forgotten Name’ at 3:25 and the longest was ‘Cold Facts’ at 7:47.”

For “Frames Per Second,” Lotus aimed to incorporate pyschedelia into the album’s sound by combining hypnotic beats with unexpected harmonic or timbral turns. The band also put its own spin on different classic funk styles, like 70s Fusion, West Coast G-Funk, Instrumental Soul, Boogie, and 80s Electric Funk.

The recording process featured Lotus playing “live” without a live audience.

“It was definitely a different vibe than being on stage with an audience there,” said Miller. “It was a little more of an intimate setting. It was good in a sense that you’re not forced to overthink it. Sometimes, your gut feeling is best.”

According to Miller’s twin brother Jesse, “‘Frames Per Second’ is a different project than we’ve ever made before. I hesitate to even call it an album. I see it more as a documentary of our current composing and playing. The guiding theme was the idea that we would record live in the studio with cameras filming.

“But, since it is not a concert with an audience, big sound system and flashing lights, the energy is very different. It is more intimate and introspective. We set up in a big circle with the primary camera in the center of the room, putting the viewer or listener directly in the middle of the band.”

Video link for Lotus — https://youtu.be/oSz4f6Z3aU0.

The shows at Union Transfer on January 26 and 26 will start at 9 p.m. each night. Tickets are $25 either night.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Amen Dunes and Arthur on January 30 and Liquid Stranger on January 31.

Matt and Kim

If there ever is a time that Matt and Kim need to put on a really hot show, it will be on January 26 when the duo performs at Xfinity Live! (1100 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia,www.xfinitylive.com).

Matt and Kim – Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino — will be performing live outdoors at 3 p.m. with the temperature expected to be just below freezing – and going down as the day goes on. They will be performing as part of a free show – the “Radio 104.5 Winter Jawn,” which also features Young The Giant, lovelytheband, and The Interrupters.

The last time Matt and Kim played Philly, it was nine months ago – indoors at the Electric Factory.

“We’ve gone many a place since then and come full circle,” said Johnson, during a recent phone interview from the couple’s home in Brooklyn. “We’re back in New York. It’s been a good year and we have high hopes for 2019 that life will be much better.”

Matt and Kim suffered a major setback in 2017.

The duo was performing last March at the Vaiven Festival in Mexico when drummer Kim Schifino suffered a traumatic leg injury onstage. Schifino jumped from the stage platform and saw she was about to jump on someone. When she landed, the top half of her leg went in one direction and the bottom half headed in another direction.

“Kim had a serious injury – a torn ACL and meniscus,” said Johnson. “We got onstage, and it happened in the first 10 minutes of the show.

“That pretty much took us out for an entire year. Before that, we were either recording or else on the road non-stop. I think that up to that point, the longest we were ever off the road was four months.

“We are just now starting to tour again. That was such a long time off. I felt like I had retired.

“We thought we’d use the time to work on music. But, the first few months, we were focusing on recovery – surgery and learning to walk again. We thought we could use the time, but we had to split the focus.

“With my brain, I can only focus on one thing. Songwriting has to be the main focus if I want to write songs. Maybe three of four months after Kim’s surgery, we started to put our heads down and write some songs.

“We live in New York, but we were in L.A. at the time. We don’t have a car in New York. We ride the subway and New York can be a tough city to deal with if you have a disability.”

But Matt and Kim are troopers and they kept pushing ahead.

“2017 was a tough year for all of us,” said Johnson. “We’ve been lucky as a band to have had a good life. In the past, we hadn’t written songs to get things off our chest. Last year, writing had to be therapeutic – making lemonade out of lemons.”

Matt and Kim’s trademark upbeat music didn’t suffer from the setback. Instead, the duo created a tasty and lively new album called “Almost Everyday,” which came out last May on the Fader label.

“With songwriting, a lot of times, I’ll start the idea and then Kim will crack the whip and make it faster,” said Johnson. “That’s her drummer mentality. She comes from a place with no rules. We also write lyrics together. Even though I sing the songs, a lot comes from Kim’s voice.

“We made the album as we went along. We’d record at home and then bring the tracks to the studio. We cut it mostly at a studio in North Hollywood.

“Most of it was done in the second half of 2017. We had 30 songs when we started — 15 got finished and 10 went on the album. I only ever want to make 10-song albums. I want people to listen through without stopping.

“When we finished the album, we realized it had a theme – appreciating what you got before it’s gone. We saw what it would be like if we didn’t do this anymore. It’s a good theme. It felt like an album from beginning to end.”

Video link for Matt and Kim – https://youtu.be/JyVzPx4ecHA.

The show at Xfinity Live! will run from noon-5 p.m. Tickets are free. It is an Outdoor Show and will be held rain or shine or snow.

The Hot Club of Cowtown

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Upstate and Under the Oak on January 24, Benefiddle – A Concert to Benefit Davey Poland with Blue Corn Dawgs, Brad Newsom & Friends, Brandywine Valley Green Grass Ramblers, Buffalo Chip and the Heard on January 25, Beatlemania Again – A Tribute to The Beatles on January 26, and The Hot Club of Cowtown on January 29.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Christine Havrilla on Jabuary 26.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present All Good People on January 26.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Big Something and Passafire on January 24, Broken Arrow with special guest AM Radio on January 25, Splintered Sunlight on January 26 and Crack the Sky on January 27.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Neko Case on January 25.

The Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events) presents Martha Graham Dance Company’s “The EVE Project” on January 25 and 26.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will feature Matt Santry and Everything Turned To Color on January 26. 

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