A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
For me, it's about driving two hours up I-30 to see Soophie Nun Squad in '99. Or maybe the night I saw half of a Braid show before an unamused manager taught me the Get Out Shuffle through a side door after I started a bar tab with a bankcard (real, mine) and an Alabama i.d. (real, definitely not mine).
You can ask anyone who grew up spending weekends at Vino's: It's easy to get nostalgic about Seventh and Chester. There's a heavy-duty patina of stories — both good and habitually dumbassed — on those hardwood floors.
And the role of the back room in our colorful local music history can't be overstated. For that matter, it can't be summarized in this space, either. We'll just say that the tar-black stage has held both the earliest and final steps of almost every band to define the "Little Rock sound," not to mention a string of legendary shows still notorious in local lore (like Fugazi and Green Day, both in '91).
But now, in 2010, the Towncraft punks are doting dads, the proto-emo crews are young professionals, the indie kids are grad students and, now, the young metalcore crowd is enjoying its own era in the hallowed halls. However, with the Little Rock staple celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend, general manager Chris New is throwing a homecoming for the Vino's alum that defined its legacy.
"Last year, we all sat down and Henry [Lee, owner] said 'get started now and pull off something huge for 2010,' " says New. "We've spent the better part of a year planning and coordinating this weekend, drumming up the show to people we wanted to play."
Consider it a year well spent. Saturday night's lineup is a diverse retrospective of the '90s at Vino's, highlighted by some of the most influential locals to play their stage, many back together for the first time in years.
For example, mid-'90s college rockers The Baileys are set to reunite for the first time in 12 years. Since 1998, the trio left six releases and over 400 songs in their wake, but splintered off into other outfits, notably The Reds (John McAteer) and Ho-Hum (Brad Brown).
Another infamous gang of locals, Big Boss Line, is set to play its twisted, hedonistic version of hard-drug rock for the first time in eight years. There's no word as of yet on whether or not their infamous, winking "legalize heroin and murder" shirts will make a return to merch tables.
Living Sacrifice, the ipso facto pioneers of Christian death/thrash metal, has remained a unit for the better part of 20 years, touring, recording and influencing bands the world over. The group returns to the Vino's stage after a long absence, giving the night a dose of heaviness.
Currently residing in Memphis, Gino Delray, the neon-clad rockabilly revivalist dedicated to keeping the Sun sound around, revisits the backroom, as well.
Two esteemed local groups, Ashtray Babyhead and Boondogs, still perform semi-regularly, but make rare appearances on Saturday.
Ashtray Babyhead, which later evolved into The Kicks, enjoyed national success and has played a string of reunion shows over the last few years. But in their hey-day, the pop-punkers were a band of future all-stars if ever Little Rock had one, with Scott Cook currently enjoying a successful solo career and collaborations with Julian Lennon, Jeff Matika touring the world with Green Day and Jason Tedford recording local bands in his Wolfman Studios.
Boondogs, as locals know, are Little Rock's melodic, literate purveyors of understated bedroom pop, beloved at home and throughout the region.
And don't call it a "reunion" — the members maintain they never split — but Ho-Hum, arguably the greatest local band ever, is slated for its first show in three years since playing its "last show ever" during Towncraft Week in May 2007. The night starts at 7 p.m.; tickets are priced at a 1990-appropriate $5, but the deja vu is complimentary.
Vino's 20th Anniversary
With Ashtray Babyhead, The Baileys, Boondogs, Big Boss Line, Gino Delray, Ho-Hum and Living Sacrifice
Vino's Brew Pub
7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18