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WHAT: The Lowest of the Low

WHEN: Thursday and next Friday

WHERE: The Tralf, 100 Theater Place

TICKETS: $23 (Friday sold out)

INFO: 851-8725

The Lowest of the Low may be one of the most popular bands to make its way through Buffalo in the last decade, but it's hard to keep a handle on the foursome.

Breakups, reunions, side bands, solo tours -- is this a band or a bunch of guys who get together and sell out the Tralf when they need a few bucks?

The question can be answered here: There are new songs and a new album in the making.

What was supposed to have been a six-show, one-time reunion in late 2000 turned into a sporadic tour across Canada. And now that the honeymoon is over, the romance seems to be sticking as the newest incarnation of the Lowest of the Low is heading back into the studio with at least a dozen new songs.

Longtime Low fans -- who suffered through a sudden breakup in 1994 blamed on drug problems and bad business decisions; various attempts by band members to make it solo; then the surprise reacquaintance on a Buffalo stage in October 2000 -- can look forward to the album probably this spring, and then a summer tour.

But things are different this time around for the Toronto performers who call Buffalo their "first musical home." For band members -- whose ugly breakup is legendary -- playing together again was just "too much fun."

"There is something special going on now -- a spark," says Stephen Stanley, who writes some of the band's tunes but generally plays musical sidekick to frontman and signature Low leader Ron Hawkins.

The spark comes from a combination of being older and wiser and appreciating their friendship, says Stanley, chatting on the phone this week from his "day job" as a graphic artist in Toronto.

"We were having such a good time, and it was working," he says. "We were friends long before we were a band. And having so much fun was a good indication that we could create music together again."

So how does a band break up in 1994 and then start all over again in 2002? "We have one rule: to ignore what we were completely," Stanley says, then adds quickly, "but I think we still sound like us."

Stanley predicts the new album will sound "a lot more experimental, with a lot of layers and mood changes throughout."

After the 2000 reunion, a tour that reached into Western New York several times and a live album last year that included a few studio songs, the band sat down this past February and discussed what to do next. They wanted to write new songs and they wanted to have a fresh start.

They parted ways with bass player John Arnott and recently brought in Dylan Parker to take over. Now the plan is to head into the studio a few days after the two Tralf shows, Thursday and next Friday (which is already sold out).

Stanley is expecting a new album in January from his side project, the Stephen Stanley Band. The priority in his musical life, however, is still the Lowest of the Low. And the band is definitely on a high.


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