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THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY could tout itself as Buffalo's most popular alternative band and, to prove it, they could point to shows like the one at 10 p.m. in the Marquee at the Tralf, Theater Place downtown. In the past, their mixture of funk and ska has drawn sellout crowds and this show is likely to do the same.

THE BLUES ROCKERS, fixtures on the local club circuit in the early '80s, get together for the first time in five years at 11 p.m. in Marshall's, 1678 Main St. Occasion for the reunion is the return of saxophonist Craig Standish, who now resides in New Jersey. Joining him will be Buffalo Music Award winner Willie Haddath on guitar and bassist Frank Butcher, both original members, plus Ebo, drummer from the Black Cat Band. This will be Standish's last bachelor fling. He gets married Saturday.

NULLSTADT is no longer a brooding, synthesizer-filled, techno-rock band. Since the departure of keyboardist David Kane and the arrival of guitarist Cage, they're a brooding, guitar-filled, techno-funk band instead. They explore their dance possibilities in Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St., at 11 p.m. The blues-rocking Pinedogs provide high contrast as openers.
GAMALON, for those who haven't caught the band lately, is playing jazz-rock fusion with such intensity and virtuosity these days that they make jaws drop and eyes open wide with amazement. Give them room to stretch out, like they'll have at 10 p.m. in the Marquee at the Tralf, and there's no telling where they'll take it.

PAT FLAHERTY, a pop-jazz vocalist and Niagara University graduate, returns to her hometown with her husband and musical partner, singer and keyboardist Craig Kastelnik, for a performance at 10 p.m. in the Ontario House, 920 Ontario Ave., Niagara Falls. Kastelnik has performed with jazzmen Phil Woods and Randy Brecker and for three years was musical director for country singing star Eddie Rabbitt. Appearing with them will be Charlie Fadale. Other musicians are invited to sit in.

THE KOOTSIE BALL is on its way to becoming a Buffalo holiday tradition. A grand, youthfully upscale party, it has grown to the point where it fills the Connecticut Street Armory. Music comes courtesy of two quite different orchestras -- Gus Broncato's, which is decidedly big-band swing, and Outer Circle, which is determinedly world beat. Dress is "creative black tie." Tickets run $25 if you pick them up at retail outlets Friday (call 855-4415 for locations) and $30 at the door. It all begins with a motorcade at 8 p.m. from Delaware Park Lake.
HEADBANGERS BALL hurls eight thrash and metal bands into the Country Club Skyroom, 2186 Seneca St., starting at 7 p.m. Despite their earsplitting bombast and their sometimes fearsome names -- Manslaughter, Sacred Death, Monarch, Humongous, Atlantis, Malicious, Onslaught and Phantasm -- their intentions are not necessarily evil. For instance, Sacred Death, a Syracuse quintet, explores everything from the fallacies of political and religious leaders to the classic horrors of Edgar Allen Poe.

FIFTH COLUMN may be an all-girl group, but don't mistake them for the Go-Go's and the Bangles. With albums titled "To Sir With Hate" and "All Time Queen of the World," the Toronto band might be considered feminists with an aggressive sense of pop. "The Velvet Underground meets the Cowsills" is how some have described it. Leader G.B. Jones recently premiered her comic movie "Yo Yo Gang" at Hallwalls here. Now she's bringing her bandmates down for a show in the Continental, 212 Franklin St. They start around midnight.
FIRST NIGHT BUFFALO has 26 performance areas, but there's one off the beaten track that shouldn't be overlooked. It's Tram's Little Harlem, 496 Michigan Ave., where the Arabian Nights back room plays host between 5 and 9:15 p.m. to the reggae of Positive Force and the blues-rock of the Hurricanes, the Jamie Moses Band and the 7th Sons.

Also of note to rock and alternative music fans are the Main Place teen stage (Pinheads, Tails, August, Loud & Clear and the Quakes), the Cabaret (Billy McEwen & the Invaders, Bilal Abdullah Quintet and David Kane's Them Jazzbeards) and the festival of world beat in the Erie Community College atrium with Outer Circle Orchestra, Street Rhythm, the Buffalo Town Express, Azucar and Wato Seta.

MY SICK FRIENDS is a New York City quartet that plays with the manic, sweat-drenched excess of the early punk bands, as anyone who caught their show here in October will attest. That's why the Continental has brought them back to ring in the new year. Assisting will be a Buffalo band of similar inclinations, the Fems, who will be celebrating the release of their new eight-song cassette. Action begins around 11:30 p.m.

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