ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: 'CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE'
8 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $10-$58.
What goes really well with a boisterous orchestra performing a lineup of lively classics? How about high-flying acrobatics? Sound good? Of course it does.
In this, the fifth installment of the Acxiom Pops Live Series, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will be joined by a talented array of dancers — mostly from Russia — who'll perform feats of derring-do, including acts of contortion, dance, acrobatics, juggling, balancing and that thing where they hang and twirl around in midair on really long pieces of fabric.
Musical highlights include Strauss' "Overture to Die Fledermaus," selections from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and "Sleeping Beauty Suite," Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque: Claire de Lune" and works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Bizet, Bartok and more. Geoffrey Robson conducts. The program also runs Sunday at 3 p.m.
If you think of Alvin Youngblood Hart only as a Handy and Grammy award-winning interpreter of roots and blues music of bygone eras (as many seem to continue to try to do), you would be missing the majority of what the multifaceted artist has created thus far and continues to create. It would be akin to judging a bowl of gumbo base solely on a single ingredient, a folly to be sure. That fine gumbo has a roots and blues component, sure enough, but there is also R&B, soul and good ol’ fuse-blowing Southern rock 'n' roll, just to name a few of the ingredients.
Hart hits the White Water Tavern Saturday night with his three-piece band, Muscle Theory. The smart money would seem to indicate that this show will be loud, in your face and will make you shake what you got. Nothing quaint or overly nostalgic seems very likely.
I recently got to talk to Hart about coming to Arkansas. Turns out, he's no stranger to our fair state, his history here dating back to the 1980s, cleaning navigation channels in the Ouachita River. Hart has worked with many Arkansawyers throughout his career. Arkansas-born Memphis record legend Jim Dickinson produced Hart’s album “Start with the Soul,” which contains a blistering cover of Black Oak Arkansas's “Cryin’ Shame.” Hart, along with Dickinson’s son Luther (of The North Mississippi All Stars) and the “Arkansas Son-In-Law” Jimbo Mathus make up the South Memphis String Band. Memphis bass mainstay and Pine Bluff native Mark Edgar Stuart (The Pawtuckets, One Four Fives et al) handled the bass chores for Hart’s band in the early 2000’s. He has also shared the stage with our own Greg Spradlin, the pride of Pangburn.
Though Hart has played Little Rock before, this is his first appearance at the venerable White Water Tavern. Given his history of defying musical categories while still acknowledging the past, the sometimes-cramped White Water should be a perfect fit for his huge sound. If you still need categories to enjoy music, categorize this show under “not to be missed.”
ARKANSAS DELTA ROCKABILLY FESTIVAL
3 p.m. Downtown Helena. $30.
All right rockabilly lovers, check it: They're gonna be havin' a party over in Helena, and they invited Wanda Jackson, who probably needs no introduction, so notable are her contributions to the history of the genre. The tireless Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers are also performing at the 3rd Annual Arkansas Delta Rockabilly Festival.
That right there makes for two bona fide, genuine, real-deal rockabilly innovators (they both play on Saturday). But wait, there's more: Sleepy LaBeef's playing on Friday, along with Brandon Cunning & The Stunning Cunning Band, C.W. Gatlin, The Cate Brothers (in tribute to Levon Helm) and Cooter and Cooter's Garage Band.
Saturday kicks off at 11 a.m. with the great drummer D.J. Fontana performing with Stan Perkins (son of Carl Perkins), followed by Reba Russell, W.S. Holland (drummer for Johnny Cash), Ace Cannon, Linda Gail Lewis (sister of Jerry Lee), Burgess and The Pacers, Jackson, Travis Wammack and The Kentucky Headhunters.
Kids younger than 12 are free with a paid adult.
THICK SYRUP ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
It's been seven years (eight really, but he doesn't count the first one) since Travis McElroy got the itch to become a record label mogul.
In that time, his Thick Syrup Records has given us such notable releases as: Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth's "Mystic Indian Hitmakers," which will one day be widely recognized for the brilliant work of twisted rock genius it is; the works of Smoke Up Johnny, who soundtracked so many of our hazy evenings with their goodtime beer-drinkin' rock 'n' roll; Ezra Lbs, whose self-titled debut was a highlight of last year; the sophisticated arch-power pop of The Alpha Ray's "Follow the Ghost" — and those are but a few of the local releases Thick Syrup has graced us with.
McElroy has also released a raft of records from some of the underground's leading lights, such as Half Japanese, Chrome Cranks, zinester legend and filmmaker Dave Markey, Weird Paul, Don Fleming and so many more. To mark the anniversary of Thick Syrup, this Thursday, White Water Tavern hosts Ginsu Wives, Hamburguesa and The Bloodless Cooties (TSR will be releasing the band's first full-length in 20 years in July!), and on Friday, Bryan Frazier, Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth and Richie (of Tennessee trouble-causers Ghostfinger).
9 p.m. Juanita's. $10 adv., $12 day of.
Like a good many singer/songwriters, Ben Taylor has spent the last several years honing a brand of laid-back songcraft that's thoughtful without being ponderous and adventurous without trying to reinvent the wheel.
Unlike the bulk of his peers, Taylor's parents (Carly Simon and James Taylor) are legendary musicians. That caliber of comparison might intimidate a lot of star progeny, but Ben Taylor seems very comfortable and confident. His voice is a bit similar to his father's, but not uncannily so. His 2005 album "Another Run Around the Sun" (produced by actor Kevin Bacon) earned Taylor critical accolades, with Allmusic calling it "sure-footed, impossibly warm, and engaging enough to deserve an attentive audience."
His 2012 album "Listening" will be a good bet for anybody into contemporary folk and singer/songwriter-types like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. Treva Blomquist and Cliff Hutchison are also on the bill.
THE DEVIL MAKES THREE
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $13 adv., $15 day of.
At this point, bands that mix it up at the intersection of country, folk, blues, hillbilly, ragtime, rock 'n' roll and punk aren't really a novelty anymore. That's just a normal thing, now that everyone figured out it was all pretty similar to begin with and stopped acting like genres are these walls that are necessary to keep things separate. What a silly way to be that was, right?
The Devil Makes Three is one of the bands that figured that out about a decade ago. They're a trio out of Santa Cruz, Calif., and their drummer-less, all-string approach doesn't keep them from kicking up a ruckus. Just give a listen to any of the band's albums, but especially their live sets, "A Little Bit Faster and a Little Bit Worse" from 2006 or 2011's "Stomp and Smash."
Also on this bill is Jonny Fritz, (formerly known as Jonny Corndawg), a country performer with a gentle lilt and a yen for humorous tunes. He's got a new album out: "Dad Country" on ATO Records.
9 p.m. Stickyz. $10 adv., $12 day of.
Titus Andronicus, of New Jersey, is one of the latest in a long line of boozy, melodic punk rock bands that stretches from The Clash and The Pogues and The Replacements up through Dillinger Four and Against Me! and The Hold Steady (they share D4's affinity for long, absurd, often hilarious song titles, e.g., "Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter").
Titus Andronicus has a much grander and weirder scope and vision than most of those comparisons would lead you to believe. Just give a spin to the band's 2010 album "The Monitor," a loose concept album about the Civil War, interspersed with bits of speeches from Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.
The band's latest, 2012's "Local Business," starts with a trifecta of punk anthems that's as exciting as anything I've heard in a good while. They crib from "Personality Crisis" on the 69-second instrumental "Food Fight!" only to move seamlessly into the personal and candid eight-minute epic, "My Eating Disorder," about frontman Patrick Stickles' battle with Selective Eating Disorder.
The band is on tour with power-pop-informed punks The So So Glos out of Brooklyn.
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5.
Little Rock's Whale Fire has its debut full-length out this week, and will be showcasing the tunes at this here album release show. It's called "Before You Run," and you might be familiar with some of the tunes, including "Dream of Me" and "The Fabric," which were released on a 7" single in September.
Those tracks were solid as a single, but I think they might work even better in the opening half of the album, especially "Dream of Me," which kicks the record off with an emotional start. The fifth track, "Take Fire," kicks up the tempo a bit, giving way to "U Will Find," a jaunty, gentle folk number with the reverb-drenched atmospherics and lush singing that the band has made its calling card.
The album closes with the nine-minute "All Gone, All Along," a shuffling rumination that includes an awesome head fake of feedback and warped sound effects before winding its way to a coda that lingers perhaps just a touch too long. That very minor criticism aside, it's clear the band has put a lot of work and thought into the album and you can hear that in the end result.
Opening up the show will be Whale Fire's fellow travelers The See.
KABF PLEDGE DRIVE LAUNCH PARTY
8 p.m. Revolution. $5.
Little Rock community radio station KABF-FM 88.3 recently announced some lineup and scheduling changes, part of a "reorganization to better serve its listeners and the community on the eve of its 29th year on the air," according to a press release.
That means the addition of some new shows (a drive-time music show), the return of some established programs and, of course, fund-raising. The spring pledge drive starts Saturday and goes through May 18.
They're kicking things off with a pledge drive concert (18-and-older) that boasts a great lineup of music, emceed by Shoog Radio host Cheyenne Matthews, Ursula and Adam Hogg, with performances from Amy Garland and Nick Devlin, Color Club, Big Piph and Ezra Lbs.
If you care about KABF and want to see it continue, show your support by making a tax-deductible donation.
Conway's Toad Suck Daze officially kicked off Monday with a golf tournament, and mere minutes from now, the annual Stuck on a Truck contest will begin. (In case you missed it, last year's contest was covered in exhaustive and hilarious detail by Hendrix professor Tyrone Jaeger. It is a must-read). By 5:30 p.m. today, downtown will be blocked off.
Vendor booths will open Friday morning at 10 a.m., and The Daze will officially kick off at 3:30 p.m., with plenty of games, concessions, music, parades, puppets, races, music, family fun and more all weekend. Musical headliners include country favorites Kip Moore on Friday and Diamond Rio on Saturday night.
Here's the entire schedule of events. The music schedule is after the jump. Oh, and admission is free for all events, though you'll need to procure yourself some Toad Bucks for refreshments and what-have-you.
8 p.m. Verizon Arena. $39-$147.
Is there another band that rose to fame during the Classic Rock Decade — let's call it 1970-1980 — for which there is broader consensus than Fleetwood Mac? (Side note: I'm referring to the Buckingham/Nicks lineup of the band; the earlier incarnations certainly had their merits, e.g. 1969's majestic "Then Play On").
Sure, you'll hear people dis the giants from that era all the time. The Eagles were and are huge, and sold a ton of records. But they also inspire passionate hatred. Ditto for your Billy Joels and your Elton Johns and your Peter Framptons. But have you ever heard any credible person (basically anybody who's not a gadfly, curmudgeon, spoilsport or stick in the mud) claim that Fleetwood Mac sucks?
No, you have not. And why is that? It's because the band made music that was sophisticated and catchy, but also real and human. They were massively popular and despite the ubiquity of many of the group's hits, I never change the dial when "Rhiannon" or "Go Your Own Way" or "Dreams" comes on, even though I've heard 'em a zillion times. The band's hits are simply indelible parts of the pop landscape, one of the few groups that just about everyone can agree on.
Pine Bluff native and longtime Memphis music fixture Mark Edgar Stuart plays at White Water Tavern with the great Jim Mize, Thursday, 9 p.m., $5.
Read more about Stuart and his new album, "Blues for Lou," right here.
UPDATE: Congrats to Rock Candy reader Diane Hudson, who won our drawing.
Your good friends here at the Times know how much you all love the music concerts, and also how much you all love winning free tickets to the music concerts.
So how would you like to win a pair of tickets to see Ben Taylor at Juanita's on May 9? Taylor has released several albums of stylistically diverse contemporary folk over the years, most recently 2012's "Listening." If you're into the breezy, laid-back singer/songwriter vibe of such artists as Josh Rouse or maybe Jason Mraz, you will likely find much to dig in Taylor's tunes. Also, Taylor is a student of the martial arts. And his parents are famous musicians, something he discusses right here.
Check out this video of him and a buddy cold porchin' it, playing guitars and singing his song "Nothing I Can Do."
If you would like to be entered in Rock Candy's drawing, just send an email to robert bell at arktimes dot com with "BEN TAYLOR" in the subject line (in all caps like that, if you please) by noon o'clock on May 8 and you'll be entered. We'll draw the winning name that afternoon. You can also get tickets here, if you want to play it safe or if you just don't like drawings or something.
OK, Floyd freaks, we've got a pair of tickets to give away to Tuesday's Brit Floyd show at Verizon Arena. One of the most widely acclaimed Pink Floyd tribute acts in the world will be performing five albums in their entireties, and you could win two tickets.
All you need to do is email me (robert bell at arktimes dot com) with "BRIT FLOYD" in the subject line by noon on Monday, April 29 and you'll be entered in our drawing. I'll draw the winning name that afternoon. Sound good? Cool. Good luck!
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