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Take it to the river 

READY TO DANCE THIS MESS AROUND: The B-52s headline on Friday.
  • READY TO DANCE THIS MESS AROUND: The B-52s headline on Friday.

She won't play weather prognosticator. In the wake of recent rain-soaked festivals like Toad Suck Daze and Memphis in May, Riverfest director DeAnna Korte says this year's theme, among organizers, is “it is what it is.” But, fingers crossed, if the rain does hold off this Memorial Day weekend, Korte hopes the sun will be as big a draw as any of the entertainment. “If the rain is out of the way, hopefully people are ready to get out of the house and enjoy themselves.”

If last year is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem. Even with some showers, a record-setting 252,000 swarmed the riverfront in Little Rock and North Little Rock last year. In anticipation of another record crowd, Riverfest's directors have reconfigured to include rolling green hills of the Clinton Library grounds, something that's long been part of the grand plan, according to Korte. That's where the Bud Light Stage, positioned, at least for last several years, on the thin strip of lawn on North Shore Park in North Little Rock, will be. The Triple-S stage, long set up on a parking lot at the western edge of Riverfront Park, moves to North Little Rock stage. To ease the flow of traffic between the two cities, the Junction Bridge will be open.

The new layout should give not just concert fans, but all festival-goers, room to spread out, Korte says. Riverfest is more than just music, with kids' and teen attractions of all stripes happening all weekend — climbing walls, bounce rooms, race car simulators, trampoline slam dunk demonstrations, on and on. Two big family-friendly hits return to North Little Rock Saturday and Sunday, when the Super Retriever Series sends dogs flying high and long in its championships. At 2 p.m. Sunday, Retriever Series organizers will once again try to assemble a multitude of kids under 16 to blow duck calls simultaneously for three minutes (parents, sign your kid up at superretrieverseries.com).

Nothing pulls in the crowds like big-name acts, however, and Riverfest is chock-full of them this year. As usual, there's a little something for everyone. Legends like Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy. Eighties favorites like the B-52s, Heart and half of New Edition. Youthful hard rockers like Flyleaf and Hinder. Read all about them below (and check page 20 for the lowdown on the Arkansas and sterling local lineup on main stages).

 

 

FRIDAY, MAY 22

 

THE B-52s

9:30 p.m., Miller Lite Amphitheater

 

Of all of the bands to emerge from the punk/new wave scene in the late '70s, none has been co-opted so fully by Jazzercisers as this wacky Athens, Ga., act. But it's not just your unitarded mom who knows that after “bang, bang, bangin' on the door, baby” it's “tin roof rusted!” It's kitsch lovers, sports crowds the country wide — hell, pretty much anyone who was around in the early '90s and enjoyed dancing. Named for the beehive hairdo shaped like the nose cone on a B-52 bomber sported by the group's female lead singers, the band spent the late '70s and early '80s releasing loopy, eminently danceable material about dancing lobsters, planets with pink air and gay pride (via an extended swimming pool metaphor). They were mostly written off by 1989, before “Cosmic Thing,” their  sixth album, was released, but with singles like “Roam” and “Love Shack,” it became the B-52s biggest commercial hit. After a long hiatus, the band reunited last year to release “Funplex,” an album multi-instrumentalist Keith Strickland described to Rolling Stone as “loud, sexy rock & roll with the beat pumped up to hot pink.”

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