Buck-Tick Fest 2012 "On Parade" Day Two
Pay Money to My Pain
N'Shukugawa Boys
September 23rd at Chiba Port Park
Live Report by Cayce

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In sharp contrast to the hot sun and blue skies of Day One, Day Two of Buck-Tick's On Parade Festival 2012 dawned dark, cold, and rainy.  After a record-breakingly hot summer and fall in Japan, September 23rd was the first genuinely cool day Tokyo had experienced since June, but the abrupt shift in the weather left some fans feeling out of sorts or even downright sick.  Then, of course, there was the problem of rain.  Fans who’d stayed overnight in hotel rooms in Chiba with their total luggage consisting of two Buck-Tick tour t-shirts, two granola bars, two pairs of socks, and a pair of ultra-rugged cargo pants with lots of tiny useless pockets stuffed with Buck-Tick trading cards were totally unprepared for the weather, but even for fans who had gone home overnight, there was a limit to what could be done.

Yesterday, the ground at the venue had been part grass, part loose dirt, but now, thousands of fan-feet had quickly trampled everything into deep, soft, squelching mud.  Dressed in disposable plastic raincoats, the fans moved slowly, picking their way between puddles and over the metal sheets that had been laid down to kept keep the ground solid.  No doubt the girls in the patent-leather high-heeled Mary Janes and white tights were regretting their fashion victimhood now.  The rain poured into the fans’ plastic cups of beer as they made their way from the food stalls to the lounge tent, which was crammed and overflowing with people sheltering from the rain.  It was a testament to how important the occasion was, that even fans who had little interest in any of the other bands besides Buck-Tick had still managed to show up at noon despite the soggy weather.  The close press of the crowd beneath the tent helped raise the temperature a bit, and the atmosphere resembled a rained-out camping trip—uniting the fans in their determination not to be beaten by a little weather.

Just like Day One, Day Two opened with the same orchestral arrangement of “National Media Boys” played over the speakers, followed by a volley of firecrackers announcing the start of the performance.  Today’s first artist up was Kishidan, a six-member “comedy band” famous for their dance routines and costumes based on Japanese motorcycle gangs (bosouzoku).  Kishidan’s shows are as much about theatrics as about music, and their songs narrate a retro manga-style world full of school gang battles, foiled love and over-the-top teen boy angst.  Kishidan’s presence at the festival was particularly ironic, considering that for a brief time in his late teens, Sakurai was more or less the genuine article of the stereotype Kishidan are aping—a quote from the first chapter of Buck-Tick’s early history book Love Me reads, 

Everyone knew [Sakurai] as ‘that scary guy who hangs out with the delinquent kids from other schools.’  Cigarettes, motorcycles, fights, and ‘regent’ hairdos—those things were Sakurai’s only love in those days, and he had a lot of fun hanging out with his bad-boy friends.”  

Further ironic is the fact that Kishidan are huge Buck-Tick fans.  Frontman Show Ayanocozey (formerly DJ OZMA) has been known to go drinking with Sakurai, and Kishidan had even gone so far as to get special t-shirts printed for the festival featuring silhouettes of the six band members in a pose imitating early Buck-Tick, with the words “6 For Japanese Babies” written on the back in early Buck-Tick’s signature font (the same font we used in the title banner of The Blog-Tick Phenomenon.)  

Kishidan continued to play up this Buck-Tick parody/homage in their stage performance.  All the band members normally sport “regent” hairstyles, but this time, the drummer came out onstage with his hair done up in a mock-Tollhawk, a fact which Show Ayanocozey called attention to when he took his place at the front microphone.

“It’s raining!” he said.  “I get the feeling that it rains on Buck-Tick concerts all the time…but…as Mr. Sakurai said…at Buck-Tick concerts, you get wet!”  He grinned at the audience to let them know he was definitely, definitely making a sex joke, and everyone laughed.

Kishidan were definitely the best men for the job of starting off a cold, wet day.  Neither the cold nor the rain could dampen their performance.  They started with one of their own songs, and then played their cover of Buck-Tick’s “Machine.”

“Did you hear me, eh?  We’re the BEST fucking Buck-Tick copyband EVER!  We’re a Buck-Tick SUPER COPY BAND!  So don’t mess with us!” Show called out, during an extended MC section where he put on a gruff gang leader persona and spoke to the audience as if he were trying to start a fight.  

Kishidan played their cover of “Machine” more or less exactly as it appears on the Parade II album, but they threw in a couple of other Buck-Tick-spoof moments later in the show, adding in bits and pieces of riffs and lyrics from famous Buck-Tick songs like “Just One More Kiss” into their own songs.  Rain or no rain, they didn’t compromise on their unique stage show, either—for the final number, a group of dancers dressed just like the band members in boys’ school uniforms, regent hairdos and sunglasses came out onstage armed with glow-wands and proceeded to perform a synchronized ouendan (cheer group) dance routine complete with backup vocals, as some of the more enthusiastic fans in the front row followed along.

Next up after Kishidan were Polysics, whom a number of elder Buck-Tick fans had decried as simply too childish and hyperactive to watch.  However, at Not Greatest Site, our personal feeling was that Polysics were much better served by the informal outdoor venue this time around than they had been at Zepp Tokyo the last time they played opposite Buck-Tick.  Buck-Tick’s acquaintance with Polysics began when both bands performed at Music & People vol. 8, a concert sponsored by Ongaku to Hito magazine at Zepp Tokyo in late February 2011 (it was, in fact, one of Buck-Tick’s last shows before the Great East Japan Nukequake, back when life was still peaches and cream and you could still safely eat vegetables grown in Ibaraki Prefecture.  But that’s a story for another day.)  Given Polysics’ cute technopop image, it came as a surprise to the Buck-Tick fans at the Music & People festival that the Polysics fans were so excessively violent.  Buck-Tick fans who’d squeezed to the front early in the show were in for a rude shock when the Polysics fans pulled out all the stops, crowd surfing and obliviously elbowing each other with abandon.  Today in Chiba Port Park, however, the crowd was able to spread out comfortably, and no one had to get in anyone else’s face by dancing too hard, which made it much easier to enjoy the music.  Hyperactive and slightly childish though it may be, the unflappable enthusiasm of Polysics’ music was just the ticket to keep everyone’s spirits up, even though the rain showed no sign of letting up and conditions in the venue were growing colder and muddier by the minute.

The highlight of Polysics’ set was easy to anticipate.  Imai and Polysics frontman Hayashi Hiroyuki have a lot to say to each other on the subject of technopop, and Imai has even written about their mutual techno pow-wows on his blog, so it came as no surprise when Hayashi announced that the band would be performing their next song with a special guest…or rather…guests!  This time, it wasn’t just Imai jumping in as a guest—he was also joined by Yutaka, both of them dressed up as Polysics members, in matching grey coveralls and opaque straightbar sunglasses.  Yutaka was paired with Polysics bassist Fumi in an interview for the Ongaku to Hito special mook PHY, and perhaps this is what catalyzed his participation in the performance (that, and he and Fumi are about the same height and the same level of cuteness.  They could be bass-playing gender-swapped twins.)  Either way, more was merrier, and with the aid of Imai and Yutaka, Polysics proceeded to play the most outrageous, up-tempo version of “Sid Vicious on the Beach” the world has ever heard.  That Chiba Port Park is basically located on the beach made it even more fitting.  Perhaps a lack of underlying Buck-Tick fanboyism worked to Polysics’ advantage, but their cover of “Sid Vicious” is one of the standouts on the album, precisely because they re-interpreted the song so thoroughly to fit their own sound, transforming it from a slow, sleazy surf rock number into wild Hawaiian beach techno on speed.  (Get it?  Speed?  It’s a Buck-Tick pun!!!  Holy crap we’re clever.)

I’ll also mention that Fumi was the second of only three women to perform at the Parade festival this time around (the first being DJ Emi of the Lowbrows and the third being Linda of N’Shukugawa Boys.)  While it’s disappointing that there are still so few women in rock and roll, the ladies who appeared at this festival all offered a welcome contrast to the doe-eyed, empty-headed idols who predominate the mainstream Japanese music industry—none of the women who played at this festival bothered with that insufferable “look at me I’m sooo cute” thing (and even if they had, they would still all certainly have lost the cute-kawaii game to Daigo “Acchan4Eva” Starrypants.)  Instead, the ladies of the Parade festival were punky, quirky, and most importantly, serious about music rather than image.  It’s depressing how hard it is to find girls like this in the Japanese rock scene, but nice to see some of them on the stage at Buck-Tick’s festival.  When Imai and Yutaka had finished their guest appearance and the consequential rush of Buck-Tick fans had subsided, Polysics treated the crowd to a few of their darker, funkier, more down-tempo tunes before leaving the stage with parting waves under an ever-heavier downpour.

N’Shukugawa Boys were up next.  Perhaps it’s fitting that they’re named after a river, because their set happened during the very worst of the rain.  Still, no one was in a better position to keep their wet heads up than this fresh-faced punk trio from Hyogo Prefecture, who claim that they officially formed the band beneath artist Okamoto Taro’s famous peace monument “The Tower of the Sun” in Suita, Osaka.  N’Shukugawa Boys just made their major label debut with Victor in 2011, so they’re very much the young hot stuff, and in the same line as Kishidan and Polysics, their stage antics are just as important to their performance as the music itself.  Though they opened their set with Linda on drums, Shinnosuke on guitar, and Maaya on guitar and vocals, in fact, all the band members are multi-instrumentalists—N’Shukugawa Boys’ gimmick is to switch parts whenever they damn well feel like it.  Their simple, propulsive beat-punk songs may not require much technical skill to play, but the point here isn’t technical virtuosity, it’s the energy and emotion of the performance.  In this way, they could be compared to a more colorful, lighthearted, less hard-boiled version of The Kills, though Linda, with her bob haircut, tights, boots, and miniskirt, reminds me a lot less of Allison Mosshart than of Tsuchiya Anna.  On an unrelated note I’ll also say that I would bet a decent but not unreasonable amount of money that if Linda’s name is taken from anywhere it’s taken from the Blue Hearts hit song “Linda Linda,” and not from Yamamoto Linda, who Sakurai claims was his first celebrity crush…I say this mainly because N’Shukugawa Boys certainly have something of the Blue Hearts in their sound as well.

The member-change gimmick forms the central joke in the N’Shukugawa Boys cover of “Empty Girl,” and when the inevitable DVD of the Parade 2012 festival is released, the producers had better make damn well sure the video of this performance is on there, because you really have to see this cover played live to get the joke.  On the CD recording, it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on.  N’Shukugawa Boys started into “Empty Girl” playing the same instruments they’d been playing for the whole set so far, with Maaya on vocals.  But then, before the chorus, they abruptly stopped the music, dropped their instruments and switched positions, so now Linda was playing guitar and in a position to perform lead vocals on the second verse—and there’s something especially effective about hearing “Empty Girl” sung by a girl.  But then once again, before the chorus came around, the band stopped the music yet again, and switched instruments a second time.  Linda ran over and took up Maaya’s guitar and Maaya got up behind the drum set, and they were really limping along now.  Maaya could barely drum much of a rhythm and Linda wasn’t doing much better with Maya’s guitar, but the comedy of their failure only added to the entertainment value.  Despite the high Buck-Tick fanboy quotient on Parade II, N’Shukugawa Boys may have come closer than any other band on the album to touching the real true spirit of baby Buck-Tick.  If you don’t believe me, go back and watch the “Empty Girl” PV again.  (And if you haven't seen the "Empty Girl" PV because you've been too busy watching the PVs for "Dress," "Romance," and "Kimi no Vanilla" on continuous repeat, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW and watch the damn "Empty Girl" PV.)

The rest of N’Shukugawa Boys’ set continued in this vein.  The harder the rain poured, the more enthusiastic they got.  Linda switched to lead vocals and Maaya played kazoo, and they ran back and forth along the front edge of the stage, splashing in the puddles of water that had collected, and finally jumping off the stage altogether and running down the aisles of muddy grass between audience blocks, interacting with the fans directly, while the roving videographers rushed into the crowd to catch some on-the-ground action shots.  If you happen to be at another festival where N’Shukugawa Boys are performing, don’t miss them—they put on a great show.

The fun had to end at some point, though.  The humor and energy of the first three bands had made it almost possible to ignore the rain at first, but it was later in the afternoon now, the sun was going down, the rain was pouring harder than ever, and Pay Money to My Pain were up next.  Cue NGS and friends’ swift exit to the beer tent, where we secured a small corner of one of the metal benches under the lounge tent on which to huddle out of the rain, the better to focus on the dulcet tones of Pay Money to My Pain’s latest hit “Sweetest Vengeance,” and wistfully, drunkenly recall the lost Golden Age of Nu-Metal, when LSD wasn’t yet taboo and Linkin Park were still popular enough to sell out the Tokyo Dome…wait I seem to be confusing my band histories here.  I guess I had too much beer.  (GET IT?  TABOO?  IT'S A BUCK-TICK PUN!!!!!!!!!11111)

In the pointless interview in the latest issue of the Fish Tank newsletter, Mr. Sakurai was asked to give his opinion of each and every one of the bands who had performed at the festival, and gave very polite, diplomatic, repetitive answers involving a lot of use of the word “sugoi” (why is no one capable of intelligently interviewing this intelligent man?!?)  Though he described Pay Money to My Pain’s bassist T$uyo$hi as “very grave and polite,” I’d still argue that you can’t trust anyone who spells his name with more than one dollar sign.  However, Imai seems to have taken a shine to these guys, because no sooner had NGS and friends gotten a nice big refill of rain-diluted beer and were preparing to make a toast, late-90’s mallgoth style, to Rammstein’s hit song “Buch Dich,” than Imai came running out onstage in some sort of sloppy t-shirt-and-jeans white-guy cosplay to play guest guitars on PMTP’s cover of Dir en grey’s “Lie Buried With a Vengeance”…whoops I meant PMTP’s cover of Buck-Tick’s “love letter.”  Though Sakurai, in the same silly Fish Tank interview, described this cover as “very interesting and different,” I’m going to guess that he only said that because, beyond performing with Marilyn Manson (whom he has charmingly referred to as “Marilyn” even though he says the two of them are not personal acquaintances) he’s never actually listened to nu-metal.  NGS and friends proceeded with our toasting and did not venture out into the rain to watch Imai.  Banzai “Buch Dich.”  Sorry, Imai.

The sun was going down, but the rain still showed no signs of stopping.  The temperature was dropping, but near the stage, things were heating up.  Following Pay Money to My Pain came AA=, a new band that has already gained a large following thanks to the fame of its members, most notably Ueda Takeshi of industrial/punk outfit The Mad Capsule Markets.  Buck-Tick’s connections with The Mad Capsule Markets are longstanding—Mad Capsule Markets drummer Motokatsu performed live with Imai and Fujii Maki’s side project Schaft, as well as playing drums in the session band Rally with Teru and Hisashi from GLAY at the Parade Festival 2007.  Motokatsu also appeared in the congratulatory video broadcast before Buck-Tick’s set at Toll’s 50th birthday concert back in August.  Therefore, it’s not surprising to see another Mad Capsule Markets member onstage at Buck-Tick’s latest festival.  The cover of “MAD” recorded by AA= is more of a full-on industrial remix than a cover—in fact, it kind of makes me think they covered the Not Greatest Hits version of “MAD,” rather than the original version.  In a way, this cover goes a little too far in the other direction—far from being a slavish copy, this cover is so far removed from the original song it’s almost unrecognizable.  However, the “MAD” cover is not representative of AA=’s typical sound, which is in general less heavy industrial and more vocal-oriented, Western-style dark rock, like the grownup, edgy, cool older brother of PMTP.  

AA= is an acronym for “All Animals are Equal,” a reference to the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the animal-centric philosophy developed by the pigs in George Orwell’s famous allegorical novel Animal Farm (which is really something you should have read in school and recommended reading even if you’re out of school, though as far as George Orwell works on our “if you like Buck-Tick you might also like” list, 1984 ranks higher, thanks to a much larger sex quotient.)  In any case, during their set, AA= displayed the full Seven Commandments of Animalism on a large, hand-written sign propped up on the stage: 

“Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.”

How, exactly, the commandments of Animalism fit with the artistic goals of AA= is something you would have ask someone better acquainted with the band than Cayce.  The commandment “No animal shall wear clothes” might have held a certain appeal for fangirls under better meteorological circumstances, but as it was, no one looked likely to take off those disposable raincoats any time soon.  And one thing was completely certain: the animals at this festival were definitely drinking alcohol…but not for much longer!  For following AA= was D’erlanger, the second most popular band at the festival, and after D’erlanger, Buck-Tick would be performing again...and getting caught in the pottyloo line during Buck-Tick's set would be a tragedy indeed.

As the lights came up on D’erlanger’s set, the crowd pressed closer and closer to the stage, raising the temperature and making the cold and wet a little easier to bear.  The rain was beginning to let up at last, and people’s spirits were lifting.  D’erlanger, veteran performers, commanded the stage with an easy mastery, and they had the advantage of knowing that many of the fans in the audience were there to see them just as much if not more than Buck-Tick.  The Buck-Tick members, it seemed, would not be making any more guest appearances, but that didn’t stop D’erlanger from bringing in guests of their own, starting with Miyako Keiichi, keyboardist of Sophia.  Miyako joined D’erlanger early in their set and stayed with them for the rest of the performance, though his keyboard additions were a little difficult to hear over the outdoor sound system.  But D’erlanger weren’t finished yet.  Close to the end of the set, they announced one more special guest: Die from Dir en grey!

“You’re never going to see this special six-member D’erlanger perform again, so enjoy it while it lasts!” Kyo exhorted the crowd, as Die ran out onstage, red hair flowing behind him, looking almost as boyishly enthusiastic as Imai did at the last Parade festival when he performed a guest session with Endo Michiro.  It’s common knowledge among Dir en grey fans that D’erlanger’s Cipher is Die’s most admired guitarist, and as Die came down stage left to wild shouts and cheers, his excitement was written all over his face.  D’erlanger had a heavy influence on Dir en grey in their early years, but the two bands have since diverged considerably, and Die, as a guest player, lent a palpable Dir en grey flavor to the song that only added to the nostalgia of the whole night.  Though Dir en grey have abandoned the wild, energetic horror pop and noir sense of humor that made them famous in favor of relentlessly dour Western-style progressive metal inspired by the same bands Pay Money to My Pain wants to be, they’ve lost not of the breathtaking musical technique that continues to set them worlds apart from less influential, less innovative bands (read: PMTP).  It showed—Die played a guitar solo like the distilled essence of Dir en grey’s signature sound, and momentarily took over the whole stage.  But when the solo was done, Die surrendered himself to Cipher, who had gone over to join him on the left side of the stage, and the two played the rest of the song standing face-to-face, guitars nearly touching.  Vocalists may have an advantage over guitarists when it comes to staging stage makeout scenes, but Die and Cipher gave it their best shot, leaning over their guitars for a parting smooch before Die ran off into the wings, while the yaoi fangirls in the audience (who in Japanese are called fujoshi, which literally means “rotten ladies”) screamed and cheered.

And now, just in time for Buck-Tick, the rain had stopped!  A number of D’erlanger fans left the arena, but ever more Buck-Tick fans crowded in, led by a Toll cosplayer with a sodden, flopped-over mohawk hanging down his back.  Though the grass of the arena had been thoroughly trampled into mud and the temperature was plummeting now that the sun had gone down, once the video retrospective of Buck-Tick had come up on the projection screen once again, the weather ceased to matter.  The video was the same as Day One, but this time, the fans laughed twice as hard at Sakurai’s babushka. 

Rain or no, when the band members came out onstage at last, they seemed just as enthusiastic as the previous day, and had even made a few amendments to their costumes.  Imai was still in his Hubble telescope print spandex, but tonight, instead of green hair extensions, he’d accessorized with a braided leather headband into which he’d inserted three extra-long pheasant quills in day-glo green, pink, and yellow, respectively.  To anyone who thinks this is an offensive appropriation of American aboriginal culture: there were no day-glo dyes in Native America, okay?  Sakurai, too, had changed his head gear, putting off his top hat and hair extensions in favor of a patterned head-wrap which looked at a distance like it might be one of those memento mori scarves from Zara, but close to revealed itself to be a multi-colored lava-lamp style abstract psychedelic print, trippily protecting Acchan-sama's Pantene-perfect hair from the indignities of the rain (and simultaneously hiding it from fangirl eyes.)

True to their word, Buck-Tick played a different set list tonight, including such rousing dance numbers as “Dokudanjou Beauty,” “Memento Mori,” “Jonathan Jet-Coaster,” and “Django.”  Buck-Tick also may have succeeded in their goal of recruiting more fans.  Very unusually for a Buck-Tick show, in the front section was packed with even more men than women.  Either wet, bedraggled fangirls are just that wimpy, or Buck-Tick has stolen fans from Pay Money to My Pain—and I have to guess this new contingent of dude fans were fans of Pay Money to My Pain, because they seemed to have no idea how to behave at a Buck-Tick show, pumping their fists in the air, drunkenly swaying and bumping into the people around them without any regard for the fact that most of the hardcore Buck-Tick fans in the first few rows actually wanted to be able to watch the show as well as listen, and it was getting bloody hard to watch with all those beefy fanboy biceps in the way.  But then, maybe I misinterpreted, and these guys were actually trying to start a "who-has-the-biggest-muscles" contest with Mr. Sakurai—which, you better believe it, Sakurai would be likely to win.  It appears he’s been hitting the gym lately, and he  seems pretty pleased with himself about it too—judging by the fact that he couldn’t seem to stop showing off.  Though it was still drizzling, Sakurai quickly stripped down to his sleeveless shirt and kept accidentally-on-purpose flexing his arms as if passive-aggressively daring the fangirls to squee.  After the show was over, the fanboys could be heard grumbling.

“God, what’s with Sakurai being so jacked all of a sudden,” they complained.  “He shouldn’t be like that.  It doesn’t match his image.”

Coming out of the mouths of flabby, weedy Buck-Tick fanboys dating Buck-Tick fangirlfriends as bodacious as the Mona Lisa Overdrive mic stand, comments like this begin to sound suspiciously like sour, sour grapes.  A word to Buck-Tick fanboys looking for fangirlfriends: whether or not you are a Sakurai cosplayer, before you date an Acchan fangirl, you'd better reconcile yourself to the fact that in her heart, you'll always be #2.

Unlike last night, tonight, the band played “Climax Together” as a part of the main set, rather than as an encore.  The stage lights lit up in rainbow colors and sparkled on the mist and rain, while Imai and Hoshino ran back and forth down the ramps, and Yutaka came down center and wiggled his tush back and forth in glee.  But the set wasn’t over.  In a nod to the previous Parade festival, and as a gift to their oldest fans, Buck-Tick ended the main set with one of their oldest songs—“My Eyes and Your Eyes.”  As they played, they kept their eyes on the fans, many of whom had eyes full of tears by the time the song was over.

Back onstage for an encore, Buck-Tick played another song from the previous Parade festival—“Diabolo.”  Then Sakurai thanked all the bands and gave the audience a chance to cheer for each, before announcing the end of the show.  No special guests tonight.  Buck-Tick finished with a poignant and introspective rendering of “Yumemiru Uchuu," and filed offstage one by one, leaving Imai all alone again as before, to play a lonely, slow, feedback-ridden version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”  Some fans had worried that the rain might prevent the launching of fireworks, but they were wrong.  Nothing can prevent Buck-Tick from setting off some firecrackers!  This time, the event staff had merely evened out the timing.  Unlike the previous night, this time, the fireworks didn’t go off until after Imai had finished playing.  His last guitar tones died out, and then there they came, cracking and sparkling, shooting upward, once again reflecting on the Chiba Port Tower in green and pink and gold, and then last, a shower of white cascading stars.  Imai had left the stage now, so he didn’t have to be startled by the giant cannonball BANG of the farewell salvo.  Up on the projection screen, words appeared, thanking the fans and wishing them sweet dreams and a good night.

In the mud and the pitch dark, the scene following the festival was chaos, more or less.  It was freezing cold and everyone’s shoes were soaking wet.  But at the end of the day, not even rain can rain on Buck-Tick’s parade.  They’re just that good.  Let’s all pray for them, that they have many, many anniversaries yet to celebrate in such an exciting, memorable, stylish fashion—these festivals just keep getting better and better.

Happy 25th birthday Buck-Tick, we wish you many more.

Buck-Tick Set List

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