Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
8 p.m. Juanita's. $16.
Nada Surf has long been one of the lead practitioners of a driving, effervescent power-pop that's never been enormously popular but thankfully never seems to go away. For a smartass shorthand take, I'd be tempted to describe Nada Surf as "The Thinking Man's Weezer," but that really doesn't do justice to the group's consistently satisfying body of work. So how about this: "Coulda-been-'90s-alt-rock-one-hit-wonder surprises by going the distance and putting out reliably great albums for many years." That's closer, but it still doesn't cover it. Perhaps the band just defies easy or bite-sized classification. After all, since forming about two decades ago, Nada Surf has released more than a half-dozen albums of smart, ultra-catchy rock 'n' roll that pays no heed to blog-of-the-moment trends. Maybe the best thing to do would be to just dive into any of those records and then go see the band play live. That sounds like a good idea. Of course, odds are better than good that much of the crowd at any given Nada Surf show will be singing along with every number. Local two-dude band Collin Vs. Adam is the opening act.
7:30 p.m. Piano Kraft. $10.
Brooklyn musician Andrew Shapiro is a pianist and composer who writes beautiful, lush music that combines the pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass (for whom Shapiro once interned) and the forlorn beauty of Eno's Ambient series (particularly "Music For Airports") with a pop sensibility. It's blissful-sounding stuff, but also lively and engaging, especially his recent album, "Soundesign." Check out the track "Long Coda" from that album — it makes you feel like you're coasting along at warp speed aboard some sleek bullet train in an impossibly elegant and sunny future. For the last seven years or so, Shapiro has played a weekly gig at a McDonald's in lower Manhattan. Now, I know what you're thinking, but as the New York Times pointed out in 2005, "The music is challenging by fast-food restaurant standards, even when the fast-food restaurant in question features both fresh-cut flowers and an upstairs dining area known as the Orchid Room." I got a phone call from Shapiro a couple of weeks ago, and he explained how he came to be performing in Little Rock. An Arkansan named Andy Gibson heard Shapiro playing at that Manhattan McDonald's and was enthralled with the music. He contacted Shapiro, and on a return trip, the two met. Gibson said he was determined to bring the musician to Arkansas for a concert, and here it is, without the fries.
7 p.m. Verizon Arena. $36-$85.
Pop-country doesn't come much slicker than the chart-annihilating, award-winning trio Lady Antebellum. In 2011, the band took home five Grammys, including Best Country Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Country Song. The group has won more country music industry awards than you could shake a sequined pair of jeans at. Lady Antebellum's latest, "Own the Night," is filled with gigantic ballads like "Wanted You More" and heartstring-tugging tales of bittersweet memories like "Dancin' Away with My Heart" and "When You Were Mine." Openers include radio pop-rocker turned country singer Darius Rucker and the buzzed-about husband-wife duo Thompson Square.
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $12 adv., $15 day of.
Here's what you're gettin' with Georgia rockers Blackberry Smoke: crunchy, funky, bluesy, countrified, chooglin' rock 'n' roll cut from the same tattered denim as the Allmans, Skynyrd, The Black Crowes, Marshall Tucker and such. Listening to Blackberry Smoke is kinda like chowing down on a really good charcoal-grilled cheeseburger and washing it down with an ice-cold Lite beer — it's not the most original or sophisticated thing ever, but it's familiar and satisfying and sometimes nothing else will do. I bet their live shows are raucous affairs with lots of whoopin' and hollerin' and funny smellin' smoke. The songs are pretty much just about gettin' your drink on, takin' 'er easy, raisin' some hell, rollin' like a freight train, boogiein' down, goin' up in smoke and generally lettin' it all hang out. The band's latest album, "The Whippoorwill," is due out Aug. 14 on Zac Brown's Sacred Ground label. It's a solid collection that sounds great and could be the thing that helps catapult them to a wider audience and bigger stages.
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.
It's hard to believe it's been nearly two years since Luke Hunsicker passed away. By every account, Luke was truly one of the most beloved Little Rock artists ever, a guy who was an enormously talented musician and visual artist, who had an easy way about him, who gave great haircuts, who played in a zillion bands, who touched the lives of an incredibly diverse array of people, who inspired others to pursue what they loved. Particularly with regard to that last part, Luke's family and friends have set up the Lucas Clayton Hunsicker Scholarship Fund, which "is awarded to an aspiring Parkview High School artist or musician in order to forward their educational goals," according to a recent press release. This show is a fundraiser for the scholarship, but it's also a chance for Luke's many friends and family members to get together and celebrate his life and share memories and music. It would be a good idea to get to the show early and maybe dress it up a bit more than usual. Several local artists will be selling their work, including screen prints of the show poster by Phillip Huddleston and Brittany Hallmark. And a big group of familiar local musicians will provide the soundtrack with a night of covers.
7:30 p.m. Magic Springs' Timberwood Amphitheater. $30-$65.
Arkansas's American Idol plays a home-state show Saturday. That's right, Kris Allen will be performing at Magic Springs, probably playing some tunes off his sophomore long-player, "Thank You Camellia." He told Idolater the record was named after the street where he stayed while in Los Angeles. That's right, The City of Angels, which is where he recorded the album. But what did the critics have to say about it? You know, the bitter authors of poison-penned reviews. Well they liked it mostly. That's right, the professional hurlers of slings and arrows mostly had nice things to say about "Thank You Camellia." For example, Entertainment Weekly's Grady Smith gave the album a "B+" and wrote that "Allen delivers his lyrics with an earnest confidence (and occasional swagger) that keeps his songs from becoming treacly, and makes 'Thank You Camellia' a cohesive, warmhearted charmer." You know what? Grady is a good name for someone who gives out grades to things. And you know what else? A "B+" is a really good score. And you know what else? I liked it too. That's right, this ink-stained scalawag was quite charmed by "Thank You Camellia." In fact, I think I'm going to go EW one better and give it an "A-" right now this instant, and not just because Kris seems like such a good dude, but also on account of the shuffling, understated ballad "Teach Me How Love Goes." It's a great song, and it taught me how love went. There, an "A-" for "Thank You Camellia." No, thank you, Camellia! I mean, Kris!
POPS ON THE RIVER
Noon. Riverfest Amphitheatre. Free.
Fireworks. Is there anything more universally loved by all of America than flashy explosions lighting up the night sky? I don't know, music maybe? Or perhaps food vendors? Shopping? Patriotism? Classic car shows? Amateur singing competitions? Free stuff? It's a tough call, no doubt. But what if you combined all of those great American things — fireworks, music, food trucks, shopping, patriotism, classic cars and competitive amateur singing — into one big enchilada? And then what if it was free? (Well, the food and the shopping aren't free. I mean heck, freedom itself ain't free, but you get the idea here). Well pardner, if you took all that and added it up, what you'd have is Pops on the River, now in its 29th year. But listen here now, don't you be bringing your coolers or your pets or your outside food and drink or your fireworks or your cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes, hookahs or anything else like that. But do bring yourselves and your wide-eyed sense of wonderment and some cash and some donations of nonperishable food items.