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Posts Tagged ‘new york

Hove Festival – Day Two

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Hove Backstage by boat

Hove Backstage by boat

Day two at Hove Festivalen and we kick off the morning with a little exploration of the festival Island and surrounding coast by jumping aboard a gorgeous motor boat and pootering along the coast. Our captain is more than happy to extol the virtues of the surrounding countryside, which is by now revealing itself to be so breathtaking it will undoubtedly be slapped with a government health warning sooner or later. Revelation of the trip though is perhaps that last year the captain played host to those lovely Kooks boys who were such models of British politeness that they left a lasting impression. Good to hear!

Musically the second day of the Hove Festival in Norway opened with exemplary exponents of the new Bergen Wave, The New Wine, who those of you in the know may have seen rammed into the top floor of the Lock Tavern last december or possibly whipping up a frenzy at Komedia stepping into Golden Silvers shoes at The Great Escape. Tonight in their home country they seem like a band where everything has been taken to the next level, commanding the stage with a mature confidence that belies their youth.
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Dan Deacon – Bromst (Carpark Records)

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Dan Deacon
Carpark Records

Bromst is the latest outing from prolific electro-acoustic New Yorker Dan Deacon. It’s a collection of hazy quirkpop outings that dance along slowly seeping in through the back door of your mind, like a cross between Kevin Shields and James Yuill. Bizarrely most of the album was debuted live by an ensemble Deacon collected together at the Masonic Temple in New York.
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Hercules And Love Affair – Andy Butler Interview (Full Version)

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A version of this interview appears in Who’s Jack?

Deep in the bowels of London’s notorious Koko Hercules And Love Affair ringmaster  and New York DJ Andy Butler is riffing on the bands ethos and the success of their eponymous debut album which features divine vocal contributions from Antony Hegarty.. 2008 has been a year spent filling dance floors across the world, watching the number of bodies flailing and gyrating to the electro pulse aural sexscapades of tracks such as ‘Blind’ and ‘You Belong’ grow with each passing show.  Hercules & Love Affair have already rocked the capital with a set at the Wireless Festival and will be returning to play the O2 Arena in November as they bid to keep the party rolling all year.

The last time you were here was Wireless, how was that for you and what have you been up to in the meantime?

Wireless was actually a really fun festival for us. I mean the numbers were a little small at first and we felt “Where is everybody?” But we put on a really good show I think and it was really well run. It was one of the more pleasant UK festival experiences we’ve had.

You’re finishing off with Bestival. As far as shows go do you enjoy the festival scene or do you prefer club shows?

Well you know I love the vibe of a club show. It’s nice to roll into town and know that tonight we’re the only band on stage and we can have a long soundtrack and can really make it our night. But festivals have really grown on me and I actually really enjoy some of the afternoon casual sort of festivals. Like we did a new one called the Beachdown Festival in Brighton this year and we played at like 4 in the afternoon and we put on a really good show and there were loads of kids there. Also we recently did one in Ireland and that was loads of people in the afternoon again, like 5 in the afternoon and  there’s just something really nice about playing early in the day, so you still have your evening and  you have the casual vibe which is fun. So we’ve just been doing tons and tons of festivals and tons and tons of club dates.

Yeah because the first tour was in March wasn’t it so you’ve pretty much been constant since then?

Yeah, I mean we’ve had a week here or a week there but it’s pretty much been constant.

So when you play festivals obviously you will have people there who haven’t heard Hercules… at all, so what do you hope a Hercules virgin would take away from your show?

I hope that they take away… well you know I don’t want them to be totally stuck in the spectacle of it all. I quite like the idea that they could be able to retreat into themselves and really enjoy the music. But I think that’s something that a fan would be more likely to do. In general for a new person who has never heard or seen us I hope that they are able to see that there is a pretty special thing happening on stage with 8 different people, like a magical kind of thing, you know, like a synergy. And I hope that that energy that we create amongst ourselves on stage really resonates with the viewer or whoever. I hope they walk away thinking, “wow 8 people were playing dance music on stage just now!…and it was like a machine and it was really tight and they knew what they were doing, it kind of felt like a journey,” or something, I think that’s really the goal. So it feels kind of like a journey for people.

Cool, so obviously you are now a large group with the live band that you have and I read a quote that said you were, “representing the bohemian New York that we all dream about.” So I was going to ask you what the actual reality of being from New York at the moment? What’s it like to be a band or an artist there, because it was portrayed that you represented kind of a Warholian utopia, is that a reality?

Well you know we as a group, all 8 of us, are very serious about what we do, you know. We’re 8 passionate people who are playing music together and whether or not there’s this scene, I mean there’s not this one nightclub that we are all going to where we all cross paths, this is not the case, there’s no scene like this in New York, I mean there’s no bohemia. There is no bohemia in New York, it’s true you know it’s just romantic and it’s nice that we represent that but the truth is that we’re all just people who have a really intense and sincere relationship to music and coming together to collaborate on this project, I’m sorry it doesn’t sound more romantic.

That’s not a problem.

Well no, but I mean in general I’m saying to people who really perceive us that way we’re people who came together because we really like music more than anything,

Cool, because I was wondering if more than you coming together because there was a huge scene or community it was more a case of you being drawn together as a reaction against the fact that there wasn’t when you were getting together?

That is exactly what it was, and I think that is a good way of putting it. You know, because I’ve been in New York for years and there wasn’t a place to go dance and what did I end up doing? I ended up making there be a place, or creating a place. You know the nightclub situation was really rotten at one point and we just threw our hands in the air and it was like “well I guess we have to throw a party! I guess we have to do this because it’s just not happening.” So I think this is something similar that happened with Hercules & Love Affair, there was sort  of a vacancy or something missing or something not happening you know and it’s a case of us just trying to create something for us, and then people come into it.

Because there’s two perceptions of it at the moment, there is kind of that romantic notion that it’s this artists paradise and it’s like Berlin and there are so many creative people there and so much happening all at once, but then there’s also that , admittedly cliched, perception of the post 9/11 kind of clean up New York crack down , the “we don’t want it to be a party town” kind of vibe.

No, it’s not, it’s not a party town . I always say it’s an island of commerce and it feels much more like…in some ways I feel like New York is more suburban than Cincinnati, Ohio. So I feel that way sometimes and I think maybe there’s something interesting and edgy happening in a small town in America, because in New York it really feels just like shoppers and bankers and doctors and that’s cool, but it’s not a terribly hospitable place to artists anymore, I mean it’s a very expensive place.

Ok, so leaving New York. With the album and the singles, like ‘Blind’ you’ve got quite a lot of critical acclaim, especially in the UK, how do you deal with that, how aware are you even of it and how do you process that? Because for some bands it’s almost a poison chalice to get that kind of reaction. The obvious example right now being Black Kids who must have recorded the best demo in history to produce the hysteria they did and then people have seen them live with unattainable expectations and there’s already a huge backlash in the media. So how do you deal with expectation and pressure?

(Sighs) You know I am aware or it, totally, I’m not going to lie, and partly I am aware of it because, really because I want to be to a degree, but then also because I have people sending me along clips and clips and clips. But in terms of pressure and expectations its more like, well going on the road with this live act, a new band that had never played any live shows and playing in front of thousands of people there was all of this hype and there were these reviews, and there was also all of this expectations because of the question of Antony (Hegarty – Antony and The Johnsons front man) participating but it got the point where we had all this pressure but we had to just go and do something. But to a point I dismiss journalism, because initially you know I didn’t write the record for a journalist .

Did you always view Hercules & Love Affair as a live concern?

I never viewed Hercules as a live band, it was just another way for me to record music and release music and then it became less simple and records got involved and all of this crap happened and then there was touring and everything you know. But if I trace it all back and say ok so where did it all start it was never written for, the music was never written just so someone would have something else to write about in a magazine.

So what’s the next step for Hercules?

Well we have an American tour coming up in October, and I’m just doing production stuff.

Ok, so in terms of new music is that something that’s underway or that you’ll think about next year?

Well I’ve actually already got new material and we’re playing it in our live show, and I’ve been asked to do a couple of really special things, like right now I’m in the process of writing music for Chanel for this big event that they are having. So, yeah the creative juices have definitely been flowing.

…and in terms of new music are you envisaging working with Antony again, or was that purely a first album thing and are there any other artists who you might like to work with in a similar role in the future?

Yeah, I mean Antony was extremely generous and just around a lot, but he has an EP coming out in October and then an album in January. So, I mean, I went into this knowing that it was going to turn into like a Massive Attack thing where we could invite singers in and be a constantly changing face, where the look and the voices are constantly changing. So yeah I am interested in exploring a couple of things, and interested in exploring more different emotional places that I don’t feel I tapped into at all on the first record, because I was in a very different headspace, and using different voices male and female to do that. I don’t really have any names in mind, I mean there are still people I dream of working with….. There are some things in the ether. (Smiles)

Ok so just to finish off then. As such a new live band and you’re just exploring playing together how have the songs changed over the course of the tour?

Yea, they have definitely changed, I mean because certain instrumentation we just don’t have so some of the string parts are played as horn parts and some of the string parts are played as key parts so definitely the arrangements have changed and people have been swapping instruments to fit the new arrangements. But the other thing is also that the tempo of the whole thing has been totally picked up. The record is pretty easy to listen to in the car or at home and it’s all like between 105 and 95bpm so we round it all up to about 120bpm and it’s just a bigger dance party.

So looking at your influences you cite the muppets…favourite?

Oh Miss Piggy, that will never change. She’s my favourite.

Did you see Avenue Q?

Yea, you know it hurt my feelings. I thought it was funny but it hurt my feelings. It was a little sacrilegious to me. (Flashes faux outrage) I was a little bit offended by it…

…you’re laughing as you say that…

Ha, I am. Like I totally enjoyed it but afterwards I was like, you know what, you don’t even go for the muppets. Just don’t go for the muppets!

Mercury Rev

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This interview with Jeff mercel of Mercury Rev originally appeared on Gigwise.

“It’s been really strong reaction. It’s interesting to see how the new material fits in with the old stuff, but what’s more interesting actually is to see how the old songs, like stuff off of ‘Deserter’s Songs’, or  ‘All Is Dream’, or whatever, how those songs actually change to fit the stuff off of the new record.” Keyboardist and drummer Jeff Mercel is contemplating the return to live action of one of the most influential bands of the last 15 years, New York’s exquisite Mercury Rev. It’s 10 years since the release of the seminal ’Deserters Song’ LP that fixed the band firmly in the centre of conscientious music fans radar yet they show no sign of resting on the laurels of past endeavours. Mercury Rev have been very busy of late, following on from their last album proper, 2005’s ‘The Secret Migration’ and the interim best of collection, 2006’s ‘ The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006’, they have returned in 2008 with a flurry of activity that sees them back on the road in support of not only their 7th studio album, ‘Snowflake Midnight’,  but also their simultaneously released 8th , it’s companion piece ‘Strange Attractor’.

It’s a triumphant return with expectations having been building steadily since the band  posted first single ‘Senses On Fire’ on their MySpace page. The mantra driven song set an incredibly high standard for the record, offering the promise of something a little bit special. But why a double album now and why  now? “We just got to the end of the sessions and we realised that we had  all this incredible instrumental music that complimented the main record and so we just wanted to find a way to get it out there.” recalls Mercel, “so we decided to put out this second album as a download.” Available as a free download ‘Strange Attractor’ offers a subtler  journey than it’s companion piece, very much offering the other side to ‘Midnight Snowflake’, yet retaining enough power and clarity to be held up as a stand alone body of music. Throughout both records there seems to be a pervading sense of freedom, a bigger heart to the music, whereas before there seemed to be a constant sense of searching throughout albums, a litany of questions without answers, there seems now to be a peace and a self knowledge at the heart of Mercury Rev. Mercel muses that this is the result of a purely organic process. Despite the three year gap since their last album proper and the release of the best Mercel doesn’t think that they consciously drew a line under their previous work. Plaintive voiced singer Jonathan Donahue has stated that this was a record born out of endless jam sessions that recalls the period prior to their 1991 debut ‘Yerself Is Steam’. “I don’t think we were consciously drawing a line under anything with that.,” says Mercel, “we didn’t feel any renewed sense of freedom because we’d put that compilation out. The genesis (of this record) was a natural progression.”  From the opening bars of ‘Snowflake In A Hot World’ to the closing coda of  ‘A Squirrel and I (Holding On…and Then Letting Go)’ it’s clear that intentional or not ‘Midnight Snowflake’ and to a lesser extent ‘Strange Attractor’ represent something of a reinvention for Mercury Rev. The music is muscular and powerful, creating seismic, aural fissures that engulf the listener in an undeniably uplifting surge. Listening to the album on headphones can give you moments of stomach turning excitement, like a musical freefall. Combined with a subject list that deals with a naturalistic spiritualism that recalls William Blakes Romantics it serves to create a whole that is the most powerful work that Mercury Rev have produced to date.

The band will be bringing this new tour de force to Europe in the autumn kicking off the British leg on October 30th in Ireland. “We’re really looking forward to it,” says Mercel, “we’ll be playing a mixed set but there will be a lot more of the new albums than there was in the summer,” he continues referencing the bands UK festival appearances including transcendent sets at Scotland’s Hydro Festival and the intimate End Of The Road Festival. With the strength of the new material combining with their career spanning body of work the live shows on their forthcoming tour cannot fail to ignite fans new and old, and even if the band have long since left behind the more chaotic live roots when they used to trade in the kind of live uncertainty and craziness that epitomised such bands as Butthole Surfers.  However, where you may no longer find the band with an errant singer at the bar or only playing a third of a set they now produce music that quickens the pulse far more than any shambolic spectacle ever could.

Whilst ‘Midnight Snowflake’ represents the focused, lean Mercury Rev the band have also been stretching their experimental wings in other arenas including a 2 night stand  at experimental musician John Zorn’s legendary performance space The Stone under the moniker of ‘Trip The Light Fantastic’. “Oh those shows are just a complete release. They are just crazy. It’s a lot of fun to play music that way,” says Mercel with a tangible excitement in his voice.

There is a common perception in music that all things are cyclical and that every 10 years there is a crop of exceptional bands. It seems that this can also be transposed onto the careers of  certain bands, whether it is the wisdom that age brings or the freedom from expectation that bands with longer careers enjoy is unclear, but many bands currently seem to be producing their most vital and exciting work in the second half of their careers. 10 years after they reached critical and commercial tipping point with ‘Deserters Songs’ Mercury Rev are doing just that.

The Academy Is…

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This article appears on Subba Cultcha.

The Academy Is are living in fast times. Returning with album number 3 in 3 and a half years, the high school inspired ‘Fast Times At Barrington High’, the Chicago boys followed recording in the the city that never sleeps with a summer on the breakneck, alt, summer juggernaut  The Warped Tour before bringing their summer hair to good old Blighty. Catching up the day after their uproarious Islington Academy show the band cut a frenetic bunch, wired with the departure hall clarity of the constant traveller and an engaging eagerness usually reserved for bands on their debut turn of the promotional roller coaster. With ‘Fast Times…‘ only days old in UK stores there’s a genuine hunger to discuss what exactly the academy is right now and where they are headed in the future.

“It was a great show, we had a lot of fun,” exclaims front man William Beckett looking back to the previous nights exertions, “We’re playing a steady mix of songs of all the records, and it’s fun to play the new songs. Some of the new songs  the energy was actually higher than of some of the older songs, which was very exciting for us.”  ‘Fast Times…’ is very much a coming of age record for The Academy Is, they’ve steadily built on the pop punk foundations of  debut ‘Almost Here’ and follow up ‘Santi’ to flesh out their sound. The songs are up another level, Beckett and co choosing to deal with their own personal coming of age to soundtrack the bands, taking themselves back to the cusp of the real world and those heady last days of school with songs such as ‘Summer Hair=Young Forever’ and ’After The Last Midtown Show’ perfectly sound tracking the fall of youth and that last summer of true freedom. The energy levels are ferocious and ’Fast Times…’ packs a punch like a Chuck Palahniuk script, that in no small part pays tribute to the surroundings in which it was created. “For ‘Almost Here’ we recorded in St Cloud Florida, which is where all the old folks go to retire,” recalls Beckett eliciting a discussion about Cocoon and Cocoon 2 that somehow triggers the age old Gofather vs. Godfather 2 debate, “then for ‘Santi’ we were in LA, but for the whole vibe of ‘Fast Times…’ we wanted to be somewhere more high energy and New York is definitely like that, especially as we were right in the hub of all the movement.” “New York is a very cool experience, it’s a lot like London where you can walk down the street and  hear all these different languages being spoken, much different from Los Angeles,” adds bassist Adam T Siska, “I mean I like Los Angeles as a place to hang out but New York proved to be a more exciting place to get creative and make a record.” It’s certainly a decision that has paid off and the energy that bubbles on New Yorks streets has seeped onto tape and helped fulfil Becketts statement that the most important thing for this record going into the studio was “to create an energetic, dynamic, fun record.” For a band who count 2 countries and four US cities as their hometowns this nomadic existence seems to fit perfectly and the band have no plan of deviating from this notion that they will travel wherever they need to go to capture each record as they hear it inside. “It was perfect making this record in New York, but for another album it could be perfect to record in Chicago, or even here in London I mean that’s been spoken about too.  It all depends on the type of record we’re setting out to make. These days you can pretty much make a record anywhere but we were lucky that we found this great place that had a drum room that we really liked and also another that had some guitar rooms that really captured what we were looking for, but it was a great thing that we got to make a record in a studio like that as day by day these studios are disappearing and folding, so we made an album in some great studios that may not exist next year,” laments Beckett.

It’s never really been in doubt that one of the key differences between UK and US bands is the sheer audacity of the work ethic that US bands have impressed into them from inception. Whilst many UK bands know that if you conquer London you conquer the country US bands are faced with the sheer scale of their own country from the off. The Academy Is are no exception and they have set a blistering album, tour tour album tour album tour tour tour schedule for themselves that they have thrived under, yet for all this they still seem to be able to write progressively developing albums. “Well we had some ideas kicking around after (‘Santi’)…and Michael had a bunch of music floating around, were any of those musical demos from before, before?” Enquires beckett swivelling round to guitarist Michael Guy Chislett. “No, I don’t think so, ‘Automatic Eyes’ we’d had around for a while,” notes the affable Aussie guitarist. “It’s crazy to think back that far, like some of the early demos Michael would send me a music file,” enthuses Beckett before cracking a wry smile, “not like a manila envelope!” “The thing about ‘Fast Times…’ is that whether a song was a result of a musical idea that Michael had or Butcher (Drummer) had or I came up with on my own, regardless we stripped it down to acoustic for the song writing for melodic purposes. I wanted to make sure each song could stand on it’s two legs, alone as acoustic tracks. Which is pretty similar to how ‘Almost Here’ was written where as ‘Santi’ was a more jammy album,” continues Beckett, “this ones more focused, not to say anything bad about ‘Santi’, just this in it’s nature is a more focused album, and the songs from every guitar note to every drum beat, it’s all very much intentional and we spent a lot of time having those conversations and perfecting our own parts separately. There was a lot of trust on this album as far as how much we trusted each other as musicians.” Asked if they feel that ‘Fast Times…’ is a step closer to a perfect album in The Academy Is collective head and Beckett quickly responds, “absolutely, yea,” before Chislett explains how the band are already well into the process of creating ‘Fast Times…’ successor. “We handed this in like 4 months ago now and so we’ve already been  talking about it (Where to head next) and there’s already a whole bunch of stuff I’d take to another level if I had the chance. It’s funny because we started the initial ideas of  or at least conceiving the ideas of this album maybe 2 or 3 months after ‘Santi’ came out There are so many good bands releasing albums once a year now that it’s very important for us to keep in that creative mindset. But, yeah, I definitely think that we are getting closer and closer to what we’re trying to ultimately achieve musically.”

The band have spent 3 moths on the Warped Tour carousing across the States for a relentless schedule of shows, but this year like 2004 before it is election year and whilst not overtly a political band The Academy Is, like every US band currently touring are almost obliged to confirm their opinions in regard to the upcoming election. In 2004 there was a massive groundswell of musicians trying to energise the young vote against the Bush regime spearheaded by Warped Tour associates such as Green Day and Blink 182 and whilst they did encourage more young people to the ballot the ultimate result is recorded in the history books. On the cusp of one of the most divisive and important elections in history The Academy Is got to observe the mood across America. “Well there wasn’t much support for the Republican candidate,” says Beckett, “I mean you pretty much only say people openly supporting Barrack Obama. I think most young people are rallying behind Obama.” “I think just creative people as well,” notes Chislett. “As a musician I was reading the article about whats on their iPods, and Barrack Obama talks about how much he loves that song ‘Maggies Farm’ by Bob Dylan, and you know I’d much rather vote for guy who’s the Bob Dylan fan and a fan of Rock and Roll,” adds Siska before Beckett sums up why the mood of hope is back, “it was difficult in 04 because there wasn’t really a candidate. I mean John Kerry, are you really going to get behind John Kerry? The thing about Barrack Obama is that he’s such a symbol for youth and for change, I think it’s very important that people are hopeful  about the future and it’s very hard to be hopeful about the future when you have the potential to have what would be the oldest President in History coupled with the most conservative people period in Sarah Palin, and there’s such  contrasting opinions on so many issues it will be interesting to see what happens, and we can only do as much as we can to influence that. But overall with our album and everything we didn’t want to talk about politics because it’s such a fleeting thing. All we can do is stay as well informed as we can, it’s so far beyond our control that all we can really do is try and stay focused on the things in our own lives that we can control and we can deal with and that’s what the album is really about.”

As far as those things go for The Academy Is they include such activities as filming videos at the same High School as movie namesake ‘Fast Times at Ridgemount High’ and maintaining the vital and intimate relationship with their fans through their websites brilliant vidcast TAITV. With their most accomplished album to date in the bags and the seeds of the next record already in play there’s no danger of the times slowing down for The Academy Is.

The Virgins – Dublin Castle

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This could be any city in the world, shoe horned into the dark, skin creepingly tight confines of a bare wall venue, dripping with the stench of sweat, a thousand spilt Red Stripe cans and endless spent bass lines, a group of shaggy haired Americans pumping out a taught set of stripped rock with roll included. There are tell tale signs though, the Club Fandango logo stage right, Steve Lemacq shuffling through to the bar and the pages of London Lite strewn on the bathroom floor, all revealing we are deep within the bowels of Camden, in the basement of the infamous Dublin Castle, a venue that manages to seem smoke ridden months after the ban. The Americans in question are Atlantic records play list bothering The Virgins, surely the most dishonest moniker in rock history.

The Virgins ply that New York City staple of dirty bass led blues rock that has reverberated around the hallowed walls of CBGBs a thousand times. It takes elements of The Stones, The Stooges and  The Boss and fires it out with a gossamer coat hewn from the sinews of youthful exuberance. Tonight is no different. They easily fill the stage space available, their line up expanded to five, creating a persona bigger than the sum of it’s parts. They begin slowly, a series of false starts and rambling jam like noodles perforate the air before things really kick off, but when they finally get around to launching into the rolling ‘She’s Expensive’ it’s almost a stealth attack dropping you into the middle of the song before you really realise what’s going on. For a band that was brought together by a Ryan McGinley photo shoot and has thus far only a handful of singles and a debut album to it’s name, coupled with a wave of hyperbole built around songs being featured on hit new US TV sensation Gossip Girl, it’s a blessed relief to feel the meat on the bones of songs like ‘One Week Of Danger’ and ‘Teen Lovers‘. There’s a good deal of substance here behind the style, which is a good thing as it would be easy to dismiss the rib exposing muscular rock as a Strokes/Razorlight lite concoction.  Formed in 2005 there is a long, long lineage to the music that The Virgins make, but that should not be an excuse to dismiss it out of hand. Though singer Donald spouts the same self assured lyrics that make you want to wreak furious vengence on Johnny Borrels vac formed visage he manages to do so with an innocent aloofness that directly channels ‘Aftermath’ era Jagger and manages to even sound genuinely evocative when slowed down for a solo slow song.

There is an abundance of well heeled young ladies in the audience tonight, no doubt drawn out by the Gossip Girl associations and the highly suggestive video to album fulcrum ’Rich Girls’, it’s ironic then that tonight their set is actually cut short and they do not get to air their biggest song to date. No matter though by the end of their  set they have won over the assembled throng and have the crowd baying for more. There are moments tonight when  the set dips a little, despite their debut album dropping The Virgins remain a few songs short of a killer set, there are still a few rambling edges, and whilst that haphazard appearance currently remains cute whilst they face shoe box venues and where the crowd can hear every off mic word, The Virgins are clearly aiming for greater heights, they will need a few more songs to make the leap, but for now they have the feet of north London and Steve Lemacq tapping.

Written by Jonathan

September 20, 2008 at 11:45 am