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STEVE MARTIN and THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS
7:30 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $64-$92.
Though Steve Martin has long used the banjo as a prop for his stand-up comedy, he's an accomplished player, winning a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for his 2009 album "The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo." The Steep Canyon Rangers are no slouches either. The North Carolina quintet has released half a dozen albums in the last decade or so, including one with Martin that kicked off the group's relationship with the storied folk label Rounder Records. That album, "Rare Bird Alert," featured live renditions of Martin's SNL classic "King Tut" and "Atheists Don't Have No Songs," a clever a capella number that recounts all the fine musical traditions enjoyed by the faithful that have eluded nonbelievers.
The record is chock-a-block with accomplished playing and a light-hearted vibe, but it's not all whimsy. For example, the instrumental track "The Great Remember (for Nancy)" is a gorgeous number, upbeat but also pensive, with a touch of melancholy.
9 p.m. Stickyz. $10.
As anyone who has scanned the radio dial in Central Arkansas in search of some actual country music can probably tell you, there aren't too many options. I'm not talking about your slick Nashville dudes who wear sequined jeans and use copious amounts of expensive hair products or your new so-called "outlaw" country singers and their rote laundry-list songs, with obligatory mentions of dirt roads, trucks, cold beers, small towns and probably a jingoist jab or two at vague "others." No, unfortunately, if you want to hear real country nowadays, you're going to have to seek it out. The good news is that's easier than ever, and recent decades have still seen a good number of bands out there that still make the good stuff. One of the finest examples is probably The Derailers, a quartet that's spent nearly two decades now with an unwavering devotion to the timeless sounds of such luminaries as George Jones and Buck Owens. A few years back, the band put out a fine tribute to the latter, called "Under the Influence of Buck."
WHORES, THE NIGH ENDS
10 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Atlanta trio Whores finds the sweet spot in the Bermuda Triangle of moody post-hardcore, the groove-focused metal of early Rollins Band or Helmet and the more sludgy of first wave of grunge bands. There's also a misanthropic Amphetamine Reptile Records-type vibe going on with the group's 2011 EP "Ruiner." Just check out some of the song titles: "Daddy's Money," "Fake Life," "Shower Time," "Straight Down." Harsh stuff for sure, or as the band's online bio states: "Good times, bad vibes." Opening up is The Nigh Ends, a newish rock 'n' roll concern with veterans of such notable local outfits as Smoke Up Johnny, Eclipse Glasses and numerous other bands, specifically, Alan Disaster, Matt Floyd, Nate Moore and Kyle Carpenter. Regarding sounds, Moore mentioned The Wipers and The Saints. Disaster seconded The Wipers influence, adding "but the chord progressions are starting to get real dark. It's tough." I have no doubts whatsoever about those claims.
NIGHT FOR JETT
7 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5 after 8:30 p.m.
If you ever went to the White Water Tavern, you probably saw James "Jett" Talbert sitting at the bar, or later in the evening, dancing on the tables to whichever band happened to be playing. He was a vital voice in the colorful oral history of the WWT that the Times published in 2010. This show is a celebration of the life of Jett, who passed away last week. White Water co-owner Matt White wrote eloquently of his friend, so I'm going to quote him at length: "In losing Jett, we lose an amazing storyteller and historian on the bar and Little Rock in general. He lived just up the street for over 20 years and his spirit, attitude, and heart were a perfect example of what makes the White Water such a unique and special place. When we took the place over five and a half years ago, he and Goose were seemingly inseparable and Jett had our backs from the very beginning. An avid music fan and people person, Jett witnessed more shows than most of us who worked here during those first couple of years. He was known by bands all across the country for dancing on the rail in the back of the room, helping them carry their equipment, and for being a wildly encouraging and HILARIOUS friend. ... He was a friend to so many. A sweet heart. An original. He was an absolute staple to the bar and the neighborhood, and to say that the place won't be the same without him barely begins to scratch the surface; it is so tough to comprehend that he won't be walking in at two on the dot every afternoon." There will no doubt be many tears shed on Friday, but also many great stories, and music from Amy Garland, Nick Devlin, Bart Angel, Andy Warr, Mandy McBryde, Iron Tongue, The P-47s and likely more.
OPERA IN THE OZARKS
7:30 p.m. Inspiration Point, Eureka Springs. $20-$25.
It's mid-June now, which means it's time once again for Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point. The program is in its 62nd year of showcasing budding performers from all over and training talent that has gone on to perform on every major opera stage in the world. My dad is a big fan of the outdoor series. "How many chances do you get to go to the opera wearing jeans and short sleeves?" he asked. Well, if you live in Carroll County you'll get several every year. But Opera in the Ozarks is a major draw for opera buffs from all over the region. This year's slate kicks off Friday with Mozart's "The Magic Flute," continues Saturday with Stephen Sondheim's Broadway hit "A Little Night Music" and Tuesday with Puccini's "La Boheme." The season runs through July 20. See the calendar for the rest of the schedule.
LOST IN THE TREES
7 p.m. Artchurch Studio, Hot Springs. $10.
Lost in the Trees is a North Carolina collective led by Ari Picker, a classically trained musician who studied at Berklee College of Music and was in the indie pop act The B-Sides. In 2008, Picker's mother — an artist and someone who had long struggled with mental illness — took her own life, according to an NPR story from March. Part of Picker's response was to craft "A Church That Fits Our Needs," a 12-song album of lush, gorgeous chamber folk. "I wanted to give my mother a space to become all the things I think she deserved to be and wanted to be, and all the beautiful things in her that didn't quite shine while she was alive," Picker told NPR. "I feel like that's what a church should do: They should give you the space to reflect and be the best person you can be." Picker has cited Radiohead as a primary influence, and that band's style has certainly informed Lost in the Trees. I hear traces of Bon Iver in the music as well. This will probably be an incredible show. The band has played in Hot Springs before, at last year's Valley of the Vapors festival, reportedly leaving not a dry eye in the room. The opening act is Daytona.
7:30 p.m. Magic Springs' Timberwood Amphitheater, Hot Springs. $30-$65.
Editor's note: This is the second in an ongoing series profiling the groundbreaking early 21st century Oklahoma band Hinder and the mercurial genius at its fore, singer Austin Winkler.
SEPT. 13, 2057, NORMAN, OKLA. — When considering the timeless influence of Hinder, a band that defined life, love, passion and high art for at least three generations of music lovers, one might be tempted to compare singer Austin Winkler's life and indelible contributions to pop music to the 1980s film "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." Much as the heroes of that story came from humble origins to reshape our perceptions of what music could be, uniting the world in a new era of peace and love, so too did the members of Hinder, a band that crafted music so achingly beautiful and profound that it made Sigur Rós sound like The Meatmen by comparison. Sitting at the bar at O'McFlannagins Irish College Pub, Winkler belches sonorously, a protest of sorts, directed against the elderly biker woman who just moments ago rebuffed his romantic advances. "She was cool about it, I guess," he says. "Not everyone can handle someone of my stature, and I get that." He punctuates this with another massive, ripping burp. But even witnessing his gaseous eruptions firsthand, one cannot forget the music he created, the enduring works of sophistication and elegance contained within albums such as "Jupiter than Stupider" and "One Toke Right at the Line." The incident reminds this reporter of another 1980s film, "Amadeus," whose titular character declares "I am a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not." Winkler might be a vulgar man. But his music most certainly isn't, and it will live on long after the dozens of biomedical devices keeping him going have given out. And for that, all of humanity is grateful.