Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
By Robert Bell
RANDY ROGERS AND WADE BOWEN
8:30 p.m., Revolution, $20.
There's a new generation of country artists and fans who grew up absorbing just as much '90s alternative rock as they did George Strait, Garth Brooks or Willie, Waylon and the boys. For these folks, it's perfectly natural for a bit of crunchy electric guitar to cozy up next to the fiddle and lap steel. Exhibit A: Randy Rogers, who writes the kind of soaring, heartfelt tunes that are the perfect make-out music for truck cabs from Bakersfield to Tallahassee. Fellow traveler Wade Bowen's numbers have a smidge more radio polish than, say, Reckless Kelly, but they'll likely scratch a similar itch for fans of the Red Dirt rockers. The longtime buddies are rolling into town on their fifth annual Hold My Beer & Watch This tour, which gives the Texas troubadours a chance to drink suds, swap stories and showcase their songs in a stripped-down acoustic setting.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern, $12.
All right, all you old-school punks, it's time to get out those leopard-print creepers and your beat-up leather jacket, dial up the babysitter and get ready to call in sick to work on Friday, because unfortunately, you don't get many chances to catch a punk band of this caliber in Little Rock very often. Since the late '80s, San Francisco's Swingin' Utters has been one of the main torchbearers for catchy-as-hell punk rock rooted in the sounds of The Clash, Sham 69 and Stiff Little Fingers. Over the years, the band has expanded its sonic palate to include a helping of melodic roots-rock into the mix, and its latest album "Here, Under Protest," is its first in eight years. Seeing a band like the Swingin' Utters at a venue as intimate as the White Water is a rare opportunity. Boston's Continental – founded by Rick Barton, of Dropkick Murphys fame – should be a great match. Little Rock's The Reparations open the show.
OPERA IN THE OZARKS
7:30 p.m., Inspiration Point, $20-$25.
For the last 61 years, Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point has served as both petri dish and launching pad for musical theater performers from all around. After an intensive four-week rehearsal, the students perform in fully staged productions of classic and contemporary operas. The company kicks off this season with "Die Fledermaus" ("The Bat"), an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II to a German libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genee. The opera, which will be sung in English, runs through July 21. On June 25, Opera in the Ozarks debuts its production, sung in Italian, of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," which will run through July 20. Mark Adamo's "Little Women" is adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel of a young woman's understandable but doomed struggle to prevent life from taking her beloved sisters away from her. The production debuts June 28 and runs through the season's final performance on July 22. For more details, go to opera.org.
BUFFALO RIVER ELK FESTIVAL
10 a.m., Downtown Jasper, Free.
OK, this one might be a bit of a stretch because Jasper is way the hell up there, but it really sounds like fun and some of us, surely, need to get out of the city and take a break from going to the dang bar for a weekend. Since 1998, the overpoweringly quaint downtown Jasper square has hosted the Buffalo River Elk Festival, which celebrates the successful reintroduction of these big-ass, majestic beasts to the hills of North Arkansas. There's going to be lots of food, arts and crafts, a talent show, a kid's fishing derby, the Arkansas State Championship Elk Calling Contest, a Dutch oven cook-off betwixt folks dressed up in old-timey garb, a bunch of live bands, educational programs, dancing in the streets, hourly drawings for elk permits (allowing the lucky winners the chance to bag one of these celebrated critters) and basically more small-town charm than you can shake a handcrafted wooden doo-dad at. The festivities conclude Saturday night with a fireworks display.
2 p.m., Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, Free.
As part of its inaugural Summit for Ambitious Writers, the fine folks over at the Oxford American have included some events for those of us not attending the five-day, intensive writing workshop happening right now up on Petit Jean Mountain. OA Editor Marc Smirnoff will host "Interviews on the Mountain," a series of discussions with some big-name editors and writers, culminating with a discussion with New Yorker Editor David Remnick. The series kicks off Wednesday afternoon with Little Rock's own William Whitworth, who served as chief editor of The Atlantic Monthly for 20 years and is a veteran of the Arkansas Gazette and The New Yorker. Celebrated travel writer Pico Iyer, who Time dubbed "among the finest travel writers of his generation," is on tap for Thursday. The interview series is free, but registration is required, so sign up at summit.oxfordamerican.org. After the Remnick interview, stick around for a barbecue dinner ($15) and live music from Audrey Kelly and Don't Stop Please.
GET DOWN ON THE MOUNTAIN
7 p.m., Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, Free.
To wrap up the Summit for Ambitious Writers, the Oxford American is putting on a humdinger of a shindig with the transcendently ramshackle psych-blues of Tyrannosaurus Chicken, the duo that swept the most recent Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, followed by a performance from the True Soul Revue, the stone-cold house-rocking studio band for True Soul Records, the legendary Little Rock '70s funk and soul imprint.
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS
8 p.m., Timberwood Theater, Magic Springs, $22.50-$55.
For a lot of guys (and probably a fair number of gals) born between, say, 1965 and 1980, odds are good that Joan Jett was an early rock 'n' roll crush. After the dissolution of her late '70s all-girl punk/metal group The Runaways, Jett had a string of radio hits: "I Love Rock N' Roll" spent several weeks at No. 1 and "I Hate Myself for Loving You" cracked the Billboard Top 10. And who could forget her sultry yet bombastic take on the Tommy James and the Shondells' bubblegum classic "Crimson and Clover" or the stadium-rock monster "Do You Wanna Touch Me?" Answer: Yeah, but only if it's Joan asking and not disgraced glam-rocker Gary Glitter, who wrote the original (although we're just going to pretend he didn't, for reasons you can read about on the Internet). Jett hasn't had a hit in a while, but who cares? She's a legend, she's eerily ageless (at 52) and she still totally kicks ass live. Tickets are $40-$45 for admission to Magic Springs plus $5-$10 if you want a reserved seat at the show. If you show up after 4 p.m. it's only $22.50 to get in.
JOE JOHNSON'S ALL-STAR BIRTHDAY BASH
9 p.m., Clear Channel Metroplex, $50-$75.
A couple issues back, former Razorback and NBA All-Star Joe Johnson sat down for a Q&A with the Times' Lindsey Millar. When Millar asked him what he had on the horizon for this summer, Johnson offhandedly mentioned an upcoming birthday. It seemed like a bit of an odd thing to bring up. But whatever, birthday parties are always fun, with the ice cream and cake and balloons. Then we realized, oh, this is what he was talking about: For his 30th birthday, Johnson is bringing in big-time Atlanta MC Young Jeezy as well as '90s R&B stars K-Ci & JoJo for the "White Out Black Night Party," a 21-and-up throw-down that will likely go down in Little Rock party lore. Tickets are $50 for general admission or $75 for VIP, which includes table seating and the buffet. Is there even any question which one you should opt for? After all, we wouldn't expect the guy who owns the Super Truck to go for anything less than totally over-the-top when it comes time for a birthday throw-down. There's a strictly enforced dress code of black and/or white attire for the affair, with no tennis shoes, T-shirts, jeans or sagging pants getting in the door.
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