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Richard Buckner, The Meat Puppets and Taylor Swift 

WEDNESDAY 9/28

RICHARD BUCKNER
8:30 p.m. Stickyz. $10.

In a better, more just world, Richard Buckner would be celebrated far and wide. When he embarked on his sold-out tours, the mayors of mid-sized American cities would issue declarations proclaiming that whatever day it was would henceforth be known as "Richard Buckner Day." Also, in this world Jeff Tweedy would have recently gotten canned from his video store clerk job, his resume littered with dozens of other dead-end hellscapes from which he was fired for being more smug and self-satisfied than his meager, minimum-wage accomplishments could ever justify. I suppose in reality, Buckner is appreciated well enough. After all, Volkswagen saw fit to use both his and Tweedy's tunes for car commercials. A spot for the 2009 Touareg featured Buckner's touching "Ariel Ramirez." That probably was beneficial in terms of helping Buckner's music reach new audiences. But it's nonetheless baffling that he's not way more popular. His songs are consistently great and his singing is expressive and dynamic, in sharp contrast to the hordes of bearded, hushed troubadours out there mumbling about feelings and stuff. "Our Blood," Buckner's latest album and first in five years, has met with pretty much universal acclaim.

THURSDAY 9/29

GRAND SERENADE
10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5.

A few weeks ago, a couple of 180-gram vinyl copies of Grand Serenade's latest album on Max Recordings arrived at the Times mega-compound hidden deep within the bowels of subterranean Little Rock. Nobody knows how they got here. They just showed up, the intended recipients' names scrawled in all caps on Post-it notes stuck to the front. A few spins reveal a band that traffics in moody modern rock that never comes across as self-indulgent and is a welcome respite from the current glut of glo-fi or chill-wave or whatever. The album reminds this writer of Radiohead's late '90s output, only not as freaked-out and melodramatic. The album is called "Lake Country" (a nod no doubt to the band's hometown of Heber Springs) and was recorded at Blue Chair Studio in tiny Austin, Ark. It has a big, warm sound, with Pink Floydian guitar solos, drums and cymbals that pound and crash and singing that's reminiscent of Thom Yorke or maybe a less bombastic Jeff Buckley. It's really good stuff and you can pick up a copy at this record release show for $10.

MEAT PUPPETS
9 p.m. Stickyz. $12 adv., $15 door.

As far as weird career trajectories go, it'd be tough to top The Meat Puppets: two brothers and their drummer friend started a hardcore band; signed to the legendary SST Records; decided hardcore had grown rigid and dogmatic and its fans annoying; proceeded to craft their own sui generis, sun-warped blend of punk, country, boogie rock and psychedelic burnout folk that would serve as a touchstone for subsequent generations of weirdoes; cut two stone-cold classic albums; cut several more really good albums; signed to a major label; joined forces with Nirvana for that band's massively successful MTV Unplugged album; released an album that broke the Billboard Top 40; put out another album that, uh, wasn't as good; spiraled into years of awful drug abuse, fraternal acrimony and incarceration; broke up; got back together years later to release solidly enjoyable albums. Back in May, the Meat Puppets played the Animal Collective-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival in England, performing 1985's peerless "Up on the Sun" in its entirety as part of the set. The odds are slim that the Puppets will get a wild hare up their collective ass and do that again, but you never know. Hearing "Two Rivers" live would be killer.

FRIDAY 9/30

THE LEMONHEADS
9 p.m. Revolution. $15.

Man, this is a good week for those poor lost souls still pining for ye olde college rocke sounds of yore, back before beards and animal-related band names became mandatory. Maybe these shows will even dry some leftover tears caused by R.E.M.'s breakup. The Lemonheads — led by alterna-hunk Evan Dando — weren't really on my radar back in the '90s, unappreciative as I was of music that wasn't hard, fast and loud. Even though I never listened to the band back then, I was aware that there seemed to be a great deal of hostility directed toward Dando. Semi-famous musicians wrote horrible things about him in their 'zines and sometimes on their instruments. I never understood that animus. Maybe back then things were so good that people had the luxury of hating a tall, handsome, drug-addled rock star for no other reason than that he was a tall, handsome, drug-addled rock star. Just check out the clip online of Dando on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee." He's such a goofy, amiable dude and he wrote good songs. How could anybody have a beef with that guy? The band will perform its breakout 1992 long-player "It's a Shame About Ray" in its entirety. The Shining Twins and the totally excellent (seriously!) Little Rock act The Evelyns open the show.

SATURDAY 10/1

ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: "ITALIAN VACATION"
8 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $14-$48.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Philip Mann kick off the 2011-2012 season with a show that includes the majestic works of Mendelssohn, Rossini, Puccini and Respighi. Featured performances will include: Mendelssohn's "Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90"; Rossini's "Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers"; Puccini's "Chrysanthemums"; and Respighi's "Pines of Rome." The ASO will also perform a matinee at Robinson at 3 p.m. Sunday, when all kids high school age and younger can attend for free.

SUNDAY 10/2

ZOOJAM
Noon. War Memorial Park. $65.

You can learn a lot about life and America and Toby Keith by watching Toby Keith videos. For example: In the video for "Trailerhood," Toby's wearing a hat that says "Nachos." Now that's a pretty cool hat, and it lets us know that Toby don't take things too seriously. From "I Wanna Talk About Me," we learn that Toby's happy to listen to his woman yammer on and on about clothes and gossip and lady stuff. But you know what? Sometimes, Toby wants to talk about Toby. And that's OK. If you watch "I Love This Bar," you'll find out that Toby's favorite bar has all different kinds of white people hanging out there. In "Beer for My Horses," we learn that when Toby is playing a detective who's trying to crack a tough case, sometimes he has to turn to Willie Nelson for help. Everybody has to turn to Willie sometimes, even Toby. In "American Ride," we discover that Toby loves this crazy country of ours, even though its culture is morally bankrupt and there are hordes of Mexicans waiting to swarm the border and you're not allowed to sing Christmas carols anymore because Christians are so oppressed and everybody's broke and Wall Street loves Obama. Oh, and don't worry about global warming, because even with "both ends [?] of the ozone burnin' / somehow the world keeps turning." So maybe all you fancy-pants college professors and liberals and "scientists" just need to let Toby take you to school. Class is in session right now, on YouTube. Better bone up, four-eyes. Opening up for Toby at this fundraiser for the Little Rock Zoo are Sara Evans, Eric Church and Diamond Rio.

TUESDAY 10/4

TAYLOR SWIFT
7 p.m. Verizon Arena. $25-$70.

Though she's barely old enough to drink, Pennsylvania native Taylor Swift is an unrelenting, multimillion-dollar juggernaut of entertainment power. Since her arrival on the scene back in 2006, she has steadily overtaken lesser rivals and crushed the competition, landing on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the most powerful stars in the world. In 2009, she was ranked No. 69 on the list, but a year later she was at No. 12. This year, Swift was ranked No. 7, sandwiched in between Tiger Woods and Bon Jovi – an enviable position, to be sure, but don't be surprised if she continues her ascent next year. A couple of years back, as Swift was about to address the audience of an awards show, a rude guy jumped up on stage and interrupted her. Where is he on this year's Forbes Celebrity 100 list? He's at No. 76, one spot beneath Natalie Portman and 69 spots below Swift, who makes about $45 million a year, according to Forbes estimates. Just imagine the potential earnings Swift would bring in were she to fully exploit the market potential of a full-scale, integrated lifestyle brand, fortified with international cross-distribution channels, value-added upsell and strategic touchpoint guerilla-marketing campaigns. Who's laughing now, rude guy? The opening act for this show is Needtobreathe.

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