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DAVE LEWIS DIARY ROBERT PLANT SPECIAL: STARING UP AT A SHURE SM58 MICROPHONE: ROBERT PLANT ON VOCALS…100+ NIGHTS IN THE COMPANY OF : REFLECTIONS AND THOUGHTS…

25 October 2010 1,556 views 18 Comments

Photo by Rick Willis

As we move into what will be a couple of very high profile weeks for Robert Plant, It’s a timely moment for me to reflect on the 100 + nights I have spent in the company of Robert Plant on vocals.

It was about a year back when I was researching something for the magazine that I realised I must be approaching 100 occasions of staring up at a Shure SM57 or 58 microphone held by Robert Plant. I’d collated a list about ten years back which I think was up to around 70.

Sitting in the pub before the Mayfair One album launch show, Gary and I duly racked our collective memories and began logging the appearances we have attended. He was on around 90 and at that point Id worked out that the Forum gig the next night would be my 99th. Therefore I was set to go into this week with the Birmingham Symphony Hall Show lining up as occasion 100.

Alas not so – it’s already been done!

When I was talking to the good lady Janet about this a couple of weeks back, we began reminiscing on the gigs she has attended. In our early courtship a romantic night out in the company of RP was all a lady needed. So the young Janet found herself in the company of the man formerly at the forefront of Led Zeppelin at the likes of The Tube TV recording (the three of us alone in his dressing room ooerr!), Newcastle City Hall, Oxford, Leicester, London, Sheffield, Birmingham etc..

The good lady of course could not make the June 4th Hammersmith Odeon show in 1990 as our daughter Sam had been born a few hours earlier and there was a little matter of afterbirth recovery to contend with ( no matter as I was on hand to carry the torch!). She did however attend the Page & Plant show in Birmingham on July 23 1995 heavily pregnant with Adam who was just 16 days from making his appearance into the world.

As we were discussing this, I looked on the list and realised I had somehow missed off the two Birmingham NEC shows in 1995. This senior moment prompted another reconciliation of the list and one more omission came to the fore – the Priory Of Brion gig at the Charlotte club in September 2000. I went to this on my own and it’s notable for being one of, if not the only Plant gig I did not have an alcoholic beverage before hand, being ensconced at the front there was no escape which at the time was no bad thing.

So as it stands I am on 102 occasions of being in the company of Robert Plant singing live. The 100th was actually the Abbey Road Sound & Vision Cancer research Show in February – unbeknown to me then!

So the list;  It represents the 100 occasions I’ve seen Robert Plant sing live –commencing with the 14 initial Led Zeppelin gigs I was lucky enough to attend and the 15th at the 02 in 2007 , through the Page & Plant collaboration, solo tours, one offs and TV recordings.

102 is not a band tally, though I have to say as we were looking at his various tour itineraries, Gary and I kept asking ourselves why we didn’t do a whole lot more. There looked to be many occasions we should have made the effort to get to say a Wolverhampton or Nottingham, Coventry or Birmingham – locations within relative ease, or  festival dates such as Cropredy, Womad and Canterbury that slipped through.

However, over the years the plain reality of life, circumstances, family, work commitments and finances frequently got in the way  – with little responsibilities, zipping around the country when I was younger was no trouble but as you get older you can’t do everything and compromises have to be made . Mind you quite how I got away with eight nights out in July 1995 when Janet was eight months pregnant I’ll never know. In retrospect there have been some moments of recklessness juggling work,family etc in this quest to see the singer sing his songs.

So let’s talk about that.

It’s a testament to Robert Plant’s unquenchable thirst for musical re invention that his latest project The Band Of Joy finds him on a new wave of critical and public acceptance. The prestigious Radio 2 Electric Proms showcase on Friday followed by the Robert Plant Night on BBC2 on November 6th, will propel his profile sky high in the next ten days.

Not for his achievements in the eleven years of life in Led Zeppelin (remarkable as they were), not for the six times Grammy award winning collaboration with Alison Krauss (as wondrously surprising as that was), not for a one off reunion with his old band mates at the O2 (as magical as it was). Nor for his being selected to be a Commander of the British Empire, his dedication to Wolverhampton Wanderers, or his nurturing of and support of local talent and matters close to his heart in his Midlands bolt hole.

Impressive as all these accomplishments are – it will be above everything for his role as Robert Plant Vocalist and musician that will demand attention and appreciation in the coming days.

The lucky thousands who will be in attendance at the shows this next two weeks, and many more who will see and hear where he is currently at via the broadcasts on Radio 2 and screenings on BBC2 – will all collectively witness a seasoned performer at one with his work.

‘’The past is a stepping stone ’’ he remarked recently ‘’Not a millstone’’

For me personally, from 1971 to 2010 these 100+ performances in the company of Robert Plant form a timeline of my life. I was 15 years and 77 days old (co incidentally the very same age my own son Adam will be on Wednesday when I am in Birmingham) when I first heard him scream out the ‘’Bali-hi’’ war cry of immigrant Song at the Empire pool Wembley on Sunday November 21st 1971. When I settle down in my seat a the Birmingham Symphony Hall for performance 103 and the captivating lyrical yearning of Monkey seeps over the audience , I’ll be 54 and 51 days old.

102 nights – it’s been to use the old cliché, quite a journey.

From the glory days of Led Zeppelin, through small club gigs with the Honeydrippers, his initial tentative solo tours, the mid 90s Unledded collaboration with Jimmy Page, back to the cubs with the Priory Of Brion,  esoteric nights with Strange Sensation, the remarkable one off Zeppelin reunion at the 02, Grammy award winning bluegrass musings with Alsion Kruass to the eclecticism of his latest success in The Band Of Joy.

A journey that has taken me from the vast fields of Knebworth to backsteet pubs in Birmingham. From New York to Istanbul, Paris to Dublin, Glasgow to Cornwall and beyond. From secret filming sessions, rare TV appearances, album launch gigs, the fabled 02 reunion, and party nights in Kidderminster.

I’ve been lucky to have witnessed some incredible nights.

Highlights? Oh too many and all unforgettable:

Try these for example:

Zeppelin on a perishing cold Sunday night in November ‘71… in front of the golden god sitting on a limousine backstage at Earls Court May 25 1975… side of the stage in Frankfurt and Mannheim over Europe ’80… in the back of a rented hertz van in Sheffield with the Honeydrippers…in the presence of HRH Prince Charles Chares at the Dominion in ‘82… with the good lady at the Tube in ‘83… the sheer excitement of the first Zep numbers sung live in Leicester University ’88.. Jimmy back next to him at the Hammersmith in ‘83 and ’88… the night at the Marquee in ‘88 when an unassuming chap approached me and said the immortal words ‘’Are you Dave Lewis?’’ (Yes Gary Foy that was me and we’ve shared some sketches since!)… toasting Sam’s arrival with Terry in a pub near the Odeon hours after her birth… Wearing And Tearing with Jimmy at Knebworth ‘90… sitting on Robert’s monitor at the Kings Head pub the smallest stage I’ve seen him on…Dazed and Confused sung as a suprise in Birmigham ’93… weaving the Unledded Zep magic with Jimmy in August 1994… Thank You –opening number before my very eyes second night second row in Meadowlands Arena New Jersey… up against the barriers in  St Austell… escapades in Istnanbul followed by Shepherds Bush,Top Of The Pops and TFI Friday – three consecutive days in the company of P & P in the mad month of March of 98…. Night Flight and Trampled Underfoot at the ULU… No Regrets with the Priory at the Boardwalk Sheffield on the anniversary of night of Bonzo’s passing…. in a tent on a Halloween afternoon in Ashby De La Zouch (hi Kevin!)…. in a back street pub bar in Kings Heath on a Saturday night… Priory in Milton Keynes round the corner from my mate Phil’s house….that bizarre night of separate Plant & Page appearances at the Royal Albert Hall 2002….. World Cup fever before and after the Storytellers TV recording….TBL comes alive in the front rows of Hammersmith in 2002 when I had priority tickets and Frank Skinner telling me caustically ‘’shame he’s lost it’’ afterwards… Dermot O’ Leary interviewing Robert at the Recovered TV show before he and SS did a killer version of Love’s Seven And Seven is….Tin Pan Valley at The Scala Radio Two recording…. Christmas cheer (too much so!) in Wolverhampton 2005…. warm vibes in Cornbury and Somerset House in the summer of ‘06…. back with The Honeydrippers for Roy Williams 60th at JB’s on Valentines Day 2007…… back to the infinite glory that was theirs at the 02 six months later – watching his family members dancing to Rock And Roll in front of me….Black Country Woman with Alison at Wembley… reviving the marvellous Scott Walker’s  Farmer In The City and those lines  ‘’Who are you twenty one, twenty one, I’ll give you twenty one, twenty one’’ sending shivers down the spine at Abbey Road… revelling in a true Band Of Joy at Mayfair One and doing a little angel dance of delight at the London Forum.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course. Missed trains, cancelled shows,

The odd night when it didn’t really spark, that stage that looked like a block of cheese in ’85, Tom getting lost on the way back from Oxford in ’83 (Slough on a dark December night did not look good!) Mr Foy’s car near conking out in the early hours on the way back from Warwick in 1988 when three fan belt purchased quickly in succession couldn’t fix it (Gary you should have realised I brought trouble and strife!), and by his own admission some confusing moments as his career veered this way and we valiantly followed suit.

‘’’It’s been real’’ as the singer once put it himself.

Logging such memory bites it has occurred to me that I need to get all this down and I have scheduled in a Robert Plant book project of this nature after the over Europe book. These 100+ nights have a story to tell and I am already making plans to do just that.

Of course, along the way there’s been the camaraderie of like minded fans. Indeed a fair few of you out there will have shared some of those memories above as they unfolded.  Many a friendship formed over the years, Many a pre gig and late night beer, many a curry, many a pre and post gig discussion of why this singer remains so inspirational in our lives. And that’s a trend I am sure will continue.

I am also by no means alone in stacking up the Plant gigs and memories – it’s something that has become second nature amongst countless followers as  witnessed  by the Band Of Joy tour feedback and reports received from the US and UK and featured on the TBL website and in the TBL magazine in recent weeks.

And as much as we look back, it’s still all about the next gig: The next musical high, the next Robert Plant vocal performance sung into that Shure SM58 microphone that will leave you breathless in admiration. That’s the prospect ahead in Birmingham and London this week. Be it the folk nuance of House Of Cards, the spookiness of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, the retro delight of Houses of The Holy, the dark brooding Monkey or the sheer joy of Harms Swift Way.

As he once astutely put it ‘’It’s still today’s work and tomorrow’s plans that give us all a reason for being – rather than a reason for having been.’’

So here’s to the 103rd and 104th occasion of seeing Robert Plant on vocals…

Dave Lewis

October 25th 2010

Here’s the list:

Staring up at a Shure SM57 or 58 microphone:

‘’ROBERT PLANT ON VOCALS’’

 

100 PLUS NIGHTS IN THE COMPANY OF…

”I’m going where this blokes going ”- the young DL  (7 gigs up and counting) in pursuit of Robert Plant May 1977 –  a trend that continues…

1: November 21 1971 Led Zeppelin – Empire Pool Wembley

2: December 23 1972 Led Zeppelin  -Alexandra Palace London

3: May 17 1975 Led Zeppelin – Earls Court Arena London

4: May 18 1975 Led Zeppelin – Earls Court Arena London

5: May 23 1975 Led Zeppelin – Earls Court Arena London

6: May 24 1975 Led Zeppelin – Earls Court Arena London

7: May 25 1975 Led Zeppelin – Earl’s Court Arena London

”Which way’s Kenbworth?”  DL provides another TBL service prior to gig number 8

8: August 4 1979 Led Zeppelin – Knebworth Park Stevenage

9: August 11 1979 Led Zeppelin – Knebworth Park Stevenage

10: June 18 1980 Led Zeppelin – Sporthalle Cologne

11: June 30 1980 Led Zeppelin – Festhalle Frankfurt

12: July 2 1980 Led Zeppelin – Eisstadion Mannheim

13: July 3 1980 Led Zeppelin – Eisstadion Mannheim

14: July 5 1980 Led Zeppelin –  Olympiahalle Munich

15: May 4 1981 Honeydrippers – Porterhouse Retford

16: May 12 1981 Honeydrippers  – Boat Club Nottingham

17: May 18 1981 Honeydrippers – Treeforest Polytecnic Pontypridd

”So Robert do you think gig number 100 is a likely prospect ahead ?” The young Frank Zappa ‘tashed DL ponders life with the Honeydripper prior to gig 18 May 1981

18: May 26 1981 Honeydrippers  – Limits Club Sheffield

19: May 27  1981 Honeydrippers – Bradford University

20: July 21 1982 Robert Plant – Princes Trust Dominion Theatre London

21: June 22 1983 Robert Plant – Midsummer Night’s Tube TV recording Tyne Tees Studio Newcastle

22: November 28 1983 Robert Plant – City Hall Newcastle

23: December 12 1983 Robert Plant – Odeon Hammersmith London

24: December 13 1983 Robert Plant – Odeon Hammersmith London

25: December 18 1983 Robert Plant – Apollo Oxford

26: September 8 1985 Robert Plant – NEC Birmingham

27: September 10 1985 Robert Plant – Wembley Arena

28: January 23 1988 Band of Joy – Leicester University

29: January 30 1988 Band of Joy – University of Essex Colchester

30:  February 4 1988 Robert Plant – Marquee Club London

31:  March 17 1988 Robert Plant – Warwick University

32: April 3 1988  Robert Plant – Apollo Oxford

33: April 14 1988  Robert Plant -Town And Country Club Kentish Town London

34: April 15 1988  Robert Plant  – Astoria Theatre London

35: April 17 1988  Robert Plant – Odeon Hammersmith London

36: June 4 1990 Robert Plant – Odeon Hammersmith London

37: June 5 1990 Robert Plant – Hammersmith Odeon London

38: June 30 1990 Robert Plant – Silver Clef Knebworth Park Stevenage

39:  January 8 1991 Robert Plant – Town And Country Club Kentish Town, London

40:  January 9 1991 Robert Plant – Town And Country Club Kentish Town London

41:  January 10 1991 Robert Plant – Town And Country Club Kentish Town London

42: May 1993 14 Fate Of Nations – Kings Head London

43: May 20 1993  Band Of Joy – Kings Head London

44: July 14 1993  Robert Plant – NEC Birmingham

45: July 16 1993  Robert Plant – Brixton Academy London

46: December 23 1993 Robert Plant – Brixton Academy London

47: April 17 Page & Plant – Alexis Korner Tribute Opera House Buxton

48: August 24 1994 Page & Plant – MTV Unledded filming London Studios

49: August 25 1994 Plant & Page – MTV Unledded filming London Studios

50: April 6 1995 Page & Plant -Meadowlands Arena New Jersey USA

51: April 7 1995 Page & Plant – Meadowlands Arena New Jersey USA

52: June 6 1995 Page & Plant Palias – Omnisports Bercy Paris

53: July 12 1995 Page & Plant – SEC Glasgow

54: July 13 1995 Page & Plant – Sheffield Arena

55: July 15 1995 Page & Plant – Coliseum St Austell

56: July 16 1995 Page & Plant – Arts Centre Poole

57: July 22 1995 Page & Plant – NEC Birmingham

58: July 23 1995 Page & Plant – NEC Birmingham

59: July 25 1995 Page & Plant – Wembley Arena

60: July 26 1995 Page & Plant – Wembley Arena

61: March 5 1998 Page & Plant Bostanci Centre Istanbul

62: March 6 1998 Page & Plant Bostanci Centre Istanbul

63: March 25 1998 Page & Plant – Shepherds Bush Empire London

64: March 26 1998 Page & Plant – Top Of The Pops TV recording Elstree

65: March 27 1998 Page & Plant – TFI Friday TV recording Riverside Studios London Hammersmith

66: May 5 1998 Page & Plant – Later with Jools Holland TV recording White City London

67: August 26 1998 Page & Plant – The Point Dublin

68: August 28 1998 Page & Plant – Reading Festival

69: October 30 1998 Page & Plant – Molson Beer Competition winners gig ULU London

70: November 3 1998  Page & Plant – Evening News Arena Manchester

71: November 4 1998  Page & Plant – Wembley Arena

72: November 5 1998 Page & Plant – Wembley Arena

73: September 25 1999 Priory Of Brion – Boadwalk Sheffield

74: October 31 1999 Priory Of Brion – Ashby De La Zouch Leicestershire

75: November 13 1999 Priory Of Brion – Red Lion Kings Heath Birmingham

76: February 16 2000 Priory Of Brion – Junction Cambridge

77: April 3 2000 Priory Of Brion – Roadmender Northampton

78:  June 21 2000 Priory Of Brion – Hexagon Reading

79: September 6 200 Priory Of Brion – Charlotte Leicester

80: October 19 2000 Priory Of Brion – Woughton Centre Milton Keynes

81: February 9 2002 Strange Sensation – Teenage Cancer Trust benefit Royal Albert Hall London

82: June 6 2002 Strange Sensation – VH1 Storytellers TV recording Westway Studios London

83: June 10 2002 Strange Sensation – Astoria Theatre London

84: October 11 2002 Strange Sensation – Corn Exchange Cambridge

85: October 30 2002 Strange Sensation – Appolo Hammersmith London

86: February 28 2003 Strange Sensation – Recovered TV Recording Riverside Studios London

87: April 2 2005  Strange Sensation – Warwick University

88: April 4 2005 Strange Sensation  -Teenage Cancer Trust benefit Royal Albert Hall London

89; April 27 2005 Strange Sensation – BBC Radio Two recording Scala Theatre London

90: December 4 2005 Strange Sensation – Hammersmith Palais London

91: December 6 2005 Strange Sensation – The Forum Kentish Town London

92: December 13 2005 Strange Sensation – Civic Hall Wolverhampton

93: February 23 2006 Blue Juice – MAS Records Launch night Town Hall Kidderminster

94: July 8 2006 Strange Sensation – Cornbury Festival

95: July 10 2006 Strange Sensation – Somerset House London

96: February 14 2007 Honeydrippers – JB’s Club Dudley

97: June 22 2007 Strange Sensation – Fiddlers Club Bristol

98: December 10 2007 Led Zeppelin – Ahmet Ertegun Tribute 02 Arena London

99: May 22 2008 Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Wembley Arena

100: February 25 2010 Robert Plant – Sound & Vision Cancer Research Charity Event Abbey Road London

101: September 1 2010 Band Of Joy album launch – Mayfair One London

102: September 2 2010 Band Of Joy – HMV Forum Kentish Town London

TO BE CONTINUED…

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18 Comments »

  • Jim Sloane said:

    Tremendous all that !! Keep on rocking !

  • André Cruz said:

    Congratulations Dave !
    I saw him only 3 times, one in 1994 here in Rio de Janeiro, Fate Of Nations tour, e the two shows that Page & Plant performed ever in Brazil – São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, January 1996.
    So you can imagine how many shows I`d like to have saw !!!
    But If I have to choose one, I pick up Earl`s Court Arena 1975 !
    Those were the days !!!!!
    Regards

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Lorraine – many thanks – look forward to seeing you and Michael

    Swin remember it well -that bar rocked! The gig was rather good too! Hope to catch up with you

  • Swin said:

    Dave you’re a star, hope to see you in the brasshouse in brum tomorrow.Last time we met was in an irish bar in manhattan in april 1995 for the P&P gig at the meadowlands. All the best TIGHT BUT LOOSE GETS BETTER & BETTER.

  • Lorraine Robertson said:

    Amazing tales Dave…you are an inspiration and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences as I have loved this band and Robert since I was 13 too!! At last my dream came true in Edinburgh though!!!!! See you soon and loveyoumadlyevenwithflu xx

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Many thanks for all those lovely comments!

    Richard – some very astute observations there

    Michael – That Glasgow gig was one that got away I missed that due to a work conferance but made the Manchester gig – I think Dave Linwood or Gary Foy wrote the review at the time.

    Looks like gigs 103 and 104 might be a bit testing – got some flue bug and the lemsips had to come out.It’s age! – looks like a stiff whiskey or two may be on the cards to rally me.

  • Gerd Zaunig said:

    What a list!!! Hats Off To (Dave) Lewis

  • RichardG said:

    Dave, that’s incredible… I think you’ve single-handedly kept National Express in business over the years! You should probably have got a telegram from the Queen after Abbey Road…

    For a measly 30 gig trainee (well 29 & 30 today and tomorrow!), this is inspirational stuff. It seems like only yesterday I was at my first Robert Plant gig, down the front, propping up the barriers on the Now and Zen tour, freaking out as In The Evening kicked in. 22 years gone.

    As you say, we keep coming back to celebrate a career that has twisted, turned, mutated, evolved and developed over 40 some odd years, only around a quarter of which has taken place in “that band”. Although I know some don’t agree, I think that in his solo career Robert has had many moments that have equalled the Zeppelin heights (“LIKE THIS!!!!” at Warwick Uni anyone?!?) and he continues to push forward with his own agenda, regardless of trends or fads. Led Zeppelin tour or a bluegrass album? Not the most obvious choice! As an aside has anyone noticed how fashionable it is for other singers to take a left turn and put out a “recorded in Nashville” record these days? Charlotte Church/Cyndi Lauper – not likely before Raising Sand I suspect!

    So even in his sixties, Robert continues to respect the past while writing the future, but without a masterplan or an eye on the balance sheet, just an unwavering authenticity and belief in what he thinks is right for that moment. If it’s successful artistically or commercially then that’s just serendipity, but it won’t dictate whatever surprises he has in store for us in the years to come.

    Sometimes he’s tested us (Shaken‘n’Stirred perhaps? ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ maybe?), but he’s never been less than totally committed and it’s that commitment which means we trust him and that trust is repaid in spades.

    It’s an amazing journey and we’re privileged to be a part of it…

    Roll on 29 & 30!

  • Michael Brett said:

    Dave

    Great stuff.

    I seem to remember reading a TBL review of a Page & Plant gig I attended on 2 November 1998 at the SECC in Glasgow. If you wrote that review then perhaps you’ve got another to add to that list?

    Or, am I merely having a senior moment………..

    All the best

    Michael

  • STEVE WAY said:

    excellent Dave, many a sketch in there, great memories eh…

  • Chris Wright said:

    I echo all of Steve and Billy’s comments. You have contributed immensely to our understanding and appreciation of Led Zeppelin, and continue to do so. The most exciting part is that you have now turned your passion into your career and, with the technological advances of the age, there’s even more to look forward to in your further chronicles of the Zeppelin adventure.

  • Kathy Urich said:

    Dave you’ve done great deal of living in your 54 years & 51 days. While I have been a fan since I was a mere 11-years of age, it has only been the last few years that I have actually delved deeper then my old Creme and Circus magazines and a few books. Without you and the others at TBL, and like-minded fans on this fabulous site, can one really come to an understanding of the music and the scope of Led Zeppelin’s influence, as well as, their continuing influence, as artists in their own right. Your contribution as a journalist, author and fan is one others only aspire to. Dave you’re a true original and much appreciated by this fan in the US. Congratulations on exceeding the century mark of shows witnessed.

  • Michael Brazee said:

    Dave,
    ‘Ever onward’ to the next gig.
    Ahh, to live vicariously through others.

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Steve – thank you!
    Paul – yes Sheffield ’95 that was another incredible night!

  • Billy McCue said:

    Dave,
    This is great stuff, and all the more reason why I continually salute long timers like yourself and Hugh who were literally there from the very beginning and kept the flame alive over the years first in print and now on the Net as well. You bring a perspective to the proceedings that is sorely lacking in the efforts of too many of today’s cyber Johnny Come Lately’s who jumped on the bandwagon in recent times and now portray themselves as experts. These modern day wannabe’s show no true feel for the band’s music, its intentions, its inspirations. Today it’s all about mindless fact gathering via Google searches and spewing it all back out in trite and pithy commentary that adds no insight behind those facts. True Led Zep fans – and we are few in number compared to those who try with great futility to pass themselves as one – know and appreciate what you’ve done for the community over the years. Keep flying the flag, Dave. And hope to see you in a few weeks.
    Peace,
    Billy

  • paul aspey said:

    also in the pilot inn when ypu just got back from the O2 soundcheck
    what memories

  • paul aspey said:

    Dave,
    Never will i forget the night at sheffield i caught your eye, 2nd row during tea for one it still still sends shudders

    congratulations

    Liverpool last week was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Steve "The Lemon" Sauer said:

    Dave, that’s incredible! Congratulations on the occasion! You take the cake.

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