Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
8 p.m. Vino's. $10.
The opening track of "Summon the Faithless," last year's debut album by Portland metal band Lord Dying, is called "In a Frightful State of Gnawed Dismemberment." The cover is wild and sort of beautiful: a three-eyed, green-robed figure has a skull for a face, a long serpentine tongue and werewolf hands, with which he's holding up an hourglass. In the background are steep crags, a winged demon and a moon with a face. The band says Portland is "a region where the inhabitants are plagued with nerve and joint damage due to lack of sunlight," which rings true. Based only on the information I've provided here, you can probably make a pretty informed decision as to whether or not this is a show you'll enjoy. If you're on the fence, go. Also on the bill are Enchiridion, Iron Tongue and Godcity Destroyers.
ROBERT EARL KEEN
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $25 adv., $30 d.o.s.
Like Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker and countless others before him, Robert Earl Keen has spent decades as one of progressive country's key cult figures, a musician's musician who's productive and beloved but in the margins, just barely out of frame. There's a great moment in Jan Reid's book "The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock" where Keen's car breaks down on his way back from a gig in Kansas. While he's looking under the hood, the enormous tour bus of the more successful Steve Earle flies by without noticing him. And after he's spent all the money he made at the gig fixing his car, he gets home to find that someone has broken into his apartment and robbed him. Pretty soon after, he decides to give up on Nashville stardom and go home to Texas. Good thing, too.
JOHN PAUL KEITH & THE ONE FOUR FIVES
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.
The Memphis singer-songwriter and Motel Mirrors co-founder John Paul Keith will return to Little Rock this weekend with his band The One Four Fives. Keith plays tight rockabilly that aims for the same space occupied by records like Nick Lowe's "Labour of Love" or maybe Tom Petty's "Damn the Torpedoes." I think most things written about Keith use the word "twang" at some point, and I understand why they do. I've seen him at White Water before, and I remember thinking he reminded me of the cover of Nick Tosches' book "Hellfire," where a black-and-white Jerry Lee Lewis is singing in flames.
7 p.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. SOLD OUT.
One of the greatest comedians of all time, Dick Gregory, will be in Little Rock on Friday, but he will most likely not be doing comedy. Gregory, 81, started performing in the 1950s, and was a seminal and controversial presence on Jack Paar's and Johnny Carson's late-night shows in the '60s. His stand-up persona, for that matter, influenced a generation, though his history as an activist is just as impressive and significant. He spoke in Selma, Ala., in '63, protested the Vietnam War and marched with Gloria Steinem for the ERA. He ran for mayor of Chicago in '66 and for president in '68. He also believes the moon landing was faked, but then I'm not entirely convinced either. Anyway, he once told the New York Times it was "a badge of honor" to be called a "conspiracy theorist." On Friday he will discuss the documentary "COINTELPRO: The FBI's War on Black America."
DENISE PARKINSON BOOK SIGNING
4 p.m. Butler Center.
Hot Springs writer Denise Parkinson spent her childhood summers in a houseboat along the White River, a background she draws on in her new book "Daughter of the White River: Depression-Era Treachery & Vengeance in the Arkansas Delta." The book concerns the Arkansas houseboat culture of the '20s and '30s, and more specifically the strange case of a person named Helen Spence, described in the foreward as "a woman who went right into the DeWitt Court House and shot a man dead before she was sent to prison and later killed trying to escape." In her day, Spence was an outlaw with nationwide notoriety, gaining notices in the Washington Post and the New York Times, and in the book she appears as a haunting representative of the now-vanished river culture. Parkinson will discuss and sign copies of the book Saturday.