A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: Langhorne Slim @ Higher Ground 12/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday December 2, 2010

It’s not often that I have such high expectations as I did last night for Langhorne Slim, who I’ve wanted to see for at least 5 years. It’s also not often that those expectations are exceeded, but Langhorne Slim did it last night. The band put on a performance that easily ranks in my favorite 5 of the year, and has had me listening to Langhorne albums all morning. Here are some photos from the show, with more wrapup beneath them:

The only slightly negative aspect of the night was the slim attendance (couldn’t resist the pun). I wish I knew what it took to drive people to shows, as I can almost guarantee that everyone there last night had an amazing time. That was easily the best $10 show I’ve been to, and if you missed it, you blew it.

Anyhow, the band consists of Langhorne Slim (born Sean Scolnick) on guitar & lead vocals, Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, Jeff Ratner on upright bass and David Moore on keyboard & banjo. The upright bass adds such a presence onstage, and such a richness to the music. And Ratner knows how to work it.

Moore was animated on the keys, and a downright animal on the banjo. In one particular maelstrom of strumming, he managed to both break a string and rip the accompanying tuning key right out of the banjo head. The volume on the banjo could have been turned up a bit for the whole show, but it was played with such zeal that even with minimal amplification, it was still a presence.

DeLorenzo also attacked his instrument with a particular fervor, all four of his limbs moving so quickly they were almost hard to see. It seemed like he was working to contain himself from jumping out of his seat for most of the show.

And Langhorne Slim himself left it all on stage, ending the night covered in sweat and stripped down to a tank top t-shirt. His songwriting is so forthright and easy to relate to that it doesn’t take much for him to have an immediate connection with the audience. And his stage presence only amplifies that feeling. They played a fairly long setlist, featuring material from the most recent release, Be Set Free, as well as songs from several of their previous albums. My personal favorite was “She’s Gone,” but then that’s also my favorite song of their whole catalog…

If you don’t own any Langhorne Slim, it’s time you gave it a listen. And if these guys play anywhere close to you, go see them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Along with Midlake, Langhorne Slim now tops my list of bands I need to see again, and as soon as humanly possible.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday November 11, 2010

If there’s one word I could use to describe last night’s show, it would be “beautiful.” Though I’m not sure that quite does justice to the performances by Horse Feathers and Anais Mitchell.

Sadly I missed Paddy Reagan (as Paper Castles), who opened the show. I got there to a fairly packed house (I didn’t bother to try and count the people, but the Showcase Lounge was significantly more full than I’ve seen it in a very long time). I have to assume that Anais (a Vermonter) was the big draw, but regardless of why they were there, it was nice to see such a large crowd for a folk music show.

Horse Feathers came on first (they were co-billed with Anais, and I’m pretty sure she’s been opening for them, so again, I have to assume it had to do with the show being in VT). They are a four-person band, with Justin Ringle on vocals & (mostly) acoustic guitar, Catherine O’Dell on cello, Nathan Crockett on violin and Sam Cooper as a multi-instrumentalist (including drums, banjo, xylophone and a variety of others).

Horse Feathers

They played several songs from House With No Home, my favorite album of theirs, as well as a lot of songs off of their latest album Thistled Spring. Ringle’s vocals were obviously the highlight of the show, imparting such sorrow without being weepy or melodramatic. I also particularly liked the plucking of the cello, and my personal favorite instrument of the night — the edge of a cymbal played with a bow. Definitely never seen that before, and it created such a unique sound.

As the sunlight dwindles, the days get colder and winter nestles in for the long haul, Horse Feathers put on a performance that seemed to perfectly match my mood. You can be sure that they’ll be on heavy rotation for the cold, dark months to come.

Anais Mitchell took the stage with a couple of her friends, one on electric guitar and the other on drums/keys/etc. They played an assortment of her solo material and songs from her rock opera “Hadestown.” This is the second time I’ve seen Anais play (the first being my very first show in Burlington, in early 2007), and she has definitely made huge leaps forward. Her voice is still out of this world, but she appeared much more confident and at home in the spotlight, where she definitely belongs.

Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

The songs I liked most were the ones Anais played alone — I think her voice tended to shine more (it’s really tough to describe, but I think caramel coated sugar is a good descriptor). I heard a couple of different people in the audience talking to each other about how outstanding her singing voice is, and I couldn’t agree more. Not that she isn’t already well on her way, but I expect very big things from Anais as more people have the chance to hear her sing.

Because folk music doesn’t always translate well at a live show, I tend not to go to folk-ish shows very often, but Anais Mitchell and Horse Feathers proved to me last night that a folk performance can be as captivating and beautiful as any.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Twitter-length Wrapup: Hey Rosetta! @ Higher Ground 11/8/2010

Filed Under: Twitter-Length Review
Written by Brendan
Tuesday November 9, 2010

I don’t love all the shows I go to, and sometimes I don’t have so much to write about those shows. So I’m introducing a new form of review: the twitter-length wrapup. A 140-character (or less) summary of my experience. Here goes:

Not enough songs. Good vocals, but uninspired presentation. Small crowd. Cool instruments, but missing something. Drummer seemed bored.

Hey Rosetta! @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT, 11/8/2010

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Friday November 5, 2010

Rachel and I drove up to Montreal last night to see The Joy Formidable, who we’ve both been dying to see since their EP A Balloon Called Moaning came out this past summer. I wrote about the haunting vocals, driving guitar riffs and frantic drumming in a post in June.

We left Burlington early to try and beat the traffic and get in dinner up there. It was a miserable, rainy drive both ways which definitely took a little more out of both of us than the trip up and back usually does. We ended up getting to the club early which was cool because we got to really check out the space, and wasn’t cool because we had to both wait for and then listen to the opening band, who I definitely didn’t care for. Seems like they had all the right pieces, but their sound was boring at best.

The next band, The Dig, definitely brought me back to life a bit. They were an energetic 4-piece (drums, bass, guitar and guitar/keys), out on a brief swing with The Joy Formidable. The bassist Emile Mosseri and the guitarist David Baldwin shared singing duties, and both held their own, though Mosseri’s parts were definitely the highlight. The bouncing bass got the crowd moving and psyched up for the main act. I’d definitely see these guys again.

The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Rhydian Dafydd, Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas of The Joy Formidable

There were about 60 people there when The Joy Formidable took the stage, about 2/3 standing right up in front, and 1/3 in the back of the room sitting at tables, which must have felt a bit odd from the stage. They started with “Cradle”, and we were quickly introduced to lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s crazy eyes (exactly as it sounds), which definitely added an edge to their performance throughout. It was a great song to start with, and definitely got the crowd pumped. Bryan and drummer Matt Thomas were full of energy, with her thrashing her guitar around stage, and him with a face full of hair and arms that moved so fast you could barely see them. They had a great rock vibe.

There were three songs that I can think of that I loved, “Cradle, The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade,” and their final number “Whirring”, which they extended into a massive writhing, sweating ear-bursting freak out (glad I had my EarLove hi-fi earplugs with me). That performance definitely made the show for me.

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Unfortunately, the rest of the songs, mostly a mix of new material including their recently released single “Popinjay” fell a little flat with me. It’s often really tough to hear a song live for the first time, especially at a club with fairly poor acoustics, because I find myself trying to hear things, instead of just listening and feeling. So I don’t want to say that their new material was necessarily not as good, but I definitely felt a lack of connection. I also found myself thinking how nice it’d be if they added some keys to their lineup (there were at least 2 songs which included pre-recorded sounds that could have been played by an actual person).

The set lasted barely an hour, which on most nights might have disappointed me, but I was so exhausted and really wanted to get the drive home over so I could be back in bed. I’d see The Joy Formidable again if they came to Burlington, and would definitely make it a point to hear more of their new stuff before I did. They put on a good — though not great — show, and could definitely benefit from a room with clearer acoustics. I recommend seeing them if they come to your town, with the caveat that their show is a bit of a mixed bag of fantastic and fair.

Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus, Montreal 11/4/2010

Ritzy Bryan

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pellitier 10/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Saturday October 2, 2010

Being that I stalk the live music scene in both Burlington and Montreal (and sometimes Boston and D.C. as well), I was able to act quickly enough to score 2nd row seats to last night’s performance by The xx at Salle Wilifred-Pelletier at the Place des Arts in Montreal. The lighting was amazing, the venue was a top-notch theater, and the sound quality was spot on.

All in all, I enjoyed myself at the show, but I also felt a little disappointed. Although I went into the show knowing full well that a good portion of the sound created by the band is electronic, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the guy on the drum machine. Frankly, it’s really distracting and takes away from the show to have the person at the center of the stage essentially be pushing buttons with his index fingers. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some seriously impressive drum-machine work, but this was pretty standard stuff. Honestly, if they had kept the drum machine off stage, I would have enjoyed the show so much more.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

Female vocalist and guitar player Romy Madley Croft sang wonderfully, though her guitar work seemed even more sparse and simplistic than on their album. She also had absolutely zero stage presence, only uttering a couple of thank yous to the audience. I definitely could have gone for a bit more engagement. Bassist Oliver Sim was more engaging and talked with the audience on a few occasions, though not enough to compensate for the silent Croft. Their music is so personal, sexualized and sultry that I definitely expected more.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

Like I said, I did enjoy myself, and I think that The xx performed their music fairly well, but I don’t think I’d see them in concert again until they incorporate some more actual instruments (I think a drummer and an additional percussionist could handle most of the work of the drum machine) and create a little more rapport with their audiences.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: farm @ Monkey House 9/25/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Local Bands
Written by Brendan
Monday September 27, 2010

farm - Sat., Cloudy, Calm, 36 F, 10:44 p.m.farm put on an impressive performance Saturday night to mark the launch of their latest album, Sat., Cloudy, Calm, 36º F, 10:44 p.m.

The show was well attended, with about 50-60 people there when farm took the stage. As a quick aside, it was great to see a show at the Monkey House that well attended. The last couple shows I saw there (Givers, Drink Up Buttercup) were all but empty, so it was a nice change in energy, and brought a much more intimate feel to the bar. It was also nice to see Maryse Smith — who recently opened for The New Pornographers — in attendance, supporting fellow VT musicians.

The band — who records as a 3-piece — was joined by their friends Sam Boutin and Brennan Mangan for this show. Even with 5 people on stage, they managed to make the constant trading of instruments look almost effortless. At least three of them took a turn on lead vocals, and duties were shared on the drums, keys, guitars and a variety of other instruments. While it would be pretty easy for this to become a distraction to the audience, they were quick and seemingly practiced enough to make it interesting.

Most of their set was from their new album, though they also played 3 or 4 songs I hadn’t heard before. My favorites were “anticipating snow” and “hotel manners” though really there were many highlights. The only thing that felt out of place to me was opening with “is it wrong?”, a sleepy, spacy, stripped-down song that, while beautiful, didn’t really pull me into the show right away.

I found myself drawing comparisons between Port O’Brien (particularly the vocals on “getting cold” which sound remarkably similar to Van Pierszalowski’s voice) and Wild Sweet Orange, though farm definitely has a sound all their own. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing farm again, and recommend that Burlington indie music fans check these guys out soon.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground Ballroom 9/22/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday September 23, 2010

If you missed last night’s Broken Social Scene show, you really blew it — and don’t say I didn’t warn you. BSS treated us to over 2 hours of audio enjoyment, putting on one of the best shows — if not the best show — I’ve seen all year.

Openers The Sea and Cake started things off with an impressive performance, but I was so jazzed with anticipation that I could hardly pay attention. It’d been quite a while since I last saw BSS — a little over 4 years actually. The last time I saw them definitely stands out as one of my favorite shows of all time, at Merriweather Post Pavilion (MD) in the summer of 2006, along with Belle & Sebastian and Ted Leo/Pharmacists.

I was also at the BSS Presents… show in 2007 at the Ira Allen Chapel, but that was definitely Kevin Drew’s solo effort, no matter what it was called. Not to mention the sound quality was awful and Kevin Drew was sick. Needless to say, I’ve been waiting to see Broken Social Scene again for a long time.

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

They played a nice mix of tunes from all 4 of their albums, as well as a cover of “Soul Unwind” by Apostle of Hustle (BSS guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s side project). I was only allowed to take photos during the first three songs, so they may make the show look pretty mellow — don’t believe it. There was plenty of sweaty rock energy on stage and off.

Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene

Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Though I really wanted to hear “It’s All Gonna Break,” my disappointment was pretty easily overcome by some of my other favorites like “7/4 (Shoreline),” “Superconnected” and “Meet Me in the Basement.”

The band clearly had a strong connection with the audience, and their stage presence and banter really cemented that feeling. A few of them made a guest appearance at the Live Yo Gabba Gabba (children’s entertainment, for those without kid neighbors) performance earlier in the day, and Kevin showed off his newly acquired dancing skills by leading us in the “Peanut Butter Stomp.”

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

There was a fairly new female addition to the band (sorry I can’t remember her name and can’t find it online), and she fit in wonderfully, singing “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” live for the first time, and absolutely killing it.

I think there were 8 people in the band last night, though a couple members of The Sea and Cake also joined them on stage for several songs. There were tons of different instruments played — well beyond what I’m used to seeing at a show. The trumpet and saxophone definitely stood out, and there was some solid harmonica work in there as well. There was also plenty of instrument-swapping going on as usual, a true testament to the talent of this band.

Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Broken Social Scene really brought their best last night, and I couldn’t be more excited to see them again in December at Metropolis in Montreal.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8/27/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Saturday August 28, 2010

The New Pornographers, on tour in support of their May release Together, made their first-ever visit to Burlington last night.  Conspicuously missing (empty microphone/spot on stage and all) was Neko Case, who happens to live in Vermont these days.  Nobody spoke about it, and the lone shout of “where’s Neko” was met a wall of rock.  I guess that’s all I have to say about it, because I haven’t been able to dig anything up, and to be honest, I thought the show was wonderful anyhow.

Opening was Burlington’s own Maryse Smith, recently profiled by Dan Bolles in 7Days.  While we were waiting in line to get in, the Higher Ground owner came out from the ballroom and told everyone to get in there quickly because the opener was amazing.  He wasn’t lying.  I thoroughly enjoyed her set, and hope to see more of her and her backing band around the Burlington area soon.

Maryse Smith @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

The New Pornographers played a good mix of music from various releases, including “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” off their nearly 10-year-old debut album Mass Romantic and “Crash Years” and “Your Hands (Together)”, a couple of my favorites off their latest release.

Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

While I do think there was some level of anticipation/disappointment in the audience regarding Neko, it was pretty apparent that the band worked their way right through it.  Kathryn Calder, the female half of the lead vocalists (Carl [A.C.] Newman being the male half) definitely stood out to me.  While Newman’s stage presence and slurry banter kept the audience engaged between songs (he played only 5 strings on guitar for a good chunk of the show, and had some ongoing conversations about it), it was definitely Calder’s vocals that I enjoyed the most.

Carl Newman of New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

The audience (a mixture of 30 and 40 somethings, from what I could tell) was both sizable and very into the show, which was great to see.  The room felt full though there was plenty of room to move around, and very little jostling for an ever-closer spot.  Though I do want to say that just because your friends get there early and stake out a good spot does not therefore give you and 10 others the right to join them and push other people out of the way.  Simple courtesy is too often overlooked.

New Pornographers @ Higher Ground BallroomAnyhow, the catchy hooks, rocking guitars and vibrant pop energy of The New Pornographers were all on display last night, and I look forward to catching them again.

Dan Bolles reports that Neko had food poisoning…mystery solved.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Erin McKeown @ Kennedy Center 8/19/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Guest Post, Live Shows
Written by Aaron
Friday August 20, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

A 6 p.m. rock show?  Fine by me.

I moved toward the front of the stage and found an empty chair next to two chatty, much older women.  Why were they here?  Were they unlikely rock fans?  Perhaps they were hoping to hear some lady jazz singer profiled in the patrons’ newsletter.  Folky singer/songwriter enthusiasts?  Maybe that was the case.

Erin McKeown - Hundreds of Lions

Hundreds of Lions

Since this blog typically covers music closer to Burlington, I’ll do a little explaining.  Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center is a short walk from my apartment.  It’s even closer — across the street — from the famed Watergate complex.  Young people live where I live.  Old people live in the Watergate.

So I was sitting next to some Watergate retirees.  Their pre-show banter pegged them as regulars at the Kennedy Center’s daily Millennium Stage shows.  Music I love isn’t often featured at the free performances hosted in this arts palace (later this week in the same series: “Marvin Hamlisch conducts alumni of the D.C. Youth Orchestra!”).  But tonight was different.

At 5:57, the very slight Erin McKeown hustled through the atrium hefting an enormous backpack.  She was on stage a moment later wearing a white shirt and white pants — both rolled and unbuttoned enough to reveal intricate tattoos.  Not the typical Kennedy Center look.

McKeown’s latest album was released last October.  As she tells it, Hundreds of Lions chronicles a relationship from start to finish.  It’s a solid record.  At this abbreviated show, McKeown chose to play what she called a “mini suite” of songs from that batch (“Santa Cruz,” “Put the Fun Back in the Funeral,” “To A Hammer,” “The Rascal,” “The Lions”) along with some older gems and two new songs.  She was alone on stage with an electric guitar, a grand piano, and a cup from Starbucks.  Her voice sounded better than ever.  She rocked.

Erin McKeown’s first proper album, Distillation, popped onto my radar screen nearly a decade ago thanks in large part to WXPN,  Philadelphia’s cooler-then-than-now public radio station.  I’ve seen her plenty of times since 2001.  And I’ve even dragged my parents along.  I think of McKeown as a great rocker with smart lyrics.  Others pigeonhole her as a folk artist.  And she’s released a record of jazz standards.  She’s tough to label.  As McKeown tours relentlessly she promotes herself to that NPR audience that enjoys a little bit of folk, jazz, and just maybe sometimes rock.

She’s a commanding performer on stage.  McKeown can tell quick stories and call attention to particularly witty lines from her own pen.  Tonight she overcame an extremely stiff crowd and managed to look like she enjoyed herself.  “Let it fly, y’all,” she yelled during one brave attempt to garner audience participation.  “I think to sum up the record and certainly this song: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.  Words to live by, kids!”  The ladies in my row exchanged stern looks at that advice.  They whispered disapprovingly.  They should have gone home.

McKeown closed with “You Were Right About Everything” from her 2005 record, We Will Become Like Birds.  The women on my row shuffled out, unmoved.  They were wrong.  This was a brief performance but a real treat.

You can watch video of tonight’s full show on the Kennedy Center’s site. McKeown has announced an upcoming tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Distillation.  She’ll play that complete album before moving on to newer material in several cities (stops include Cambridge, Mass. 9/24, Northampton, Mass. 10/9, New York 10/17, Arlington, Va. 10/23, and Philadelphia 10/24).

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga 2010 Wrapup: Still Life Still

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Tuesday August 10, 2010

Day 2 of the festival was significantly hotter and sunnier than day 1, so Rachel and I left the Galactic show on one of the main stages a little early to catch some shade at the Scene Verte before Still Life Still came on. This gave me a great chance to get up close for some good shots at the beginning of the show.

Eric Young of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Still Life Still put on an excellent set, full of sweaty rock goodness. As a testament to their grit, after what seemed like a series of electric shocks from the mic as his sweat dripped on it, lead singer Brendon Saarinen just kept right on going without a word.

Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Most of the set was from their 2009 release Girls Come Too, though they also played at least one new song. Their sound was tight and their energy and excitement was clear.  This was definitely in my top 3 favorite shows of the festival.

Brendon Saarinen of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Still Life Still is a must-see for lovers of rock music.  They remind me a bit of Broken Social Scene, with a little more of the rawness of Kevin Drew’s solo album (or whatever you want to call Spirit If…).  Their album is great, their show is better, and I’m really looking forward to their next release, which they are working on currently.

Aaron Romaniuk of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.