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THE TOUGHEST OF GIGS <br> NEW YEAR'S EVE IS DIFFICULT ENOUGH WITHOUT THE Y2K HYPE

Even without the bugs of Y2K, New Year's Eve has been a nerve-wracking gig for performers.

They have had to worry about drunks, rowdy crowds and keeping the final countdown on schedule. Tomorrow at midnight, when the clock strikes a new millennium, the people on stage may also have to fret about power failures, terrorist acts, who knows, maybe even the end of the world.

"I'm trying not to worry about all this millennium stuff because most of it's just New Year's Eve hype," said Steven Page, singer and guitarist for the Barenaked Ladies, who will play Marine Midland Arena Friday at 9 p.m.

Jian Ghomeshi of Moxy Fruvous, which will play a sold-out New Year's Eve show at 9 p.m. in the Tralf, said it may also be difficult to live up to the sky-high expectations.

"No matter how much (people) pay, nothing will live up to this hype. So many people are going to be disappointed, it's going to be a devastating starting point for a new year and new century."

"Playing on New Year's Eve (anyway) is a weird dynamic," Ghomeshi added. "You almost feel you can't just satiate people with a great performance. They want something more."

And that's something both bands say they are determined to provide. Both Toronto bands have strong ties to Buffalo, and they're glad to be spending New Year's Eve with their fans here.

"We chose to play New Year's Eve in Buffalo because it was the first American city to get turned on to us," Page said. "It's close to our home and we've joked that Buffalo is our second home. I'm not excited about the millennium, but I am excited about playing in Buffalo at the arena."

Page said the band will be on the arena stage at midnight, making it the latest rock performance at that venue.

"We have to be on stage at midnight, it wouldn't be right if we weren't. What are we supposed to do, send the people home to watch Dick Clark?"

Ghomeshi and Moxy Fruvous will also be leading the midnight cheer in Buffalo. In addition to the New Year's Eve gig, the band will play a sold-out show at 9 p.m. on New Year's Day.

"We're going to really be doing two shows on New Year's Eve; the pre-midnight performance will be melancholy and reflective," Ghomeshi said. "After midnight we're going to go a little bit crazy and do a bunch of cover songs and have a good time."

Fruvous, like the Barenaked Ladies, has long been a local favorite.

"I really like Buffalo. It doesn't have a sexy image but it has a lot of culture and is a real working-class town," Ghomeshi said. "The Tralf is a perfect spot for what I call an anti-Millennium New Year's Eve: It's cool, it's intimate, it's Buffalo and the people feel like family. I'd rather be there than Times Square."

One Buffalo band that will be in Times Square is the Goo Goo Dolls. Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac will be part of the MTV show to celebrate the new year.

"I keep having these black doomsday thoughts of that being the night the Ebola virus makes its New York City debut," Rzeznik said with a smile earlier this month during a visit home. "What happens if some crazed terrorist takes over the city while we're playing?"

About two million people are expected to be in Times Square and millions more will be watching the Goos on TV.

"I don't think anything bad is going to happen," Rzeznik said. "It's New Year's Eve and we're all trying to have a good time."

Comics may face an even greater challenge than musicians in providing that good time. Standing on stage alone, without musical instruments, they survive on their wit and ability to handle an audience.

"New Year's Eve is the toughest night of the year and I hate working on that night," said comic/hypnotist J. Medicine Hat, who will be doing so anyway with two shows Friday at 7 and 10 p.m. in the Funny Bone Comedy Club in the Boulevard Mall.

"On New Year's Eve you know it's going to be tough with the drunks, and it's primarily a date night. It's hard for me to get people to come up on stage to be hypnotized. First I have to convince them that this is not a rodeo or tractor pull.

"Last New Year's I did three shows," Medicine Hat said. "The five o'clock show was excellent. At the eight o'clock show, a guy threw up on stage. For the 11 o'clock show, almost the whole audience was trashed."

Those looking to avoid the really big crowds can find New Year's Eve shelter in local clubs. Redheaded Stepchild and the Red Gills will be performing folk sounds Friday starting at 10:30 p.m. in Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St.

"We're the anti-Y2K show," said Kathryn Koch, singer for Redheaded Stepchild. "I think everything is just a little too crazy this New Year's Eve. Too many people are paying too much money to have a good time they're not going to find.

"We're avoiding that, and Nietzsche's is a good place for us. It's a small club in Allentown and we feel comfortable there."

Koch admits things are a little scary this year, with the talk of computer failures and Y2K bugs. "But that doesn't bother us," she added. "We're an acoustic band, so we don't have to worry if the power goes out."

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