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"Halfway to Heaven," Brantley Gilbert's second and most recent album, sees the Jefferson, Ala., singer/songwriter trade in his melancholic, finger-plucked songs about lost love and small-town nostalgia for chunking, alternative rock tension and fireside tales about moonshine and fighting. It's a role he takes on with apparent ease, landing his new album on the top spot in Billboard's Heat Seekers chart. The album's big single, "Kick it in the Sticks," shows the Harley-Davidson-loving 24-year-old and his band thrashing through their party anthem in the middle of the sticks as four-wheelers ramp and wheelie through bonfire smoke. For his style of river rock, it's a perfect scene for the rising star and ex-high school quarterback. The all-ages show kicks off at 9 p.m.
After winning "Best Male Vocalist" on a handful of early-'90s episodes of Star Search, recording more than 5,000 demos in Nashville and a couple of independent releases in the early 2000s, Osceola native Buddy Jewell finally hit his stride in a big way when he won the first season of "Nashville Star" in 2003. Soon, the Nashville star became a bona fide country superstar with a proper, Clint Black-produced debut that stayed in rotation on the airwaves for months. Seven years later, the roadhouse workhog is still at it, gigging around the country and winning over audiences with his signature good-ol'-boy charm and leather baritone. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the hometown boy-done-good hits the stage at 8 p.m.
Even in a town that's notorious for unceasingly praising its own bands, it seems no one's been able to say anything negative about Velvet Kente. It's a consensus that the group's just that good. Its brand of hyper-literate, genre-stirring soulindiefunkrockfolk is just about everything that good music needs to be: passionate, thoughtful, melodic and funky as hell. It seems everyone but the band themselves knows that; last week, they Tweeted "we're the 20th best band in town. maybe." Whether that's a big up to Little Rock musicians or a piece of self-deprecation from singer/songwriter and front man Joshua (last name unknown by anyone not in his family) is lost in his public crypticism. Surely they all know that their jarring potpourri of goosebumpers and ass-shakers puts them 18 or 19 positions higher in those hypothetical rankings. Until those results are released, the standing 20th best band in Little Rock cranks up White Water at 10 p.m.
After years fronting the enormously popular Christian hard rock act GS Megaphone, Benjamin Del Shreve left the outfit to hone his own catchy brand of melodic rock. Since, he's become a regular, welcome fixture in the Arkansas circuits with a moody, swaggering brand of ramble-rock that keeps one foot in Led Zeppelin's earthy smugness and the other firmly planted in Ryan Adams' groovier, more butt-shaking moments. It's a sound that was met with praise after the release of his 2007 full-length debut, "Brilliant and Charming." Three years later, he's back to release his long-awaited follow-up in "Sleeping Sweetly." If the sample tracks are any indication, he hasn't lost so much of a drop of his dynamic, anthemic power-pop inclinations; if anything, he and his new gray-specked beard have taken a big step forward. Heartfelt local sunshine rockers Free Micah open alongside Del Shreve's brother, Randall Shreve. Doors open at 9 p.m. for the 21 plus show.
Piecing together a local triple-bill that balances "really good" and "pretty strange" as well as this would be a feat on par with balancing a state budget or licking yourself between the shoulder blades. Dangerous Idiots, the self-described "gulch rock" trio, is a bona fide '90s-era supergroup, sporting Paul Bowling of legendary Little Rock-bred Dischord band Trusty and Aaron Sarlo and Shayne Gray of goofy power-pop act Techno-Squid Eats Parliament. The guys are still all about names you have to memorize, judging from the title of the album they were slated to release, "Going Down to Highway Ten with a Zombie Shotgun and a Claw Hammer. You Wanna Come With?" Ginsu Wives are Arkansas's kings of shudder-worthy, experimental electro rock. For years, they've worked with perverse, dirty, weird-ass sounds that could provide greasy, appropriate background noise. The visual presence they've made for themselves over the years is bizarre and unsettling, full of goats being massaged by mustached men in bras and women throwing up on themselves. You'd be hard pressed to find another Arkansas band as provocative. Rounding out the bill is Androids of Ex-Lovers, the bass-and-drums duo with a crush on The Melvins, a legitimate cult following and one of the best live shows in town. Their take on riff-heavy, distortion-heavy, heavy-heavy dude rock is custom-made for fist pumping and irresistibly likable.
The omnipresent connect-the-dots formula for post-grunge music isn't mind-blowing, but it's certainly been profitable for the Corinth, Miss., five-piece of Saving Abel. The band's quick to admit it. On sounding like the bulk of their ilk, lead singer Jared Weeks says, "You know when you hear a song on the radio and you don't know who it is, but you love it and feel like you've heard it before? That's our band ... you've heard us before." That may be misplaced pride, but it's a pride that's placed them on tours with sound-alike heroes Puddle of Mudd, Nickelback and Creed. Their latest excursion sees them alongside We are the Fallen, nu-metalists born from Evanescence's split. The outfit, four-fifths of which are Little Rock natives, returns home for the first time since May. They're supported by classic rock/country-pop act American Bang and modern rock growlers from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Sugar Red Drive. The four-bill show cranks up at 7:30 p.m.
"A lecture?" you say? "In the To-Do List?" You bet. A Colorado State professor, best-selling author, one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" and the subject of an eponymous HBO biopic last year, Temple Grandin is a rockstar in the world of animal activism thanks to her patently unique way of seeing the world. Grandin was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 3, but raced through her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in spite of it. Always clad in an embroidered cowboy shirt and loose neckerchief, she's one of the most instantly recognizable members of today's intelligentsia. She rose to fame by, of all things, designing more humane livestock handling and animal processing centers. It may not sound like the most interesting subject, but when Grandin speaks of how she could relate to the skittish animals because of her autism, her narrative becomes an inspiring, often hilarious, powerhouse story of charity, empathy and overcoming the odds. She speaks at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center, 1.5 miles north of the U of A campus on Hwy. 112, at 7 p.m.