Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
7:30 p.m., Verizon Arena. $28.70-$54.15
We've written about it plenty of times before. Gigging in Arkansas may not be a top priority for touring, big name rock bands, but for country music, our Verizon Arena is a required, "must-play" venue for anyone worth his boot leather. It has to get expensive for the dedicated country fan. In just the last year, the Little Rock market has been privy to shows from Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, George Strait and, one of my favorite concerts of last year, an unbelievable live retrospective from a soon-to-retire Brooks & Dunn. It's such a profitable area for boot scooters that if you were to gather up all the ticket stubs from the past 20 years, you'd have a pretty good overview of the history of new country music. Now Jason Aldean's ready to tack his name up with the big guys. He's no stranger to playing Arkansas, gigging at Magic Springs in 2007 and at Riverfest in 2009 before making his way to superstar status and a spot at Verizon. Since he began making stops in the Natural State, Aldean's particular brand of nostalgic, "tenderbilly" anthems have earned him two platinum records and a smattering of top-spot singles with songs like "Why" and "Big Green Tractor." Country music has been hungry for electrified, beer-and-Skynyrd party rockers lately and Aldean's been the genre's go-to man since making a name for himself in 2005 with "Hicktown." It's a Big & Rich-penned, stars-and-bars jam with a music video from A&R hell: mudpits, lifted trucks, the air full of beer cans. Sure, it looks like a fun time. I just can't imagine any of my buddies from back home who moved to the sticks to take up permanent residence in their own version of Hicktown would be caught dead listening to this on any back road, ever. From this angle, he's about as country as Pink is punk. But pop pays and not everybody wants to be Kris Kristofferson, so hats off to Aldean, the businessman. May you continue long on the road of Coors Light wishes and catfish dreams. He's supported by rising star Eric Church and femme-power duo, The JaneDear Girls. Aldean also makes a stop the following night in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas's Barnhill Arena, 7:30 p.m., $44.75.
'THE COLOR PURPLE'
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $22-$52
Like "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Beloved," or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Alice Walker's vibrant Pulitzer-winning novel holds a proud place in the annals of Southern literature. Wrenching, controversial and, like its peers, completely irreplaceable, it's the story of Celie, an impoverished victim of rape in turn-of-the-century Georgia. After first being adapted into what may be Steven Spielberg's greatest film in 1985, "The Color Purple" found itself, 20 years later, faithfully revived on Broadway, set to jazz, gospel and the blues and receiving standing ovations at curtain, hyperbole in print and 11 Tony nods for Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Music and, four times over, Best Performance. In short, this musical is a beast. Judging from the runaway success that was "Wicked" and Little Rock's revitalized interest in live plays, we can all but guarantee that the three-day stand of "Purple" will be the next in a chain of notable local theater. And with tickets starting at an enormously reasonable $22, there's just no excuse for any theater buff to pass this up. The musical opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. before offering a 2 p.m. matinee and 7:30 p.m. evening performances on Saturday and Sunday.
OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW
8 p.m., George's Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville. $25.
One of the greatest stories of recent bluegrass lore went down in 2007, when the hard-line traditionalists of the Mountain View Bluegrass Festival booted Cadillac Sky, a moderately forward-thinking hill music act, from their festival for being progressive to the point of being, apparently, offensive. Now, keeping the rustic sound of bluegrass pure is, in its own way, a noble effort and one that shouldn't go unappreciated. Unfortunately for purists, a nation of dirty youngsters are rapidly changing the face of bluegrass music. Even in a bluegrass stronghold like Arkansas, one of our state's greatest acts is a mohawked, Dexadrine-hearted act called Cletus Got Shot. Nationally, the movement is even larger and no one typifies the face of the new old like Nashville's beloved Old Crow Medicine Show. Since finding national notoriety in 2004 with the release of its signature tune, "Wagon Wheel" (a cover of an incomplete, oft-bootlegged Bob Dylan song written for the soundtrack of "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid"), Old Crow has cracked away at the rural landscape with Highwaymen harmonies, a Woody Guthrie ramble and a set of influences spanning the distance from Earl Scruggs to Public Enemy. And now, the collective is enjoying enormous success, sharing "Austin City Limits" duty with Lucinda Williams, performing regularly on "A Prairie Home Companion" and, if dorm rooms are anything like they were when I called them home, providing an all-but-constant hum on college campuses everywhere. My mandolin-playing buddy John, who, like the rest of his family, is no stranger to bluegrass festivals, once played Old Crow for his dad, who scrunched his face and said, "That ain't how Bill played it." Mr. Monroe may not have played it that way, but, more than likely, our kids will. The flagship nu-grass stars are supported by two Northwest Arkansas acts: the horn-heavy R&B act FOS Project and the long-running, groove-rocking Uncrowned Kings.