As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages
By John Tarpley
Ever since turning a Glenwood, Calif., bomb shelter into a shabby electro laboratory in 1993, The Crystal Method has been a fixture in the electronica soundscape, releasing hordes of singles and one certified platinum album in its 1997 classic, "Vegas." In so many years, the duo has become representatives of the sound, thanks in part to Hollywood's appetite for frantic beats in movie trailers and car chases. And the movie business cats are right, too; theirs is an adrenalized sound that fits rapid-cut hysteria and metropolitan car chases. The pair operates in heady, chunking fusions of techno, hard rock and hip-hop in which everything is big: big drums, huge synths, enormous breaks. But for this show, The Crystal Method is sticking behind the ones and twos, DJing and live remixing a night's worth of hedonistic booms, bips and pows through the fantastic sound system at The Village. A slate of local DJs open the show, with Sleepy Genius, Justin Sane, Ewell, Paul Grass and Andy Sadler in the main room while DJs Digital Love, Sleek, Wolf-E-Wolf and Stepchild bring the wobble to the dubstep room. Dancers, brace yourself; this should be the biggest techno show of the year.
After an eye-straining, brain-wrinkling summer full of reading programs, North Little Rock's Laman Library celebrates its successful literacy series with Lamanpalooza, an evening of activities, all open and free to the public. It's as refreshingly wholesome as you'd want from a summer library festival with inflatables for bouncing and boxing, bead-making, chalk art with the THEA Foundation, animals from the Museum of Discovery and a balloon maker stomping through the grounds on stilts. The Laman Library also has a treat for the folkies, with Trout Fishing in America, the nationally renowned, Prairie Grove-based children's folk duo performing its only show in Central Arkansas in the remainder of this year. The library plans to showcase its new facilities and services, like its new "teen lounge," which it touts as state of the art; Overdue Brew, a new in-house coffeeshop and the "Draw Me a Story" exhibit. Oh, and if you missed it the first time around, there's going to be a balloon maker twisting up balloon animals on stilts, which, alone, actually, should be worth the trip.
You know these events: enormous guys moving a bunch of things that shouldn't be moved. It's powerlifting, it's great and it's coming to Hot Springs for the final qualifying round before the America's Strongest Man national championships in September. Expect to see old favorites like the Giant Timber Frame Carry, in which competitors have to tote a 750-pound hunk of wood 100 feet; the Dead Car Lift, where men lift the rear end of a car with bare hands as many times as they can stand within 60 seconds; and, of course, the Atlas Stones round, in which the athletes lift, carry and load six hunks of rock (between 285 and 420 pounds each). In event of a final tie, the two strongmen vying for first place will have to bicep curl the Arlington Hotel. The flexing and grunting continues on Saturday; doors open at 1 p.m.
This garage-pop trio has been a staple of Little Rock music for years, though it rarely plays live. This week, the band's celebrating the release of its sophomore album, "Welcome to Stifft Station," with a performance at the White Water. So, for you local music buffs, this is another mandatory attendance night. Since 2005, Jason Thompson, Graham Cobb and the popcraft known to ASCAP as Johnny Mac have kicked out bass-heavy, harmonic jams custom-made to slowly grow on you before lodging deep in your head; it's music with a heart firmly in new-wave bomp and hands wrung around the late-'80s college charts. And every once in a while, the band's known to slip up and write an inarguable classic: See "Numbers," from the "Four Songs E.P." on The Reds MySpace page, one of the greatest pop songs to come out of Little Rock, period. Sadly, the band announced that this is its last album, so consider this a last call to see The Reds bring it. And as if you need anymore cajoling, the guys wrangled another great rock trio, Dragoon, to open. Two parts Grifters, one part Trusty, the Memphis-based act released "The Offending Party," a cryptic piece of lo-fi garage groove that I'll happily call one of the best albums I've heard all year.
Since being founded almost 50 years ago, this Little Rock women's vocal group has grown into a 70-person organization, with members aged 13 to 86, taking their four-part barbershop a cappella stylings across the country for numerous conventions and competitions. This week, the chorus is at Pulaski Academy for "Hot August Night," a choreographed night of vocal gymnastics and sequined costumes as the Top of the Rock Chorus performs "Backstage," a song-and-dance-filled peek into what goes on behind the scenes. Two quartets, Timeless and Rockstar, are set to open the night.
It's an apt name for a band long on the rise without showing any sign of stopping its ascent to indie rock fame. The Rocketboys, a six-piece Austin, Texas, group has spent the last two years racking up accolades from The Onion, Stereogum and, constantly, it seems, Paste Magazine, among numerous other go-to publications. Since it last visited Little Rock in February, it's punched its weight on stages with big-timers Grizzly Bear and St. Vincent. Judging from its rapid trajectory, the outfit could very well end up with the same acclaim as those critical darlings. It's set for success, creating the type of music so many are eager to hear done (well). The Rocketboys work in epic, melodic soundscapes, full of earnest, interweaving harmonies tailor-made to conjure goosebumps by the square centimeter. While you can, make sure to see these guys before their inevitable explosion, which could be, well, any day now. This show marks the last of their tour alongside Death on Two Wheels, a rollicking rawk-rock outfit from Atlanta, and Fayetteville's Randall Shreve and the Sideshow.
While '90s rock peers Pavement, Sunny Day Real Estate and Dinosaur Jr. were busy breaking up and reuniting, Built to Spill has remained a consistently quality outfit. In the 18 years since its inception, the virtually universally-adored Idaho guitar rock band has seen a fistful of lineups, all fronted by beard-icon Doug Martsch, and released two classic albums in the genre with "Keep It Like a Secret" and "Ancient Melodies of the Future." Built to Spill is effortlessly hooky, instantly recognizable and damned near an obligatory influence for any indie rock band in its wake. This time in town — the band's first appearance since a 2008 show at Vino's — it's brought along Finn Riggins, another Boise-based outfit that's garnered its own chunk of attention for its synth-splashed, rangy stabs at prog-pop. Long-time Little Rock favorite Underclaire provides local support with its epic, heady style of modern rock.
There's something that sets AA Bondy apart from the other dour, minor-key folk croakers. Is it because he spent the '90s as Scott Bondy, a pouting and snarling frontman in the borderline cheesy swag-rock outfit Verbena? Is it his heavy-jawed Birmingham, Ala., accent? Maybe he has an ounce more muddy melancholy than his peers because he insists on sleeping in his car while on tour because hotels waste too much energy. Maybe it's just that he functions with such a cool-guy chill that it's easier to digest the heavy intimacy in his songs. Regardless, he's caught tens of thousands of ears since trading in his amp stacks for a harmonica neck piece and, if the buzz about his last show at Sticky Fingerz stands true, you can expect the man, his guitar and his harp to mesmerize a capacity house.