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3 can't-miss concerts (Feb. 2-5)

The sixth annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, 10 p.m. Feb. 3, Nietzsche's (248 Allen St.), $5.

For the sixth year running, the Allentown music hub will host an evening to celebrate the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. It will be led by the rollicking alt-country group the CPX.

Americana acts Leroy Townes, Ten Cent Howl and the Bear & the Bison will also perform repeat-free sets as a tribute to the late country musician, who would have turned 85 on Feb. 25.

In addition the batch of local bands, the cast from MusicalFare Theatre's "Ring of Fire" will deliver a special performance at Nietzsche's for the birthday celebration.

Featuring Zak Ward (First Ward/Kurt & the Loders) and the CPX's Katie Clark in its ensemble, the production will return for its new run at Shea's 710 Main Theatre on Feb. 17 to bring the story and music of Cash to life on stage.

The Cure vs. The Smiths Dance Party, 8 p.m. Feb. 3, Buffalo Iron Works (49 Illinois St.), $5.

After outgrowing its former home base of Mohawk Place, the annual dance party, presented for 14 years running by Transmission Dance, has settled in nicely at Buffalo Iron Works over the last couple of years. Despite the change of venues, the tradition of pitting the Cure and the Smiths, two of post-punk's most influential acts, against each other for an all-night throw down has continued without hitch.

[PHOTOS: Smiles at The Cure vs. The Smiths Dance Party from 2016]

To freshen up the long-running battle, the Transmission crew will begin the evening with a cocktail hour at 8:30 p.m. as a warm-up for the party. Given that both featured acts have a deep catalog of songs, many of which are not as danceable as others, the hour-long block will allow the DJs to play a collection of those tracks before the more lively cuts take over the night.

Keller Williams with Leo Kottke, 8 p.m. Feb. 4, Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall (1300 Elmwood Ave.), $15-$45.

Since the mid-1990s, Keller Williams has been releasing a steady collection folk/country/jam fusion that has earned him a cult following in a variety of musical circles.

Known for his fascinating live shows, the eccentric Virginia native is rarely found on stage without a looping unit, one that allows him to create improvised melodies and samples through his performances, thus earning him his "one-man jam band" moniker.

On tour to support his just-released new record, the all-acoustic "Raw," Williams will be bring along fingerpicking master Leo Kottke for a tour titled "Shut the Folk Up and Listen" on his latest Buffalo stop. The evening will feature solo sets from each musician, Williams' without his trusty looping unit for a rare acoustic performance, as well the occasional collaborative number throughout the evening.

Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 878-3005 or visiting

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