Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
by John Tarpley
ARKANSAS TRAVELERS HOME OPENER
7:10 p.m., Dickey-Stephens Park. $6-$12.
All right, let's not sugar-coat it: As of press time, our Travs are sucking. Like, "Seattle Mariners sucking." The team is 0-4 with a (get your Google ready) Bill Bergen-like combined batting average of .217, leaving the team firmly in the bottom slot in Texas League rankings. It's not the way you'd want to start a season, but we'll give the club a break and chalk up part of its failure to launch on the fact that they've been on the road. Thursday, however, marks the season home opener when the Travs take the field against the Midland RockHounds, the league's leaders with a perfect season in four games. Sure, it would be great, heartwarming stuff to see the Travs deliver their first win of the season in their first home game, but take it from a Cubs fan who's too familiar with baseball futility: Drowning your disappointment in beer and Crayola-yellow nacho cheese isn't that bad a consolation prize.
BRITISH SEA POWER
9 p.m., Stickyz. $10.
Since turning ears towards the pastoral, northwestern county of Cumbria in 2003 with the debut, "The Decline of British Sea Power" (how's that for an amazing album title?), the lads of British Sea Power have released albums and EPs at a steady tack, each more or less widely acclaimed if not raved about and pored over. The band's millennial post-punk has elicited broad comparisons to, curiously, Manc greats Joy Division, although, to these Amurcan ears, it's patently UK guitar rock, fey and dramatic. It's a sound that's easy to admire but tough to gush over. Chalk it up, in part, to the band's stage-crowding size, its affinity for the anthemic and its style in general (pixie-haired girl playing violin, wearing leggings on her arms: check), which pushes them into the same weight class as Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene or fellow Brits Pulp — all great bands that few, if any, comparable acts can run with. Live, British Sea Power is a monster. The night's bill is rounded out with A Classic Education, from Bologna, Italy, and Oklahoman peppy-pop experimentalists Colourmusic.
8 p.m., Maxine's, Hot Springs. $30 adv., $35 d.o.s.
The last time Bobby Rush was in Hot Springs, Maxine's was treated to a stripped-down show from the master of dirty, horny blues. Jheri-curled Rush told stories about growing up in Homer, La., and Pine Bluff between expertly-plucked acoustic tracks taken, largely, from his great 2007 return to back-porch blues, "Raw." (Also: Samuel L. Jackson himself was tucked into a corner for the set.) But this time around, he's bringing the whole gang of backup bluesmen and returning the former brothel to its dirty past. Expect Bobby Rush to windhump his way through a set of ecstatic, X-rated songs between a pair of jiggly-assed backup dancers. If you're lucky, he'll rip into rap music: "Rappers stole that shit from me and James Brown!" It's one part Rudy Ray Moore and one part "I Feel Good" with a fat Larry Flynt streak right down the middle. And it's just about one of the most fun shows you'll see anywhere. Bores, dullards and drags go elsewhere.
ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: 'PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION'
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $14-48.
Conductor Philip Mann will bring his first season with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to a close with "Pictures at an Exhibition," a three-piece program culminating with the composition by Russian innovator Modest Mussorgsky that lends its name to the night. While considered his greatest work for piano (and a high benchmark for expert pianists), the suite will get the full orchestral treatment as arranged by Maurice Ravel. The night opens with an early work by Ravel, "Minuet Antique," written when the French romanticist was a ripe 20 years old. Mozart's famous sonata, "Symphony No. 36" (otherwise known as the "Linz Symphony"), also features. The ASO officially closes out its season the following day, Sunday, April 17, with a 3 p.m. matinee.
10 a.m., Wildwood Park for the Arts. $5-$10.
n Arkansas has been sprung for spring for the last three weeks and now, between baseball season kicking off and Wildwood's "Blooms!" Festival, it's in full effect. This year, the annual festival promises a slate of garden parties: one 1920s themed, one "Storybook Garden Party" presented by the Laman Library for the kids and a "Rockin' the Suburbs" garden party, featuring croquet and bocce ball. The park will also offer demonstrations from horticulturists and florists, a champagne stroll in the lakeside Butler Arboretum (designed by P. Allen Smith) and live music from Lark in the Morning, The Muses, Dave Rogers Trio and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's youth ensemble, Forte. The next day, Sunday, April 17, Bob Dorough (the man behind the music of "Schoolhouse Rock!") performs an afternoon matinee at 3:30 p.m. Expect food, sodas and adult drinks, games and flowers as far as you can see.
8:30 p.m., Revolution. $16 adv.,$21 d.o.s.
n The Photoshopped picture on the cover of his new single, "Twenty One," may show him with an intimidating cue-ball head, biker beard, Oakleys and a scowl, but the music inside is pure corn-fed college quad mush. Think one part Jack Johnson and one part leftover Xanga poetry. It is literally the whitest music I've ever heard in my life. But it's clicking. Smith, who's played Little Rock more than a dozen times, has amassed a devoted fanbase without label support, instead touring relentlessly and relying on word-of-mouth. It's a strategy that's put him in the pages of Country Weekly and launched his last album, "Keeping up with the Joneses," to the top of iTunes' singer/songwriter charts. He's supported by Matt Stillwell, a positivity and good-times and patriotism and sunshine singer whose debut single, "Shine," is a neutered ode to White Lightning that Popcorn Sutton would probably mute with a quickness. And with a bullet.
'AMERICAN LEGACIES': THE DEL MCCOURY BAND & PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND
7 p.m., Walton Arts Center. $32-$52
n Last month, when the Rock Candy blog broke news about the "American Legacies" traveling show coming to Fayetteville, I must have spent half an hour watching and rewatching a 90-second video of a rollicking jam session between the near-mythical New Orleans jazz ensemble and the esteemed bluegrass royalty. To hell with Girl Talk: No mashup is as exciting as hearing Del McCoury's high and lonesome tenor ring though Preservation Hall Jazz Band's ecstatic NOLA boogie on "I'll Fly Away" and the country standard "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)." Jazz and country and western are the two purest forms of American music and this pairing of two bands that safeguard their traditions is something like a stroke of booking brilliance. But hearing them collaborate is just straight-up massively cool.
8 p.m., The Afterthought. $10 adv., $15 d.o.s.
n At a spry 87 years old, Bob Dorough still has it. A video taken this January features the ponytailed jazzman joking and vamping through "Three is a Magic Number," one of his most famous songs from "Schoolhouse Rock!" Another, from 2010, has Dorough clowning around on his Yamaha between sips from a bottle of Newcastle. No doubt about it, the geek-jazz innovator still has a good bit of the youthful pizzazz that brought him to work with everyone from Miles Davis to Allen Ginsberg and all the way into today with pop-jazz heroine Nellie McKay. (Their collaboration on her 2007 album "Obligatory Villagers" is a highlight of the last decade, a 21st century answer to Dorough's pre-"Schoolhouse" work with Blossom Dearie.) While best known for his work with that certain series of edutaining cartoons, Dorough's solo albums established his career as a cult musician. His 1956 debut, "Devil May Care," is a light-hearted romp through the hip '50s with a 23-year-old Dorough scatting in his peculiar squeak. The '80s and '90s saw Dorough release a string of albums on small, imprint labels: all are nearly impossible to find, even via download. Still spreading his singular, smiling take on jazz deep into his eighth decade, playing smoky clubs and leading master's classes at various universities, Dorough returns after a four-year absence. Don't be surprised if the Afterthought has to turn people away. I know I'm not the only guy who's guilty of a little idolization when it comes to Monday's man of the night. (Stephen Malkmus, Randy Newman and Biz Markie are on Team Dorough, too.) The Cherry Hill-born jazz man will be backed by Joe Vick on bass and Dave Rogers on drums.
6 p.m., Dreamland Ballroom. $5
n Mark this down as one of the most exciting and unexpected shows of spring. The wildly-imaginative chamber-pop bassist for Dirty Projectors (hands down, one of the best bands today), solo artist behind "Most Valuable Player" (one of the most acclaimed solo records in recent memory) and Bjork collaborator Baldwin comes to Dreamland Ballroom to deliver a multimedia-enriched night of cello-driven music. Melodically sparse and driving, Baldwin's high tenor and waves of cello recall the avant-disco genius Arthur Russell, violin-and-loop pedal craftsman Owen Pallett and choral indie heroes Grizzly Bear. (Chris Taylor of the latter handled production duties for Baldwin's second album.) The man with his hand in so many collaborations is, predictably, outstanding with his allies, but a friend from his native Brooklyn tells me Baldwin is just as stellar solo. The night opens at 6 p.m. with an art show and, of course, a puppet-show musical.