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Universe Shark has spent the first three years of its existence focusing almost entirely on performing live. That has meant touring, and lots of it. It has also meant plenty of area shows, during which the four musicians have seized the opportunity to stretch out, explore and find themselves as both individual players and as a performing collective.

All of that experience comes in handy when it’s finally time to head into the recording studio and attempt to transfer in-concert magic to tape (or digital files, as the case may be). Road work, constant gigging, rehearsals when you aren’t gigging – these conspire to make a collection of musicians into a band, and Universe Shark was wise to put the horse in front of the cart by becoming an outstanding live band as a first order of business. The road work has paid off in the form of “Universe Shark,” the band’s full-length studio debut. The record’s release will be celebrated with a party and performance at 10 tonight in Nietzsche’s (248 Allen St.). Killer Massachusetts jam band the Brew will share the bill. Copies of “Universe Shark” will be available at the show.

Ana plays with fire

Serbian guitarist and singer Ana Popovic has earned herself a worldwide reputation as one of the finest rock-blues guitarists, singers and songwriters going. Popovic can sing with the firm bluesy fortitude of a Bonnie Raitt or a Susan Tedeschi, and she can solo with the authority of a Hendrix devotee. A quick scan of her YouTube videos reveals simply smoking takes on her own “Messin’ With the Wrong Woman” and Hendrix’s “House Burning Down,” as well as a plethora of fan-shot videos of performances at jazz and blues festivals around the world. Popovic and her band are serious road warriors, and anyone into funk and Chicago blues will find plenty to love in their performance. They’ll arrive for a performance at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst St.). Tickets are $20 (at the door and through Showclix.com).

Gig picks

Niagara Falls-based blues-rock outfit High Horse – singer Peter Vogt, keyboardist Dan Sturner, guitarist Chuck DeRose, bassist Eli Porter and drummer Sandy Belsky – will celebrate the release of a self-titled debut disc of original material at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.). The band has taken top honors as Best Niagara Falls Band in the Night Life Buffalo Music Awards for the past three years. Tickets are $14 advance, $19 day of show (box office, Ticketmaster.com).

McCarthyizm brings its blend of Celtic rock and singer-songwriter fare to the Buffalo Irish Center (245 Abbott Road) at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The annual Hard Rock Rising competition, which will whittle down a roster of competing bands to find one entity that will represent WNY at the Hard Rock Rising concert held in London this summer, enters its second phase tonight, with a performance by Back to the Bars. The event takes place at the Hard Rock Cafe (333 Prospect St., Niagara Falls) tonight beginning at 7 p.m.

Western New York Women who Rock # 2, a concert benefitting the Family Justice Center, takes place at Orchard Park High School (4040 Baker Road, Orchard Park) beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The Alison Pipitone Band, the Grace Stumberg Band, Bethany Fonda, Emmi James, Sara Elizabeth and Becca will perform. A suggested donation of $10 will be accepted at the door.

email: jmiers@buffnews.com