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WATCH & LISTEN: The definitive guide to the 2018 season of Friday Cheers

Friday Cheers’ 34th season kicks off May 4th. We’ve got the complete guide to who to see and when along the beautiful Downtown Richmond riverfront this spring, along with some fresh tracks to check out from each of the notable artists from this year’s lineup.

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If the unseasonably warm Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K wasn’t enough of an indication that spring has finally arrived in the River City, then the fact that the 34th annual Friday Cheers music series starts next week should be all the evidence that you need to pack your sweaters away (at last) and stock up on sunscreen for your weekly Friday afternoon trip to Brown’s Island.

Yes, Friday Cheers is 34 years old, which means it’s just that age where it begins flooding your social media feed with its new horticulture obsession (sweet garden box, bro!) and can definitely recommend the best place to get quality mulch. Despite that, the festival continues to age gracefully and maintain an open-minded attitude towards modern music; neither of which is an easy feat. Heck, I’m 31 and am currently casually researching chiropractors while listening to a Hold Steady record that came out 10 years ago, so I can’t help but respect a Richmond institution that so effectively remains fresh.

Without any further adieu or prolonged self-deprecation, here’s a breakdown of the artists that will bless Brown’s Island with their presence and artistry for the next eight weeks. Ticket prices are listed alongside each week’s lineup and can be purchased individually here. Additionally, Season passes can be purchased for $55. As always, children ages 12 and under can attend free of charge.

May 4th – Valerie June (8:00) with Devon Gilfillian (6:30): $10

This year, Friday Cheers may be putting its best foot forward early, with a hot out-of-the-gate lineup featuring blues and Southern-soul up-and-comer Devon Gilfillian as well as singer-songwriter and critical darling Valerie June.

Gilfillian is relatively new to the national touring circuit but certainly no novice to the stage. Raised in a musical family and influenced by godfathers of R&B Al Green and Ray Charles, he’s spent the greater part of his life performing the works of artists he admires. He’s now made a difficult but necessary transition by putting his own soul on the record and releasing his first, eponymous EP of original works.

Groove to “Here and Now:”

Valerie June is a Memphis-based blues and folk musician who would likely point out the oversimplification of that description. Asked to define her genre of music in a Rolling Stone profile from 2015, June said, “I wanted to call it something magical, and at the core of blues, gospel, folk, and rock & roll is roots music – so that’s what I ended up calling it.”

Though American folk since the late 20th-century revival has almost inherently lyrically leaned towards politics, June abhors the thought of her music being adopted towards any political end. “I don’t turn on the news, I don’t know what’s going on with the world in that sense, I am very protected in my space. It’s very sacred. And as the servant of the song, I don’t want to allow this world to take away the beauty of what I have created by asking me about politics. What in the world? Can we not just have beautiful music? Can we not just create something that is happy and fun?”

You can listen to “Shakedown” off of her most recent LP “Order of Time” which was released in March of last year:

May 11th – Tank and the Bangas (8:00) with Sweet Crude (6:30): $10

Week two of the series will bring a heaping helping of New Orleans funk and swagger that will send you home more satisfied than a bowl of jambalaya and some fresh-out-of-the-oven beignets. Both artists will be hitting the road following appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Fans of a beat that makes your head nod and your booty shake won’t want to miss Sweet Crude and Tank and the Bangas when they bounce their way across the bridge on May 11th.

Sweet Crude is a group of Southern Louisiana natives who offer a blend of hypnotic percussion and the rich history musical history that defines the Crescent City that, when combined, create the foundation of what could very well shape a new pedigree from a region basked in rich tradition. Their debut record “Creatures” was released in April and features songs in both English as well as Louisiana French (the latter sound just as beautiful even if your Duolingo app has sat idle for the past five months despite your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language).

Listen to the haunting vocals of “Mon Esprit” here (and don’t leave until the full band kicks in at the two-minute mark):

Tank and the Bangas have experienced a head-spinning, accelerated rise into the music spotlight since being selected from over 6,000 entries to win NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Concert Submission Contest. The annual event encourages aspiring artists to submit videos of their performances for consideration, with the ultimate prize landing the performer or group behind the now infamous “Tiny Desk” at National Public Radio to perform and have their songs heard by millions of listeners.

Tarriona “Tank” Ball was already an award-winning spoken-word vocalist before the band formed in a local hair salon in New Orleans. The group mixes funk, jazz, spoken word, and soul into a musical gumbo worthy of your next cookout or block party.

You can watch their entire “Tiny Desk Concert,” which at the time of publication has been viewed over 4.5 million times, right here:

May 25th – RVA Music Night featuring Richmond bands: Butcher Brown (8:00), Dharma Bombs (7:00) and Piranha Rama (6:00): $5

Friday Cheers continues its mission to bring local flavor to the ears of the River City with RVA Music Night on Friday, May 18th. The lineup features a slew of scene stalwarts and familiar faces in new formations.

Piranha Rama is a venerable super-group of seasoned scene talent wrapped in a brand new package. Former and current members of Lady God, The Milkstains, Bad Magic, and Talking Heads cover band Fear of Music combine to form an outfit with a psychedelic surf-rock vibe that will feel right at home on a sun-soaked evening on the water. The band just released their first two-track EP “Beach Body” (maybe Texas Beach?).

Check out “Sure Enough” here:

Dharma Bombs dub themselves “authentic Appalachian Dixieland” and possess both the talent, charm, and the musical arrangement to prove that claim true multiple times over. Featuring genre staples banjo and mandolin along trumpet and saxophone, this group is not shy about their desire to get their audience dancing to their jaunty melodies. The band played The Camel on the first Thursday of every month in 2017 and is ready for a little sunshine along the skyline.

Speaking of sun, check out their track “Sunny Always” here:

Finally, Jellowstone Records’ own Butcher Brown will close out the evening with their signature “garage punk jazz funk” that’s guaranteed to keep you on your feet. The group seamlessly weaves complex melodies and harmonies full of syncopation across multiple keys and time signatures (often within a single song) to give their audience an undeniable auditory experience that will keep them vibing long after the ensemble has taken their bow.

Listen to a live recording of their song “Fiat” and just try to deny that groove from the bass and keys:

June 1st – Tyler Childers (8:00) with Saw Black (6:30): $5

While the weather on June 1st might have us staring out the window looking outside, the music at Friday Cheers will have you looking inside yourself as two introspective singer-songwriters hit the big stage.

Saw Black is a local art handler that lives on the South Side of the James River here in Richmond and is part owner of Crystal Pistol Records. Black’s music has that Laurel-Canyon sound that defined a generation of music storytellers while blazing his own trail lyrically with songs about his own unique trials and tribulations (including a bike accident on a bridge). His second LP, “Water Tower’ will be released on May 18th, just days before this performance.

Listen to the title track from the new record below:

Tyler Childers is a Kentucky-born singer-songwriter also looking to blaze a new trail through the musical traditions that have defined the Appalachian Mountains. A friendship that struck up with fellow artist Sturgill Simpson helped Childers find that sound and his second and most recent record, “Purgatory,” got Childers to the musical destination he was looking for incessantly. Simpson produced the record and now Childers is taking that sound on the road.

You can hear his song “Whitehouse Road” here:

June 8th – Rhiannon Giddens (8:00) with NO BS! Brass Band (6:30): $10

Part of the Festival of the River. Both bands performing with the Richmond Symphony.

This year, Friday Cheers will be partnering with “Festival of the River;” a three-day music and arts festival celebrating the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. The greater festival will feature bands, art installations, and educational events, but the Friday Cheers component features hometown heroes No BS Brass Band followed by nationally acclaimed, Grammy –winning artist Rhiannon Giddens (better known as the lead singer of the Carolina Chocolate Drops). Both artists will perform alongside the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in a can’t miss musical extravaganza.

NO BS Brass Band need no introduction in the 804, but they deserve every accolade that comes their way. These talented musicians can be witnessed bringing down the house in just about every venue in town and continue to tour and collaborate and spread their positive attitude across the city, the country, and the world.

Check out their classic track, “RVA All Day” here:

Rhiannon Giddens won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for  her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops and has also signed as a solo artist to Brooklyn-based Nonesuch Records (also home to Conor Oberst, who played Friday Cheers in June last year). Fans of the television show “Nashville” might also recognize her as the character Hannah Lee “Hallie” Jordan. Her second solo LP, “Freedom Highway” won Album of the Year at the 2018 International Folk Music Awards  and it will be an absolute treat to hear some of those songs with a full orchestral arrangement.

Listen to the song, “Come Love Come” off of that very album below:

June 15th – Parquet Courts (8:00) with Gauche (6:30): $10

The Friday Cheers lineup the week before the summer solstice really brings the heat with the blistering yet danceable garage punk of Gauche and the hot indie rock spotlight that seems to be following NYC band Parquet Courts.

Gauche hail just north of the Commonwealth in Washington D.C but their furious strumming should cut right through the swamp and into your heart. The band currently has a 7-track cassette to their name called “Get Away with Gauche.” The tape was released in 2015 but new tour dates on the calendar could mean some fresh jittery jams.

Check out “Pay Day” to get a taste of what the trio has to offer:

Parquet Courts were recently dubbed “the most exciting young band in America” by Rolling Stone magazine and appeared on, of all places, “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” Their lack of convention likely did not surprise to fans that have been following the band since their 2013 debut “Light Up Gold.” They’re touring with some new tunes as well as continuing to ride the wave of their celebrated 2016 LP “Human Performance.”

Watch their performance of their new song “Wide Awake” here:

June 22nd – Knower (8:00) with Kenneka Cook (6:30): $5

The penultimate week of this year’s series will feature two exciting electronic artists who have been making digital waves in the vast ocean of self-produced artists that has only swelled in the age of Youtube and Spotify. These artists have proven they have the chops to set themselves apart and will undoubtedly bring that unique artistry to bear when they step in front of the mics on June 22nd.

Kenneka Cook is a local rising star who combines soulful vocals with live and recorded instrumentation to create vibrant soundscapes through a technique known as “looping.” A former choir singer obsessed with space and the great unknown, Kenneka has been making the rounds at venues in Richmond (including the Science Museum of Virginia) and is starting to develop a dedicated fanbase.

Take a listen to her song, “My Universe” here:

Knower is an electronic music duo comprised of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi that have gained a reputation for pushing musical boundaries and embracing the experimental. They’ve performed in the form of their electronic duo, as well as a five-piece alternative band. They’re two classically trained musicians that have also released impassioned jazz records and have opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They just like to flex their artistic freedom.

You see that in their “Live Sesh in Some Guy’s House” performing their song, “Overtime” here:

June 29th – Turnpike Troubadours (8:00) with Charley Crockett (6:30): $10

The final installment of this year’s Friday Cheers will have you reaching for some sweet tea and hankering for some delicious barbeque as two roots-driven country artists hitch their wagons along the James.

Charley Crockett was born into poverty along the Rio Grande and spent a lot of his life wandering the American Southwest, much like his relative, American folk hero Davy Crockett. Originally making his name as a blues singer, Crockett has expanded his repertoire to include hints of gospel, Cajun jazz, and honky-tonk. He recently recorded an album full of honky-tonk favorites written by the likes of Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn. He just released a new LP of original songs titled, “Lonesome as a Shadow.”

Here’s the lead single from the new album, called “In The Night.”

Turnpike Troubadours formed in Oklahoma in 2005 and have been rambling the highways of the United States ever since. The band often performs 100 shows a year, but they started small in dance halls in their home state, playing two-step songs to please crowds. That’s where they honed their brand of down-home country that leans a bit heavier on storytelling than the traditional country artists that inspired them. Their latest record, “A Long Way from Your Heart” peaked at #3 on the Billboard U.S Country charts and #1 on the U.S Indie and U.S Folk charts.

Take a listen to a song from that latest effort, titled, “A Tornado Warning,” live from Austin City Limits here:

That’s Friday Cheers for ya, folks! There’s 8 weeks, 17 artists (and one symphony!), and too many musical genres to count. There’s something for everyone this year, so don’t hesitate to pick up your season pass and assemble your crew. The festivities begin this Friday, May 4th!

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Scott Castro is a local politico, writer, and unabashed supporter of the Richmond music scene. You've probably seen his signature white hair near the front row of the last local concert you attended. If you ever want to talk at length about the finer points of Conor Oberst: he's you man. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottCastro.

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Library of Virginia Literary Awards Winners Announced

Cottom, Tilghman, and Kingsley are the 2020 recipients honored by the Library of Virginia.

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The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the winners of the 23rd Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards, which were held virtually this year. Sponsored by Dominion Energy, the October 17 awards celebration was hosted by best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker Adriana Trigiani. Awards categories were nonfiction, fiction, and poetry; People’s Choice Awards for fiction and nonfiction; and Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award. Winners in each category receive a monetary prize and a handsome engraved crystal book.

Tressie McMIllan Cottom Photo provided by Library of Virginia

The winner of the 2020 Literary Award for Nonfiction is Tressie McMIllan Cottom for her book Thick: And Other Essays.

“The provocative and brilliant chapters hold a mirror to the soul of America in painfully honest and gloriously affirming explorations of contemporary culture,” wrote the award judges. “Streetwise and erudite, Cottom explodes the myth that the ‘personal essay’ is the only genre in mainstream publishing and journalism open for public commentary by female writers of color.”

Cottom, who has just been named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, is a recipient of the Doris Entwisle Award of the American Sociological Association for her scholarship on inequality, work, higher education, and technology. In addition to Thick, she is the author of Lower Ed and her work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, PBS, NPR, Fresh Air, and The Daily Show, among others. She recently left Richmond, where she had been an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, for a position at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The other finalists for the nonfiction prize were Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis for Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America and Mary M. Lane for Hitler’s Last Hostages: Looted Art and the Soul of the Third Reich.

Chris Tilghman Photo Credit: Susan Kalergis

Christopher Tilghman won the 2020 Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction for his book Thomas and Beal in the Midi. “This lushly written novel follows an interracial American couple in a family saga after they emigrate to escape bigotry in 1892,” wrote the award judges. “Its evocative descriptions of fin de siècle France and skillfully drawn characters add up to a sensitive and satisfying portrait of a marriage.”

Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, and three previous novels, Mason’s Retreat, The Right-Hand Shore, and Roads of the Heart. He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives with his wife, the novelist Caroline Preston, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Centreville, Maryland.

The other finalists for the fiction award were Angie Kim for Miracle Creek and Tara Laskowski for One Night Gone.

Naka-Hasebe Kingsley Photo provided by Library of Virginia

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is the winner of the Poetry Award this year for his book Colonize Me, which explores the experience of living as a Native American in today’s America. “The poems emerge from overlapping histories of violence and struggle not as fractured identity but as integrated multiplicity” wrote the award judges. “Kingsley uses form and language to indict the micro and macro aggressions of colonization with irony, heartbreak, and joy.”

An Affrilachian author and Kundiman alum, Kingsley is a recipient of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Tickner Fellowships. His is also the author of Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot (2018) and Dēmos (coming in 2021). He is an assistant professor of English in Old Dominion University’s MFA program.

The other finalists for the poetry award were Lauren K. Alleyne for Honeyfish and David Huddle for My Surly Heart.

Philip J. Deloria Photo Credit: Jim Harrison

The Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award went to Philip J. Deloria for his book Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract. In Becoming Mary Sully, Deloria reclaims the artist’s work from obscurity, exploring her stunning portfolio through the lenses of modernism, industrial design, Dakota women’s aesthetics, mental health, ethnography and anthropology, primitivism, and the American Indian politics of the 1930s. Presented by the Library and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Art in Literature Award recognizes an outstanding book published in the previous year that is written primarily in response to a work (or works) of art while also showing the highest literary quality as a creative or scholarly work. This unique award, established in 2013, is named in honor of Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: Art and Life.

The winners of the People’s Choice Awards are The Substitution Order by Martin Clark in the fiction category and Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington’s Mother by Craig Shirley in the nonfiction category. Winners are chosen by online voting.

“The Substitution Order mixes legal expertise and wry humor in a story rich with atmosphere, memorable characters, and surprises right up to the end,” wrote the judges about the novel by Martin Clark, who is a circuit court judge in Patrick County, Virginia.

“Craig Shirley’s sprightly biography suggests that George Washington’s first fight for independence was from his controlling, singular mother—a resilient widow who singlehandedly raised six children on a large farm,” wrote the judges about Mary Ball Washington. Shirley is an author and public affairs consultant who splits his time between homes on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster County and a 300-year-old Georgian manor house in Tappahannock, Virginia.

The evening’s featured speaker was Douglas Brinkley, who was honored for his outstanding contributions to American history and literature as an award-winning, best-selling author and U.S. presidential historian. In addition to our presenting sponsor, Dominion Energy, the Literary Awards were made possible by Liz and Preston Bryant Jr., Christian & Barton LLP, MercerTrigiani, Anna Moser and Peter Schwartz, Kathy and Steve Rogers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Carole and Marcus Weinstein, Weinstein Properties, and the Library of Virginia Foundation.

Next year’s Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration will be held on October 16, 2021.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquires 19th-century work by Cheyenne artist Howling Wolf

The purchase breaks the world record price for a Native American ledger drawing.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced today that it acquired a major work by a 19th-century Native American artist Honanistto or Howling Wolf. The acquisition entitled A Southern Cheyenne Ledger Drawing is a watercolor and ink drawing dating to circa 1875. Howling Wolf’s long life, circa 1849 to 1927, spanned the most tumultuous periods in the history of the Southern Cheyenne (Chian) people. He was an exceptionally talented artist who depicted the Plains people and documented significant events and changes in Cheyenne society, while also portraying an individual’s place within this volatile period of American history. The work is the first Native American ledger drawing to enter VMFA’s collection. An original and rare stereograph portrait of the artist was also acquired by the museum.

VMFA’s growing Native American art collection includes two- and three-dimensional works dating from prehistoric times to the present day. Compelling artwork by modern and contemporary artists such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish/Kootinai), Troy Sice (Zuni), Wendy Red Star (Crow), Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), Eudora Montoya (Santa Ana Pueblo) and Holly Wilson (Delaware/Cherokee) as well as the beautiful and intricate objects by unnamed aboriginal artists from the Arctic North, Northwest Coast, Plains and Southwest regions provide testament to the skill and aesthetic care of their makers.

“VMFA continues its efforts to grow this important collection—the museum has acquired more than 200 works by Native American artists within the last five years alone,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “We are committed to collecting and exhibiting Native American art and recognizing the contributions of the Native communities here in Virginia. Adding Howling Wolf’s drawing to the collection enables the museum to tell his fascinating story and document the history and artistry of the Cheyenne people.”

Howling Wolf was the son of Eagle Head, a successful warrior and leader who became a council chief of the Southern Cheyenne around 1874. Both father and son were members of the Bowstring Society, the strongest warfare group within Southern Cheyenne society in the 1870s. Howling Wolf and his father survived several clashes, one of the earliest was an attack on their encampment at Sands Creek by the Colorado Militia in 1864 when he was only fifteen years old. By the time of his death Howling Wolf was both a revered warrior and one of the most recognized masters of the Native American art form of ledger drawing.

A Southern Cheyenne Ledger Drawing was acquired by VMFA at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education, successfully acquired the work for the museum for $106,250 after a vigorous bidding war resulting in a world-record hammer price for a single ledger drawing. “Ledger drawings are important to the history of Native North America both as an art form and as historical documents,” said Dr. Johanna Minich, VMFA’s Assistant Curator for Native American Art. “Acquiring a ledger drawing for the Native American collection has been one of my priorities. When this work by Howling Wolf came up for auction Michael Taylor and I discussed it and decided that if we wanted a ledger drawing for VMFA we should do what we could to obtain one of the best. I think we got it.”

Ledger art grew from the traditions of visually recording individual exploits and tribal histories as testimonials. Pre-reservation ledger drawings emphasized battle scenes or horse raids. Reservation drawings dating from around 1870 to 1890 documented tribal histories and traditions. In 1875 the War Department acted to remove men they deemed “criminal offenders” in battles from their own people and send them far away to Fort Marion, a prison in Saint Augustine, Florida. Howling Wolf and his father were among the seventy-two men from Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho and Caddo tribes who were forcibly removed. A Southern Cheyenne Ledger Drawing is a reservation drawing made during his captivity.

While at Fort Marion the men, surprisingly, could move freely about, work for wages and pursue artistic endeavors. With access to new materials like paper, watercolor paints, crayons and ink, Howling Wolf began to vary his themes and compositions and the resulting art demonstrates his powerful individualism.

A Southern Cheyenne Ledger Drawing depicts a meeting of the Bowstring Society with its leaders arriving on horseback. The chief, a famous Cheyenne warrior named Roman Nose, is shown with an elaborate headdress featuring a bird design. Intricately detailed tipis flank the sides of the composition with one placed in the foreground to suggest their circular formation around the main activity. Seven other society members, with their backs to the viewer, bear feathered and bent lances indicating their membership in the Bowstring Society. The inclusion of the American flag indicates that even though this warrior society continues the members have acquiesced to the new leadership of the colonizers.

“The composition is so bold and complex,” said Taylor. “The outline is firm and confident and the colors are vibrant and exuberant. We knew we had found an incredible Native American ledger drawing for VMFA and are delighted to share it with our visitors. Our goal in the coming years is to build a world-class collection of Native American art at the museum and this purchase, along with many others that Johanna has made in the past five years, signals our intent.”

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Flower Delivery by GWAR’s JiZMak Da Gusha is Terrifyingly Awesome

Nicola Flora has for a limited time a special delivery person (delivery demon, delivery thing).

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Originally spotted on rva/Reddit is the news that will be sure to brighten that special someone in your life. Sure it will cost you $100 bucks but how many people in this world can say they got flowers from a dog-headed drummer?

ATTENTION SCUMDOGS OF RICHMOND!!!!

Has your quarantine been as pitiful and pathetic as your meaningless existence?

If so, then we have just the thing to add some much-needed excitement (and possibly some terror) to your day!

For a limited time only, GWAR’s infamous dog-headed drummer JiZMak Da Gusha is delivering flowers on behalf of Nicola Flora. (He really needs the money.)

This special delivery service starts at $100 and includes a designer’s choice floral arrangement, delivery and photos with JiZMak.

Please include any messages you would like JiZMak to yell at your unfortunate flower victim on your behalf.

Place your order here.

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