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This weekend, there really isn't anything bigger or more important happening than S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest. Raleigh's annual "Southern Plunge into Trailer Trash Leisure Entertainment" is the local showcase for the alt-country set. This year's fest happens on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Jan. 27 through 29) at The Brewery. Thursday's lineup features Two Dollar Pistols, Star Room Boys and Chicken Wire Gang. Friday features spaced-out lady preacher Miss Tammy Faye Starlight, The Carbines and Big Joe. Finally, Saturday includes The Backsliders, Trailer Bride and Drive By Truckers. For ticket information or show times, call 834-7018. --Karen A. Mann

DiamondDiamondDiamondColumbia, S.C., singer-songwriter Danielle Howle (pictured) swings through the Triangle for two acoustic shows this week. On this tour, weekday shows feature a solo Howle, with the Tantrums joining for the weekend gigs (guess they have day jobs). Howle's genre-bending indie folk/country has brought her opening gigs with such disparate acts as Ani DiFranco, Mary Lou Lord and Elliott Smith. In Howle's words, "I'm not trying to shock people with weirdness; I'm trying to tell whatever truth is out there. I do not need electricity to make a big noise." Even if you're partial to electricity, check it out Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Humble Pie in Raleigh (call 829-9222), and Thursday, Jan. 27, at Go! in Carrboro (call 969-1400).

DiamondDiamondDiamondLocal 506 features two happening bills this weekend. Friday, Jan. 28, Merge recording artists Shark Quest, with their eclectic, otherworldly instrumentals (Laird Dixon's distinctive plucked guitar musings; multi-instrumentalist Sara Bell on mandolin, banjo, guitar; and Chris Eubank on cello) open the night with their non-raucous, nuanced take on "rock." Shark Quest has been in the studio tracking with transplanted Minneapolis studio guru Brian Paulson (Slint, Son Volt, Wilco, Squirrel Nuts, etc.). Rumor has it the stuff is way cool. Look for a new album in June. Raleigh "supergroup" the Patty Hurst Shifter (former Festus dude Marc Smith, who also plays guitar with Snatches of Pink; Chris Smith; drummer Johnny Williams; and former Tonebender bassist Rich Avery) deliver "straight-up rock 'n' roll." Athens, Ga.'s Drive By Truckers headline the evening with their revved up, gear-strippin' non-pussified rock. Three strong bands, baby.

Saturday, Jan. 29, Birmingham, Alabama's answer to glam rock Smithwick Machine--chunky heels, MAC makeup and all--hit the stage for some poncy-yet-crunchy rock. You'll be wonderstruck at their ability to play and pose at the same time. Also on the bill is longtime local Stones-y rock outfit Snatches of Pink, as well as Chapel Hill's own choker-wearin' guitar-slingin' glam boy Johnny Dzubak and his band, the Marshall-driven, Smithwick-influenced Crash Cadillac. Wear flares (and eyeliner). Red alert: As of Feb. 1, Local 506 will start their Sunday through Thursday shows no later than 9 p.m., says co-owner Dave Robertson. This is good news to all us clubgoers who can't live without our pesky jobs. --Angie Carlson

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