ACL Music Fest Preview


Beto & the Fairlanes

Noon, Austin Ventures stage

With the recent release of their first album in more than a decade, Conga Dog, Robert "Beto" Skiles and his entourage step back into the limelight. For more than 30 years, they've been one of Austin's favorite party bands with their infectious, horn-driven blend of salsa, Latin jazz, and Afro-Cuban dance sounds. Come out early and kick-start the weekend. – Jay Trachtenberg

Asleep at the Wheel

12:30pm, AMD stage

This Grammy-hording little big band has been Austin-based for more than three decades. With Ray Benson behind the Wheel, they've kept the spirit of Bob Wills alive and well during their irrepressible, freewheeling, and undisputed reign as the kings of Western swing. Their newest member, vocalist Elizabeth McQueen, adds fresh sparkle as they roll on with this grand Texas tradition. – Jay Trachtenberg


12:45pm, Washington Mutual stage

With nine multicultural members, Austin's Ghandaia (gahn-die-ah) is the United Nations' groove orchestra. Ghandaia has now spread their gospel of jazzy improv, angular Latin melodies, international dance fuel, funky breakdowns, and conscious lyrics since 1999. Currently working on the follow-up to their 2003 debut, Uno, Ghandaia puts a new twist on the Latin big-band sound. – David Lynch

Terri Hendrix

12:50pm, Austin Ventures stage

One of Central Texas' most beloved singer-songwriters, Terri Hendrix spent the summer of 2006 wowing festival crowds from coast to coast with more-than-able assistance from longtime slideman, Lloyd Maines. Her 2005 children's album, Celebrate the Difference (Wilory), has lodged in the Top 40 on the iTunes charts and even made it to No. 1 on XM Kids radio. – Jim Caligiuri

The Dears

1:30pm, AT&T Blue Room stage

Is it the starkness of Montreal winters? Maybe it's Murray Lightburn's cabaret slur that approximates the sounds of a London pub. Whatever it is, Canada's Dears are symphonic melancholy, dark pop wrapped in expert orchestrations and grandiose expression, as was the case with '04's sophomore release, No Cities Left (spinArt). Their newbie, Gang of Losers, drops in October on Arts&Crafts. – Darcie Stevens

Ted Leo + Pharmacists

1:30pm, Heineken stage

Ted Leo's dose of pop with a punk rock chaser is good medicine, and if you weren't feeling flushed before the set started, chances are good that you will be shortly. After 2004's energetic Shake the Sheets (Lookout), Leo and his Pharmacists signed to Chicago's Touch & Go. Since then, the foursome has been juggling touring with writing new material, and it all goes down with intelligence. – Melanie Haupt

Deadboy & the Elephantmen

2:30pm, AT&T stage

No doubt informed by last year's disastrous weather events, Deadboy & the Elephantmen's debut, We Are Night Sky (Fat Possum), was released in February of this year. Guitarist Dax Riggs and drummer Tessie Brunet call Houma, La., home, and there's no better place to have birthed this duo's hoodoo. Think of the bare-bones approach of the White Stripes, only darker and less swaggering. – Melanie Haupt

The Palm Elementary School Choir

4pm, Austin Kiddie Limits stage

Yes, the Palm Elementary School Choir could be called a "kid band," but the group of third to fifth graders might make those 13-year-olds look like amateurs. The noted local singers are veterans of performances with Lyle Lovett, have opened for Neil Young, and raised the spirits of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Just imagine what they'll sound like when they hit their teens. – Margaret Moser

The Subdudes

4:30pm, Washington Mutual stage

Via New Orleans, the Subdudes blend blues, gospel, R&B, and tender-hearted songwriting with exceptional vocal harmonies, which makes them the ultimate Americana band. After taking a break for the latter part of the Nineties, the quintet regrouped in 2002 and have since released two albums. Behind the Levee (Back Porch), released earlier this year, fine-tunes their sound while being simultaneously spare but lively. – Jim Caligiuri

Nickel Creek

4:30pm, AMD stage

Nickel Creek's Grammy-winning bluegrass wildfire is the result of a charring combination of individual talent. Chris Thile's Live: Duets with Mike Marshall and upcoming solo release How to Grow a Woman From the Ground (both on Sugar Hill) reveal his complete mandolin mastery, while siblings Sean and Sara Watkins provide a harmonious backdrop of acoustic guitar, violin, and vocals. – Austin Powell

Okkervil River

5:15pm, Austin Ventures stage

Okkervil River
Okkervil River (Photo By Mary Sledd)

This Austin quintet has certainly enjoyed its fair share of notoriety since releasing its bellwether folk-punk album, Black Sheep Boy (Jagjaguwar), in the spring of 2004. Since then, the group has lost bassist Zach Thomas but has kept grazing, spending the summer in Europe and planning an Australian tour for later this month. The life of a black sheep ain't all baaaaad. – Melanie Haupt

Del Castillo

5:45pm, Washington Mutual stage
Del Castillo
Del Castillo (Photo By Gary Miller)

Led by strumming brothers Mark and Rick del Castillo, this Austin sextet merges flamenco intensity with John McLaughlin-like lyrical runs, all propelled by sexy pan-Latin rhythms. Thanks to three lauded albums in their six years, Del Castillo has performed with Los Lobos, Ozomatli, and at Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic, also garnering 2003 Austin Music Awards for Band of the Year and Album of the Year. – David Lynch

Sara Hickman

6pm, Austin Kiddie Limits stage

Sure, Austin songstress Sara Hickman recently returned to the mommy & daddy set with her 2-CD collection of moody folk-pop, Motherlode, but that doesn't mean she's turned her back on the beloved rug rats for whom she's been making music for close to a decade. Hickman makes fun children's music that celebrates life and family and, as an added bonus, she doesn't treat her audience like morons. – Melanie Haupt

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

6:30pm, Austin Ventures stage
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore (Photo By Gary Miller)

Lately he's spent most of his time reinvigorating the Flatlanders with fellow members of the Lubbock Mafia – Joe Ely and Butch Hancock – but Jimmie Dale Gilmore remains a singular talent, unsurpassed as a songwriter and vocalist. His latest solo work, 2005's Come on Back (Rounder), is a collection of classic country tunes from the Forties and Fifties, and a deeply felt tribute to his late father. – Jim Caligiuri

Los Lonely Boys

6:30pm, AMD stage

Not since ZZ Top challenged rock's status quo has a trio from Texas cut such a swathe through modern music. San Angelo's Henry, Jojo, and Ringo Garza honed the crafty, cross-cultural meld they call Texican into chart-topping, Grammy-winning hits. Their most recent recording, Sacred, follows a path that's Carlos Santana by way of Doug Sahm, which is captured in Hector Galán's recent documentary, Cottonfields and Crossroads. – Margaret Moser

Trish Murphy

6:40pm, BMI stage

Trish Murphy has been spending most of her time lately in Carter-administration revivalists K-Tel Hit Machine, her honey-sweet vocals owning "Seven Year Ache" and "It's So Easy." Her recent return from a songwriting sabbatical means more tough-minded songcraft on the order of 2004's Girls Get in Free, Murphy's keen eye equally focused on her surroundings and her soul. – Christopher Gray

Oliver Mtukudzi & Black Spirits

7:15pm, Washington Mutual stage

As Zimbabwe's most popular artist and a superstar across the African continent, singer-songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi has become internationally renowned for his irresistible dance music, which blends African styles into his own distinctive "Tuku" music. Bonnie Raitt has recorded several of his songs, and his popularity is due in part to his lyrics, often sung in English, which address social concerns of his countrymen. – Jay Trachtenberg

The Tragically Hip

7:45pm, Austin Ventures stage

Though the Canadian quintet from Ontario has risen to superstar status on their native turf, they've been evoked with spooky reverence of late for their somber, prescient, late-Eighties favorite "New Orleans Is Sinking." They fit squarely on the roots-rock shelf over their dozen recordings, yet it's the stage that suits their bluesy swagger and tough-leather lyrics. – Margaret Moser

John Mayer

8:15pm, AMD stage

After a solid start recording the soundtrack to college make-out sessions with his earthy, approachable demeanor and wry, self-deprecating humor, John Mayer went legit with last year's John Mayer Trio, which broke up about six months after its inception. Mayer's return to pop, Continuum, which preserves the blues feel of his work with the Trio, drops this week. – Melanie Haupt



11:45am, AT&T Blue Room stage

When they're on, Philadelphia's Marah can be one of the most exhilarating live bands in the world, even challenging sometime-collaborator Bruce Springsteen. Led by brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, the quintet's latest album, If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry (Yep Roc), is arguably their strongest work – a collection of ragged, mostly acoustic numbers they call "folk-punk." Look for a live CD/DVD release sometime this fall. – Jim Caligiuri

The Rocket Summer

Noon, Austin Ventures stage

At just 22, Bryce Avary has more beat and boggle in his scruffy mop-top than most 35-year-old burnouts get from a life on the road. Avary's one-man band, the Rocket Summer, is a power-pop outlet from Colleyville Last year's Hello, Good Friend LP showcased Sondre Lerche chops with Brian Wilson ivory-tickle. Don't sweat the solo tag; Avary has a full band live. – Darcie Stevens


12:30pm, AT&T stage

God bless Will Johnson. Between the carefully crafted chaos of Centro-matic, its bittersweet and dramatic offshoot, South San Gabriel, and his cryptic solo work, Johnson has released 14 albums over the past decade. His 10th with Centro-matic, Fort Recovery (Misra), released earlier this year, finds Johnson at his personal best; his lyrics evoke Faulkner, and his music is the sound and fury. – Austin Powell

Federico Aubele

12:30pm, AMD stage

Originally from Buenos Aires, Aubele is now an active member of the bustling music scene in Barcelona, which is currently influencing dance music all across Europe. He mixes Astor Piazzolla-inspired tango, electronica, dub, and traces of reggae into a popular sound known as "nuevo tango." His debut album, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, was produced by Thievery Corporation. – Jay Trachtenberg

Troy Campbell Band

12:40pm, BMI stage

Among the elite of Austin singer-songwriters, Troy Campbell released his third solo album earlier this year, Long in the Sun (M-Ray). Since the breakup of his former band, Loose Diamonds, it's his strongest and most creative work to date. With Gurf Morlix producing, Campbell exudes grit and twists the blues alongside sunny country rock and infectious pop. – Jim Caligiuri

I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness

1:50pm, Austin Ventures stage
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness (Photo By Aubrey Edwards)

After what felt like a 1,000 years, this Austin quartet finally released its first LP, Fear Is on Our Side (Secretly Canadian), in March. The video for the single "According to Plan" was released this summer (who knew bands were making videos anymore?). Meanwhile, the buzz continues to grow for this moody electro-rock outfit, and a long European tour in the fall awaits. – Melanie Haupt

Sterling Lands & the Warrior Gospel Band

2pm, Washington Mutual stage

The Rev. Sterling Lands & the Warrior Gospel Band have been fighting the good fight for nearly a decade, armed with powerful vocals and a longstanding tradition of spirituals. Lands' commitment to his beliefs encompasses social activism and a stint with the Mighty Clouds of Joy's Junior Franklin. Not that anyone singing the Lord's praises needs credentials. – Margaret Moser


2:30pm, AMD stage

For more than a decade, Galactic has been a successful satellite of the New Orleans funk mothership, emitting smoldering solos, booty-shaking beats, and jamtastic jazz. The sextet's latest, the Dan "the Automator" Nakamura-produced Ruckus (Sanctuary), is a few years old, but the groove ensemble keeps it real with nonstop touring, including Bonnaroo and New Orleans Heritage & Jazz Festival. Keep an ear out for a live rendering of Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." – David Lynch

Joe McDermott & the Smart Little Creatures

2:30pm, Austin Kiddie Limits stage

Joe McDermott combines a teaching background with a pop music pedigree to create effervescent songs, such as "Great Big World" and "Don't Drop a Brick on Your Foot," that resonate with both kids and adults. His local institution status was sealed in 2004 when he played with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Always engaging and never patronizing, McDermott and his Smart Little Creatures are cabaret for toddlers. – Greg Beets

Ian McLagan & the Bump Band

3:15pm, Washington Mutual stage

Ian McLagan is one of those imported musicians Austin loves to call its own, and why not? McLagan's music carries England's cheeky pub-rock style he played so distinctively with the (Small) Faces. With all-star accompaniment from Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Don Harvey, and Mark Andes, Mac and his Hammond organ keep the music just as it should be: rowdy, raucous, and always rockin'. – Margaret Moser

Secret Machines

3:30pm, Heineken stage

Dallas expatriates Secret Machines might've broken big in NYC, but the Curtis brothers (Brandon, vox and bass; Benjamin, guitar) and drummer Josh Garza are more Zeppelin than Strokes. This year saw the release of the trio's sophomore LP, Ten Silver Drops (Warner Bros.), a more melodic turn than throbbing debut, Now Here Is Nowhere. Who needs floodlights under Austin's searing sun? – Darcie Stevens

Nada Surf

3:30pm, AT&T Blue Room stage

Nearly a decade after riding the coattails of Weezer's sardonic high school anthems all the way to the bank, Nada Surf have finally fended off the one-hit wonder label and followed Death Cab for Cutie's teenage guide to popularity: Sign to Barsuk Records, have Chris Walla produce a string of indie-pop gems, and land a couple of songs on The OC and One Tree Hill. – Austin Powell

The Shins

4:30pm, AT&T stage

Since the 2003 release of the Shins' brilliant and innovative Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop), which was also the last time the Portland, Ore., quartet played ACL, the group has exploded in pop-culture consciousness thanks to their appearance on the Garden State soundtrack. Antsy fans will rejoice early next year when they release their third LP, Wincing the Night Away. – Melanie Haupt

Elvis Perkins

4:40pm, BMI stage

Thirty seconds into hearing this much-blogged about New York singer-songwriter, you'll know it's irrelevant that his father is the late actor Anthony Perkins. The songs on Ash Wednesday, his stunning, independently released debut, offer more than enough jagged edges, sharp turns, and brooding narratives to stand up on their own. For Van Morrison fans, this is a can't-miss. – Andy Langer


5:30pm, AT&T Blue Room stage
Calexico (Photo By Gary Miller)

Formed by Tucson-based multi-instrumentalists Joey Burns and John Convertino – and augmented by four multi-instrumentalists onstage – Calexico has built a respected international following via seven albums and a decade of touring. Earlier this year, they released Garden Ruin (Quarterstick), arguably their most accessible, with more emphasis on songs and less on their minor-key cinematic vignettes and spaghetti western soundtracks. – David Lynch

String Cheese Incident

6:30pm, AMD stage

While their 2005 release, One Step Closer (SCI Fidelity), drew mixed reviews due to its stripped-down sound, String Cheese Incident remains a potent force in front of an audience. The Colorado-based sextet spent part of this summer touring with Bob Weir's Ratdog, bringing their delectable rock/jazz/bluegrass/tro-pop/jam-band gumbo to Japan, along with their infamous flying pig. – Jim Caligiuri

What Made Milwaukee Famous

6:30pm, Austin Ventures stage

It's getting harder to call What Made Milwaukee Famous an underdog: 2004 debut Trying to Never Catch Up was just reissued on Death Cab for Cutie launching-pad Barsuk. The Austin quartet's intricately-arranged indie pop is earnest without being maudlin, and their hyperkinetic live show's a steady source of something all too rare: fun. – Christopher Gray

South Austin Jug Band

6:40pm, BMI stage

It's no coincidence that the South Austin Jug Band has performed at nearly every music festival this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. The country-fried local fivepiece is as comfortable cow-tippin' Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" as they are with bluegrass staples like "Long Journey Home" or dropping a riff from the King of the Hill theme song. In short, some of the finest pickin' and fiddlin' around. – Austin Powell

Iron & Wine

7:30pm, Heineken stage

Composing sonicscapes like life-sized black-and-white photos, newly minted Texan Sam Beam is both effortless and poignant as Iron & Wine. He collaborated last year with like-minded Calexico for the well-received In the Reins EP (Overcoat), and a subsequent tour. His hushed tones, poetic verses, acoustic grace, and melodic restraint speak louder than a wall of Marshall stacks. – David Lynch

Willie Nelson

8:15pm, AMD stage
Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson (Photo By Gary Miller)

He turned 73 this year, but it's obvious Willie Nelson doesn't intend to slow down. Besides a never-ending touring schedule; he's invested in alternative fuel Biodiesel; written a book on his life philosophy, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart, continues his work with Farm Aid; and has just wrapped up a new album, Songbird (Lost Highway), with Ryan Adams in the producer's chair, due Oct. 31. – Jim Caligiuri


The Durdens

11:30am, Washington Mutual stage

This Round Rock gospel collective mixes old-time soul power with occasional nods to modern pop in creating a joyful noise. The family group is led by Larry Durden, whose rich, warm voice is as ingratiating as a firm handshake. Performing together for more than 30 years, the Durdens were voted Gospel Recording Artists of the Year by the Texas Gospel Announcers Guild in 2001. – Greg Beets


Noon, AT&T Blue Room stage

Michigan collective Anathallo uses every instrument within reach on debut LP, Floating World. Giving props to Japanese folklore and hand-claps and harmonies, they come from the Sufjan Stevens school of matching-outfit band geekdom and whimsical melodies, pulling together (and apart) accordions, trumpets, Velcro, and xylophones for an affair barely tethered to the ground. Marching band music for lit majors. – Audra Schroeder

Rocky Votolato

Noon, Heineken stage

The story is of a struggling father of two who grew up in Dallas as the son of a rebel biker. He's not a sulker, though. The Barsuk artist is introspective and resuscitative, and January release Makers is a solo road trip through the desert. He's been compared to Elliott Smith, but Votolato doesn't reach that low. He more often floats just past the clouds in a vapor. – Darcie Stevens

The Black Angels

Noon, Austin Ventures stage

The Black Angels descended not from the heavens, but rather from the 13th Floor Elevators. The band's debut, Passover (Light in the Attic), is a throwback to the psychedelic Sixties that draws parallels between "The First Vietnamese War" and the current wartime hysteria with an arsenal of vintage guitar tones and drone machines. History is indeed repeating, and it's sounding damn good. – Austin Powell

Kathleen Edwards

12:30pm, AMD stage

It's not quite fair to label Kathleen Edwards as the Canadian Lucinda Williams, though both are as sly as they are seductive. Yet Back to Me was one of 2005's pure joys, full of self-assured, wind-in-the-face country that danced as wild and free as Edwards herself. Here's betting that this year's performance makes up for last year's cancellation due to the hurricane. – Margaret Moser

Robyn Ludwick

12:55pm, BMI stage

The word is just getting out that Robyn Ludwick is the sister of well-known musical brothers Bruce and Charlie Robison. That's simply because she chose to let her music speak for itself, before any claims of following in her siblings' much larger footsteps. Ludwick's debut, For So Long (Late Show), proves her to be a songwriter with a tough-as-nails personality and uncommon vision. – Jim Caligiuri

The Jones Family Singers

1pm, Washington Mutual stage

Hailing from Baytown, just outside of Houston, the Jones Family Singers deliver a mighty one-two punch of foot-stomping, hand-clapping gospel and the message that the word is divine. The family (and they're indeed all related) took that message and gave it a deeply soulful beat on their EP Rock-n-Roll in Jesus. When they tell you to raise your hand and believe, you'd best follow their lead. – Margaret Moser

Lou Ann Barton

1:50pm, Austin Ventures stage

Beloved for three decades in Austin, Lou Ann Barton's Fort Worth roots give her blues its roadhouse edge. After a string of acclaimed releases in the Eighties, including the hugely popular Dreams Come True, she's shied away from solo gigs the last few years in favor of teaming with Jimmie Vaughan on the road. Barton is rumored to have a new recording in the works. – Margaret Moser

Rodney Hayden

2:40pm, BMI stage

Proudly wearing the "too country" tag, Pleasanton native Rodney Hayden has released two albums that have drawn raves for their depth and maturity. The 25-year-old possesses a voice that's warm and comforting, perfectly made for the classic sounds he obviously loves. Hayden spent August in residency at the Full Moon Saloon on Lower Broadway in Nashville, where he currently resides. – Jim Caligiuri

Jack Ingram

3:30pm, Heineken stage

Good things come to those who wait. Earlier this year, almost 10 years after his first major-label album, this charismatic Austin transplant's "Wherever You Are" landed at the top of the Billboard country charts. Better still, a summer spent touring with Brooks & Dunn and Sheryl Crow suggests his already dangerous Beat Up Ford Band might be coming home a little more dangerous. – Andy Langer


4:30pm, AMD stage

With tongues lodged permanently in cheek, Ween has trekked more musical terrain than perhaps any band in history, chronicled on last year's career-spanning odds-and-ends release Shinola Vo1. 1 (Chocodog). The band spoofs Prince better than Dave Chappelle on "Monique the Freak"; channels AOR during "Gabrielle"; and indulges itself in industrial girth on "Big Fat Fuck," all with a versatility and virtuosity that's no laughing matter. – Austin Powell


4:30pm, AT&T stage

Yes, yes – the Hasidic Jew doing the rasta, mon. But wait 'til you hear him. At Lollapalooza last month, the Berkeley-raised Deadhead dropped the serious one-drop knock-out. Trojan/Tuff Gong: old-school's a green dream on Bob Marley records, but Matisyahu's down. So down that last year's Live at Stubb's is being followed up with studio Jah, Bill Laswell. Call Lee "Scratch" Perry, too. – Raoul Hernandez

White Ghost Shivers

4:40pm, BMI stage
White Ghost Shivers
White Ghost Shivers (Photo By Aubrey Edwards)

Self-described as encompassing "jazz, hokum, and jug-band blues to Western swing and hillbilly," this Austin octet is more than novelty, enlivening standards from between-the-wars, as well as offering up like-minded originals. The local ragtime orchestra employs ukulele, heavenly harmonizing, accordion, brimming naughtiness, banjo-mandolin (aka "manjo"), and the famed Stroh violin, all found on this year's Live on the Radio (Chicken Ranch). – David Lynch

The New Pornographers

5:30pm, AT&T Blue Room stage

The original Canadian supergroup featuring A.C. Newman and Neko Case delivered a scorching, eminently crowd-pleasing set at this year's SXSW, then rolled on with its spring tour with Belle & Sebastian before hitting the summer festival circuit and winning tons of awards. Now the Vancouver ninepiece is back in town with gems from 2005's excellent Twin Cinema (Matador) and sassy harmonies to spare. – Melanie Haupt

Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals

6:30pm, AMD stage
Ben Harper
Ben Harper (Photo By Gary Miller)

Ben Harper's latest, Both Sides of the Gun (Virgin), finds him celebrating his own happiness and lamenting current politics. The California native has been hailed for his ability to mix seemingly incompatible influences and a wide variety of musical genres – folk to funk, hard rock to reggae – into an exhilarating whole, and this double CD finds him succeeding beyond anything in his past. – Jim Caligiuri

The Greencards

6:30pm, Austin Ventures stage

Theirs is an oft-told story: two Aussies and a Brit joining forces in Austin to create rootsy bluegrass and then relocating to Nashville. That they won Best New Band in the Chronicle's 2004 Music Awards and the Americana Music Awards shows their canny knack for blending contemporary and traditional. Last year's atmospheric Weather and Water landed them opening slots with Bob Dylan. – Margaret Moser

The Flaming Lips

6:30pm, AT&T stage
The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips (Photo By Courtney Chavanell)

What else can really be said about the Flaming Lips? Earlier this year, this critic suggested that the Lips' latest album, At War With the Mystics (Warner Bros.), might make the Oklahoma City trio better suited for the Austin Kiddie Limits stage, but childish isn't quite the right descriptor for the band's fourth album. Let's go with cartoonish instead. But never a caricature. – Melanie Haupt


7:45pm, Austin Ventures stage

Band mainstays Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann celebrated 20 years of the BoDeans in 2005 with the dual CD/DVD release Homebrewed: Live From the Pabst (Back Porch), a fitting example of their audience-frying performances. One of Wisconsin's best imports, the foursome's signature sound is based on heartfelt lyrics, passionate harmonies, and ringing guitars. – Jim Caligiuri

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