As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages
Joe. Just "Joe." He's a Grammy-nominated hip-hop heavy hitter worthy of a greatest hits compilation culled from eight albums and 26 singles. When it comes to grind jams, all breathy and ready made for 1,500-thread-count sheets, the man's nothing short of a veteran. He's no stranger to the radio waves, either. "I Wanna Know" is a classic high school dance throwback jam for thousands, and you might remember him taking chorus duties for Mariah Carey and Nas in 2000's "Thank God I Found You." He's joined by Mint Condition, another old-school Discman standard known for its panty-dropping prowess. Since 1991, MC's been a back-to-basics R&B outfit, not scared of combining saxophone solos and vocal gymnastics with Latin and obscure African rhythms. All things considered, this should be the best night of soulful torch songs and nostalgic bump and grinders that we'll see in a good while.
Despite being widely panned by religious groups for being, in their eyes, sacrilegious, during its 1971 debut, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's biblical rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" has been running strong for 39 years, enjoying loads of Tony awards, inestimable numbers of productions and the guarantee that at least 20 copies of the soundtrack lurk in the permanent collection of every single used record store you'll ever visit. This month, the Weekend Theatre invites the musical into its home, with director Jamie Scott Blakey placing the 25 actors in the production into a more "political than spiritual" angle. Regardless of interpretation, expect for JCS classics like "I Don't Know How To Love Him" and "Everything's Alright" to fill the stage space during its run. Jesus, Judas, Mary and the whole dang gang will rock out every weekend through July 3.
Fourteen years strong, the Little Rock Wind Symphony's annual Flag Day concert has become a patriotic tradition. This year, the LRWS is blasting out a slate of marches, suites and patriotic show tunes by everyone from John Philip Sousa to John Williams. The shebang kicks off at 7 p.m. with presentation of colors by the U.S. Air Force Color Guard from Little Rock Air Force Base, but for the early birds, the MacArthur Museum will be open for patrons to browse their current exhibits, including war photography from World War II and Vietnam. Also, the museum invites concert goers to bring their tattered American flags for a proper flag disposal ceremony later in the year.
As far as Austin roots-rockers go, Reckless Kelly is about as rambunctious and unhinged as they come. The band's sound is eyes-forward, grip-the-wheel, red dirt country, but its songwriting finds itself miles more provocative than its sonic ilk. In 2008, the group released its eighth album, "Bulletproof," a seemingly straightforward country album that happens to be, lyric for lyric, more politically righteous than nearly any other LP released during the Bush years. The best track on the album, "American Blood," brandishes lyrics like "the brass ain't fighting, but they'll sure as hell have to take a stand/and they'll have to live with American blood on their hands." Still, Reckless Kelly isn't above getting edgy and goofy: Just take a peek at "Ritalin and Wiggles," an "I have a crush on you, so let's do drugs together" song as funny and strangely touching as you'll find anywhere. And judging from the band's expansive repertoire of covers, its ears are scholarly, to boot. They seamlessly jump from covers of near-canonized British songwriter Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" to fellow Texan Alejandro Escovedo's classic "Castanets." Hwy. 5, long-time regulars on big time Texan stages, opens the show, sporting a new lead singer in Arkie newcomer Jesse Davis of Glenwood.
Quick: Deconstruct your idea of "pop punk." Forget about Blink-182 and the lip-ringed bands in the latter '90s that brought the tag to the fore and let's get back to basics. Think, instead, The Lemonheads and, heck, The Replacements — the men who took that old punk tone and bent pop melodies about its frame. Cheap Girls did. Distorted and unabashedly hooky, this Michigan trio harkens back to the halcyon days when Clinton was fresh-faced in D.C. and Smoking Popes was in your tape deck. The band's co-headlining buddies, O! Pioneers (no, fellow kinda-dyslexics, that's not "Opinioneers," as awesome of a band name as that would be), jet through that same vein, but sprint about with a bit more yelp. The group's stabbing guitar riffs and rhythmic vocal barks harken back to the same era. It's power chords, it's lyrical manifestos, it sounds like the Little Rock of yore.
Bill the Bard is back. Going strong in its fifth year and enjoying a recent mention in the New York Times, Arkansas's take on the omnipresent summer Shakespeare festival returns to UCA with four plays in 13 days, arranged in six weeks by a 70-person crew of performers, designers and craftsmen from Arkansas and beyond. This year, the repertory tackles "Henry V," the bloody war drama set in "the vasty fields of France," "Comedy of Errors," one of the Bard's earliest, goofiest pieces about long-lost twins, "Alice in Wonderland," the ever-trip-y children's classic and "Dracula," the grandpappy tale to today's blood-lusting soap operas. Founding artistic director Matt Chiorini is again helming the festival while following in the footsteps of Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh by pulling double duty as both director and lead in "Henry V." Curtains go up Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. for "Comedy of Errors," which repeats on Thursday before handing the stage over to King Henry and his soldiers on Friday and Saturday. The festival has also lowered ticket prices from seasons previous in hopes of keeping the seats full in spite of the recession, even taking a cue from The Rep with "pay what you can" rates on Sundays. Bunnies, brothers, bites and battles — all for your budget.
The second week of the summer's ongoing Movies in the Park series brings last year's feel-good surprise smash of a movie, "The Blind Side." The plot points are pretty cut-and-paste: A troubled inner-city gentle giant is adopted by a well-to-do family of right-wingers who bring out his full potential as a person and an athlete, so on and so forth. Spoiler alert: He gets drafted by the Ravens at the end. Despite opening to mixed reviews, it's become a cult movie for middle-aged Southern women, was nominated for Best Picture and put an Oscar in Sandra Bullock's hands for her leading role. Anyway, what makes this movie interesting for us Arkies is the presence of local Ray McKinnon as a Tennessee high school football coach and a cameo from Houston Nutt as, well, himself. Expect cheers for the former from the local film fans and boos for the latter from the Five Percent Club.