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In the clubs 

Didn't get in to see Smashing Pumpkins last Saturday at Cat's Cradle? Don't worry, you can make up for it this weekend with a slew of not-so-secret shows that won't require you to camp out for tickets.

If you're into alternative country, you really don't need to be anywhere besides Local 506 this weekend for the club's annual Honky Tonka Rama showcase. Friday night's lineup features Hobart Willis, The Tremblers, Chicken Wire Gang, Kenny Roby (whose Mercury's Blues CD is my favorite local release of the new year), The Carbines and Two Dollar Pistols. Saturday features Blue Balls Deluxe, The Star Room Boys, Trailer Bride, Billygoats, Drive By Truckers and The Backsliders (whose Southern Lines CD was my favorite release of last year). Call Local 506 at 942-5506.

If you decide to make an alt-country week of it, start on Wednesday, Feb. 23, with Steve Howell and Kim McPhatter at The Cave. Howell, one of the area's best guitarists of any genre, previously played with Two Dollar Pistols and was a longtime member of The Backsliders. He describes his project with McPhatter as less twangy, but still in a countryish vein. Call The Cave at 968-9308. --Karen A. Mann

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Two very different bands that got their start in the early '80s play at the Cradle this weekend. Friday, Feb. 25, brings the last surviving "Southern Pop" group, the Connells. College rock staples for more than a decade (we used to joke that kids at North Carolina and Virginia would get a Connells CD in their orientation packet), they parted ways with label TVT last year. During their seven-album career they've delivered consistently memorable songs, and it's still mesmerizing to hear Doug Macmillan's pure, Art Garfunkel-style vocals.

Who can forget Lee Ving taunting the L.A. crowd in The Decline of Western Civilization? Fear has a new record in the works with Fat Wreck Chords. Still, it's been a long time since The Record and More Beer ... it might be better to let old sleeping punks lie. Ving's been touring on and off over the years (who can forget Lee Ving's Army); this Fear's got no Derf, no Philo, no Spit Stix. Ving got the acting bug way back, and his résumé reads like a schedule for the USA network (oh, except for Flashdance). So it's like, "Hey, I'm not a punk, but I play one on TV." Catch him live Sunday, Feb. 27, at Cat's Cradle. Call 967-9053 for tix. --Angie Carlson

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