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2016 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase kicks off 

Also, K. Michelle at Power Ultra Lounge, "Singin' in the Rain" at Ron Robinson, David Bowie tribute at Revolution and ASO does the "Firebird" suite in Maumelle.

THURSDAY 1/28

2016 ARKANSAS TIMES MUSICIANS SHOWCASE

8 p.m. Stickyz. $5.

Thursday night marks the return of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, wherein bands from around the state perform before a panel of judges in semifinal rounds (held over the next few Thursdays) before proceeding to the finals, which will be at Revolution on Friday, Feb. 26. This week's semifinalists: Little Rock's deFrance, who specialize in bluesy Southern rock stomps and bar-band licks — indebted, they happily admit, to Tom Petty and Neil Young — and who released their debut, "HOME," last September; SOULution, whose name should be taken literally and who play wild, propulsive neo-soul; A Rowdy Faith, the singer-songwriting duo of Little Rock's Cate Davison and Alisyn Reid, who play a kind of eclectic, coffee-house Americana; and local Caleb Velasquez, who plays moody solo indie-folk. Judges this year will include Rwake's Christopher Farris Terry (CT), Bad Match's Sarah Stricklin, Low Key Arts' Bill Solleder, Shoog Radio's Aaron Sarlo, Ghost Bones' Bobby Missile and more. The winning band will receive a prize package that includes headlining spots at Valley of the Vapors, the Arkansas State Fair, Riverfest and Legends of Arkansas; gift certificates to Jacksonville Guitar, Blue Chair Studios, State of Mind Clothing and Trio's Restaurant; a photo shoot with the Times' Brian Chilson; and a celebration party and personalized drink courtesy of Stickyz and Revolution. There will also be a ticket giveaway for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival; enter during the semifinal rounds for a drawing on the night of the finals.

FRIDAY 1/29

K. MICHELLE

9 p.m. Power Ultra Lounge. $30.

K. Michelle was groomed for R&B stardom from an early age, and — oddly, as this sort of thing doesn't typically pan out — it worked. Born in Memphis, she studied as a child with voice-teacher/impresario Bob Westbrook, who also gave Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears their earliest vocal lessons. By 2009, when she was either 23, 24, 25 or 27 — depending on which poorly vetted web publication you trust — she'd signed with Jive Records and released the single "Fakin' It," featuring Missy Elliott. As is now typical for the industry, it took her four years and a reality show gig to convince a major label to release her first album. And as is also now typical, her official output generally pales in comparison to her mixtapes, where she's funnier, looser, more sonically adventurous — see 2014's compulsively listenable "Still No Fucks Given," on the opener of which she sang, "I'm not your average R&B singer; I can act a damn fool," adding, "I can't help it." Of course, as she put it in an interview with The FADER, "It's almost impossible to break as an African-American woman right now without TV." Accordingly, she built a national profile on the strength of her role in "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta," on which she detailed her experience with domestic abuse and emerged as a brilliant, if esoteric insult-comic. Off-screen, she's sung hooks for Gucci Mane and Usher, appeared regularly on the Billboard 200, toured with Robin Thicke and Keyshia Cole, and starred in a VH1 R&B opera directed by Idris Elba.

SATURDAY 1/30

'SINGIN' IN THE RAIN'

7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.

I tend to like movies about movies. Hollywood may not be very reliable on the subject of geopolitics or female friendships or archeology or animal consciousness or outer space, but Hollywood does know about movies — about its own industry, which is the subject of Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain." It's about the transition from silent cinema to talkies, a violent war of attrition. There were casualties. Emil Jannings was a towering icon once, but his German accent was too heavy; he went home after the advent of sound. The great comedian Harold Lloyd— rarely heard from again. Lillian Gish returned to the stage. Gloria Swanson disappeared. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford threw in the towel. The idea of synced dialogue was considered not only absurd, but crass. It was the unraveling of a great art form, which had developed decades of conventions around its silence — conventions which were disrupted haphazardly. Hitchcock said that "silent pictures were the purest form of cinema," deriding the new wave as "photographs of people talking." According to the renowned critic Viktor Shklovsky, "Talking film is as little needed as a singing book." Sometimes I think they were right. But without sound we wouldn't have "Singin' in the Rain," one of the best, funniest and most unpredictable musicals of the ecstatic MGM era.

SATURDAY 1/30

ALL THINGS BOWIE: A TRIBUTE TO DAVID BOWIE

9:30 p.m. Revolution. $10.

Like everyone else, I was caught off guard pretty profoundly by the death of David Bowie two weeks ago. Especially because I rarely thought of him as a person who was alive. My understanding of his music was always essentially posthumous — he seemed to belong to a very different cultural context (or two, or three) than any I'd known — and so hearing that he'd died was most shocking for the implication that he'd been living this whole time, living through the Bush and Obama administrations like the rest of us. When I picture Bowie, I first picture his decadent Berlin period, probably because I once read a dull book about the making of his 1977 album "Low." I picture him holed up in Kreuzberg with Iggy Pop, subsisting off milk and cocaine, a depressed former celebrity immersing himself in Krautrock and leaving his artistic decisions to chance, in the form of Brian Eno's "Oblique Strategies" — a deck of cards that provides vague, abstract advice to artists who find themselves stuck. (Samples: "Only a part, not the whole"; "Do nothing for as long as possible"; "The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten.") Listen to his song "Warszawa," and you'll hear the sound of addiction and writer's block collapsing under the weight of pure energetic invention. He was impressive for many reasons, not the least being his ability to bounce back from boredom and inertia and creative dead-ends. This weekend's tribute show features Little Rock's own Charlie Askew, "American Idol" veteran. Maybe he'll pull it off. Another oblique strategy: "Emphasize the flaws."

SATURDAY 1/30-SUNDAY 1/31

ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, 'FIREBIRD SUITE'

7:30 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. Maumelle Performing Arts Center. $19-$58.

Stravinsky. About his childhood, he once admitted, "I never came across anyone who had any real attraction for me." He married his first cousin and lived mostly off the largesse of rich patrons. He had an affair with Coco Chanel, and was a fan of Mussolini. He prayed daily. With his most famous work, "The Rite of Spring," he said his intention was "to send them all to hell." (You've heard of the riots that broke out at the premiere, but did you know that almost immediately afterward, Stravinsky ate a plate of bad oysters, from which he contracted typhoid?) He lived in Hollywood longer than he lived anywhere else. As sketched by his friend Picasso, he was aloof and thin, with a triangular face, slick hair and thick hands. His other good friends included Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden. He was once threatened with arrest by Boston police after he added a dominant seventh chord to his arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In his memoir, he claimed that "music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all." I think I disagree, probably, though I don't really know. "The Firebird" was his breakthrough. It's about a prince facing off against a magician, who sustains his immortality by stashing his soul in a magic egg. There's also a Firebird involved.

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