Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
Noon, Mulberry Mountain, Ozark. $59-$159.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 people are expected to climb Mulberry Mountain this weekend for the biggest music and camping festival Arkansas has seen in recent memory. The hordes descend for names familiar (Black Crowes, Gov't Mule) and not so much (MOFRO, STS9, Railroad Earth) at least to those not indoctrinated into the jam band scene. That modern incarnation of hippiedom, just as hemp and sandal-obsessed as its forebears, but with way better weed, comes together to see those and more than 70 more acts on four stages through Sunday. Other acts bound to draw include Les Claypool, the former front man of Primus and bass virtuoso; dub pioneers Sly and Robbie; Hasidic Jewish reggae performer Matisyahu and Southern rock favorites Lucero. Little Rock's own Damn Bullets, who won a battle of the bands for a slot in the festival, represent early Friday afternoon. If the music grows tiring, there are trails and mini-lakes to explore. LM.
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW / SCHOOL
OF SEVEN BELLS
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8 adv., $10 d.o.s.
Technology has always been central to Black Moth Super Rainbow's sound. Since the early 2000s, the Pittsburgh-based pysch-pop collective has cranked out 10 EPs and full-lengths made mostly using analog electronic instruments — Rhodes piano, Moog, Novatron, vocorder. That last instrument, popularized by acts like ELO and Roger Troutman, synthesizes vocals, lending them a robotic quality akin to the autotune-gone-wild sound that everyone from Kanye to Lil Wayne can't get enough of now. For the band's latest, the just-released “Eating Us” (available in typical formats as well as a deluxe hand-numbered CD with a “hairy sleeve”), it enlisted Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, who's pushed BMSR into more conventional arrangements. There's even an acoustic guitar. Still, lead singer Tobacco's vocals remain decidedly otherworldly, though he recently told Wired that he's working to make the vocorder sound “more human.” School of the Seven Bells, a dream-pop collaboration between former Secret Machine Ben Curtis and On!Air!Library!'s twin sister vocalists Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, co-headlines. Look for material that recalls the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine — everything comes with a wash of feedback — but with electronic blips and beats. LM.
8 p.m., the Village. $22.50-$35.
When I was 12, I taped Too $hort's drastically edited version of “I'm a Player” off Power 92 and listened to it constantly. It starts, “You see I made up my mind when I was 17 / I ain't with no marriage and a weddin' ring / I be a player fo' life, so where's my wife? / Prob'ly at the rehab stuck on the pipe / ‘cause she must be smokin' and I'm not jokin' / Too Short baby comin' straight from Oakland.” Which is pretty dumb, but in Too $hort's drawled out, almost plodding delivery and over an almost wholesale sample of Bootsy Collin's “Hollywood Squares,” it sounded — still, to these nostalgic ears, sounds — like the greatest thing ever. Of course, later, I discovered that Too $hort's career, or at least the first decade of it, pretty much all sounds like that — '70s funk samples, a super-slow-roll delivery, pimp talk. Taken together, particularly as the misogyny builds, it can get tedious. Late-era Too $hort, recorded after the MC became one of the first rappers to fake retire (it lasted three years), has been more stylistically varied, with crunk, snap and, most recently, hyphy styles informing production. Even if that hasn't helped the 43-year-old rapper sell many new albums, it should help make for a fuller concert. LM.
9 p.m., Revolution. $5.
Localist, the Little Rock-based music, arts and culture magazine, lives on, miraculously. It was founded in 2003 by local promoter TJ Deeter as a print glossy focused on covering local culture that undeservedly existed in the margins. Dozen of people, including me for a time, collaborated to publish it. No one got paid. In fact, a lot of people lost money. The print edition migrated to a webzine, which went through several incarnations before Deeter shut it down last summer. Yet, Davis Clement, who served as editor in the last web phase, wasn't ready to quit. For some time, he and a group of writers, photographers and artists have labored, again pro bono, to revive the pub, and now, amazingly, in this doomsday era for magazines, it exists in a 56-page print version. Friday, three of Little Rock's finest local acts, Magic Hassle, Jonathan Wilkins and the See, come together to help Localist celebrate its new release. Now publisher emeritus, TJ Deeter mans the ones and twos, too. Admission includes a copy of the new issue. LM.
8:30 p.m., Vino's, $7.
Wynne-born Chase Pagan celebrates the release of his long-anticipated debut full-length, “Bells and Whistles,” in front of a hometown crowd on Friday. Written and composed in the secluded confines of his Mountain Home dwelling and recorded in Oklahoma, the album sounds more upbeat than the singer/songwriter's brooding 2006 debut EP. It's a showcase of Pagan's multi-instrumental skill, too. He plays most of the instruments on the new album, including accordion, banjo, bass, drums, guitar and piano. According to Spin magazine, Pagan is “a new passenger on the fast track out of heartland obscurity and into the indie spotlight.” With confident pipes, stylistic dexterity and a self-described mix of soul, indie and pop, he comes to town following a tour that's taken him across half the nation, including South By Southwest. Look for him to pair classic rock edge with musical theatrics. Pagan's pals Bear Colony and Deas Vail, from Russellville, open the show. PP.
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $14-$18.
The Weekend Theater opens its 2009-2010 season big with the Tony Award-winning musical “Oliver!” Based, of course, on Dickens' “Oliver Twist,” the musical traces the rise of a young orphan from starvation to indentured servitude to life in the city among the thieves to — well, maybe “rise” isn't the right word. Thankfully, charismatic villains (Artful Dodger, anyone?) and all that catchy sangin' help leaven all the “protest of man's inhumanity to man” business. Andy Hall and Jamie Scott Blakey co-direct, while Lori Isner provides musical direction. The production runs through June 28. LM.
10 a.m., Heifer International. Free.
Friday, beginning at 10 a.m., is the official dedication ceremony for Heifer's new global education center. In between speeches by Heifer bigwigs, the mayor, the governor and international non-profit hero Paul Farmer, there's African drumming and Mexican folk ballet. Otherwise, entertainment and children's activities are bunched into Saturday and Sunday. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, there are dozens of book readings, hands-on-activities (brick-making and rope-making stand out as particularly awesome and utilitarian) and performances. The highlight among the performers should be Dan Zanes, the former frontman of '80s college favorite the Del Fuegos. For the last decade plus, he's worked as Dan Zanes and His Friends, putting out the best kid's music you'll find anywhere. Look out for Little Rock's Colin Brooks (Substance, Red Forty, the Big Cats) on drums in Zanes' band. They take the stage at 11 a.m. on Saturday. A complete schedule of events is available at heifer.org.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern, $5.
Tavern favorites from Raleigh, N.C., American Aquarium, return in support of their latest release from Little Rock's Last Chance Records, “Dances For the Lonely.” The band's combination of keen lyrical storytelling with a mix of piano, Hammond B3, accordion, pedal steel and double-kick drum has inspired comparisons to bands such as Whiskeytown, Son Volt and the Old 97s. But expect an introduction of new tunes like “Good Fight” and “Ain't Goin' to the Bar Tonight” to showcase the range and roadhouse vibe that sets the shaggy six-piece apart. Joey Kneiser, lead singer of Glossary, opens with a solo acoustic show. PP.
7 p.m., Robinson Center Performance Hall. $32-$52.
Fans disappointed by the last minute cancellation of Merle Haggard's 2008 Riverfest show should be more than compensated with this intimate concert in a venue with second-to-none acoustics. Once deemed “incorrigible” for missing performances, a ritual known as “pulling a Merle,” this American icon helped create the Bakersfield Sound, a reaction to the slick, polished country product coming out of Nashville. Haggard, after seeing three of Johnny Cash's San Quentin performances in a numbered uniform, has evolved into one of the most cherished American cultural icons still performing. His unflinching honesty on subjects as diverse as love, loss, patriotism, regret and redemption extend throughout his catalog, memorably on songs like “Mama Tried,” “Sing Me Back Home” and the tongue-in-cheek staple, “Okie from Muskogee,” all of which are sure to appear on his set list. PP.
BONNIE ‘PRINCE' BILLY
8:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $12 adv., $15 d.o.s.
Will Oldham, who's recorded, alternately, under his own name as well as Palace Music, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and just plain Palace, seems to have settled on the Bonnie “Prince” Billy moniker. The Louisville singer/songwriter has been in the public eye since 1987, when he starred, convincingly, as a teen-age preacher in John Sayles' film “Matewan.” Five years later, he started releasing music, and it's hard to think of many others who've been more prolific in the last 15 years. His music, generally, is of a piece with that old, weird America, the eerie and ribald and profound folk music of an earlier generation. Within his typically shambling arrangements, his creaky voice often gets mistaken for that of an old man. Yet, a devoted following knows the score. In a recent profile, the New Yorker concluded that “Oldham must be one of the country's most celebrated singer-songwriters, and if it's a relatively small number of people doing the celebrating — well, that just shows how hard they've been working.” Look for those passionate adherents to spill out of the woodwork on Monday. New Zealand's Bachelorette opens with pysch-pop meditations on technology. LM.
8 p.m., Village. $20 adv., $23.
Among a certain set of young folks, there is no bigger concert this summer than MGMT at the Village. That group includes, but is by no means limited to, hipsters. Last year, the electro-pop act's hits became the songs guaranteed to fill the dance floor at your house party. Formed by Andrew VanWyngarden (who's originally from Memphis) and Ben Goldwasser, who met as freshman at Wesleyan, the duo became the rare, largely unknown indie act to get signed to a major label when Columbia plucked them up in 2006. When the label asked the band for a list of “dream” producers, apparently it came back with Prince, Nigel Godrich, Barack Obama and “not Sheryl Crow.” Instead, Columbia gave them Flaming Lips' producer Dave Fridmann, who helped craft “Oracular Spectacular,” a lush pysch-pop record that recalls the golden era of British rock and sounds like future disco at the same time. Brooklyn's Chairlift, hugely buzzy in its own right, opens the show with avant-pop you can dance to. LM.
ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
7:30 p.m., Reynolds Performance Hall. $24.
After scoring a profile in the New York Times “Summer Stages” guide last month, the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival returns for its third year. More than 70 company members are arriving in Conway to stage 18 productions of four plays. As it has in the past, the festival includes non-Shakespeare fare, too. The musical “The Producers” gets its Arkansas debut, and the whole family can catch “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” But Shakespeare fans should be more than placated by this year's offerings. “Macbeth,” which appears three times, kicks off the festival with showings on Wednesday and Thursday, with “The Taming of the Shrew” following, first on Sunday, June 21. Look for more on the festival in next week's Times. LM.