A casual glance up on stage at a major festival or reviewing photos from last night’s DJ gigs will reveal a much reviled trend in DJing: the “Jesus Pose”. Often mocked and debated, the Jesus Pose is frequently seen by other DJs as stupid and predictable, yet they continue to exist. Is it possible that the practice might actually provide some benefit and help make superstars’ sets better? As it turns out, there’s solid science to suggest exactly that.
First, words of warning: This is one of my more esoteric and theoretical DJ editorial pieces, so if you think science is lame and that table service rules the world, then by all means skip this one. For those with an open mind and an interest in research, read on!
This article will cover scientific subjects of which I am a hobbiest and no way profess to be an expert. My goal is to introduce you to these concepts in a simple, understandable way that relates to DJing and reference the experts whose research supports these concepts. As always, we greatly appreciate any constructive contributions, or feedback to the concepts in your comments.
THE STRESS CYCLE
“Consistently delivering a great set, regardless of the conditions”
The pros accomplish this by having a veritable tool belt of activities to cope with changing conditions. In other articles we have covered many of them:
- Setting up your gear efficiently
- Planning your sets for safety
- Taking the right gigs to remove stress
- Knowing how to protect your DJ gear
But one of the most important skills to have might be dealing with nerves and staying in the game mentally. Here’s the typical stress cycle:
- New DJ feels nervous, lacks confidence in his music and/or skills
- Goes on stage and unknowingly projects this belief to the crowd through body language
- The crowd responds to his lack of confidence with a lukewarm response
- This further reenforces the new DJ’s jitters and deflates future confidence
- Commence downward spiraling feedback loop
Playing a great DJ set is often about being relaxed, having fun, and picking great music. How can you possibly expect to do that while nervous and stressed out? It sounds like a typical chicken and the egg question.
How do I gain confidence without having great sets first?
THE SCIENCE OF CONFIDENCE
“In our posture and faces we can see moods, concerns, fears, and other emotions. We may see neurotic-like behaviors such as nervous ticks or even nervousness”
Much of our projected confidence comes from inside and there are two main hormones in your body which can contribute to stage confidence and your performance:
- The stress hormone (cortisol)
- The confidence hormone (testosterone)
The Mayo Clinic explains:
“Low testosterone may contribute to a decrease in motivation or self-confidence. You may feel sad or depressed, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things”
So if you’re nervous about playing a show, chances are your cortisol is cranking while testosterone is tanking. How do you reverse engineer this process and hack your brain to give you what you’re after? Perhaps the classic phrase: “Fake it till you make it“, might offer some help.
Even if genuinely you’re freaked out and nervous about the coming gig, what if there was some tool to increase testosterone and decrease stress? That’s what brings us back to the Jesus Pose:
STRIKE A POSE
There are several studies that suggest adopting certain kinds of postures can do three critical things:
- Increase testosterone
- Decrease cortisol
- Great increase in external individuals’ confidence in our abilities
In this fantastic TED talk, Amy Cuddy covers her research on how body language and “superman poses” can help calm nerves and get through tough times. Watch it now – or read my summary below:
For those without 20 minutes to watch, I will summarize. Adopting what Cuddy calls “power stances” has a dramatic effect on a body’s chemistry and the perception of us from those around us.
What kind of poses? Well in short: wide, strong stances that take up a lot of space and increase our size. For better or for worse, this goes way back to our day’s as hunter gatherers and the mammalian part of our brain that shares similarities with many other animals. An article on the study writes:
“Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, ‘high-power’ poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human world) and lower levels of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss).”
More about the study can be found in this Harvard Business School article on Amy Cuddy’s studies.
PUT IT INTO ACTION!
- Take a quiet moment before beginning to visualize yourself playing in a calm, relaxed manner.
- Strike a Superman pose in the bathroom, where no one can see, for two minutes (it will still have a big effect!)
- Have a few songs ready for the beginning of the set that are sure to please the crowd and build your confidence.
- Certainly don’t start your set off with a big, complicated controllerism routine.
During the set, here are some ways to keep the energy going without waving your hands in the air:
- Spread your legs out and adopt a wide, stable stance
- Keep good posture and avoid hunching or hiding
- Establish eye contact with the crowd and avoid only staring at the gear or computer
- Don’t be afraid to spread your gear out and take up space in the booth if possible
- (added) As Jeremy Alisauskas noted in the comments below: dancing is a key DJ skill!
Ean Golden is the founder of Dj TechTools and a worldwide Dj specializing in controllers and new performance technology.
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This actually a pretty cool article
[…] Watch this TED Talk on “superman poses” that reduce cortisol (stress response hormone) and increase testosterone (confidence-related hormone) […]
[…] Watch this TED Talk on “superman poses” that reduce cortisol (stress response hormone) and increase testosterone (confidence-related hormone) […]
or take a few shot’s pop a pill light a blunt if you smoke ganga lol graet tip techtool
Nice article Ean, really goes beyond our scene, and can be used in daily life no matter what you do for a living.
Yes I agree with Jeremy, when I am playing, I find dancing is a key, it shows your confidence to express yourself, and shows people how to get into the groove. I also believe that one should be expressive with the people around the dj booth, in front or behind. When other DJs are around talking, I turn around and speak with them, then go back to the mixer, it adds another element, and can help you to change the way your mind is thinking and distract you from getting stage fright or blushing or something….
I find that feeling in my gut, every time I play, as a sign that I am still interested in music and performance and I use that ‘fear’ and turn it into something positive. Been DJ for years and I still get a little nervous before gigs, cause every situation is a new one…
Use that energy for your own and the crowds benefit. That’s where the magic came from and will continue to…
Once again, really nice article Ean!
Great article man! I’m just a new born DJ who’s starting to do gigs for small to medium crowds (over 300 peeps!) and without doubts here i found a lot of good “practices” and tips that I’m gonna use in my next gig! Jesus pose and dancing what you throw its the key to success. Good luck and success to all my fellow DJs 😀
Well, actually Armin van Buuren was born on Christmas… It all makes sence now. Obviously, Armin van Buuren is Jesus!
Leave it to Christian types to see Jesus in putting your hands in the air.
The DJ Post reminds of michael from the office for some reason. I could see him doing it when everyone tells him no!
[quote]what if there was some tool to increase testosterone and decrease stress?[/quote]
There is… and it’s all over the place. I’m surprised nobody wants to mention it. No need for any poses.
I tend to fist pump and jump around all over the place, or get the crowd to clap during a buildup. I find it not only relieving but fun as well because I’m being myself with my music
Ean sorry if I spelled your name wrong, thank you for this article and video. This is a real life changer.
What I’m about to say might sound contradictory but depending on the way you feel this also helps (worked or me anyways) being part of the crowd before a set to feel the energy of the people in the room, during that time you’ll be able to settle into the ambiance, have a few drinks (no getting drunk), talk to your friends, have some fun. The other thing is not being there 1hr prior to your set, get there 10mins before, setup your gear, set your first 3 or four tracks from what you ready of the crowd, this happened to me at a new years eve party and it worked great. As I stated this will depend on how you are feeling about that night, if you’re confident that you will rock this and nothing can stand in your way then come early enjoy the sets from the other djs that play before you encourage them even (this also helps sometimes) and dancing as mentioned in an earlier comment, put your passion out there no one else nows how passionate you are about what you do so show it.
One of my Jesus Pose captures as a photographer: http://sphotos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/483059_284659711635255_337298038_n.jpg
If everybody is lookig at the dj or their smartphone, I think the club needs more beautiful chicks. Amen to that
As I take what I do technically as a dj seriously, I do not take myself seriously. My Jesus Christ Pose photo above is from SevenMagazine where I made fun of several dj poses along with a video… not as funny as my 11 things not to say to a dj but it was fun to make..
I take what i do seriously without taking myself seriously…The pic of me above is from Seven Magazine’s article where I made fun of those poses along with making a video… not as good as my 11 things not to say to a dj but this was fun to make… http://www.vegasseven.com/feature/2012/12/20/poser-please?quicktabs_follow_us=1
Hi there. The pic of DJ Michael Toast was used out of context. That was from story we did for the “Vegas Seven” nightlife issue in December actually mocking stereotypical DJ poses. Here’s the link to the online version: http://vegasseven.com/feature/2012/12/20/poser-please, but it actually makes more sense in print, which you can view here: http://issuu.com/vegasseven/docs/20121220/45
My photo above is from Seven Magazine where I made fun of typical Dj poses along with a video… not as good as my “11 things not to say to a dj” vid but it was fun to make either way..lol
Poser Please: http://vegasseven.com/feature/2012/12/20/poser-please
11 things not to say to the dj: http://youtu.be/-RX9bMdv6q0
the photo of me above was taken from seven magazine where i made fun of those poses along with a video.. not as good as my “11 things not to say to a dj” video but it was fun to make… http://vegasseven.com/feature/2012/12/20/poser-please
Looking at DJ is boring. Most you look like you’re doing your fucking tax returns. The salutes lays in VJs doing live projection or a visual set such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug9vUtURp2w
DO not forget the traktor visual output guys! You can control clips via midi.
I can’t believe you really think people care that much what you look like. Fuck the boiler room and fuck the Jesus pose.
Well I agree, In the old times we used to dance to the music, not watch the DJ like he”s some kind of a magician performing trics you try to understand…
Don’t watch the DJ, just DANCE dmnd…
It seems to me like you missed the point of the article. Body language is much more influential in how you perceive someone than most people seem to think. Even just in normal social situations, If you’re feeling uncomfortable then so will the people your speaking to. You should look into studies into the part of the brain called the Amygdala. Showing how our emotions can be directly and subconsciously transferred to others.
The article isn’t about looking cool on stage, It’s about showing that your confident and in control. In doing so the crowd will trust you more.
This is the worst thing to happen in the Dj culture in a long time. How does one have enough time to stand there for 15 mins unless they’re playing premixed stuff???
“Establish eye contact with the crowd and avoid only staring at the gear or computer”
“dancing is a key DJ skill!”
This is the best article DJ TT has published in a long time. Nicely done, Ean. Keep ’em comin’.
Fun piece, but c’mon….. solid science is a bit of a stretch. 😉
Saw Avicii a while back. Dude had his hands in the air pretty much the whole time..
I told my friends.. “Whenever you see his hands in the air, he’s not doing anything.”
My friends response.. “Is this mix pre-recorded?”
Me.. “Probably. It goes with the fancy choreographed light show better that way.”
I’m all for getting pumped up during a gig, but it seems a lot of the bigger name guys just play it safe, hit play, strike a pose, and watch the massive amounts of cash roll in.
It’s supposed to be a live performance.. Not a fully choreographed laser light show with your music playing non-stop in the background.
I don’t usually post fanmail type comments but this post really surprised me and the comments that followed just made it better. I think the cool thing about doing a power pose at home or wherever is that if you think it’s ridiculous you can laugh at yourself and that is also a powerful thing. Don’t have any study links but I’ve encountered some interesting research on that in the past. In any case, this is pretty darn cool!
I really like the Sociology of entertainment. I kinda’ wish I could I could find a course somewhere that taught it so I could do a more directed study.
Try clapping to an appropriate track. You might just be doing it for yourself as you are enjoying the track but on occasions the crowd will pick up on it and the whole floor will start clapping. These are very special moments. Follow with a big break and they will lap it up.
Thanks for that Ean. Interesting information, especially the TED Talk. I’m going to take the 2 minute private posing route first and possibly, if I should have the right moment behind the decks, I’ll try a Jesus pose or something similar (and not feel stupid because of it.)
I will sometimes mix in a song and run into the crowd and dance with them
Always thought about that! But I guess it would work out best if there’s a couple of friends out there so you can go dance with them instead of dancing by yourself like your lost in the woods or som.
I’m sorry, but doing the “Jesus” pose is a fucking joke, especially Armin. I cannot stand his pose, its so egotistical. Fine, it shows that you are connecting with the crowd, but eye contact, dancing and you having fun is good enough for me. You don’t need to do this dumb pose, you are no GOD or Jesus, you are just a dj/producer (who really don’t produce his tracks anymore). FU Armin…
Obvious 90s track is obvious? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14r7y6rM6zA
So awesome to see this topic being addressed. Jethro Tull became quite infamous for his one legged flute pose because it looked so much like a popular krishna god statue. I like the fact that there has been studies done on posture and its relevance to ones confidents. Madonna had a huge hit preaching it (vouge). I am going to suggest placing a camera or mirror in front of you while practicing your set and get freaky with different types of poses or dances. look and see if it rides with your POV. Have a few friends or loved ones tell you what they think. The key is use the knowledge here and project yourself as confident but not on the fly. Try it out a few times, these exercises will help you develop a stage pose. Be honest with yourself, you’re the only one who can prevent yourself from looking foolish. DJ skills are being shadowed by “The DJ Show” if not taking main stage. remember that now you’re not only playing music but now you’re a full blown showman. For now lights and costume heads will do but DJ 3.0 is coming soon and it’s gonna be to the level of showman ship. Hence you better have some striking poses in the future as you can read by our peers the “jesus pose” is douched over. I’ve seen so many DJs look like they’re dry humping the mixer and feeling really good about it too. The last thing i want to see is every dj doing too much because they need a confidence booster. The consciousness of ones self will lead to better control of ones self.
If this article, or my post has struck any questions or has made you say “wow, I wish they would do study on____________.(fill in the blank)” please post it here. I plan on doing some practical and simple studies on the effects of FX on plants……… yea right!!! seriously a study on what drives “The DJ” vs. what drives the “Th Fans” I was once a B-boy DJ fan that brought me into controllers and becoming a dance music DJ. I couldn’t tell you how it happened, it just did that was the natural flow of things and i went with it. Whats your DJ story?? Do you remember any evolutions??
My last set, I was actually told by the club owner that I was doing a crotch thrust through my whole set that I didn’t even know I was doing lol. She thought it was sexy so I think I might keep it up 😀
Oh and what’s worse….the jesus pose? Or the heart sign with the hands??
Emotion and reading people is just as mixing and all around performance. I’ve been playing out 6+ hours a week infront of people since july. Playing 3 hour sets strait in a club can change pace pretty quick. You have to know the music inside and out and know the perfect timing for almost anything on the fly. Being into the music and feeling it also gives the crowd a understanding of time and pace of what they are listening too. If you strike a jesus pose for the purpose that you are ‘killing it’. Then by all means STRIKE IT. But if you are lost in the mix and pretending to be doing more then you really are just to strike it for confidence.. You should just give up. This is what is filtering all the sheep and so called ‘followers’ that follow trends and just copy what other people do. All in all it should be about the music and who cares what way you stand or scream or jump. Do you and have fun.
I really connected and withdrew what this video was conveying. In and out of my musical environment, I can see how this applies and can be used as an effective motivational tool. Thanks for sharing and I will definitely be demonstrating,experimenting, and sharing these concepts.
if you cant get the video to play, heres the hard link to it: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html
this article was very informative, thanks.
I agree that making eye contact with your audience is key, not only does it give you confidence when you see that the person youre looking at is enjoying it but it also makes the audience feel like theyre a part of the show too, it creates a sense of community in a way. Also I live by the mantra that if the dj doesnt dance you cant trust him. I love dancing and i love being able to take a step back from the decks to stomp one out and the crowd is always super responsive to it too…just like the article says the audience will feed off of your exuberance or eat you alive because it can smell your fear.
I am no superstar DJ and I have only played house parties, fraternity parties and a few random rave type parties, I feel like the act of posing during a set helps to communicate to the crowd how I was feeling at the time. I have employed “power” poses and have even used the jesus pose.
Some of the parties I spun were cramped and tiny garage parties with the room packed with about 70-100 people only able to be jumping up and down while others were in larger spaces with people not packed in and more room for them to truly dance.
The more cramped locations (where I had less space to set up) I noticed that I didn’t have as much of a presence in the room until I did something crazy musically or pose wise. In the places where I could space my self out in the booth I had more presence because I had to physically move from one side of the booth to the other.
I think many people are right in saying that dancing can play a big role in how a crowd reacts to your set. In my experience as I danced more and more people were getting up and dancing around. This typically led to me signaling to the crowd when big drops were with a hand to the sky and a count down almost with my fingers. Giving the crowd a visual cue as to whats about to happen with the music.
My jesus pose typically came durring my electro house or trance sets when a breakout was happening or as it would happen. I’d be jumping up and down to the music with my hands raised and as that fat bass and beat drop out, my hands come wide and to the side. The crowd is in an ecstasy (wether from drugs or the break) i’m not sure and it felt as if the whole room was in a euphoric state. I’d then do the typical visual cuing to let them know that the beat was about to come back again!
While I agree many DJ’s might be using the jesus pose to express confidence, I have to agree that many DJ’s who aren’t skilled will try to use these to boost their image and confidence.
seems to me it all started with a hand in the air and a single finger pointing up saying I’m number one in gesture right before a drop hits. for all intensive purposes in that moment the DJ is number one regardless of how many times the DJ spinning before and after did the same thing. now there can only be one number one even if I’m the real number one. this process continues and continues each DJ being in that moment are the number one, until the last DJ throws up the last number making him the number one.
Now there obviously can be more than one number one at different times but there can only be one Jesus, which trumps the I’m number one pose. So the first person to bust the Jesus pose then becomes the number one and the Jesus Dj. When a DJ busts the Jesus pose they feel godlike and for a brief moment they may feel immortal or invincible regardless of talent. now the one pre req to busting the Jesus superman pose is there must be a constituency or audience to see this pose in order for it to be effective. Busting this move alone although helpful is not nearly as powerful as when there are people to see it. This move only gives you power if you believe in that moment to actually be Jesus the superstar DJ as there is no other reason to strike such a pose.
i would say its physiological at most. For the watcher, it is to them a sign of “the dj has things under control” This also applies to the fact that when you are in audience of someone you see as “great”, you will often mimic the things they do, and in this case youll raise your hands above your head. Do some reading and see what this pose means to most club goers, partyers, dancers.
The second part of it is THE DJ. For the djs point of view, it can be a sence of self validation. Or in better terms, it can be described as “Look Ma! No Hands!” again, telling yourself that you have things under control.
(I should really start writing articles for DJTT. I think im pretty good at it. So good in fact that while writing this reply, i ended it with my arms in the Jesus Pose)
The same thing happens in all music direction also theen years ago. Like in hip hop was a tipical move when the music was good the peoples are move thear hand in the air to the beat. But also other try this reaction no matters how god or bad they are. Also the try to buy this reaction with talking to the microphon “put your hand in the air”.
The same happens on the dancefloor by dancing, screaming and waving the hand in the air.
So also DJ try to buy the reaction from the peoples, some by play tracks “put and in the air”, hand in the air poses eg jesus pose.
WHO BETTER TO WRITE ABOUT THE JESUS POSE THAN HIMSELF?!
The science behind this is actually really intriguing… It makes a lot of sense, especially when I inwardly look at my own flaws of horrible lack of confidence and nervousness during a set… I may have to try this out…
I have occasionally strike a jesus pose or similar (strike that–actually, its usually more of a “hands thrown in the air” arms-in-a-vertical-V type pose) in sets and it really can get confidence going I would say. In addition, the audience is usually in to it as far as I can tell
I like the use of the word “scientific” here…
eh, i feel like the jesus pose is more of a way to say (subliminally) show me what you guys got, show me how much you love what i’m doing because i WANT to embrace your energy type of thing. just my two cents.
I am playing music i truly love. makes no difference whether i am on stage or in bed. that thought alone is enough for me to keep all my stress down. that and the fact that i might not be human lol
I think the main thing aobut this is that people think it is a “douchebag pose” as mentioned in the comments. People who aren’t really good at all tend to do this pose when nothing reallly spectacular has happened in the mix or in general. This is probably why “regular” DJ’s don’t like the pose, since they think it makes them look like a docuhe.
I personally dance all the time when I’m DJ’ing, it is the best way to release some emotion and have fun. Doing any kind of pose is okay in my opinion, aslong as it fits with your music at the time is utlimatily what I’m getting to here. If you are mixing a build up to a good mashup, you have the right to signify to the crowd that they “should get exited” I guess. It’s all about choosing the moment, as with everything about DJ’ing.
Always dance, or try to! When people see me in good mood they are also starting to feel the groove and the same atmosphere as I want them to feel! Just relax and let your body move to the groove you play
I always thought this was the “come at me bro” pose. Thanks for clearing that up.
Interesting read! But while the jesus pose my help to ramp up your confidence, it is often used by people to express their confidence.
A confidence which, sadly, is completely unjustified..
This is due to a phenomenon that is know as the “Dunning-Kruger-Effect” in scientific circles. It was discovered by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, who won the Ig Noble Prize for it in 2000.
Here’s what it’s about:
“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.”
In other words:
There are people who are so unskilled they are too unskilled to realize they are unskilled, which in turn makes them think they are superskilled.
It’s my personal hypothesis that these individuals also tend to cherish the jesus pose the most, event though the study supporting my hypothesis has yet to be conducted…
TL;DR: Before you pose like a douchebag to ramp up you selfconfidence, make sure there actually is something to be confident about…
Disclaimer: This post may contain traces of irony and/or sarcasm. Do not read of you are allergic to humor.
Good points – for people who might be thrown off by your final disclaimer, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a real thing – read more on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect
The only person who can get away with this pose is Marylin Manson. all others are just mouth breathers.
what about chuck norris
Ean can get away with it too, considering he actually looks sorta like Jesus.
Do not even get me started on that person. You have however reached an improper conclusion with your argument.
The jesus pose is palms facing up, the airplane is palms facing down
lol, joe navarro is wingnut, he is obsessed with body language and thinks he is a human lie detector, i dated his daughter when i was in college, it was as close to “meet the parents” as you could get, also, he was fbi, not cia…
also, i do like your opinion on the jesus pose stemming from a lack of confidence, but i also think there is some delusion of grandeur in there as well, lots of performers mistakenly think they are “controlling” the crowd, or that somehow because they are performing, that they are in a superior or leader position to the crowd, so they do cheerleading behaviors like clapping and fist pumping…
i personally despise forced antics on stage by a dj, but like when they “catch the holy ghost” behind the mixer and can’t resist dancing, although someone should let glk know he looks like jay from clerks when he dances…
cool article. makes me think of a haka before a rugby match.
The TED talk was very very interesting, and your comments on how it affects DJing are spot on. And it’s so easy to implement. Good stuff. I’m still never doing it on stage though. Looks douchey.
A great article! I recently played my first live gig, the midnight set at a NYE island festival and had all of the jitters listed above as I started. As midnight approached, I became nervous and excited to the point that I couldn’t stand still. Though once I got up on stage and my first track came through the speakers, any nerves I had were all but gone. On top of this, I knew that my first ten minutes was a combination of tightly constructed transitions. I was fully expecting to be wracked with nerves before and during the event, so I spent the two weeks prior ensuring that I’d prepared all of my tracks and practiced my arse off. So maybe it’s just as important that we thoroughly prepare ourselves as it is to strike a strong, commanding pose in front of the crowd?
Great article. I reckon your thinking is pretty solid. Never underestimate what our primitive brain can do for us!
says the guy with a superman pose as an avatar! 🙂 thanks richard!
Ha! But I’m holding a frisbee! And I’m on a pyramid. Plus, technically, I am doing the Half-Jesus with Walker Texas Ranger Legs.
I just dance while I’m playing. I don’t expect a crowd to love my music if it doesn’t look like I do. Also, dancing is fun, it relieveved stress and keeps things interesting. For the most part, I am fully in agreement with this article.
Noted – and added to the final tips! Worth checking out Ean’s article on dancing being another secret skill of DJs: http://www.djtechtools.com/2011/02/23/dancing-a-djs-secret-skill/
Dancing, smiling, playing songs I love and pulling off innovative and creative mixes keeps my testosterone pounding against the gear 🙂
Why are you staring at me like I need to be.. saved.. ?
(FWIW, I saw “DJ Christ Superstar” at Burning Man 1999. Dust storm rolled through. Insanity Sauce.)
“hitting on girls in the club” link doesn’t work
If you need a link for this then you are already a lost cause!
it’s right here