Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
It doesn't seem like that long ago when Chris Denny was just a rumor, a whisper of a performer who swept into town from nowhere. First he was the “crazy-voiced kid,” the prize of the local scene, playing Beesonville block parties and small house shows. As his cult grew, and he performed regularly not just at White Water, but just about every venue in town, he became the “kid with the golden voice,” and most everyone took a stab at placing his peculiar tone. A young Roy Orbison has been popular. Bob Dylan circa “Nashville Skyline,” Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Neil Young all get bandied about. None, though, quite capture his preternatural warble — impossibly high, tremulous and plaintive, but always strong. With lyrics of a hard life lived — riding rails, hearts on fire, the burden of time — Denny last year released a promising debut album on Tomato House Records, a local imprint run by Denny's drummer, Marcus Lowe. He's followed it with the slightly more polished “Age Old Hunger,” just released on 00:02:59 Records, a Brooklyn label. With the backing of a powerful PR agency and rumors of an opening slot with a major touring act, Denny might be on the precipice of fame. Local fans will have at least two shots to see him before he takes off. On Friday and Saturday, he's celebrating the release of his new album at White Water. The Saturday show, geared towards his early-to-bed crowd, starts at 9 p.m. and will be preceded by a special barbecue dinner, with pulled pork sandwiches, fried okra, deviled eggs, barbecue tofu and banana pudding. Food will be served from 7 p.m. until around 8:30 p.m., for $8.50 per plate. Impressive, rich-voiced singer/songwriter Mike Ferrio, one of Denny's new label mates, will open both shows.
“CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF”
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $18.
Maybe Tennessee Williams' greatest play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is the story of a Southern family trapped in a Gordian knot of conflict. Husband Brick Pollitt and wife Maggie “The Cat” are stuck in the center. Theirs is a mostly dysfunctional relationship: He's a neglectful husband, an aging ex-football star who doesn't seem to care or notice that his brother is angling to take over the family fortune and who's been steadily drunk since his “friend” Skipper offed himself. She's a wit and a beauty, who's climbed from poverty to marry into a wealthy family. The narrative follows one sweltering evening at the Pollitt family estate, where everyone's gathered to celebrate the birthday of the patriarch and tycoon “Big Daddy.” Unbeknownst to him, Big Daddy is dying from cancer — his doctors and the family have conspired to keep him in the dark — and everyone is trying to present themselves in the best possible way in hopes of getting a piece of the Pollitt fortune. It's an essential drama. The New York Times even went so far to call it “the quintessence of life … the basic truth.” Weekend performances continue through Sept. 9.
SCOTT H. BIRAM
10 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8.
n Several years back, Scott H. Biram took the stage at the Continental Club in his hometown of Austin, Texas, in a wheelchair. An IV dangled from his arm. He had two broken legs, a broken foot, a broken arm and a big chunk of his lower intestine missing. One month earlier he'd been in a head-on car crash with an 18-wheeler going 75 miles per hour. With his 1950 Gibson guitar and a driving backbeat courtesy of his left foot, Biram, who calls himself a “Dirty Old One Band,” still managed his typical hollerin' fury. Made from the same weird, raw, backwoods stuff of folks like Hasil Adkins and Bob Log III, Biram pulls together a mishmash of honky-tonk stomp, gutbucket punk and swamp blues. You can glean the kind of night it's going to be just by reading off song titles — “Blood, Sweat and Murder,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Plow You Under.”
ALAN JACKSON / BROOKS & DUNN
7:30 p.m., Alltel Arena. $42.50-$62.50.
Years back, in church in my hometown, during the children's service, the pastor took a few minutes to ask the little kids their favorite hymn. Not surprisingly, “Jesus Loves Me” got a lot of votes. “Amazing Grace,” too. But one little bespectacled kid chirped enthusiastically, “Chattahoochee!” And why not? Jackson's rowdy-but-sweet coming-of-age song has long been part of the canon, a secular hymn for the South: “Never knew how much that muddy water meant to me/But I learned how to swim and I learned who I was/A lot about livin' and a little, bout love.” Last year's “Precious Memories,” a hushed and reverent gospel album, is his latest studio album, but Jackson is sure to travel through his back pages, pulling out ballads and country-rockers, familiar to all. If that isn't enough, Brooks & Dunn, the biggest selling duo in country music (and second only to Simon & Garfunkel in the whole of pop music), also plays on the bill. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn made their bones in the early '90s with hopped-up honky tonk built on danceable beats. (They drove the line-dancing craze of that era.) Sales have been on the decline over the last couple of years, but the boys have a new one, “Cowboy Town,” coming out in October. They'll likely try out a few new ones on Friday. Rising star Jake Owen opens the show.
9 p.m., Juanita's. $7.
They're young, pretty, have a fiddle player and swoon and swoop like Queen. What's not to like? Formed early last year by a group of mostly UCA students and led by namesake Seth Latture, the band describes its sound on its MySpace page as “eating Christmas dinner with Ben Folds and Freddie Mercury.” That sounds about right for grandiose songs like “Thieves and Liars” and “The Gypsy Song,” though vocalist Mandi Tollet's harmonic contributions can't be ignored. In other spots, the band delves into moodier territory. “The Boxer” sounds ready-made for the soundtrack to the emotional climax in a romantic comedy, and “Don't Say Go,” a song left off the band's self-titled debut, forgets the fiddle and piano in favor of a gently strummed acoustic guitar and hushed vocals. Heypenny, a young band from Nashville with Arkansas roots, provides a pop-lovely compliment. Typically built around keys, the music has a low-key orchestral feel of Sufjan Stevens. Sleeptalker, another rising indie-rock group from Nashville, also appears.
BEAR COUNTRY KICKOFF
2 p.m., UCA. Free.
It's a pep rally for UCA football and an anniversary party for country station Y107.1, which is well and good. But it's the full slate of country music that's likely to bring the crowd out in droves. Riverbilly, one of the state's best shots at stardom, leads the pack. The band's debut single, “Just the Way We Do It,” doesn't break any new ground, but it hits its marks. NASCAR, pie, moonshine, a pickup, ribs, beer and Lynyrd Skynyrd all get mentioned. Rising Nashville foursome Whiskey Falls, another act that's risen to relative fame on the strength of just one song, also performs. You'll probably recognize “Last Train Running,” the band's acoustic weeper that's driven by an impressive four-part harmony. Cole Deggs and the Lonesome is on Sony BMG, which just released the band's self-titled debut, an album that, if not for the lap-steel, could be modern rock. Bomshel, a blonde duo, rounds out the bill.
JOHN KAY AND STEPPENWOLF
8 p.m., Timberwood Amphitheater at Magic Springs. Free with park admission.
John Kay endures. He's just about to enter his fourth decade at the helm of Steppenwolf, and there's no sign of him slowing down. Born Joachim Krauledat in 1944 in East Prussia, he spent most of his childhood in West Germany before immigrating to Toronto with his family when he was a teen. He learned English by immersing himself in rock 'n' roll radio. In 1966, he formed the bluesy band Sparrow. After it disbanded, he moved to the West Coast and formed Steppenwolf, named after the Herman Hesse novel. Driven by a churning guitar riff, a furious backbeat and Kay's menacing rasp, the band's “Born to Be Wild” quickly became an anthem for the steadily emerging counterculture, especially with its prominence on the soundtrack to “Easy Rider.” The track's reference to “heavy metal thunder” also gave name to the new genre. The psychedelic “Magic Carpet Ride” came later that year along with “Rock Me” and “Move Over.” The band broke up in the '70s. Kay recorded several solo albums, while other band members resurrected the name “Steppenwolf” for touring purposes. Kay reclaimed the name in 1980 as John Kay and Steppenwolf, and he's been touring steadily since, amassing a fairly sizeable following along the way that's dubbed itself the Wolfpack. Look out for them on Saturday, there's a scheduled “meet 'n'greet.”
BENJAMIN DEL SHREVE
9:30 p.m., Revolution. $7.
Benjamin Del Shreve gets around. The frontman for the Fayetteville fivesome recorded his 2001 debut, “Enjoy Me While I'm Here,” in Bloomington in his brother's apartment and soon after starting writing music in transit — from Indiana to Utah, Orlando to the Bahamas, Northern California to Europe to backpack. He recorded his latest full length in Maine while working as migrant labor on a farm and living in a cabin. The hirsute Shreve, a self-described bohemian, says that his songwriting is “a constant wrestling match between the lover and the poet and the asskicker.” A new record is due in the next few months from Fayetteville indie label Ring Road Records. Expect punchy pop-rock rave-ups — music to clap and shout-along to. Shreve gets a big assist from his band, which includes Olivia Apple, Ty Denison, Jonathan Holder and Kurt Kurrie. Look for them to be more glammed-out than your typical indie rockers. Kingsdown, a modern rock quintet from Little Rock, also performs. Band members' Christianity informs their music, which often sounds like a throwback to early-'90s alt-rock. Cities and Thrones, featuring members of the Frail Division, opens.