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ALCHEMY SONGWRITING COMPETITION
7:30 p.m. The Ford Theater. $10.
The second annual Alchemy Songwriting Competition kicks off Friday in Conway, featuring 10 finalists who will perform their original tunes for a panel of judges that includes Academy Award winner and Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen (who's been writing songs herself, lately), singer/songwriter Treva Blomquist and Andy Davis, founder of the Music Empowers Foundation. The competition is also a fundraiser for Blackbird Academy of Arts, an arts education nonprofit based in Conway. The grand prize is a trip to Los Angeles and a recording sesh with producer Tim Pagnotta. On deck for the competition are Arkatext of Conway (see page 22), Rachel Pearl of Springhill, Tenn., Tom Mix and Shawn Keeter of Mt. Vernon, Sally Howell of Benton, Half Priced Hearts of Conway, The Outset of Tulsa, Jordan Anderson of Lonoke, Austin Jones of Little Rock, Brandon Alanis of Cabot and Allison Pierce of Little Rock. RB
PALLBEARER, PINKISH BLACK
8 p.m. Downtown Music Hall. $7.
Pinkish Black hail from Fort Worth (my old stomping grounds — shouts out to West Creek Elementary, Kincaid's Hamburgers and the Tandy Subway [R.I.P.]). Their self-titled debut full-length came out earlier this year on the Handmade Birds label and they recently signed to Century Media. The shorthand on this duo is that they play doom metal with synthesizers in lieu of guitars. That's true, but this is doom metal with a host of other sinister sounds clawing their way into the mix, e.g. the buzzing evil of Suicide, the narcoticized droning of Spacemen 3, the sturm und drang of Joy Division at their most alienated and furious and the outer space shoegazing of maybe Bailterspace. Bursts of black metal filth rip to the surface occasionally ("Tell Her I'm Dead," for example), and there's a coldwave/goth streak throughout the record. The band has a penchant for the darkly dramatic. Singer Daron Beck has a haunting baritone that often is stacked up on top of itself in multi-tracked walls, sounding like the chanting of the world's most bummed-out monks. Droning synths and a fiendish Theremin-like tone create huge waves of sound, reminding me at times of an evil, bad-trip version of Silver Apples. Every once in a while though, as on "Passerby" and "Tastes Like Blood," a ray of major key sunlight cuts through the dense clouds of hateful darkness for a moment. Despite the preceding litany of comparisons, Pinkish Black really does possess a distinct, cohesive sound, one that's a good deal more than the sum of the band's influences. Pallbearer, by this point, needs little in the way of introduction in these pages. The band has had a huge year, releasing a universally adored debut album and touring the country with some of metal's leading lights. Opening the show are Russellville post-rockers Sound of the Mountain. RB
8 p.m. Verizon Arena. $59-$80.
While I haven't really liked a rock/classical music mashup since Falco's big 1985 hit "Rock Me Amadeus," I get why people tend to clamor for Trans-Siberian Orchestra tickets around the holidays. Big, loud and flashy, with light shows and spectacle that would make Gene Simmons of KISS fire his production designer, TSO definitely takes Christmas music out of the realm of Grandma sweaters with embroidered reindeer and into "Mistress Claus in her red latex catsuit" territory. Definitely a good time for kids, especially if they've only heard the Muzak version of most Christmas tunes. DK
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