Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8 adv., $10 d.o.s.
Shara Worden, who performs as My Brightest Diamond, comes to town with quite a pedigree. Her grandfather, a traveling evangelist, played an Epiphone guitar. Her parents, a classical organist mother and a national accordion champion father, lived all over the country. Much of Worden's childhood was spent in El Dorado, where her father served as a music and youth minister. After gaining a degree in opera from the University of North Texas, Worden moved to New York to continue her studies, and soon became immersed in the city's underground baroque pop scene, which has produced bands like Antony and the Johnsons and Nina Nastasia. In 2001, Worden formed an avant-rock band, Awry, which released several albums, before evolving into My Brightest Diamond, a loose collective that featured wind chimes and wine glasses along with traditional instruments. Along the way, she met indie hero Sufjan Stevens and took time off from her own music to tour as one of his Illinoisemakers (which, apparently, included doing splits and round-offs). Post-Sufjan, Worden's career's taken off. She's put out two well-received albums as My Brightest Diamond, most recently “A Thousand Shark's Teeth” on Asthmatic Kitty. Live, she's known for vocal theatrics, an affinity for costumes (superhero capes, Tudor corsets) and a strange coterie of backing players. Thursday that'll mean a string trio, a saw, a kalimba and a ukulele. Sonic kin Clare and the Reasons — strings, ethereal vocals — open the show. LM.
RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS
7 p.m., Alltel Arena. $11-$45.
Here's betting the nearly naked tiger woman, who protested the arrival of the circus a couple weeks back for PETA by hanging out in a cage in the River Market, doesn't dissuade the masses. This particular strand of RBABAB, “Boom a Ring,” is all about interactivity and intimacy. The audience sits close to the action. Kids get picked out to do tricks with clowns. White Bengal tigers stalk just feet away from the front row. Plus: zebras, clowns on flaming bikes, an exotic tiger tamer in a flesh colored body suit, trick elephants, jugglers, amazing feats of balance, gymnastics, Dachshunds, William Tell-style shooting and high flyers. The circus stays in town for five more shows: 7 p.m. Dec. 5; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 6; and 1 p.m. Dec. 7.
‘THE HISTORY BOYS'
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $14.
The Weekend Theater's artistic director Ralph Hyman directs this Tony Award winner, a drama set in a fictional grammar school in northern England in the early '80s. At the center of the action are eight history pupils who're trying to get into college with the help of two iconoclastic teachers. One, a veteran English teacher, questions the education system and aims to imbue his students with knowledge for knowledge's sake. He's presented in contrast to Irwin, a generation younger, who serves as a special coach to the boys, teaching them that supporting an argument is more important than historical truth when it comes to the college examination board. Along the way, the play delves deep into the chaos of adolescence and the broader purpose of education with, the theater promises, “superb one-liners.” The production runs Friday and Saturday through Dec. 20. LM.
7:30 p.m., the Village. $17 adv., $20 d.o.s.
At least for now, the gears that propel the music-industrial complex lurch along. The record industry may be imploding, but we still have radio (for now) and bands that'll go to some length to get their music played (for now). In our neck of the woods, that translates into 100.3 “The Edge's” “Twisted Christmas Show,” featuring, as these confabs typically do, both bands on the rise and bands whose stars have dimmed. In the latter camp, Cali post-grunge purveyors Hoobastank came of age in the early part of the decade, infusing a strong sense of melody into their angst, with anthemic songs like “Crawling in the Dark” and “Running Away.” Two albums and seven years later, the band comes to town trying to distinguish itself within the post-grunge glut. They're armed with a new single, “My Turn,” and a new menu item to promote — the Hooburrito at Denny's. The other acts, hard rockers Trapt, Aranda and Silverstone, fall into the rising talent category. LM.
BOYS OF THE LOUGH
4 p.m., Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA, Conway. $23-$35.
As the elder statesmen of Celtic music, the Ireland-based Boys of the Lough can rest their reputation on more than 70 U.S. tours, acclaimed recordings spread across five decades and two Grammy nominations. This performance finds the Boys on their “Traditional Celtic Christmas” tour, which kicked off with an appearance on “A Prairie Home Companion.” The set, performed by multiple vocalists and featuring exotic instruments ranging from the button accordion to the concertina to the Highland pipe, features both Christian and pagan holiday songs that are part of the musical tradition of Ireland and Scotland. LM.
6:30 p.m., the Village. $15 adv., $20 d.o.s.
Apparently the Village is the place to host Christmas-themed radio get-downs. The night after “The Edge” offers a bill geared towards the angst-y set, “Alice” 107.7 goes pop with “Not So Silent Night.” Filling the Hoobastank role, the poor man's J. Lo, Christina Milian, serves as the name headliner. Like any good B-list R&B diva aspiring for the next level, Milian's a singer slash actress. She's spent the better part of the last decade cobbling an almost respectable CV, moving on up from TV (she passed up a spot on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” but did time on “The Steve Harvey Show”) to film (the lead in the teen stinker “Love Don't Cost a Thing” and a starring role in “Be Cool,” the sequel to “Get Shorty”). Most recently, she starred in a video game, so apparently now's a good time to return to music. In September, she signed with MySpace Records. She's prepping an album for release in the spring of '09, with one single, the sappy power ballad “Us Against the World,” already under her belt. Also on the bill: rising Barbados-based diva Shontelle, who's pushing her major label debut, “Shontelligence”; Melissa Etheridge acolyte Lesley Roy; weepy white-boy rockers Thriving Ivory; Atlanta-based emo-pop group American Affair and We the Kings, another batch of weepy white boys who specialize in innocuous pop. LM.
STANTON MOORE TRIO
7 p.m., Revolution, $10 adv., $15 d.o.s.
Drummers fronting their own acts or side projects are rare luxuries, so rhythmists with no interest in Sunday NFL who aren't too hung-over would be wise to attend this gig and take notes. Stanton Moore has graced the cover of six drumming trade magazines (and continues to submit regular columns to many of them), and serves as the backbone of Galactic, one of the tastiest funk/jazz/rock/jam machines ever to hail from the Big Easy. Living a drummer's dream, Moore also has a signature snare and cymbal series, runs a digital label (Moore Music), puts out books and DVDs, leads drum clinics and performs in enough side projects to make Jerry Garcia appear lazy. Besides his work with Corrosion of Conformity, Moore has also collaborated with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. With organist Robert Walker and guitarist Will Bernard, the Stanton Moore Trio is known for igniting venues with swampy grooves steeped in rhythmic traditions of the Crescent City. With no opening act and an early kick-off, this all-ages show shouldn't be missed. PP.
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…