Steven Wilson In Concert, a fan experience, Melbourne, Australia, 170 Russell, 28/10/16

•November 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Steven Wilson In Concert, Hand Cannot Erase, a fan experience, Melb, Aust, 170 Russell, 28/10/16

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Pre gig

The wait is over. Gig day has arrived. A break from world mayhem and stupidity.

Only really been an SW fan for 2 years, courtesy of the UK Prog Magazine and several features in Guitar Player on Guthrie Govan. Familiar only with SW’s solo work. (Insurgentes, Grace, Raven and HCE). Spotify has been an excellent discovery device despite the dubious quality of the highly compressed files. I’m also listening more to albums in their entirety. The album experience is good. Make the time.

Have bought a fair bit of SW product in recent times from Burning Shed, including the Index book by SW, LH and CG, which has just arrived. Very classy. Very inspirational. Artistry, and respect for the fan, merge as one. SW’s projects are loaded with high end stereo and 5.1 mixes, along with song vids, making of docs, animations, etc. The real deal. Value.

Managed to get just the one ticket to tonight’s gig from a local reseller site (via someone in Western Australia) after missing the ticket release in May. Queing up outside was quite bizarre as I ended up chatting someone who had another ticket not being used, but after several phone calls, it was all a bit too late in the piece to get someone else along.

Anyway, into the venue. Ah yeah, this is the place where I nearly had my hearing shredded by Gary Clark Jnr not too long ago. Great player, but why does someone need to play louder than a 747? Another story. (SW is loud at times, but without the inconvenient bowel vibration)

Projector screen in place, I notice the familiar HCE female character behind the album backstory. This is pretty cool. As a matter of fact this is amazingly cool.

A quick check of the stage and I can see a black Les Paul. Dave Kilminster is in town (Roger Waters, Keith Emerson, John Wetton) . Also in town are: Craig Blundell on drums (Frost, Pendragon, Roland technician, educator, programmer, writer); Nick Beggs on bass, vocs, Chapstick, guitar (Art Nouveau, Ellis and Beggs, Kajagoogoo, Steve Hackett, Rockets, Mute Gods, Iona); Adam Holzman on keyboards (AH Band, AH and the Fents, AH and Brave New World, Chuck Loeb/ Paul Wertico, Jason Becker tribute, Bob Belden, Miles Davis, Jane Getter, Mahavishnu, Marcus Miller, Grover Washington, Lenny White and so forth…….easier to list who Adam has not worked with), and Steven Wilson on guitar, keys, vocs and bass (Porcupine Tree, Steve Wilson Band, Blackfield, Bass Communion, No–Man, Storm Corrosion, Opeth)

Head for the Merch. I strike up a conversation with a young lady. How many people does this place hold? She hits the phone for a google search. Around 1000. Technology working for you, now that’s a rare concept, ……….except for the Merch card machine that is out of action temporarily. Just as well I have cash and there is an ATM nearby. I pick up a T Shirt, HCE bluray and the Get all you deserve bluray pak. Careful with the T Shirt size. I was recently given an extra large T Shirt at a Joe Bonamassa concert, in error, that could double as a windsock at Melbourne airport.

Now lets get a good vantage point. I manage to get a slightly elevated position towards the back of the venue, off to one side. Bang. Won’t be able to consisitently see Nick Beggs who, apart from being extremely talented, apparently struggles (according to SW) to contain his own sexuality in his trousers.

The gig/ first half

At 8:35pm, the ambient intro to HCE starts and Adam Holzman appears and plays the opening notes to First regret. Before you know it the band is on stage and playing the muscular riffs to 3 years older that set up this 10 min piece. Fantastic. Imagery on the screen draws it all together.

Have got to acknowledege the contributions of Lasse Hoile and Carl Glover to all of the high quality visual imagery on show tonight. Imaginative. Edgey. Contextual. Right. Must be so satisfying for SW to be working within such a creative/ intuitive alliance.

SW makes an announcement at this point that they will be doing the whole HCE project for the first half of the 3 hour gig, so if anyone in the audience doesn’t dig the album, they can take off for a while. Of course, no one moves. Everyone is riveted.

After a false start to Hand Cannot Erase, the band heads deeply into the HCE project.

At various stages in the delivery of HCE in total, SW engages the audience with some banter and perspective. Melbourne people are a bit too uber cool for themselves according to SW. They need to loosen up. This is great. (I once went to an Eric Clapton Concert where the only thing EC said for the whole night was “I’m surprised you’re all here and not at the cricket ”. WTF?)

SW explains the visual backdrop to Perfect Life. An attempt was made to incorporate the screen vibe from the Australian film “Picnic At Hanging Rock”, directed by the talented Peter Weir. Nice filming by Youseff Nassar. Would have been great to have picked up a local female vocalist for this part of the show. Beautiful piece of music. As a Melbournian I must head out west again and scale Hanging Rock in the not too distant future. Pretty unique place, with indigenous overtones.

Routine was described by SW as one of the saddest songs that he has written, captured beautifully by an animation, painting (I think) a pretty sad story of loss, and the futility of an attempt at an ongoing day to day diversionary routine.

From here it was into the instrumental/vocal workout of Home Invasion. “Download sex and download (god?)”……..interesting first lyric line.

The band segues into the AH/ DK instrumental showpiece of Regret #9. AH on keys reminds me of a cross between Jan Hammer and Lyle Mays. Beautiful playing. I wonder whether the audience fully appreciate the musical heritage that AH brings to the table. DK nailed the guitar part of this piece. I really appreciate the way DK hit the established signature melodies originally recorded by Guthrie Govan, then added some.

Transcience. SW’s vocals sound clear and of course are right on pitch. Great touch on the acoustic guitar by Dave. A real stylist. Accurate. Quality sound.

Ancestral. Extraordinary piece (13 mins?). Love the dynamics. Instrumental first section. Odd time signatures. Introduce vocals. Pretty heavy riffing towards the end. SW gives the uber cool Melbournians another opportunity to clap/ respond more primally. After all it is the Friday night before a 4 day long weekend, for most.

Really enjoying SW’s vocs, and playing on keys, guitar and bass. Also enjoying his control of the band. A small element of Frank Zappa at work here. Love it. Nick Beggs playing doesn’t miss a beat. Very classy on stage presence as well. Love the sound and really deep range of the Chapstick. Craig Blundell’s playing doesn’t disappoint. Class.

Happy Returns. The familiar introductory ambience and piano notes from the begining return again and sync beautifully with SW’s vocals and the emotional video presentation. Quality. And there’s that train reference again. I like the way SW takes the first guitar solo towards the end of this piece, before handing over to DK, the resident stunt guitarist (Frank Zappa used to refer to Steve Vai as his stunt guitarist). I often think it would be technically harder to work in this band than Return To Forever or Yes at their peak in the early 70s, and that’s saying something.

“Ascendant here on”. …………………………Finish HCE.

Gobsmacked.

Intermission. I choose to keep my viewing position.

First half setlist

  • First regret
  • 3 years older
  • HCE
  • Perfect life
  • Routine
  • Home invasion
  • Regret#9
  • Transcience
  • Ancestral
  • Happy Returns
  • Ascendent here on

 

The gig/ second half

Second half setlist

*will have to declare here that I don’t know the Porcupine Tree (PT) catalogue

           Dark matter (PT)

  • Index (from Grace before Drowning)
  • My book of regrets (from 4 and a half)
  • Lazarus (PT)
  • Harmony Korine (from Insurgentes)
  • Don’t hate me (PT)
  • Vermillioncore (from 4 and a half)
  • Sleep together (PT)

 

Encore

  • Sign of the times (Prince)
  • The sound of muzak (PT)
  • The Raven that refused to sing (from Raven)

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The second set starts with a PT track (Dark Matter) that I’m not familiar with, but the tempo and feel is clearly a little more menacing and psychedelic than the vibe in the first half of the gig. For me the PT catalogue is a bit of a treasure trove that I will check out at some point. Where do you start? Need for a guide to PT?

Index (Collector) from the Grace before drowning album slips in nicely after the psychedelic fog. The vid syncs up perfectly with the mentally deranged theme of someone collecting and indexing everything from dolls to human beings. Have seen this live on the “Get all you deserve” concert DVD, done in Mexico in 2012. Craig Blundell duplicates the Marco Minneman fills to perfection. SW presents another take on the vocals, pretty much speaking the words over a percussionless first half of the tune, then winding up more aggressively vocal wise as the second half of the piece presents itself.

My book of regrets is probably one of the more current compositions played so far tonight, from SW’s interim release “Four and a half”. This piece according to SW was part of the HCE sessions, but didn’t fit the framework and texture of the underlying HCE vibe. SW kicks the track off with a classic chordal riff. The track goes into an improvisational middle structure before coming back to a slower interlude groove featuring (I think) SW on guitar. Its then back to the opening riff. Love this riff. It almost plays itself. Sounds great up against the melody of the vocals. First lyric lines. “In the back of a taxi cab in London town, its like watching TV with sound turned down………”

Lazarus fits neatly into the next part of the repertoire. This is a PT piece from the Deadwing album and Steven proceeds to paint a respectful verbal tribute to David Bowie, as one of the tracks on the very last Bowie album (Blackstar) was indeed Lazarus. The audience sing the chorus which adds to the emotion of the evening. “Follow me down to the valley below, moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul”. Classic. Respect of the highest order given to the recently departed chameleon of the music industry. Reinvention. Vision. Originality. All around. Celebration.

Harmony Korine is next, and proceeds to bring the house down. Can’t stop listening to this track in the car. An unstoppable anthem from the Insurgentes album with Nick Beggs pointing his bass guitar to the heavens as the band rocks out to infinity, with SW smashing out octaves on the guitar that become a bit atonal/ angular as the piece moves towards climax.

“Don’t hate me” slides in out of nowhere. A PT track from the Stupid Dream album. Of course I haven’t heard this piece before. Love the verse vocal downward slurs. Big chorus. Great melodies. Great emotion with the lyrics. Adam Holzman (I think) gets to really stretch out with a beautiful solo (rhodes?). More train references. Bring it.

At this stage in the performance a hessian screen of some sort has been dropped in front of the stage. Videos of a woman in motion are projected on to this screen, with the main screen behind providing a backdrop of colours. Spectacular. Speechless.

Vermillioncore. Instrumental from the HCE sessions. Ambient intro and then “bang”. Another classic (descending) riff, that segues in and out of a driving groove. Great colouration by Adam Holzman. Great drumming by Craig Blundell. Unison guitars of the world unite. Karl Marx would have dug this.

Sleep together. A PT track from the Fear of a Blank Planet album. Very menacing synth motif starts the track up, with SW vocs against a backdrop of a steady groove and continued slippery synth/ string lines. Big chorus. SW really belts the shit of some sort of baritone PRS guitar. A trip. The band get to stretch out. SW (I think its here) plays an extraordinary guitar solo laiden with echo/delay and reverb and slide. Just what the doctor ordered. SW in concert has a habit of doing what is right for the overall arc/ expectation of the fan experience. This solo was one of the main highlights of the evening for me. A couple of guys in front of me look at each other and go “how good was that”.

Encore

Sign of the times by Prince with a contextual verbal introduction by SW. How respectful is this gig? How informative is this gig in a cruisey musicology way? Passion. Respect.

The Sound of Muzak by PT. From the album In Absentia. Verse groove in 7/8? Chorus in 4/4. Giant chorus. Giant lyric “One of the wonders of the world is going down, its going down I know”. Would be happy to have called it quits as a composer after having written only this chorus melody and lyric line.

The Raven That Refused to Sing is the final song of the night, and is introduced by Steven as the best song he has ever written. Fantastic finish to the evening. Bring the house down. And then…………the journey is over.

I head to get some more merch, another T Shirt and the double Raven vinyl.

Extraordinary evening.

In the car park I chat to several guys from the concert. Collectively buzzed out by SW. One of the guys has just been to see King Crimson in Tokyo. A special one off trip. He was raving about the current KC lineup. The other guy talks about getting into the playing and artistry of Jeff Beck. I’m able to recall the adventure of my first day in Paris, 2014, where I got to see Jeff Beck up close and personal at the Le Grand Rex.

The magic of music.

Never ending.

When too much music sometimes is never enough.

(thanks to setlist.fm for assistance in confirming the SW setlist at Billboard, Melbourne, 28/10/16)

 

 

 

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Let it happen

•April 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Congrats to Tame Impala for winning APRA Song of the year with “Let It Happen”.  Alot going on with this piece.

Goodbye Santorini, Day 31

•June 21, 2014 • 2 Comments

Penultimate breakfast. Lets see what our mates can do with the toast. Ah, oh. One sided toast again. I ring the Minister responsible for the services sector of the Greek economy and run the scenario past him. He actually has never heard of toast and asks whether it is an industrial chemical. I explain its bread related and send him a youtube video of a toaster in action. He says he’ll get back to me. Nothing. Anyway, a cruisey vibe for our final day in Santorini. We talk with the older representative from our Melbourne office. All ok. Check the suitcases and check our finances. All good. We head up to concierge to book a taxi for tomorrow morning to the airport. Still a bit windy here at the moment. We catch the shuttle into Fira for our final walk around. First off its a visit to our little coffee spot. Throw in a bit of lunch. The girl who has served us each time, upon learning that it is caputnik for our trip, says we should come back next year for 3 months. I don’t even try to explain the impossibility of that scenario beyond tattslotto. We pick up a few more Santorini keepsakes. I opt for a Red Donkey T Shirt to go with my Red Donkey beers just purchased. Sue sorts out an interesting T Shirt for someone at our Melbourne office. The shopping scene has been a pleasant surprise. We bump into some donkeys at the top of the shopping centre. I snap Sue with one of the little guys. I give the donkey guy 5 euro for the privilege of setting up a photo opportunity. My decision. A feeling of guilt. I suspect its pretty tough for some of the people on the island. Back to the shuttle pick up point. This transport convenience been soooooo good. By bye to Bobbly the driver of the shuttle bus. Back at our room its time to pack up some bits and pieces. Oh no, my BBC mug has been broken. Damn it. What a special day that was in London. I try and order a replacement online. We order in our dinner. What a trip. Final blog entry. Some snaps below of our the different rooms that we had at each of our different stops. All very comfortable, some smaller than others.

Dubai

Dubai

London

London

Paris

Paris

Nice

Nice

Monteriggioni (Tuscany)

Monteriggioni
(Tuscany)

Venice

Venice

Santorini

Santorini

I sail on the Atlantis over Atlantis, Day 30

•June 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Capt Vlad

Capt Vlad

cruisers galore around here

cruisers galore
around here

Volcanic rock coastlines

Volcanic rock
coastlines

 

 

Looking forward to breakfast with the structural toast problem solved. And????? Oh no, the one sided toast problem again. How can you get something right and then get get something wrong? This is what the Greek Economic Planners need to get their collective heads around. Imagine if Barak Obama shook someone’s hand properly, and then someone else’s hand like a limp fish. Wouldn’t make sense. A conversation with a young English couple revealed rising toast related anxieties as well.

10am. Time for  bit of a sail around Santorini. Great day for it. Up to reception to wait for our transfer to the port. Into the vehicle, and off to the port. We speak to a couple of American girls from NYC and Boston on the way.  A few questions about Australia. Yeah, its a pretty funky place with funky people and dysfunctional governments. When we get to the port, its a sea of activity. The American girls take off to another yacht, we head to a yacht called the Atlantis. You mean I’ll be sailing on a yacht called Atlantis, over part of the mysterious Atlantis? How good is this? Captain Vladamir from Belgrade introduces himself, along with his two able assistants from Croatia, Bilianna and Tammy. A good looking Catamaran bobs around in the water.

Lets see what this baby can do on the high seas. And we’re off. The plan is to cruise around the Santorini coastline stopping off for 15 min swim at the Red beach before pushing around the coastline, past the lighthouse and into the Caldera (the volcano). Yes, the volcano is under water. After a swim in the Aegean, we literally float onto the Caldera. We are over a volcano crater that was created 5000 years ago. The Tsunami that resulted from this epic event wiped out the civilisation that was on Santorini as well as the Minoans (?) as far away as Crete. Wow. We have another swim in waters that have a sulphur base and are volcanically warmed up, and then its time for lunch. As we are having lunch the boat music starts playing White Room by Cream. In actual fact, when we were in London on the Rock’n’ Roll Tour, we actually saw the building containing the White Room. A utopian moment. We chat to an American couple from the mid west. Gee they hate Obama. They don’t feel secure. The woman works as a lawyer specialising in litigation. How unusual, (not). Litigation is like a blood sport in the USA. After lunch its up with the anchor and up with the sails. We’re gonna sail back. Yeah, man. Great decision to do this little 4-5 hour cruise. A great way to see the island, from the water. Back to the port we say our goodbyes to people that we will never see again. This always seems to weird me out a little, although I do have the details of 2 couples that we could visit overseas at some point in the future.

Back at headquarters, we opt for a quick swim. We then head back to or spot and check out BBC. We order in  our dinner, and watch Obama’s statement about ISIS and Iraq. Mess. Last day tomorrow. As cruisey as possible.

I go to Atlantis? Day 29

•June 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Toast both sides. A red letter day for Europe. At this rate, Greece will advance economically.

A pretty relaxed start to the day. We do feel permanently in kickback made. I’m so laid back I’m nearly stopped. We take a phone call from our Melb office. All seems good with the exception of a possibility of a pet revolution. A bit of animal behaviour recalibration required upon our return. A bit of a challenge.

What do we do today? I’d really like to see the prehistoric ruins at Akrotiri. 10 mins down the road. Sue is not fussed. I head up to concierge and organise a taxi to take me down to Akrotiri. While I’m at it I book a 4- 5 hour sailing adventure for Thursday, starting at the red beach, and taking us around the island of Santorini and to a volcano with hot springs. Great stuff. Never been in a volcano. This whole area is a massive volcanic scene man. Volcanic traces and reminders everywhere. Even the retailers are selling volcanic rock up in Fira. I bet I can get a volcanic drink somewhere! Back to our room. Lunch in our digs.

Taxi arrives and I’m off to Akrotiri. No talkie talkie with the taxi driver. No worries I’ll talk to myself as I walk around the ruins. Effectively the ruins and the resultant excavations are housed or covered in an elaborate framework. It wasn’t always like this. Not long back the place was falling apart. As a result, all of the Frescoes from the walls were relocated to major museums in places like Athens. I’m disappointed by this. I consider a tour of the ruins from a funky female character passing herself off as a tour person. How much for a tour/ explanation of all of this? 60 euros. Um, no thanks. She looks more like an entrant in the  Eurovision Song Contest. In I go. What a strange concept. Do the excavations and then cover it all up and keep excavating in the same spot. Finding it hard to make sense of all of this. A lot of rooms. A lot of corridors. And yes, check out those massive storage vessels. Hard to believe this was all happening in the 4th millennium BC. And of course there is the lost city of Atlantis angle on all of this. Apparently for quite some time scientists felt that that Atlantis was under water in this area. Contemporary thinking about Atlantis has scientists looking above ground in and around the prehistoric ruins of places like Akrotiri where I was today. Whilst waiting for the taxi I walk down to the end of the road to view the beach. No sand man. A young boy spruiks boat trips to the various beaches. Black beach, Red beach and White beach. Mmm.

Back at our hotel I opt for a swim and a beer before dinner, as well as a bit more research on Akrotiri. Pretty amazing. Was I at the remains of Atlantis today?

Akrotiri ruins 1

Akrotiri ruins 1

storage containers Akrotiri

storage containers
Akrotiri

Akrotiri beach 2

Akrotiri beach 2

beach scene Akrotiri

beach scene Akrotiri

 

 

http://www.santorini.com/archaeology/akrotiri.htm

 

 

Fresco example

Fresco example

 

 

 

 

 

Good people, Day 28

•June 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Great sleep. We get an early call from our Melbourne office. Seems the pesky insurance issue needs to be addressed. I try and call from our room, but to no avail. I’ll tend to it after breakfast. Fingers crossed on the toast front. A bit cool in the morning shade on our little balcony. On with the white gowns. Breakfast arrives. Oh no! Toast but only on one side. We were assured this was all going to be addressed, but alas, no. After breakfast I head to concierge to get them to dial our Australian number. Success. All sorted. Don’t worry about the cost of the 10 min call say the people in concierge. Nice gesture.

Back to our room and its time to check some emails and do a bit of research on Santorini. Apparently, there is a site not too far from here, called Akrotiri, where there is literally a lost civilisation underground. It is currently a live “dig” excavation wise and some people, including our Art Historian friend in the Rome airport, have indicated that this civilisation (the remains of which were discovered in 1866) could be the lost city of Atlantis. At the very least it is described as the Pompei of Greece. A lot of artefacts at this site, including coloured frescoes, have retained their bright colours because they have been preserved in lava. At any rate, the civilisation disappeared really quickly. Must check this out.

We catch the shuttle into Fira. First item on the agenda is lunch. We head to a place we were at yesterday and sit outside and eat and people gaze. The whole ATV/ quad bike thing is fascinating. We are literally sitting next to an ATV rental spot. Can’t get over the size of these young greek guys. Massive. Someone’s not happy. Next we head for our daily after lunch coffee stop. Our waitress says she loves the island but can’t stand the people. Interesting.

Lets go retail. Sue is on the lookout for a gold chain. We head into a shop and strike an interesting character. After an Australian/ Greek  discount of significant proportions (?) we walk out with a chain and an attached understated pendant etched with the Greek symbol of the key to eternal life. I like it and so does Sue. We drift on to another shop to look for a ring, but baulk at 6900 euro. Up the hill at the top of town to checkout the cable car. Wow what a view. We notice that the donkeys are still being used to make this same journey up and down the hill here. Technology doesn’t win out, but its pretty hot on the cliffs for these donkeys. Back to the hotel bus shuttle point. Time for a swim at our hotel. Drinks by the pool. Kickback. Aren’t we kicked back already? Clean up  and change for dinner.

Catch the shuttle back to Fira. Nothing happening. A staff member from our resort notices our plight. He offers to ride his motorbike down the road to where our shuttle is now and check out the scene. He rides back indicating that the driver of the shuttle will do a special trip for us. Wouldn’t think this would happen in Australia. On to the shuttle, back into Fira. As we get off the shuttle, Bobby the driver says check out a restaurant called Naoussa run by his mate Kostas. We head straight to Naoussa and have a great meal. Another coffee at another spot. On to the shuttle and Day 2 here fini. Bobby is happy that we headed to his mate’s restaurant. No kickbacks we are assured. A lot of trust here on the island. The people all help each other. This is particularly important with Greece having a debt situation of 130 percent of GDP. Quite a division here in Greece between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

 

bustling Fira

bustling Fira

 

donkey work

donkey work

 

effortless great view

effortless great
view

 

Santorini, wow, Day 27

•June 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Our day starts particularly early as we touch down at Santorini airport. Not much sleep. As I write this we haven’t slept for 36 hours. First world problem I know, but we don’t want to lose the day through tiredness. Apparently sleep deprivation is used extensively by the military for interrogative purposes. I can really understand that. We pick a taxi and ask how much to get us to our resort. Answer, 1 million Euro. I said to the guy that was very funny. In the end, 20 Euro should do it. We get to our venue, Petit Palace, and are both completely blown away by the view. The most extraordinary views I have seen. After loading our stuff in we sleep for a couple of hours, and then have a late breakfast. Yes there is toast, but only done on the one side. What is going on? Austerity measures? We decide to take advantage of the hotel shuttle into Fira and spend an afternoon walking very slowly around a funky little metropolis. As we navigate our way around the place we go through a few laneways spotted with what would appear to be donkey shit. Could donkeys still be cutting it in Fira? We keep walking. Great shops, great placement of the shops on  the top of  cliffs. Spectacular. Time for a coffee. I decide to buy some glass products from a local artisan. Good pick ups. Can’t get over the number of ATVs flying around the town, Vespas and motorbikes as well. No helmuts or leathers in regard to the riders of the Vespas and motorbikes. Wonder what the accident rate is? I buy some of the local beer and we make our way to the hotel shuttle pick up point. Back to our cliff top digs, and then into the resort pool. Towels provided. We dine at the resort restaurant and are the only customers in the the place. Apparently everyone was there at lunchtime. A nice sunset. Another day in Santorini. Wow.

view from our restaurant  tonight.

view from our restaurant
tonight.

 

vehicle of choice on Santorini.

vehicle of choice
on Santorini.

 

interesting shop front

interesting shop front