The sound of fall 

Pop, rock and classical crackle

  • METALLICA: At Alltel.

It's not a secret: The dog days of summer suck for entertainment. Who knows why? It's really hot; people take vacations; school starts. Maybe entertainers need a summer break, too. Whatever the reason, we're fully focused on the near future, particularly since it promises leaf-jumping, pullover weather and a dizzying slate of arts and culture to-dos.

In this annual edition of our Fall Arts Guide, we run down the best and the brightest of the bunch. Ambition figures prominently in our two feature stories. Contributor Shelle Stormoe surveys the upcoming season at the Rep, which kicks off this weekend with “Les Mis,” the theater's biggest production ever. And contributor Gerard Matthews travels to Texarkana to a newly opened nightclub that's almost certainly the state's largest. Plus, we've got full previews on upcoming music, theater and art events and a near comprehensive fall arts calendar. Start making plans …

Music on the march

After a quiet summer, Alltel kicks the season off with a bang: The Eagles (Sept. 16). Extending a biblical metaphor it began with “Hell Freezes Over” in the mid-'90s, the band last year released the comeback album “Long Road out of Eden,” exclusively through Wal-Mart.

If lite-rock and big crowds aren't your thing, Dan Penn (Sept. 16, Hendrix College, Conway) is perhaps the greatest soul songwriter of all time. He'll perform his most famous songs, like “Do Right Woman” and “I'm Your Puppet,” in an intimate free concert (see “With sweet inspiration,” page 31). Or for those in Northwest Arkansas, femme-folk icon Ani Difranco (Sept. 16, George's Majestic Lounge) brings her tour to Fayetteville in advance of her 18th studio album, “Red Letter Days,” which will be released later this month. A broad-minded music fan might stick around for a few days. Robert Cray (Sept. 18, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville), who observant cinephiles remember as the bassist in the “Animal House” sequence with Otis Day and the Knights, is one of the foremost contemporary bluesmen. Cray's latest album, “Live from Across the Pond,” should give potential concertgoers a sense of his soulful tenor, estimable guitar skills and sharp backing band.

Vino's is now older than its most stalwart clientele. The ramshackle pizza joint cum boozy hangout cum teen-age refuge celebrates its 18th anniversary (Sept. 20) with a concert featuring a host of local oddballs, including King Don, the Reds, Loch Ness Monster and Underclaire. There'll be food and beer specials, and there's been talk of reverting to 18-year-old prices. To celebrate the grand opening of the Mosaic Templars museum of African-American history, a portion of Ninth street will be blocked off for a street fair (Sept. 20), featuring music from the Hope Drum Ballet, Billy Blues Jones, Afrodesia and the Count Basie Orchestra rhythm section (the band's namesake once performed in the Templars' Dreamland Ballroom).

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra launches its season with Stravinksy's “Firebird” (Sept. 20-21, Robinson Center Music Hall), a suite familiar to fans of ballet and “Fantasia” alike. In yet another kick-off, swamp rock standard-bearer Little Feat headlines the American Classics Festival (Sept. 20, Clinton Library) and helps mark the opening of the “American Chopper” exhibit at the library. With a day to spare, Pop in the Park! (Sept. 20, History Pavilion in Riverfront Park) wraps up its summer concert series with a free show featuring a quartet of local acts: shimmering pop-rock band Grand Serenade, mewing indie-rocker Chase Pagan, catchy rapper Epiphany and arguably the South's strangest and most compelling MC, 607. The weekend concludes with “Pop Doo Wop” (Sept. 21-22, Trinity United Methodist Church), the River City Men's Chorus' tour through the last 90 years of pop music history, and Leon Russell (Revolution, Sept. 21), who at 62 and with a prodigious Santa Claus-esque beard continues to explore a mishmash of blues, rock and country. Russell is supported on tour by his two daughters, Tina Rose and Sugaree Noel.



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