Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
8 p.m. South on Main. $17.
"Once upon a time, pop's metabolism buzzed with dynamic energy," the music critic Simon Reynolds wrote in his alarmist (and persuasive) 2011 manifesto "Retromania." As Reynolds saw it, the 2000s had marked a slackening of pop's forward-thinking progress in favor of a preservationist obsession with older styles. "Instead of being about itself," he wrote, "the 2000s has been about every other previous decade happening again all at once: a simultaneity of pop time that abolishes history while nibbling away at the present's own sense of itself as an era with a distinct identity and feel." Enter Pokey LaFarge, who dresses like an extra from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and bows to nobody — save for maybe far-right Republicans — in his reverence for America's cultural past. "The world changes so quickly, I don't think we have an identity in America anymore," he told Rolling Stone recently. "I don't know if we ever will again." The trappings of the present don't interest him: "Computers don't have souls, cell phones don't have souls," he said. LaFarge prefers vintage suits and bourbon and harmonicas and hair product — listening to his music gives you the stylized nostalgia-rush of a sepia-toned Ken Burns documentary. I can't help wondering what he'd think of Burzum or Destiny's Child or Skrillex or Gucci Mane — would the juxtaposition trigger some sort of "Back to the Future" time rift? — but fair enough: Good songwriting beats innovation for its own sake nine times out of 10.
THURSDAY 8/27-SUNDAY 8/30
FAYETTEVILLE ROOTS FESTIVAL
Various venues, Fayetteville. $20-$39.
If Pokey LaFarge isn't enough to satisfy your appetite for banjos and jug bands and suit vests, head northwest for the annual Fayetteville Roots Festival, which this year features Punch Brothers, Watkins Family Hour, JD McPherson, The Steel Wheels, Cory Branan and many more over the course of four nights. Cleverly subtitled "A Mountain Town in its Natural State," the festival seeks to revive the atmosphere of the great Ozark string bands — the "Corn Dodgers and Hoss Hair Pullers," as the title of a recent archival compilation put it — presumably absent the devastating poverty and murderous prejudice that made their era so inimitable. Frankly, it all sounds pretty Fayettechill. Also on hand, however, will be Fiona Apple, one of the most thrilling and inventive artists of her generation. She'll apparently be appearing as part of Watkins Family Hour, a folky supergroup also starring members of Nickel Creek. Slightly less exciting, but probably still worth a ticket (selling out fast).
MESHUGGA KLEZMER BAND
7:30 p.m. Studio Theater. $10.
American klezmer evolved out of a collision between early jazz and Jewish folk music brought over by Eastern European immigrants around the turn of the 20th century. I know nothing about it, other than that it was revived in the 1970s and that it's fascinating — both sonically and from an ethnomusicological perspective. The Arkansas klezmer scene isn't particularly deep, but it will be activated Saturday night thanks to Little Rock's Meshugga Klezmer Band, originally formed in 1999. I reached out to the group's singer Stephanie Smittle for context. "It's a bizarre thing," she told me, "an ensemble of instruments one usually hears in a classical context (trombone, violin, clarinet, etc.) making decidedly unclassical sounds. Because the origins of the music are in the early folk music of the Ashkenazic Jews, the lyrics are mostly Yiddish, sometimes English, Hebrew or Russian, and can range anywhere from a swinging Andrews Sisters-ish jazz to a cantorial, droning prayer style."
'LIGHTS! CAMERA! ARKANSAS!' SEMINAR
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Old State House Museum.
"The Great Train Robbery" (1903) is often called the first Western or even the first American action film, and its editing innovations (cross-cutting between simultaneous scenes in different locations) have long been considered revolutionary. Far less appreciated, however, was its breakout star, Little Rock native Broncho Billy Anderson, who played three roles in the film (especially impressive as it's only 12 minutes long), launching a career as an actor in silent Westerns that would persist for two decades. Anderson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a film festival named in his honor in Fremont, Calif., though most Arkansans probably couldn't tell him from William S. Hart. To address this outrage (and more), the Old State House Museum is presenting the "Lights! Camera! Arkansas!" Seminar, a morning of presentations on Arkansas cinema history. KUAR's Ben Fry will give a talk on Broncho Billy at 10 a.m. Other speakers include the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Philip Martin (on "Arkansas in the Rise of Regional Southern Cinema"), "Arkansongs" host Stephen Koch (on "Musicians in Arkansas Film"), Robert Cochran ("Marginal Heroes') and Suzanna McCray ("Arkansas Women in Film"), the latter two being the authors of the new book "Lights! Camera! Arkansas!"
PURPLE RAIN REVISITED
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $10 adv., $15 day of.
Pop music doesn't get any more desperate or crystalline or life-affirming than Prince's "Purple Rain," a song he recorded — sort of astoundingly — live at a club called First Avenue in Minneapolis on Aug. 3, 1983. It was a Wednesday. Tickets cost $25, and the set list included a cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." The show marked the first appearance of The Revolution's new guitarist, Wendy Melvoin, later the girlfriend of keyboardist Lisa Coleman. "Every moment that you were in Prince and the Revolution had to be like your last day on Earth," Melvoin remembered later. The club is still there on the corner of First Avenue and Seventh Street, a large black building with silver stars on the walls, though the whole thing seems like it happened a long time ago, maybe in another galaxy. There's something monolithic and unapproachably brilliant about it, but Saturday night, Arkansas's own Drummerboyinfinity will try and resummon the vibes with "The Purple Rain Revisited Experience," featuring guitarist and Prince sound-a-like Gary Esco.
KYLE HUVAL AND THE DIXIE CLUB RAMBLERS
5 p.m. White Water Tavern. Donations.
In keeping with this week's throwback regional music theme, you're encouraged to close out your weekend with a potluck and performance by the Cajun band — straight from Eunice, La. — Kyle Huval and The Dixie Club Ramblers. It's a rare afternoon set for White Water, which will be offering its own food and also encourages you to bring your own. It's also notable because the band will feature fiddle legend Joel Savoy, born into "Cajun music royalty" as the son of famous accordion builder Marc Savoy and Grammy Award-nominated musician and author Ann Savoy — and as a de facto member of the highly regarded Savoy Family Band. In addition to his accomplishments as a performer (Linda Ronstadt has called him "one of my favorite musicians on just about any instrument"), Savoy is also the founder of the independent Cajun music label Valcour Records, responsible for everything from box sets of Alan Lomax field recordings to vibrant younger groups like the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Feufollet.
Good analysis, something completely lacking from the daily newspaper's sports reporters/columnists.
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