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Ralph Stanley comes to Juanita's 

THURSDAY 4/16

ARKANSAS TRAVELERS OPENING NIGHT

7:10 p.m. Dickey-Stephens Park. $6-$12.

Last weekend at the Rev Room, the comedian Hannibal Buress briefly divided the crowd with an extended riff on the subject of baseball and its utter deficiency as a sport. He dismissed it a sport for children, fundamentally dull, in which the ultimate athletic achievement, a no-hitter, fittingly involves nothing happening at all. Baseball, he said finally, is a great context for hanging out with an old friend for two hours with no distractions. Whether or not you're a fan, all of this seems more or less true — and can even be restated as an endorsement: Baseball is both the ultimate children's game and an unparalleled opportunity to hang out while doing nothing. I plan to spend a good deal of the Travs' 2015 season hanging out and doing nothing. What could be better? Now that the controversy over new mascot Otey (described by SB Nation as a "nightmare hillbilly possum") has calmed down — and don't ever doubt that it could be worse: my hometown minor league mascot was a Polecat — nothing should stand in their way. With their brand-new patriotic jerseys and early series against the Frisco RoughRiders and the Midland RockHounds, the Travs are finally returned.

SATURDAY 4/18

RALPH STANLEY

7 p.m. Juanita's. $40-$100.

Ralph Stanley — known as Dr. Ralph Stanley since he picked up an honorary doctorate in the late '70s — is the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a winner of the National Medal of Arts. He hails from unincorporated mountain towns in southwest Virginia, an area now often described as "Ralph Stanley country," if that gives you some sense of his importance to the region. "I was borned [sic] and raised way back in the hills," he wrote in his autobiography, "Man of Constant Sorrow," "and a lot of our forefathers, our grandpas and great-uncles and so forth, were of the old Baptist faith, and they all had lonesome voices to sing out those sad old hymns." It's a tradition he has continued, but also one that he himself helped incorporate and firmly establish in the broader culture, helping to shape modern bluegrass as a solo artist and with his decades-spanning crew the Clinch Mountain Boys. He's been cited as an influence by Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam and Jerry Garcia; helped launch the careers of Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley; and has been called a "cultural treasure" by the Los Angeles Times and "easily the most eminent bluegrass singer in the world" by NPR. Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys perform live Saturday alongside The Cons of Formant, Sioux City Kid, Rodge Arnold and Kassi Moe, in a concert sponsored by the Arkansas Times.

SUNDAY 4/19

FLEETWOOD MAC

8 p.m. Verizon Arena. $52.50-$174

Nowadays when we say we like Fleetwood Mac, what we really mean is we like two or maybe three studio albums out of a total of 17 released by the band formed in late '60s London by a blues guitarist named Peter Green. The band's own Syd Barrett, Green was Fleetwood Mac's frontman and major creative force until he suffered an LSD-inspired schizophrenic break in Germany in 1970. He wrote and had the band record one last song (called "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)"), then insisted they donate all their money to charity. The band disagreed; Green left. The next year, guitarist Jeremy Spencer walked out one day to "get a magazine" and promptly joined a religious cult called the Children of God. He never came back. They poached a singer named Christine Perfect from a band called Chicken Shack — she changed her name to Christine McVie when she married their bass player — and proceeded to hire and fire an unrivaled string of great musicians over the next several years, recording now-forgotten albums along the way. The band's manager, in an interesting twist, figured he owned the name Fleetwood Mac by this point, so he simply recruited a new band (formerly called Legs) and had them tour throughout 1974, prompting a surprisingly lengthy legal battle. Around this time, the real Fleetwood Mac heard a song called "Frozen Love" by the duo Buckingham Nicks and offered to hire their songwriter, the guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. By this point, the band had already recorded nine albums. Buckingham said he guessed he'd come if he could bring his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, and after some discussion the band said "OK."

SUNDAY 4/19

TODD RUNDGREN

8 p.m. Revolution.  $35 adv., $40 day of.

Despite being a huge fan of Todd Rundgren, the idea of seeing him live has never actually occurred to me. This is partly because he seems somehow mythical in the manner of all '70s rock icons, but it's mostly because I've always associated him so firmly with the environment of the recording studio. The guitarist Lenny Kaye once summarized Rundgren's production philosophy this way: "If you know what you want, I'll get it for you. If you don't know what you want, I'll do it for you." This has been his role — thankless, stuck behind the boards — on pivotal records by The Band, Badfinger, the New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall and Oates, Patti Smith and countless others from the 1970s through the present. Even on his solo albums, he's always been geekily preoccupied by the artifice of the studio. Witness the gag at the start of side three on his best-known album, "Something/Anything": "This game is called 'Sounds of the Studio,' " he says, before introducing a litany of recording flaws, from "popping" to "bad editing." Like all of his efforts, it's best appreciated in stereo. His masterpiece, 1973's "A Wizard, a True Star," heavily and obviously influenced by his encounters with peyote and psilocybin mushrooms, set the high water mark for visionary studio-rock decadence. Particularly the opening song suite, which is as good as adventurous pop music can get — transcendent and hilarious and heartbreaking and very stupid. It couldn't be replicated on a stage. Still, I'm excited to see him try.

MONDAY 4/20

CHEN GUANGCHENG

6 p.m. Sturgis Hall. Free.

Chen Guangcheng lost his eyesight at 6 months old. He was the youngest of five siblings from a poor family in China's Shandong Province. He attended medical school, studying acupuncture and massage, and auditing law classes in his spare time. He brought his first class-action lawsuit against the government in 1996 and soon began regularly speaking out as an advocate for disability rights and environmentalism, and as an outspoken opponent of forced sterilization and the extreme enforcement of China's one-child policy. In response, he was arrested and beaten. After he was detained several more times, he was finally sentenced to four years in prison for damaging property and disturbing traffic. The Western press rallied around Chen's cause, but his conviction was sustained. Amnesty International declared him "jailed solely for his peaceful activities in defense of human rights." He remained under house arrest following his release — a period that consisted of further beatings and harassment — and was championed by American activists, politicians and public figures (Christian Bale tried to visit him on CNN in 2011 but was rejected by the security guards). When he escaped, in 2012, he came to the U.S. as a visiting scholar at NYU. Since then, he's emerged as a public intellectual, lecturing and writing op-eds on Chinese politics, and most recently authoring a memoir, "The Barefoot Lawyer," published last month.

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