Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $6.
Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw, the principals in the dreamy folk-pop band Cotton Jones, call Cumberland, Md., home. The vibe of that small, sleepy town — Nau described it to Rolling Stone as “just some hills and old schools and churches” — is hard to miss in the duo's folky pysch-pop. Like perhaps Cotton Jones' most obvious antecedent, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Nau and McGraw build songs around harmony and vocal interplay — his deep, sometimes raspy, sometimes layered in reverb, hers bright, pixie-ish. But where Hazelwood's spare, wigged out arrangements can't help but evoke the desert, Nau and McGraw's have a more loping, gentle tenor, perhaps best understood in these parts as porch-sitting music. En route to Bonnaroo, the Suicide Squeeze act comes to Sticky Fingerz with Miniature Tigers supporting. Expect bright pop songs about Tchaikovsky, dinos and a cannibal queen. LM.
SMOKE UP JOHNNY
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Smoke Up Johnny played Young Avenue Deli in Memphis last Saturday and sent “some yuppies” scurrying for the door, according to SUJ front man Alan Disaster. “They left with disgusted looks on their face,” he said recently with pride. Don't expect a similar reaction from the White Water crowd. Friday will mark the first time Little Rock's favorite barroom rockers have played out since — well, so long that Disaster doesn't remember exactly — sometime when it was cold. Apparently, they don't multi-task well. They've spent the last months writing new material and recording demos for an album they hope to release later this year. Look for a set of mostly new songs. Also, look for a thick crowd. At its EP release show two weeks ago, the See drew heavier than any local band has in months. That shout-along three-piece opens with another tavern favorite, Jonathan Wilkins, a singer/songwriter whose reflective material leaps from aggro-folk to balls-to-the-wall rock when he teams with Will Boyd (drums) and Matt Floyd (bass), otherwise known as one of Little Rock's finest rhythm sections. LM.
7 p.m., Timberwood Amphitheater, Magic Springs and Crystal Falls. $35.99-$60.99.
Colbie Caillat (it rhymes with “ballet”) is part of that growing number of MySpace success stories. In 2006, she posted a handful of songs to the site, including the teeth-achingly sweet acoustic pop ditty “Bubbly.” A short time later, she amassed a staggering number of friends and Rolling Stone profiled her as one of the top unsigned acts online. Four months later, she racked up more than 14 million plays on her page. By then, labels had come calling, and by the summer of 2007, Universal Republic had released the light and bright “Coco.” You've probably heard some of it in a dentist's waiting room or in “Grey's Anatomy” montages. It's more of that breezy, reggae-ish beach music from good looking white people that Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz have been driving the kids wild with for the last several years. In other words, it should make for a fine comedown soundtrack to the end of a day at an amusement park. LM.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY
8:30 p.m., the Village. $26 adv., $30 d.o.s.
Melodic hardcore rockers Taking Back Sunday are on the road supporting their new release, “New Again.” It's the fourth full-length album from the Amityville, N.Y., five-piece. Promising “breakthroughs in their sound,” bassist Matt Rubano has said, “On this record, we challenged ourselves to write the best songs we possibly could while trying new things in an effort to push the envelope in terms of what it means to sound like Taking Back Sunday.” After their current road romp, the band is set to hit the road again this summer opening for Weezer and Blink 182. Florida's alt-rockers Anberlin and Long Island's post-hardcore outfit Envy on the Coast open the show. PP
AND THE REAL
7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Capital Keyboard. $20.
Arguably Arkansas's finest trumpeter celebrates his debut release, “Outside the Box,” with two shows on Saturday. The Arkansas native has been steady giggin' in these parts for the last several years, both fronting his band, the Real Music Lovers (that's Oliver “OT” Thomas on bass, Sam “Da Keys” Carroll on keys and Michael “MWCIII” Chandler on drums), and collaborating with everyone from rapper Epiphany to seven-string guitar whiz Ted Ludwig. Block cut his teeth in Kansas City, playing all of that city's big rooms. Over the years, he's opened for the likes of Jonathan Butler, Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Wynton Marsalis and Angela Hagenbaugh. Keep in mind: The relatively steep cover also includes wine. Capital Keyboard is on Chenal Parkway past Old Navy and Bale Honda. If you're heading west, you'll have to backtrack on Loyola Drive to head, briefly, east on Chenal, the only direction by which the venue is accessible. LM.
NIK AND SAM
8:30 p.m., Vino's. $7.
I've reviewed their bona fides several times herein as they advanced to the finals of the Musicians Showcase. Nik and Sam, from Dover, are teen-aged identical twins who sing like birds. Most impressively, in harmony. They write their own lyrics, or at least a lot of their own lyrics. And they play their instruments — guitar, dobro, banjo — with a skill that belies their age. They've got big, awesome hair that they shake onstage and they're usually in cowboy boots, in which they stomp and scoot and jump around when they're performing. They're signed to a development deal with Warner Bros. that has them jetting off to Nashville and L.A. every so often, and it's not hard to imagine them becoming some sort of Jonas Brothers-style multimedia juggernaut. Until then, catch them, probably for the first time, in all ages Vino's, which could very well be the smallest place you'll hear the twins' effervescent country pop for a long while. LM.
MT. ST. HELEN'S VIETNAM BAND
8 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $5.
This eclectic indie-rock five piece from Seattle has a firm handle on a sound that's not easily described but very easy to embrace, and after delivering a blowout performance here on St. Patrick's Day, we're lucky to have them return so soon, two days after a Bonnaroo appearance. Although their songs sound quite different from one another, they're all rooted in driving, heavy backbeats, a mesmerizing vocal delivery not dissimilar to Jeff Buckley's moaning range, and laced with intensely poetic lyrics, as well as some strategically-placed synth work. This combination works well with the band's array of styles, from wavy, psychedelic grooves to straight-ahead rock. For an advance taste, check out their self-directed video for “Cheer for Fate,” a clip of their SXSW performance, or listen to “Anchors Dropped.” These should be enough to intrigue. Also, there's the drummer, who's two years below legal driving age. PP
9 p.m., White Water. $6.
Malcolm Holcombe comes from Weaverville, N.C., deep in Appalachia. But his country blues sound more reminiscent of the Delta sounds Bob Dylan's been mining for the last decade or so than any holler-bred folk. Or maybe it's Holcombe's phlegmatic, worn-to-hell voice and nimble way with lyrics that recalls Dylan. For more than 20 years, the singer/songwriter has danced along the fringe of obscurity, earning plaudits from the likes of Rolling Stone and Billboard and opening for acts like Wilco and Merle Haggard, but never quite stepping out from their shadows. He comes to White Water two months after recording the forthcoming “For the Mission Baby.” Maybe we'll get some new ones. LM.
KING BISCUIT BENEFIT
8 p.m., White Water Tavern. $10.
That the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (forever, regardless of what some terrible New York-based entertainment company says, known as King Biscuit) happens every year is a minor miracle. It's usually not until summertime when financing for the fall festival comes together, according to Brooke Augusta Owen, long-time board member of the event-producing Sonny Boy Blues Society. Last year, after the Isle of Capri Casino pulled crucial funding, the Department of Arkansas Heritage stepped in as a sponsor, but with funding cuts throughout state government, Owen says she's worried DAH might not have similar funds available this year. Which is where Wednesday's show fits in. One of several fund-raising concerts — there's one in San Francisco and in Helena, too — it'll feature a pair of Central Arkansas's finest blues rockers, South 61 and Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain. Consider it a warm-up for 'Da Biscuit in October and an investment in keeping the nation's largest free blues festival free. LM.
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…