Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
7 p.m., Philander Smith College. Free.
Depending on where you sit, Al Sharpton might be the elder statesman of Black America or a reckless demagogue. However you feel about Sharpton, the man has lived an interesting life. Born in Brooklyn, Sharpton preached his first sermon at age 4 and, as a child preacher, toured with Mahalia Jackson. Sharpton moved from matters of the soul to “Soul Brother Number One” when in 1971 he became James Brown's tour manager. (He met his first wife, who was then a back-up singer, on tour.) The same year, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement to raise resources for impoverished young folks. By the 1980s, the reverend had begun leading frequent protests in response to what he deemed racial injustice. In 1991, Sharpton founded his National Action Network. In 2004, he was the most charismatic candidate in the presidential election. He didn't make it far. Now, he comes to town as part of Philander Smith's excellent lecture series “Bless the Mic” to talk about his interesting life and, undoubtedly, to make fiery proclamations about something.
THE TEN TENORS
1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $10-$40.
International phenomenon the Ten Tenors take a populist approach to opera. (One of the group's live standbys is a song called “Opera Without the Boring Bits.”) Formed in Australia in 1995, the 10-man act rose to prominence with a performance at the 2002 Eurovision (think “American Idol” for the whole of Europe). Since then, the tenors have wowed audiences across the world with operatic renditions of music by Queen, the Bee Gees and ABBA, as well as traditional Australian tunes and classical material.
WILL HOGE/JASON ISBELL
8 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
Will Hoge usually plays more than 200 dates a year. For the last several years, Little Rock and Sticky Fingerz have been lucky enough to get him just about quarterly. On Thursday, Harp magazine presents a co-headlining tour featuring Hoge and former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell. Born in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tenn., Hoge borrows the countrified barroom rock of the region and marries it with blue-eyed soul. His latest album, “Draw the Curtains,” recalls the Black Crowes, Joe Cocker and even Otis Redding in spots. After three albums with the Drive-By Truckers, promising singer/songwriter Isbell struck out on his own a year ago. Since then, he's released a solo album and toured relentlessly. That debut, “Sirens of the Ditch,” won Isbell a heap of critical acclaim and spots on several year-end top-10 lists. Full of literate, plainspoken lyrics, the album is less a stylistic departure from the churning Southern rock of the DBTs than a record that takes that base and builds, adding flourishes of folk-pop, punk and piano-driven balladry.
11 a.m., Oaklawn. $2.
The ground, frozen overnight, will be crunchy. If the forecast holds up, by the first post time, at 1 p.m., the sun will be shining and the wind will be brisk. The horses are bound to be frisky. How can you not call in sick to work? It's opening day! As tradition dictates, thick, mouth-watering corned beef sandwiches go for throwback prices — 50 cents — while you'll be able to get a Coke for a measly dime. Sadly, beer prices don't get thrown-back. Calvin Borel, the 2007 Kentucky Derby winning jockey, will head the jockey colony. If you win, stick around. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Monday, is Smarty Jones bobble horse day.
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $14-$18.
Soon to be adapted into a Disney cartoon musical, Tony Award-winning “Urinetown” gleefully skewers silly, stupid bureaucracy clogging up local government. At the heart of the comedy musical is the right to pee for free. In the midst of a 20-year drought, the nation's reservoirs are all tapped out and the water shortage has become so severe, private toilets have been outlawed and peeing without permission has been made illegal. The “Urine Good Company” controls all the public toilets, and strict laws ensure the people pay to pee. Violators get shipped to a supposed penal (ha, ha) colony called Urinetown, from which the flagrant urinators never return. With songs like “Don't Be the Bunny” and “Run, Freedom, Run!” “Urinetown” parodies big Broadway musical like “Les Miserables,” “Evita,” “Annie” and “West Side Story.” The show plays weekends through Feb. 3.
ARKANSAS FESTIVAL BALLET
8 p.m., Arkansas Repertory Theatre. $20-$25.
Noted ballerina Patricia Barker, who last year retired from the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, will return to the stage to lead the Arkansas Festival Ballet at “Rep@theRep,” a night of dance at the Arkansas Repertory Theater. Barker will perform “Swan Lake, Act II.” Other works include choreography by Arkansas Festival Ballet's Artistic Director Mark Bush to the music of “Schindler's List.” Andrew Irvin, co-concertmaster at the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and Jim Maase, director of music and arts at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, will guide the music. On Saturday, AFB hosts a reception with a silent auction at 6:30 p.m., a gala performance at 8 p.m. and a VIP champagne reception immediately following. Tickets are $38-$50.
DOUG McKEAN & THE STUNTMEN
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Vets of Conway's once-thriving punk scene have been on an evangelical tear lately. Doug McKean, former lead singer of the highly vaunted punk quartet the GC5, is bringing his new band back to Central Arkansas. In the early aughts, thanks to a heartfelt letter from a then-16-year-old Matt White asking the GC5 to come to Conway, the Mansfield, Ohio, miscreants became the heroes of local punk venues like the Soundstage. Now manager and booker at White Water, White has maintained his Ohio connections and friendships, lately as a strong champion of Roger Hoover and the Whiskeyhounds, a group that once featured Doug McKean and still includes his brother, Dave. Over a two-night run, Friday and Saturday, McKean will not only unveil his new material to Arkansas audiences for the first time, but according to White, it seems likely that all of the former members of the GC5 will be at White Water, which will mark the first time they've all been in a room together, much less played music together, in several years. Rumor is that Roger Hoover, who's become a barroom star at White Water over the last six months, will also be on the scene. Expect rollicking pop-rock in the spirit of the Replacements and the Faces. On Friday, fiery post-punks the Moving Front continue their domination of 2008 stages, along with Silverton, a young, many-membered folk-pop choir/orchestra that has a lot of buzz about it. Saturday, DJ Barnham of American Aquarium and singer/songwriter Seth Baldy open.
RUMBLE IN THE ROCK
5 p.m., Skate World. $8.
“Like reverse football without the ball” is how one local roller derbier explains her sport. Beyond that Zen koan of a description, the derbier told me that there are people called blockers and there are people called jammers, and they all skate in a circle around a rink. (They're all, in this league at least, women, too). There are spatial restrictions and subtle rules, but the heart of the game involves jammers trying to penetrate the rolling wall of blockers. Jammers that break through a wall of blockers and lap them get a point. I think. Regardless, who needs a full grasp of the subtleties of roller derby when you've got a rink full of women trying to tear each other apart? On Sunday, Central Arkansas will get its first official taste of an actual roller derby bout as the Rock-n-Renegades of the Central Arkansas Roller Derby League take on the River Valley Roller Girls of Ft. Smith. Punkabillies Josh the Devil and the Sinners will provide halftime entertainment.
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…