"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
10 p.m., Juanita's. $6.
Take that, family gatherings. Just when the bonding was about to culminate around a “Christmas Story” marathon, Max Recordings, ever reliable, swoops in with a golden excuse. How can your mom argue with an all-star local band that only plays once or twice a year? And includes a member of Green Day, to boot? Yep, like they have every holiday season since I can remember, the Big Cats come together and the audience sings — or at least dances — along. It's a tradition with roots stretching back to Little Rock's vibrant early-'90s punk scene. All four Big Cats — Burt Taggart, Jason White, Colin Brooks, Joshua Bentley — were at the vanguard of that scene. They've mellowed with age, trading power chords and hollering for hook-heavy guitar rock. When time allows (Brooks lives in New York, where he performs with Dan Zanes and Friends; White lives in Cali, when he's not touring with Green Day), the band's been recording in Little Rock with Will Boyd and Zach Reeves. Spies report that it's sounding great. Another long tenured act that plays infrequently opens the show. In the late '90s, few local acts counted a following like Ashtray Babyhead. Fronted by Kyoto Boom's Scott Cook, the band specializes in cheeky power-pop in the same sonic neighborhood of Weezer. The local roots powerhouse Kevin Kerby and Battery, who'll release a new album early next year on Max, also perform.
Noon, Pyramid Art, 500 President Clinton Ave. Free.
The seven-day African celebration of Kwanzaa, based on Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), begins Dec. 26, and Pyramid Books/Hearne Fine Art is featuring guest speakers and artists daily until New Year's Day, when the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center takes over. For Umoja (unity, on Friday), Patrick Oliver, the host of KABF's Literary Nation, will speak and the theatrical group Kinfolks will perform. For Kujichagulia (self-determination, Dec. 27), “Project Runway” standout Korto Momolu and flutist Auna Hearne are the guests. For Ujima (collective work and responsibility, Dec. 28), Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church Pastor C.J. Duvall, African dancer Clarice Kinchen and percussionist Rico Zaragosa will be featured. On Ujamaa (cooperative economics, Dec. 29), Carmen Parks of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce speaks and saxophonist Gerald Johnson performs. For Nia (purpose, Dec. 30), UALR law professor Adjoa Aiyetoro and spoken word poets A.P.O.L.L.O., Osyrus, Like Nature, Stacey McAdoo, Ron McAdoo, Skillz and Jessica Graham will be guests. On Kuumba (creativity, Dec. 31), UALR art professor Aj Smith will speak and Joshua will sing. Imani (faith) will be celebrated starting at 2 p.m. New Year's Day at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center with guest speaker Constance Sarto, museum director, and Mabelvale Elementary's African Drum and Groove Ensemble.
3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Alltel Arena. $32.75-$62.75.
Central Arkansas has mad love for symphonic rock come Christmastime. Manheim Steamroller, the cheeseball, synth-loving pioneers of the movement, packed in as many folks as I've ever seen at Robinson a couple weeks back. If history is any indication, even on the day after Christmas, both Trans-Siberian Orchestra shows will be filled to the brim, too. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. If you're white and grew up in Arkansas, chances are you think of classic rock as the cheese dip of popular music — delicious alone or as a topping. So come-on-feel-the-noise riffs slathered on top of holiday songs everyone knows are irresistible. And did I mention the pyrotechnics? An elaborate fireworks, laser and light show's led just about every reviewer of TSO to make some Pink Floyd reference. It's your last chance for a spectacle in 2008.
Congratulations Tara, beautifully written!