Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
It's one of the scariest stories of international tension in recent memory. When Laura Ling and fellow news producer Euna Lee went to the Chinese/North Korean border to film a documentary about North Korean defectors, their guide took them north, past one of the most tense borders in the world, to visit a safe house in dangerous ground. Warily, the two soon backtracked south and were knocked out by the butts of two North Korean army-issue rifles, only to wake up in custody of the most diplomatically isolated country in the world. That's horrific enough by any standards. But soon, the two roving journalists were ordered to 12 years of hard labor with no appeal or chance of parole in a country where they couldn't speak a word of the language, unsure if they'd live to see the end of their sentence. Laura Ling's sister (and well-known TV journalist), Lisa, soon spearheaded a campaign to free the two, President Clinton hopped on board and the rest is history, soon written into a celebrated memoir written by the Ling sisters, titled "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home." They're visiting the Clinton Museum to discuss those tense weeks and sign copies of their new book.
Little Rock likes Gringo Star and I suspect, judging from its regular jaunts into town, the band formerly known as A Fir-Ju Well is pretty fond of us, too. Truth be told, it's one of the best out-of-state bands to stay in touch with the local venue circuit. Maybe it's because the band's sentimental about our neck of the woods. Or maybe it's because the group's jangly, British invasion sound is guaranteed to pack music halls with sugar-toothed pop fans. The band is charming down to a formula, full of all the '60s idiosyncrasies the Davies brothers earwigged into your lobes as a child: taut harmonies, tambourines by the dozens and all the shaggy-headed swagger you can shake a Rickenbacker at. At its best, it's a band worthy to sit at the same table as its Atlanta-based peers (and recent tourmate) Black Lips. At worst, it's a fantastic throwback band that'll make even the most assless shimmy along. Openers Catskill Kids are doing a great job sporting the crown as Little Rock's "promising, brand new buzz band." Fronted by the Cronks, a local brother and sister duo hailing from Australia, the act works in that tense, restrained, hook-heavy sound done so well by Montrealers and the Quebecois. Expect a lot from these young guns. The night's bill is rounded out by fellow co-ed act, This Holy House, a moody, melodic Conway outfit that should be no stranger to regulars with a taste for the melancholic.
You may have heard, or read if you picked up last week's issue of the Times, that KABF is in a helluva way. We'll leave the specifics to the front pages of the paper; just know that Little Rock's long-standing, non-corporate voice for community radio and eclectic music needs a fast infusion of money to keep the doors open and its frequency alive. Thankfully, the station has a strong base of supporters who also know how to bring out a crowd, including local veterans Amy Garland and Brent Labeau, who team up for a duo set, religious revisionists Gospel Outlaws, blues act The Cruize Brothers, and many more to be announced. Thrillingly, as always, living blues legend Cedell Davis returns to town with backing band, Brethren. They're asking for a $5 suggested donation, but we suspect that's just them being humble: Peel off a couple extra bills for the station.
In a world of music consistently divvied up into self-inflicted genres, Tinsley Ellis and his guitar manage to straddle the lines between thundering Texas blues, chunky Delta stomp and the soul fretting of B.B. King. It's that type of amplified dexterity that's kept Ellis on the road and in the studio going on three decades now, recording with legendary producer Tom Dowd (John Coltrane, Otis Redding) and playing more than 150 shows a year all over the county. With that kind of practice, you can feel safe expecting to see a master of his craft this week when his itinerary brings him to the back porch of Denton's Trotline in Benton.
Was last weekend's Strongman Championships in Hot Springs not enough to sate your appetite for tight-skinned, snake-veined muscle men? Really? It wasn't? Well, you're in luck, so wake up and smell the protein shakes. The National Physique Committee's in Little Rock this weekend, taking over Robinson Center Music Hall for a men and women's bodybuilding event. The qualifiers set for Saturday will send the three most chiseled competitors to the NPC's national championship, buffing it up with the buffest and best of the rest across the nation. Pre-judging begins at 11 a.m., with tickets for $27.95; the final competition starts at 7 p.m. with tickets from $34.05 to $39.20.
In its 19th season, Little Rock's oldest sketch comedy troupe, Red Octopus, is back with its summer installment and ready to lampoon just about any and everything that has the misfortune of being in its crosshairs. For this production, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello get the send-up in "Beach Blanket Trilogy," the audience learns how to sing themselves free of trouble in "The Lion Queen" and Charo and Charles Nelson Reilly re-enact the goriest scenes from "Friday the 13th." The show resumes Thursday, Aug. 19, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 21.
After touring relentlessly for the better part of the last decade, this self-described "Dirty Old One Man Band" has made quite a reputation for himself as a beer-soaked, hard-ass troubadour. He also proved he's not the man to try to keep down. As the story goes, he took to stage in a wheelchair, with broken legs, a shattered arm, stitches from intestinal surgery and an I.V. by his side one month after a Mack truck laid into him, head on, at 75 m.p.h. It's that type of stubborn-headed immediacy that grumbles through his music. He's a bizarre, foot-stomping minister of Delta blues and D.C. punk, a rambling shit-talker with a back catalog of sloppy riffs and loud harmonica. Little Rock and its legions of alt-country devotees, if you weren't already, consider yourself on alert. Brother Andy and His Big Damn Mouth, local Southern gothic deconstructionists, open alongside Joey and Kelly Kneiser, a ex-husband and wife duo from Little Rock favorites Glossary.
Pato Banton's name was a two-part endeavor. The reggae toaster from Birmingham, England, was dubbed Pato, "wise owl" in Kingston patois, by his father and "Banton," lingo for a great reggae DJ toaster, by the peers he left in the dust. The wise owl's been around the game for decades, having regularly worked on duets with Sting, an outspoken fan; collaborated with reggae god Mad Professor for his debut album, "Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton," and contributed to one of the best albums of the '80s, "Special Beat Service" by The (English) Beat. Reggae acts in Little Rock may be regular, but this good-vibe throwback show should be a thrill for the hot steppers, rood boys and sistren alike. Butterfly featuring Irie Soul opens.