Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
TONY JOE WHITE
9 p.m., Juanita's. $10.
If you're not intimately familiar with Tony Joe White, here's what you need to know about The Swamp Fox: One, it's this writer's opinion that his first album, “Black & White,” is 35 minutes of the coolest music ever put on wax, period; two, his rich songbook has been covered by tons of familiars, notably, Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield and Elvis Presley; three, he wrote the ineffable classic “Rainy Night in Georgia.” Done. All rumbling baritone and guttural, tongue-y patois, Tony Joe White never enjoyed mainstream domestic success here the way he (inexplicably) did in France, but his particular, racially ambiguous take on electric swamp rock has been thrusting through American music for decades. Tony Joe's steadily made music for 40-plus years, mixing curious swamp rock hybrids with a foray into Michael McDonald-esque yacht rock, a loop and breakbeat-infused album of revisited hits and a brief detour into — gasp — disco territory! (Find his peccadillo-praising 1980 single “I Get Off on It” on hypem.com to turn that grimace into a quick grin.) For those who are quick to disparage this show as a cash-in revival, you're out of luck and in for another surprise. John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives, the jaunty Memphis-based regulars who reside on a low branch of the Tony Joe White family tree, open the show. JT.
6 p.m., River Market Pavillions. $25 adv., $30 d.o.e.
For more than a decade, this is one of the annual spring events a goodly number of local folks await for weeks. It's a place where both those with discerning palates and scarred livers unite over good and — most importantly — copious beer from local distributors and microbreweries. That means everything Pabst to Chimay, Dos Equis to Diamond Bear. Yes, it's a fund-raiser to benefit the Arkansas chapter of the American Arthritis Foundation and that's all very well and good; arthritis affects the grip and it's gross drinking beer out of a straw. But let's get to brass tacks: It's a celebration of good beer, it's as decent a way as any to enjoy an evening river breeze after a week at work and, for $25 in advance and $30 at the door for three-hours of unobstructed access to over 100 beers, it may be best happy hour you'll find in town all year. Also, those who intend to do justice to this 13th annual Foam Fest would be wise to pocket a few bucks not only for a cab ride but to tip the music for the night, provided by acoustic act Canvas. JT.
TOAD SUCK DAZE
5 p.m., downtown Conway. Free.
Arkansas's favorite annual family celebration of drunken riverboat crews — who long ago would stop at a tavern outside of Conway, where they'd “suck on the bottle” until they swelled “up like toads” — returns this weekend for the 39th year. Here's hoping it doesn't end up like the 38th, which saw flash flooding wash out all of Saturday's events and muddy Sunday's. If the scattered thunderstorms in the forecast scatter before the weekend, revelers will have an opportunity to ride carnival rides and ponies, lose sleep in a quest to win “Stuck on a Truck,” scale a climbing wall and, of course, participate in the ultra-competitive “World Championship Toad Races.” In the evening on Friday and all day on Saturday and Sunday, there's music in Simon Park. Memphis-based Christian hard-rockers Skillet (9 p.m.) lead the way on Friday. Saturday, Arkansas's rising country-rock standouts Riverbilly (7:30 p.m.) open for bona fide country superstar Clint Black (9 p.m.). Sunday, Southern gospel star Jason Crabb (3:45 p.m.) headlines. Check out the complete schedule at toadsuck.org. LM.
‘ALADDIN AND THE WONDERFUL LAMP'
7 p.m., Children's Theatre, Arkansas Arts Center. $11-$14.
After five productions since September, the Arkansas Arts Center's Children's Theatre is winding down its 2009-2010 season with one of the most well-known folk tales ever in “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.” Ever since Robin Williams hijacked everyone's perception of the story years ago, it's been difficult to separate his lampooning from the centuries-old story of the beggar, the sorcerer, the girl and the genie that's so familiar there's really little use in retreading it for anyone who's old enough to read this article. That said, if you have a tater tot running around your house, oblivious to the magic and action in “Aladdin,” it's high time to provide an introduction. The play continues through May 16, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. JT.
DAVID KIMBROUGH JR.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $10.
You know, I'd suspect that, by definition, it's impossible to be born into the blues. You've got to earn honest calluses on your fingertips, not to mention tap into some down deep mysticism or soulfulness, to really play the blues. Even if you're the only one of 28 children who chose to carry on the namesake of the venerable blues emperor for infinity and some, Junior Kimbrough. No sir, there's no room for nepotism on a juke joint stage and David Kimbrough Jr. certainly wasn't ushered onto the placards with a silver guitar in his hand. He began his career at 6, singing alongside his father at the local fish fry. He served time in Parchman Farm, the Mississippi state prison with a gory history of racism. Now he runs a juke joint outside of Holly Springs, carrying on the custom of his father's famous stomp shack, Junior's, and playing weekend gigs all around the South. Is it history repeating itself or a family tradition? Y'know, it doesn't really matter when he's taking his father's tribal repetition and salty licks and kneading it in with his generation's take on soul music. Mockingbird, self-described “fine purveyors of hillbilly psychedelia,” open alongside long-established local singer-songwriter Stacey Mackey. Before Kimbrough starts his blues set, all three acts will share the stage and perform a handful of what Mockingbird calls “genre bending” original songs. JT.
CINCO DE MAYO
10 a.m., Riverfest Amphitheatre. $5.
The 12th annual celebration, sponsored by the Central Arkansas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), is billed as “the largest showcase of Hispanic culture in Arkansas.” That means, from morning until near dark, there'll be singing and folkloric dancing and games for kids and all sorts of delicious Mexican and Latin American grub. More on that last item: If you like Mexican food, but have never sampled what southwest Little Rock is cookin' in any of the scores of taco trucks and mercados and restaurants where sometimes little English is spoken, you really, really owe it to yourself to go for a taste test. It's a rare day when real-deal authentic Mexican and Central American cuisine comes downtown. Don't miss out. Kids under 12 get in for free. LM.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
With its front man's instantly recognizable voice sounding off like a creaky wooden rudder through the band's driving, desperate Americana shuffle, Deer Tick has been on the receiving end of the music press' “oohs” and “aahs” since it went from playing house shows (including a number in Little Rock) to being the toast of SXSW overnight after a 2007 debut, a home-recorded affair called “War Elephant,” found an audience on the Internet's tangle of music message boards and blogs. (It was an unexpected sensation that gave way to one of the most surreal music interviews in recent memory when the band sat down with a vocal fan in NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams.) The act's taken the vocal cadence, relaxed finger plucking and facial hair of John Prine, combined it with a vague grunge demeanor and found itself leading way for a nation full of young Americana acts. This show has been heavy with buzz since it was announced months ago, so expect a big crowd. The guys and I in Frown Pow'r and the trio of Jonathan Wilkins and the Reparations open the show with two different, local takes on that Americana stuff we just talked about. JT.
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