"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
7:30 p.m. The Joint. $20.
A note from Stephen Bennett on his website gives newcomers an idea of where he is in the arc of an illustrious career: "My career goals have always been relatively modest ... to earn a good reputation among my peers — first, as a good player of the various guitars I use — and secondly, as a composer of quality music for them." Bennett plays a variety of stunning instruments: a 1930 National Triolian Resonator, an Italian six-string made of rosewood and a Canadian baritone guitar, but he is known primarily as a master of the massive "harp guitar" — a six-string with an extended, arching sound chamber above it. The additional strings have no frets and can either be plucked directly to add a bass element to a piece, or can be left to ring sympathetically with the guitar strings, which they do without being touched. Bennett is the founder of the annual Harp Guitar Gathering, being held this year in Milford, Conn., and composer of the six-part "Powhatan Suite," an orchestral work based on the interactions between tribal leader Powhatan and English settlers in Virginia, where Bennett lived for 30 years.
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $25.
A whole slew of souls were disappointed last October when Leon Russell's tour van broke down, forcing a highly anticipated show to be rescheduled. The day has come for his return, though, and the Rev Room will honor any tickets purchased for last October's show. Instrumental in creating the Tulsa, Okla., brand of rockabilly, Russell is the subject of a documentary, "A Poem Is a Naked Person," which was created on a floating lakeside shack between 1972 and 1974, but premiered only last year at Austin's South by Southwest after a tortured 40-year delay born of creative and legal disputes. If you're new to Russell's work, it's as good a place as any to start — a hefty dose of the rowdy vibe that characterized most of Russell's prolific career. Russell's behind a boogie-woogie piano shaking the plate of mostly eaten barbecue sitting atop its lid, he's behind reflective Aviator sunglasses singing "A Song for You," and he's behind the "unrehearsed and spontaneal" (Leon's words) "Homewood Sessions," in which Russell and a raucous band of musicians (including Furry Lewis) took over Hollywood's Vine Street Theatre for a one-hour special in 1970. He's 74 now, and he's been playing in clubs since he was 14. The sum of all those years is in his snowy-white beard, and though he may not be climbing atop grand pianos anymore, or telling tales with eyes gone squinty from overindulgence, he remains an electrifying rock pianist.
FRIDAY 6/17-SATURDAY 6/18
6:30 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m. Sat. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Free.
In 1882, two former slaves, John Bush and Chester Keatts, founded the Mosaic Templars of America, a fraternal organization dedicated to offering insurance to African Americans at a time when white-owned insurance companies denied fair coverage. With counsel from friend Booker T. Washington, Bush and Keatts' organization spread across 26 states and six foreign countries, and in 1911, the MTA purchased land at the corner of Ninth and Broadway and built a three-story office building topped by a performance hall. Nearly 100 years later, Juneteenth in Little Rock took a turn, and relocated to that very site. With the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at the helm of the celebration (formerly a late-night concert by the river), there's still a focus on live music, but the event's scope has been expanded to include elements of education, history, food, theater and conversation. On Friday night, the MTCC and Philander Smith College hold a discussion led by educators and activists Big Piph (Epiphany Morrow), Ron MC and Marquese McFerguson on the social impact of hip-hop, followed by a Mix DJ Battle. On Saturday, the museum hosts tours of the exhibition "African American Treasures from the Kinsey Collection" and holds a block party featuring food trucks, children's activities and live music from Anthony David and Algebra, Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe, Butterfly and Irie Soul, Acoustix featuring Rod P., Billy Jones Bluez, Jules Bartholomew and Judacamp, The Big John Miller Band and Gloryland Pastor's Choir.
ENCHANTED FLAME: SUMMER SOLSTICE FIRE SHOW
6 p.m. Wildwood Park for the Arts. $10-$20.
Arkansas has a professional circus troupe, in case you didn't know, and it is a tight-knit, nature-loving and absurdly flexible group of individuals for whom standing around contemplating the arc of a cyr wheel or hanging suspended from a silk scarf sounds like a perfectly pleasurable way to spend a Friday night. Plus, they like to play with fire. Acrobat Samuel Pettit told us his crew's routine "combines fire and acrobatics, which requires a lot of training, trust, skill and mutual cooperation. ... It's an amazing feeling working like this with your best friends." On the eve of the summer solstice, the members of Arkansas Circus Arts will perform a full-length aerial arts and fire dancing show on the shores of Wildwood's Swan Lake. The performers will be surrounded on the last light of spring by an array of local food trucks (Loblolly Creamery, The Southern Gourmasian, Nate's Hot Dogs, Twiggy's Treatery, Katmandu Momo, Le Pops, Southern Salt and Agrilla the Bun, to name a few) and will host a dance party after the show. The show itself starts at 8:15 p.m., but gates open at 6 p.m. so attendees may enjoy live music, arts and crafts, and local libations beforehand. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket, and write to email@example.com if you have any needs that require reserved seating.
THE REP: INAUGURAL OPEN HOUSE
4 p.m. Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Free.
If you've been to a show at The Rep for any of the last 17 seasons, you've seen the work of Bob Hupp. Hupp, who succeeded Cliff Baker as the producing artistic director at the theater in 1999, embarks on a new career as artistic director at New York's Syracuse Stage, beginning in July. In honor of his service to the artistic community over the last couple of decades, The Rep is hosting an open house during which the public can tour the theater's costume shop, the prop shop, rehearsal spaces and meet the creative team behind Jason Alexander's (of Seinfeld) "Windfall," right there on the set. Ben Brenner, a board member at The Rep, will provide live music in the lobby, and Loblolly Creamery will offer their small-batch sweet treats out front.
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $20.
Before moving to Memphis and founding Lucero, native son Ben Nichols was big in Little Rock. He fronted a heavily melodic punk outfit called Red 40 with Colin Brooks and Steve Kooms, of which Soophie Nun Squad's Nate Powell has said: "I think it's safe to say that over half of mid-'90s Little Rock punks either fell in love or out of love at a Red 40 show." Powell described Nichols' ability to make teenage girls swoon, a tradition that continues, as evidenced by the diary-like entries on websites with titles like "Fuck Yeah Ben Nichols." More local connections: Ben has provided music to several of his acclaimed brother Jeff's films. Mary Chamberlin, longtime Little Rock champion of DIY literature and founder of Tree of Knowledge, sells merch for Lucero and stars in the band's new video for "Can't You Hear Them Howl," where she's on the run from an ambiguous predator in a vast, snowy tundra. In keeping with Nichols' solo acoustic set, electric guitarist Jeff Coleman (of Jeff Coleman and The Feeders) unplugs to open Tuesday evening's show.
Congratulations Tara, beautifully written!