Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
BUTLER CENTER BOOKS LAUNCH PARTY
6 p.m. Main Library.
Whether you've noticed it or not, Butler Center Books, the publishing division of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, has for several years now been quietly releasing an impressively expansive series documenting from all angles the culture, habits and history of the Natural State, with serious volumes on Central High, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, the Razorbacks, Delta folktales, Sonny Burgess, the Clintons, the Black River, Civil War diaries and much more (to say nothing of classics like Jay Jennings' collection of Charles Portis' miscellany). Like James Joyce — who famously claimed that if Dublin were somehow destroyed, it could be rebuilt "brick by brick" based on his work — publisher Rod Lorenzen seems to be aiming for a kind of all-encompassing record with the Little Rock-based imprint, an ongoing museum in fragments. If the books can occasionally seem slow or dry, this is because entertainment isn't always their first objective; they are, in a way, time capsules. The publishing company will celebrate its new releases, which include a monograph on the USS Arkansas and an edited volume on "Arkansas and the Great War" (notable largely for historian Michael D. Polston's fascinating original research), Thursday night at the Main Library with wine and cheese.
8 p.m. Stickyz. $5.
The novelist and critic Gore Vidal once wrote that Coca-Cola was "Georgia's sole gift" to the rest of the country, and there are many who might agree with him. I never liked Coca-Cola much, though, and I especially never liked Gore Vidal. What about James Brown, Gore? What about Flannery O'Connor and Outkast and Little Richard and Harry Crews and the damn "Vampire Diaries"? I'm from the Southwest corner of the state, a fairly small town that nevertheless managed, over the years, to produce Ray Charles and Luke "That's My Kind of Night" Bryan. Fuck Gore Vidal, in other words. Incidentally, the man probably just didn't care much for pop music. He wrote the line in question in 1980, the year before R.E.M. released "Radio Free Europe" and — along with Pylon, The Method Actors, The B-52's, et al. — rendered Georgia the primary conduit for American post-punk, a fusion of pummeling art rock and post-soul syncopation that was also a rejection of punk's crypto-fascist tendencies and an embrace of funk's rhythmic innovations. Others did it first, but Georgia made it strange and distinct, gave it a Southern accent and a second-hand blazer. Sometimes the present-day indie rock cultures of Atlanta and Athens can seem like drowsy aftershocks from that initial, long-ago displaced fault plane. But Slang, a new Atlanta band sharing a bill with The Dangerous Idiots, The Federalis and The Hacking this weekend, doesn't care much for these types of quandaries, which are after all mostly not interesting. The band is sharp and literate and upbeat and funny. It combines, as Christopher Hitchens once wrote of Gore Vidal, "tough-mindedness with subversive wit."
9 p.m., Maxine's, Hot Springs.
Speaking of contemporary Atlanta bands, there is also Gringo Star, a straightforward-enough indie rock band whose PR materials go ahead and describe it anyway as "insouciant explorers, tossing the paddles overboard and drifting on the currents of their lackadaisical curiosity across a rippling sonic ocean." Nice! The band is good and increasingly well known for making easygoing, reverb-heavy pop songs. Rippling sonic ocean or not, the group will be familiar to and appreciated by fans of The Strokes or The Kinks or, better yet, The Troggs. See Gringo Star live in historic Hot Springs, alongside Dreamers and The Federalis and the healing waters of the nearby Spa City bathhouses.
FRIDAY 5/22-SATURDAY 5/30
'THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING'
7:30 p.m. Weekend Theater. $12-$16.
Carson McCullers is probably the second most famous writer of Southern Gothic fiction to hail from Georgia, the daughter of a watchmaker who became famous at the age of 23 with the publication of her first novel, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter." That book was released a year after her divorce from a man named Reeves McCullers, who she would remarry four years later (he committed suicide in 1953). In the interim, she lived in a Brooklyn commune that also hosted W.H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee and Paul and Jane Bowles. It was her time there that, according to a 2012 essay in The Guardian, inspired her third novel, "The Member of the Wedding." She described the book in a letter to her husband as "one of those works that the least slip can ruin. It must be beautifully done. For like a poem there is not much excuse for it otherwise." It is about a sad, solitary 12-year-old girl ("an unjoined person who hung around in doorways," McCullers writes) who dreams of accompanying her brother and his new wife on their honeymoon to Alaska. The Guardian deemed it a "female 'Catcher in the Rye' for the American South," and its champions have included Sylvia Plath. The stage adaption, currently playing at the Weekend Theater, premiered on Broadway in 1950.
FRIDAY 5/22–SUNDAY 5/24
STICKYZ RIVERFEST STAGE
6:45 p.m. Friday, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Riverfest is the monolithic, near-unavoidable entertainment colossus of the weekend, and anyone looking for Sheryl Crow or 311 should have no problem feeling his or her way to the Miller Lite and Bud Light stages, respectively (just follow the smell of funnel cake and vape pens). But there is also an alternative Riverfest held each year in the heart of the chaos, highlighting local favorites and headliners too niche to be sponsored by beer manufactures: the Stickyz Stage. Friday night, you can catch local country favorites The Salty Dogs, Swampbird and headliners Gaelic Storm, a traditional Celtic outfit who starred in "Titanic" and can be found most years hovering at the top of the Billboard World Music Charts. Saturday features Open Fields, Ghost Bones (the 2015 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winner), The Whigs, Nashville indie pop band Vinyl Thief and Diplo-and-Pharrell-collaborators Mansions on the Moon. On Sunday, finally, John Paul Keith and Adam Faucett open for Bay Area bluegrass group Hot Buttered Rum and George Porter Jr., former bass player for funk innovators The Meters.
'COLORS OF RHYTHM' PERCUSSION CONCERT
6 p.m. UALR Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall. $15.
The Indian tabla virtuoso Ustad Qureshi Alla Rakha Khan was born in 1919, went on to become a frequent accompanist of Ravi Shankar (and a stated influence on the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart) and eventually begat three sons, all of them also accomplished tabla performers: the Grammy Award winner Zakir Hussain, Fazal Querishi and Taufiq Querishi, who has since forsaken his father's instrument to distinguish himself as a pioneer on the djembe. Taufiq has described his talent as a "feel for the world of sound with all its intricate nuances." He is known for his ability to imitate, in concerts, the precise sound of human breath, or a bottle shattering, or a train arriving at a station. He performs at UALR this weekend in an Indian percussion trio called the "Colors of Rhythm," along with Pandit Ramdas Palsule, on the tabla, and Pandit Milind Tulankar, who will play the harmonium and the jaltarang, one of the oldest instruments in the world — a semi-circle of ceramic bowls filled with varying amounts of water.