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In the clubs and under the radar

When Big Wreck first emerged from southern Ontario in the latter 1990s, the group’s blend of heavy rock and adventurous song construction was not exactly an anomaly. After all, we’d had Soundgarden during that decade, hadn’t we? It was not so unusual for heavy bands to be forming new hybrids and pushing the envelope of what was deemed “acceptable.”

That changed, radically and not for the better, a few short years later. So that by the time Big Wreck broke up, leaving singer/guitarist Ian Thornley to front a new band named after himself, any heavy rock act that wanted to at least flirt with the mainstream had to sound at least a little bit like Nickleback – meaning, overproduced, toothless, streamlined to the point of lacking edge. We could have used Big Wreck right around then.

Well, as it turns out, Thornley thought so, too. He teamed with his former writing partner, guitarist Brian Doherty, and relaunched Big Wreck, a reconciliation that has yielded the rather excellent new album, “Albatross,” the group’s first since its 2001 split.

Teaming with producer Nick Raskulinecz (who worked with Rush to produce its last two epics “Clockwork Angels” and “Snakes & Arrows,” and has also worked with Foo Fighters), Thornley and Doherty crafted a record that lives up to Thornley’s description of it to Canada’s Exclaim magazine: “I wanted to avoid falling into the formulaic cookie-cutter trap. That’s not going to interest me, so how can it interest the listener? I have to go with my gut, which means longer songs, intros, bridges and guitar solos which explore strange territories, more room for breathing, and a different dynamic range or sonic palette altogether.” Yes!

Big Wreck brings its “Albatross” tour to the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.) at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $20 advance, $24 day of show (box office,

Gig picks

What Would Mingus Do?, led by saxophonist Kelly Bucheger, and featuring trumpeter Tim Clarke, pianist George Caldwell, bassist Greg Piontek and drummer John Bacon, will attempt to answer the question posed by its name at 8 tonight in Pausa Art House (19 Wadsworth St.). These are some of the finest jazz musicians in town, so if, like me, you’ve been eager to check out this new Allentown venue, tonight might be a good night to break the seal. Admission is $5 at the door. See

Gypsy jazz guitarist extraordinaire Stephane Wrembel and his band play at 7 tonight in the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst St.). Fans of Django Reinhardt, Buffalo’s own Babik or astounding musicianship in general, your $12 at the door will be money well spent.

After Hours, a noir-lounge band fronted by singer Kristen Gilmet and guitarist Dave Gilmet, will bring blue velvet sounds to Coco (888 Main St.) beginning at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Singer/songwriter Andy Grammer will play in the Gallagher Center on the Niagara University campus at 7 p.m. Saturday. Parachute will open. Tickets for the general public are $15 (Ticketmaster).

After a recent road trip which found the band rubbing elbows with Phish drummer John Fishman at the fabled Nektar’s in Burlington, Vt., Aqueous returns home for a headlining show at 10 p.m. Saturday in Nietzsche’s (248 Allen St.). The Stagecoach Robbery and Our Friend’s Band will share the bill. Admission at the door will be $7.

Texas blues guitar legend Jimmy Vaughan and his band play the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Buffalo’s own soul/blues/R&B outfit Dive House Union will open. Tickets are $28 (box office, Ticketmaster).