HOT SPRINGS MUSIC FESTIVAL
Various times and locations in Hot Springs. $5-$15.
Now in its 17th year, the Hot Springs Music Festival — which started Sunday and runs through June 16 — gives classical fans in Central Arkansas the opportunity to see accomplished musicians from all over the world perform alongside budding players. The festival features lectures, as well as 20 official concerts and more than 250 open rehearsals, at which the professionals mentor the young up-and-comers. Much of the festival is broadcast on KLRE 90.5 and recorded for release on CD on the Naxos/Marco Polo label. Some of the featured performers this year include Rick "Mr. CutTime" Robinson and The Cassatt String Quartet. Described on its website as being "serious in focus but casual in atmosphere," the festival takes place at several venues in Hot Springs. Wednesday's concert is at the Hot Springs Fieldhouse. A pre-concert talk starts at 6:30 p.m., with the Festival Symphony Orchestra starting at 7:30 p.m., performing music by Rachmaninoff, Paganini, Charles Ives and more. Tickets are $5 for students and veterans and $15 for others. Check the website at www.hotmusic.org to find the full schedule. RB
10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5.
The Ezra Lbs. self-titled debut, out now on Thick Syrup Records and available at this record release show, is quite an odd album, and I mean that in the best way possible. It seems to have been written, recorded and sequenced without any consideration whatsoever of following convention. The album is 22 songs, divided between perfectly rough-around-the-edges garage-rock tunes, wistful bedroom pop and meandering instrumental passages, such as "Pennies," which has an underwater lounge-jazz feel, and "Insomnia," which recalls those drifting interstitial pieces from Eno's timeless "Another Green World." "Bears" and "Postcard" are fantastic, melancholy sketches that remind me a bit of The Great Unwashed (David and Hamish Kilgour's excellent, under-heralded post-Clean collaboration). "Purple Sweater" is a wordless, minute-and-a-half blast with a late-period Jay Reatard vibe that segues into the delightful "Record." But as good as all those songs are, for me, the sweet spot is the final stretch of the album. The last four songs make up a perfect suite of gorgeous guitar rock that I've listened to over and over. The last song in particular, "Motorcycle Accident," is sublime, with soaring, gorgeously distorted guitar. In a basic sense, Ezra Lbs. is building on similar influences as the British band Yuck — which I also love — those being Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement and the like. But this Arkansas crew is more restless, adventurous and willing to take those familiar touchstones in weirder directions. It'll be interesting to see where they go next, but until then we'll have this very enjoyable album to absorb. Also playing is the ever-burly rock machine known as Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth. RB
ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
Various times. Hendrix, UCA and Wildwood Park. $0-$30.
This season, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre gets rolling with one of the Bard's comedies, "Twelfth Night." The tale of twins, shipwrecked and separated on the mysterious island of Illyria, is one of Shakespeare's works that director Rebekah Scallet found herself drawn to again and again. "There are many different love stories woven throughout the play, and the way the characters feel about each other is always first detected in their language," Scallet wrote in her director's note. "All the lovers play verbal games of wit with each other, picking up each other's phrases, taking a word and turning it over in such a way that it has a new meaning. Through this complementary use of language the audience can tell these people are truly meant for each other, and it is so much fun to watch them figure out what we already know." The first five performances of "Twelfth Night" — June 7, 9, 10, 15 and 17, all at 7:30 p.m. — are pay what you can shows at Hendrix. The remaining performances are June 22-24 at 7:30 p.m. at Wildwood Park for the Arts and tickets are $15-$20. The Tony-winning Huck Finn musical "Big River" opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA, with a 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $30. RB