Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
THE BIG CATS
7 p.m. and 10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $6
In Venezuela, people roller skate to Christmas Eve services. Austrian children put their shoes outside their doors so Santa can fill them with nuts and cheeses and Norwegian households traditionally hide their brooms on Christmas Eve to keep mischievous Yuletide witches from stealing them and going on a holiday joyride. Naturally. In Little Rock, however, the annual Big Cats Holiday Show – which stretches back longer than front man Burt Taggart can remember – is a tradition rooted in high holiday spirits both wholesome (seeing old friends back for the holidays, aww) and debauched (a certain Egg Nog Beer Pong Incident of 2004 springs to mind, ick). Simply, it's an evening that brings out the Joy-to-the-World-singing, stocking-stuffing best in everyone. The holidays don't get much more spirited. It's such a reliably great time that it's almost easy to overlook that The Big Cats, those long-tenured punks-gone-wise who are as close to local rock royalty as you'll find, are there to play one of only a couple shows they play each year. Expect previews of their upcoming album, a lineup of bona fide Big Cats classics ("Man of Leisure," "Fayetteville Blues") and more merriment than you can shake a Pooping Log at. (That would be a Spanish Christmas tradition worth Googling.) This year, for the first time, the band is opening their holiday show to the whole family with a special, all-ages evening set at 7 p.m., opened by the pedal-stomping, shaggy-banged high school rockers of It. Won't. Die. At the late show, Velvet Kente delivers a consistently jaw-dropping brand of genre-muddling head-nodders. JT.
8 p.m., Juanita's. $20 or instrument donation.
'Tis the season to root through the dusty, sticky boxes collecting in your garage and cluttering up your attic, to try to find that cold, neglected trombone or clarinet that's tucked away in your house. You know, the one you haven't played since your junior high marching band did that "Free Willy"-themed halftime show back in '94. Wouldn't that old dented thing be happier with someone else playing it, oiling it, carrying it around, loving it, even? Now in its tenth year, Hornucopia returns to Juanita's on Christmas Eve Eve to give the gift of music, collecting money and instruments for Play it Again, Arkansas, a local non-profit established to provide instruments of the high school band variety (trumpets, flutes, saxophones, anything that can honk out John Philip Sousa) to underprivileged children. The night's party features music from a lineup of local rock acts, including the folksy femme-rock of the Shannon Boshears Band, classic rockers Crisis, local staples TaylorMade and country/blues rock outfit NeverTrain. JT.
NIGHTFLYING 30th ANNIVERSARY
9 p.m., Stickyz. $5
Nightflying, the free, bi-monthly music and bar guide is an Arkansas institution. Those pulp grain papers are everywhere, promoting the gig-hopping blues and classic rock acts around the state since 1980. Now, looking at its 30th year, Nightflying is set to celebrate its birthday – a ripe, old age for such an alternative publication – with a long, rolling lineup full of the brand of music it champions: Earl Cate (of The Cate Brothers) brings his outfit, Earl & Them; bluegrass badasses Pope County Bootleggers; the roots rockers of the Joe Pitts Band; Bonnie Montgomery's driving Dixie act, Montgomery Trucking; modern rockers Typhoid Mary; the backwoods sounds of Bluegrass Bombers; soul-blues from the veterans of Salt & Pepper; former Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus bassist Andy Tanas; the piano stylings of Bob Boyd; and pickin' and grinnin' from Bob Hayes and Bud Bell. And they're still adding new acts to the night's bill. If you're looking for a lot of bang for not much buck, look no further. JT.
SMOKE UP JOHNNY
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. Donations.
After you've recovered from an overdose of family at Christmas, but before you start resting up for New Year's, how 'bout a break for debauchery? When Smoke Up Johnny called it quits in early 2009, fans of barroom guitar-rock mourned. The group's success relied on simple formula, front man Alan Disaster told me back in 2007 when I profiled the band: "We play good-time music. We play late at night. Everybody gets drunk." And as it turns out, it's a formula that hasn't died easy. Instead, Smoke Up Johnny has joined a handful of beloved local bands (Ashtray Babyhead, Mulehead) in a kind of purgatory, where the group's effectively over, but still alive enough to play the occasional concert. Tuesday's occasion is the long awaited release of Smoke Up Johnny's second album, "Shit Faced on Life." With song titles like "Sunday Beer," "If It Ain't Wrong" and "Too Loud for Louisville" and a sound that continues to marry the best of Thin Lizzy and The Dictators, it's the post-Christmas gift to give yourself to tide you through the dark days when SUJ is on hiatus. Brother Andy and His Big Damn Mouth, the reigning Times Showcase winner (register at arktimes.com/showcase11, local acts) and perhaps the heir to SUJ's barroom throne, is just days away from the official release of "Hells Angles," the band's latest collection of earworm-y songs of sex, drugs and murder. LM.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern.
I do it. If you're reading this column, there's a good chance you do it, too. Most people can be caught doing it hunched over their computer with headphones strapped onto their ears to hide all the noise. People all over do it a whole lot, but particularly during this time of year. Just look at the internet. It's all over the place. And when I made my own "favorite albums of 2010" list, "All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood," the newest release from Rhode Island-based, Arkansas-natives of The Body, was too great to deny, breaking through my fortified "no metal (usually) allowed" barrier to sit amongst mixed company in my own top ten list. It's definitely the most psychotic noise on my lineup: 50 minutes of beat-heavy, doomy drums and psychotically intense vocals bellowing about stuff I'd rather not dwell upon. Jim James, apocalypse, gun wounds, that kind of jazz. (The album is streaming in all its icky glory at http://bit.ly/thebodyalbum.) Now set in Providence, drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King are bringing their assault back to Little Rock after the duo managed to blow out the Juanita's P.A. in 20 minutes, flat, this August. Godspeed, White Water Tavern speakers. It may take a holiday miracle for them to survive. JT.