Sledding Fun @sledisland with @levimacdougall @TrannaWintour @MartyTopps @NourHadidi @BobbyWarrener & Carina Morton @niteowlyyc

Levi MacDougall performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Saturday night was comedy night in Calgary for the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival as Nite Owl turned around their downstairs bar to make it nice and cozy. There were chairs to sit on. Even tables to put your beers on and books to read from the Library! I had to go back to the shelves on the stage and take a quick look at Chaos and Order by Stephen R. Donaldson. I thought it might help my understanding of the slogan on the t-shirt (Order from Chaos) worn by heavy metal band Sigil’s vocalist, the night before at Dickens Pub. I didn’t get in too deep as the punters were coming downstairs. I went over to the comfy sofas by the door, sat down and had a chat with a comedian and a comedienne as I was getting my cameras organized. Carina Morton, from Edmonton, was hosting the night and Tranna Wintour was hanging out with the other acts, Levi MacDougall, Marty Topps, Nour Hadidi and Bobby Warrener.

Good for anarchists. From the library collection at Nite Owl, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Carina Morton

We got talking about what it takes to get into stand-up comedy and dealing with hecklers. Carina started doing stand-up about three years ago and has become a stalwart of the Edmonton comedy circuit, including appearances at The Underdogs of Comedy and running comedy night at the Express Alehouse. She’s “never really got over the nervousness of live performing but deals with it by not eating and drinking lots of water. In between introducing the other acts, she told some funny stories, including one about International Women’s Day and another about the calorific value of sperm. Good guidance if you are thinking of going on a diet.

Carina Morton hosting and performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Tranna Wintour: Standing up to Hecklers

Tranna Wintour, from Montreal, who declares herself to be a love child of Barbra Streisand and Andre Agassi, never really planned to get into stand up. But it happened because she has “always had this performance energy in me and for the longest time I didn’t know what to do with that, or what shape it would take”. She discovered that stand-up could bring together storytelling, music, and comedy and “that’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life” So, like most comedy acts, she got up and did an open mic session and it fired off from there.

We talked about heckling and how she manages with it on stage. She saw this as a bit of a Catch 22-you want to get feedback and audience participation, but then, you don’t want to get abused or put off by some rant or rave about your sexuality or something. When it does happen, she said “there is this split second decision about how you handle it” and added, “Something that doesn’t get talked about a lot in comedy, especially for performers who are LGBQT minorities or racial minorities is that sometimes on stage you don’t get heckled but you get hate speech directed at you…. Dealing with hatred from an audience member is a very different thing from heckling. A few times when I have had to deal with that myself, I really haven’t found a funny way to deal with it. I think it just has to be called out and shut down immediately.”

I asked Tranna how she strategizes on stage in that split second when you have to decide whether to engage with a heckler or shut them out? She said it depends upon the nature of the heckling “just how extreme it is, what they are heckling about, whether it comes from someone who is drunk or someone who is sober. There are so many factors and it really is a split second decision.

Although it hasn’t happened often, when it does, she finds that “It always catches me off-guard. But I try to shut them down with a quick, funny insult and hopefully that shuts them up, and just move on.”

Tranna berated (in a nice fashion) the audience when she came on stage “It took me two hours to get ready for you tonight, so I’m going to need a lot more than that!” She got her deserved applause and moved around in her big high heels with stories about Lady Gaga and the audience’s favourite divas. Fun stuff.

Tranna Wintour performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Nour Hadidi

Nour Hadidi, a Toronto-based comedian has been featured on television and is a writing contributor to CBC Comedy. Her routine began with a splendid story about Americans confusing the basketball player, Michael, from the country (of her birth), Jordan.

Nour also performs and hosts The So Fresh’ n’ So Clean Comedy Show, part of Toronto’s only clean standup comedy show.

Nour Hadidi performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Bobby Warrener

It’s unlikely that show opener Bobby Warrener, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta would get on that clean circuit, given his rude stories about texting girls and getting the spellings wrong. It makes you think twice about Ranch Dip.

Bobby Warrener performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Marty Topps

Marty Topps came on stage prepared for a work out in his specially cut, body-part revealing, TapOut-like outfit. Gyrating across the stage with his Roland mini keyboard, his set included a song about relations with dolphins. Hilarious musical comedy!

Marty Topps performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival .
© J. Ashley Nixon

Levi MacDougall

And so the funny journey wound its way through to the headline act, Levi MacDougall. Hailing hazily from “some part of Canada” (it might well be Calgary?), this comic, writer and actor who has made numerous television and film appearances, began his set with a concern about being miscast. “When they asked me to do comedy at the Sled Island festival, I was a little surprised as I consider myself as a cowboy poet”, he said.

The cowboy theme came up repeatedly, what with references to looking for wheat on stage and making horses laugh plus a funny one about his shoe laces. The best was his duo with Marty Topps providing Vangelis-like chords on his Roland as Levi went through a long tale about feet prints.

Hilarious stuff across the night from all of these comedy performers and a great contribution to the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.

For more photos of live entertainment in Calgary, please visit my photo website, J. Ashley Nixon.

Levi MacDougall performing his standup comedy routine with Marty Topps on his Roland keyboard at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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Heavy Metal Sledding in Calgary with @wittrofficial , Wilt, Oxeneer and Sigil @sledisland @DickensYYC

Sigil performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

A hoard of heavy metal aficionados delved into Dickens, Calgary last night for one of the heaviest nights in the Sled Island Music Festival program this year. The pub was packed out, largely with black-cladded fans, many well-prepared with a pair of ear plugs set and ready for head banging or grooving in mysterious ways through to the wee hours of Saturday morning. They expected that it was going to be loud and they were not let down as four bands exposed them to a periodic table full of metal. There was black metal, of the bleak atmospheric and Cascadian varieties, doom metal, and sludge metal. Did I miss any?

Wolves in the Throne Room

The headline act, Wolves in the Throne Room have a huge following and a long list of recordings going back to 2003 when they were established in Olympia, Washington, USA. Their performance start-up was a fascinating, ritualistic preparation of the stage and equipment (generally vintage valve amplifiers, by the way) with smoke generated from lit wads of dried grasses, maybe sedges, and mosses (I would guess coming from an important, perhaps sacred woodland place on the west coast, anyone know?) The aroma and smoke had a calming effect, augmented by a long and progressive minor double key recording that the band members gradually worked into with their own instruments. It was the calm before storm though as they let loose, passionately on black metal arrangements played on their own terms that reach back to landscapes that members of the Wolves strongly connect with.

Wolves in the Throne Room prepare their stage for performance using smoke from lit wads of plant material. The gig, part of the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival was played at Dickens Pub, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Earlier in the evening, there were performances from Sigil, Oxaneer and Wilt:

Sigil

Local black death metal band, Sigil was up first, playing numbers from their recording Primal Void. The vocalist (see above), whose stylish and short haircut was so distinct from any other performer in the night, found deep, eerie resonance in his vocal chords that got some appreciative imitations from the audience.

Heavy metal fans at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Oxaneer

Oxaneer, another local band played sludge metal from their album Worn Out, released in 2016.

Oxaneer performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Wilt

Traveling west from Winnipeg, Wilt put on a Hulk-like performance on stage, going through a set of all new material from their, yet to be titled, new album. Their current album, Moving Monoliths was released in 2015.

 

For more images from this and other live music and dance performances in Calgary, please visit my photography website, J. Ashley Nixon

Wilt performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

 

 

 

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Ryan Adams playing with some cool cats in Calgary: gig review @TheRyanAdams @KarenElson_

Ryan Adams performing at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Few artists have been as prolific as Ryan Adams in getting out their recordings. The Jacksonville, North Carolina-born singer, songwriter, producer and poet has released 17 albums, starting with Heartbreaker in 2000.

Karen Elson

Up first though was the support act, Karen Elson, from Oldham, Lancashire who played songs, including Wolf, from her recently released album, Double Roses. Her set brought together beautiful arrangements with guitar, violin and some lifting, acoustic Vangelis from the harp player.

Karen Elson supporting the Ryan Adams gig at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Clowder and cluster

A quick break, the stage rearranged to reveal a clowder of stuffed cats and a cluster of computers and Ryan Adams kicked off his splendid spectrum of songs with his very first one recorded as a solo artist (that is, if you set aside the banter about Morrissey on the actual first track), To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High). The harmony shared with the keyboard player, Ben Alleman on one of his common themes of rain (Oh, the days the rain would fall your way) was a spine-tingling start for this appreciative Calgary crowd at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The performance kept going uphill from there, both with his songs and the entertaining banter about genetic disease, dentists, Michael MacDonald and more.

Monitoring Magnolia

Let it Ride from Cold Roses was played with multiple screens showing a road trip through the desert, leading into Magnolia Mountain, from the same album, cheekily offered up as an early encore that developed through flamboyant wow wow pedal from guitarist Benny Yurco to swirling Hammond organ. Those monitors were put into good use again, displaying volcanic and nuclear eruptions as hard, yet jangling chords introduced Gimme Something Good (from the self-titled 2014 album, Ryan Adams).

Just in time for a slow song

“I love that song,” Ryan said. “It wakes everyone up just in time for a slow song!”, he joked and went, anyway, into the slower paced and gorgeous Alt-Country Two, from Easy Tiger (2007) with its agilely alliterated “It’s leaking from the faucet and I’m fractured from the fall.”

To Be Without You

Ben Alleman’s singing was complemented by Mister Adams who likened it to the voice of Michael MacDonald. He rendered a high-pitched version of how that singer might get up in the morning and sing about flossing his teeth! Segue into Ryan sharing his fear of the dentist and the revelation that he didn’t visit one for ten years. Well, he didn’t have any cavities or so he thought until he paid that visit and had “about 17 cavities to deal with”. The next song, To Be Without You, from the new album, Prisoner, was diggingly dedicated to that dental profession. Maybe that connection comes with the line For everything you lose, some wisdom will find its way out?

Welcome back to Canada!

Under a single spotlight piercing through the accumulating dry ice smoke, Ryan played Doomsday, also from Prisoner, solo with acoustic and harmonica. A perfect stage was set for the next song, When The Stars Go Blue, played under the light of a rotating disco light strung up high in the Jubilee Auditorium. “I’ve always wanted to play that song this way.” he said with clear joy, then someone in the crowd shouted, “Welcome back to Canada”. Ryan was clearly moved. “That’s why Canada’s so fucking awesome!” he responded. (It’s) “the first heckle of the night and you said welcome back to Canada!”

Ryan Adams performing under a disco strobe at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Cardinal Songs

A couple of The Cardinals songs from the double album Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights were segued together under a criss-cross of magenta lights and a backcloth of a thousand stars on a dark night. The title track, Cold Roses, the best one so far, came with chunky guitar coursing into funky keys and fab jazz chops. The stuffed felines and cool cat dudes were clearly enjoying themselves as the music ventured in and out of what you might hear on the recordings, transitioning into the slow paced Dear John with its cat connections in the lyrics. Oh, the joy of live performance!

Turn Off the Flash

A change of pace once more and the energetic opener from The Prisoner, Do You Still Love Me? On the closing of this song, Ryan opened up about his issues with Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that leads to vertigo and sickness and is triggered by flashlights. Someone at the front had a red LED light operating with their cell phone and it was causing him some bother. “It’s not your fault, it’s mine, it’s genetic,” he said, handling the situation with aplomb. “It’s like you took a light saber and stuck it right into my brain”, Ryan explained. “I’m going to have a seizure and then they’ll have to take me out like a Mummy.” The audience laughed along but got the point and there was no need to bring in the men/women with the white coats. A 12 string acoustic version of Prisoner that began quietly with 12 string guitar erupted into a feedback-enhanced, wailing electric solo. “I did not nail that solo admitted Ryan, “There was too much sauce!”

Into the Encore

After Haunted House (Prisoner, 2017) there was Peaceful Valley, brilliantly showcasing Ryan’s singing voice and another monster guitar solo, then Stay With Me, after which he acknowledged his Canadian namesake: “That song was legitimately my best Bryan Adams song ever”. A couple more songs, I Just Might and Invisible Riverside led through to the final number that completed the round, going back to Heartbreaker’s Why Do They Leave?

After a long and rich set “It’s not possible that we could do one more song”. Of course, Ryan was kidding and took the band through three encore numbers. First was the much-loved New York, New York, done solo with guitar and harmonica, which he held up for a moment, mid-song, to complain, tongue in cheek, that the audience’s clapping was putting him off his rhythm. Then there was Come Pick Me Up and the Rockabilly Shakedown On 9th Street to send a very contended crowd off into the rainy Calgary night.

The Verdict

An excellent gig from one of the music world’s most prolific songwriters, covering 21 songs his vast collection from 2000 to 2017. My top three picks:

#1: Cold Roses

#2: Come Pick Me Up

#3: New York, New York

The verdict: Great Gig, Ryan Adams. Come back to Calgary soon.

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Milk, Brunch Club and Walrus go Sledding at Nite Owl, Calgary @sledisland @niteowlyyc #YYC

Thom James (guitar/vocals) performing with Milk at Nite Owl, Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Nite Owl, in Calgary, was one of over 30 venues for musical talents across Canada (and beyond) that got going last night with the annual Sled Island music and arts festival.

Brunch Club

First up was Brunch Club, a trio from Edmonton, featuring Ellen Reade on bass and vocals with Patrick Earles on guitar and new drummer, Owen, laying down a good groove. Their set included songs from the latest Brunch Club EP such as Dandelion Dreams, Pasghetti and Bed Bugs.

Ellen Reade (bass/vocals) performing with Brunch Club at Nite Owl, Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Walrus

Walrus, the headlining act from Halifax, NS only just made it to their gig after a 1,400 km long and hot haul up from Idaho’s capital, Boise. They played a good set of songs from Family Hangover (Walrus Music/Madic Records), their debut LP released earlier this month, which the band, categorize as “fuzzed-out electric blanket of soul with unrepentant strands of authentic heaviosity”. A rich literary description for sure, to complement the shelves of books surrounding the stage of the Library downstairs at Nite Owl. Soul was there, and it was heavy, amongst the three guitars, bass and drums although, disappointingly, a 12 string Rickenbacker was not in performance this evening.

Walrus performing at Nite Owl in Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Milk

Milk, performing at Sled Island for the first time, played songs from their Late Bloomer EP. I caught up with front-man Thom James (guitar & vocals) and drummer, Akanée Rose before they went on stage to talk about band names and their music style.

“We used to be together in a band called Water Melon but we decided that we needed a time for a change, and we’re now called Milk.” explained Akanée. Thom James wanted the name change to get away from the label of surf-rock. “There was a big surf rock thing at the time and people would always talk about a Bee Gee-sun-kissed reverb sound”. He no longer uses reverb on his Fender Stratocaster that comes from his Dad who used to work at the famous Tom Lee Music store in Vancouver. “It’s like a country band now, almost”, he added, although, for sure, not the cross between Shaina Twain and Bonnie Rait that he suggested on his website. That was a jovial comment in response to the Sled Island festival guide that described his band as a cross between Jeff Tweedy and Mac Demarco (who James used to play).

In truth, he has tried to avoid genre as much as possible as he finds it pretty limiting. He did, however, concede that he has lately been getting into bands like Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead, what he calls “Dad Rock” He was alluding, I think to guitarists like Walter Becker, with a good pop sensibility but prepared (and very capable) to get into “ridiculously elaborate music” that is “underrated”. James himself, noodled through a short elegant classical piece (was it Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies?) while retuning his guitar on stage.

He was clear about his interest in music where the personality comes to the front, “a single voice where you are communicating with people directly”. Milk did just that last night. Sled Island runs in Calgary until Sunday, June 25, 2017. More information on venues, performers and tickets can be found at Sled Island.

For more photos from Sled Island and other live music events in Calgary, please visit

J. Ashley Nixon Photography.

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Canada fall, but go ahead of USA in U20 World Rugby Trophy qualifier @rugbycanada @USARugby

Action from Canada’s No. 8, Jake Thiel in their U20 World Rugby Trophy qualifier against the USA at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

It was not the result that the Canada U20 team wanted but it was enough to get a win on aggregate points in their double header against USA U20.  Team USA narrowly defeated Canada 27-25 on Saturday at Ellerslie Park, Edmonton. But with their 46-12 overhaul in the first game, the young Canadian team go on to the World Rugby Trophy in Uruguay in August. The winner of that eight-team competition qualifies for next year’s World Rugby U20 Championship, won, in 2017 by New Zealand after beating England 64-17.

Canada scored three tries in the first half of the game. The first came from prop, Cole Keith after 18 minutes. Full-back Aidan McMullan took possession of the ball as it was spun out to the right wing for the second try. The other prop, Dewald Kotze also got on the score sheet with a forward drive to the left of the posts. In the second half, Canada took the lineout ball 10 m out and former Calgary Canucks player, James O’Neill went over from the ruck.

Canadian full-back Aidan McMullan eludes a tackle to score Canada’s second try in their U20 World Cup Trophy qualifier against the USA at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Tries for the USA came from Christain Dyer,  Peter Howard and two from second row forward, Daemon Torres, including the game stealer with just over a minute to go.

Final score: USA 27-25 Canada.

For more photos from the game, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

 

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Romania rumbles Canada 25-9 in Edmonton @rugbyromania @rugbycanada

Johannes Van Heerden breaks for the line before passing to Viorel Lucaci (behind) to score Romania’s first try in their game against Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The music stage next to the pitch was bashing out some good rock and roll numbers at sunny Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton ahead of the international rugby test match between Canada and Romania. Alas for Canada, it was the European visitors who picked up the groove with three try-scoring moves to win the game, 25-9.

It looked as though Canada had taken an early lead with a try in the right corner by DTH Vandermerwe,  but on closer scrutiny between the officials and the big screen, he was judged to have put a foot in touch.  Canada took the lead temporarily with a penalty kick then 17 minutes into the game, the Romanian forwards got their sprinting legs into action. Second row Johannes Van Heerden broke through a tackle then loaded off the ball to wing forward Viorel Lucaci who crashed over the line uncontested. With the conversion, it was 7-3 to Romania.

Gordon McCrorie fly kicks from the back of a ruck during the international game between Canada and Romania at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Both teams then lost players for different reasons. After another lengthy examination of the big screen replay, the referee pulled out the red card for a Romanian forward who could be seen (on the screen) throwing a punch and downing a Canadian away from the play. Canada took three points from the penalty kick but soon after Conor Trainor had to be helped off the pitch, clearly in a lot of pain with a leg injury. Just before half time, Romania’s stand-off, Florian Vlaicu, kicked a huge one from the centre line but the ball landed just underneath the crossbar. Half-time score: Romania 7-6 Canada.

Romania reinforced their lead with another breakout from a ruck on their own 22 line. The ball was spun out right into the hands of centre Fakaosilea Sione who fed winger Fonovai Tangimana to go over in the corner. Vlaicu was successful with the challenging conversion, making it 14-6.

After Canada and Romania both picked up points from penalty kicks it looked as though the home side had a try from Tyler Ardron. His swan dive over the line would have earned a ten in another sport but to his great disappointment, it didn’t even land five. Yet another long conversation between the officials resulted in the score being turned down due to what appeared to be a high tackle infringement on the touchline.

Romania’s Tangimana got his second try of the game after 62 minutes and with a penalty kick ten minutes later it was 25-9. Despite deep efforts by the Canadian pack in the final three minutes of the game, the Romanian defense held strong and sealed the game.

Final score: Romania 25-9 Canada.

For more photographs from the game, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

International rugby action between Canada and Romania at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

 

 

 

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STIX on the ice with Glen Gulutzan @STIXHockey @global_sportaca @NHLFlames

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) leads the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players through their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary. Global Sport Academy CEO, Mark Maloney looks on.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The girls playing in the Global Sport Academy Group’s STIX Hockey program got a master class last night at Norma Bush Arena, Calgary. Glen Gulutzan, Head Coach of the Calgary Flames was on the ice for a full practice, taking some of Calgary’s elite young female hockey players through some of the drills he uses with his professional players in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Gulutzan played hockey in the Western Hockey League and Mestis League in Finland and went on to coaching assignments with the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks prior to joining the Calgary Flames as Head Coach at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) directs a drill with the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players during their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Global Sport Academy, based in Calgary, provides support for a number of sports that puts emphasis on the educational and leadership experiences of student athletes as well as the development of their sports skills. Their refreshing, positive approach includes the STIX Hockey program which finds the time and space on the ice for young men and women to have fun and be willing to take chances and explore their creativity. “Let’s make a lot of mistakes, let’s play with no fear”, says Mark Maloney, CEO and chief hockey coach, who also worked with the coaching team of the AHL Affiliates of the Dallas Stars.

Maloney’s philosophy flips around the conventions often heard from hockey coaches: “You build the person first, then the athlete second and the hockey player third” he told me. “If you develop an environment that is safe, emotionally, physically- it’s fun but it’s challenging, then the development of the player and the person moves in parallel” he added.

Thanks Glen for your time last night, sharing hockey stories offering encouragement and helping in the development of these young female athletes.

For more photographs from the STIX Hockey practice with Glen Gulutzan, please visit

J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) on the ice with the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players during their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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