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Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 05:51 am

Now playing 2-19-04

Woodbox Gang Underground City Tavern Saturday, 10pm-2am.

Take a deep breath. Let's dive deep to find the hidden treasures beneath the still waters of the capital city's nightlife.

Can you hope for a better way to start your weekend than a visit to Robbie's and a listen to the swingin' strains of Dick Garretson's Little Big Band? I think not. Garretson's name has been synonymous (as they say) with Class A music in Springfield for decades. Here's a chance to get up close and personal with a true local legend.

After the early evening downtown show, head west people, and venture into the Dixieland world of Riverboat 5+1 at Lime Street Cafe. The swirling melodies mix like ingredients in a bowl, as the separate sounds of each instrument combine to create a tasteful delight for the ears. Yum, yum.

Not far from the location of the classic sounds of New Orleans, Funaddicts (Bare Bones+1) get the Trading Post Saloon hopping along the trail to good times. If you want it and they know it, you can hear it, because they'll play it. It's quite likely that you won't have to even ask for your favorite popular tune -- Funaddicts already have it in the song list.

When enough is never enough, swing on back downtown (you probably need to drop somebody off anyway) and check out Hot Iron Skillet at Viele's Planet. You can be late -- the bands play until 3 a.m. (yawn) -- but don't be too late, it might take a few moments to realign your senses to the brash and beautiful clanging cacophony that makes HIS a treat. Open your ears (you might want earplugs) and take in the noise. It's uplifting and intriguing. Really.

On Saturday night, drop everything you're doing (unless you're bathing the baby) and get yourself down to the Underground City Tavern for an experience with the backwoods intelligensia known as Woodbox Gang. Hiding under the cloak of fired-up folk music, these critters from southern Illinois make some of the most hilarious, socially biting, peculiar, lyric-driven, hard-drivin' music around. It could be "Wiener Dog Tales" or "I Roll My Own" or that crazy song about the devil on a tractor -- I can't keep them straight. When the side-splitting humor wears off and you're stuck with the acute awareness that this band is tottering on the verge of genius, then you won't think it's so funny. Oh you probably will, but it could make it seem even funnier.

If you thought the Lost Boys were just a good '80s big hair cover band, you were right. But my sources tell me (Hi Erica) that their 2003 debut CD Break Away is a keeper. They've been working the original material into their historical perspective sets of the '80s and so far no one has noticed. Hey, don't take that the wrong way. You know what I mean. Find them at Marly's Pub on Saturday night at the Budweiser True Music Behind Bars event.

It would be a sin not to mention the Coco Montoya show happening Monday at the Alamo. (And I ain't no sinner, Lord!) Bless the blues club for keeping the cover at a buck and being proud of it. Montoya is a nationally renowned scorching blues guitarist and worth every penny.

Now come on up with your hands full of goodies and breathe. Hope you don't get the bends.

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