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Rodeo in the Rock returns on Saturday 

FRIDAY 4/24

JIMBO MATHUS

10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.

Unkempt visionary, Squirrel Nut Zippers founder, former sideman for Jim Dickinson and Buddy Guy, self-proclaimed "Arkansas Son-in-Law"— Jimbo Mathus has lived many lifetimes, more than most of us could stomach. This month, by means of a work ethic that can only be described as punishing, Mathus is back with a new album, "Blue Healer," recorded in Water Valley, Miss., with Fat Possum and Big Legal Mess producer Bruce Watson. "It's the story of a man in a Southern landscape who is swept insanely apart by internal and external winds," Mathus says of the new record. "He digs deeper and deeper into the very fabric of his reality, experiencing love and lust, despair, hope and sheer animal exhilaration on levels few ever do. He is tested in every way imaginable and achieves a sort of enlightenment — gains power and understanding of life's mysteries. Yet questions remain. He wonders if the struggle was worth it, or even real. Is he madman or sage? Con man or honest counsel? Is this autobiographical or fictional? Only the Blue Healer knows the answer to the great cosmic heebie-jeebie." He celebrates the record's release at White Water Friday night. WS

FRIDAY 4/24-SATURDAY 4/25

RODEO IN THE ROCK

Arkansas State Fairgrounds. $15-$25.

The Diamond State Rodeo Association is the Arkansas branch of the International Gay Rodeo Association, an umbrella group founded in 1985 and dedicated to "promoting, in a positive way, the LGBTQ country Western lifestyle." The two-day event will include bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, pole bending, goat dressing and dancing. Last year the organization was the subject of a documentary, "Queens and Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo," which focused on Wade Earp, a descendent of Wyatt and one of the emerging stars of the circuit. "As progressive as we think the world's gotten," he says in the trailer, "there's so much we have to conquer." WS

SATURDAY 4/25

ETSY INDIE ARTS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL

11 a.m.-6 p.m., Hillcrest.

Around 100 local artists and designers who exhibit on the website Etsy will appear in person this Saturday at the fifth annual Indie Arts and Music Festival in Hillcrest, offering custom jewelry, clothing, paintings, soap — probably just about everything. There will also be food trucks, like Loblolly Creamery, Southern Gourmasian, Southern Salt Food Co. and Katmandu MoMo, among others, and live music on two stages. This year's lineup includes Amy Garland, Open Fields, Sea Nanners, Collin Vs. Adam, Isaac Alexander, Mandy McBryde, The Rolling Blackouts and more. Also involved: circus entertainment from ReCreation Studios, pets you can adopt (!), tattoos, drinks from Rock Town Distillery, Moody Brews and Diamond Bear, a photo booth, live painting and more. WS

SUNDAY 4/26

ARKANSAS PUZZLE DAY

Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall

David Rosenfelt at noon, competition at 1 p.m. Free.

Crossword puzzle and Sudoku mavens will once again get the pencil lead out to see who can be first to solve progressively harder word/logic puzzles. Quick, what is a three-letter word containing no vowels for valley? The late, great Arkansas puzzlemaster Judge George Rose Smith taught me this one: Cwm. This year's puzzle day is part of the Arkansas Literary Festival and before its puzzlers begin puzzling, author and dog lover David Rosenfelt will speak. He says on his Facebook page, "I have heard myself speak many times, and I'm stunned each time by the incredible power of my words. I have been compared to Winston Churchill, but with hair." He also urges the David Rosenfelt Little Rock Fan Club to arrive in shifts, "maybe 500 at a time. Otherwise it will be chaos." The fastest three puzzlers in both the crossword and Sudoku categories will be awarded prizes in a finals competition. Reserve a seat by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or calling 683-5239. LNP

SUNDAY 4/26

10TH ANNUAL MOUNT HOLLY CEMETERY PICNIC

5 p.m.-7 p.m., Mount Holly Cemetery. $100 ($25 for 12 and under).

Little Rock's oldest extant cemetery — continuously occupied! — celebrates the 100th anniversary of the city's incorporation of the Mount Holly Cemetery Association this year. The city's 1915 ordinance allowed its supporters — all ladies — to restore the deteriorating cemetery by shooing the animals out, rebuilding the fences, straightening the headstones. Thus began a century of caregiving. (Coincidentally, the cemetery, donated to the city in 1843, had been run by men but began its decline under their leadership. Women, recognizing the importance of the cemetery to the city, stepped up. Shades of the Women's Emergency Committee.) The Cemetery Association's annual picnic is its largest fundraiser and crucial to keeping the 172-year-old resting place mowed and beautiful for the many visitors who stroll under its shade trees and along its grassy streets to see the statuary, pay regards to lost friends or who just enjoy the tranquility of the grounds. There will be tours of Mount Holly, a box dinner, sales of the "Recipes in Perpetuity" cookbook — which combines history and recipes — and a silent auction. LNP

SUNDAY 4/26

JEWISH FOOD AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL

Breakfast 8:30 a.m., festival 10 a.m.-4 p.m., War Memorial Stadium.

As someone who adores lox and bagels in the morning, corned beef at lunch and blintzes after dinner, I could just knish the person who thought up the annual Jewish Food Festival. It's an opportunity to stock up on homemade Jewish penicillin and buy a mezuzah to bless your house. There will be a replica of the Wailing Wall, where visitors can place their prayers and which will be transported to Israel for incorporation into the real thing. Want advice? Go "Ask the Rabbi"! But what is my absolute favorite part of the food festival? The Meshugga Klezmer Band, that's what. The seven-piece band will play its often keening, sometimes frolicking songs at 1 p.m. The band will make you act meshugganah in front of complete strangers. The event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Arkansas. Feeling like chopped liver? Head over. And take some canned foods and other nonperishables for donation to the Arkansas Foodbank, which will have collection centers there. LNP

WEDNESDAY 4/29

STURGILL SIMPSON

8 p.m. Staples Auditorium, Hendrix College. Free.

How was Sturgill Simpson — who sounds uncannily like the fifth Highwayman and whose most recent album, "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music," you could easily throw on at a party after, say, "Phases and Stages" with no noticeable tonal shift or loss of momentum — more or less ignored for so long by the Nashville cultural establishment in whose margins he labored? I have several theories, and the most convincing involves his subject matter: psilocybin mushrooms, the death of the ego, "breakthroughs in modern physics," reptilian aliens. As he admitted in an interview with The Fader, "I read weird shit." And it shows! "I've always been fascinated with guys like Carl Sagan and Terence McKenna, linguistics, and the evolution of man and why we evolved," he told the Oxford American last year, as though this were an entirely unremarkable admission from a guy who sounds like a young Waylon Jennings. Simpson is carrying the torch these days for a certain strand of eccentric, progressive country music that nevertheless adheres respectfully to the honky-tonk tradition — reviving the fruitful overlap between the counterculture and redneck culture that thrived in the '60s and '70s. The Oxford American brings him to Conway Wednesday night for a free concert at Hendrix College's Staples Auditorium. Reserve your tickets in advance by calling 501-450-1291 or emailing activities@hendrix.edu. WS

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