Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities
BIG DOWNTON THURSDAY
5:30 p.m., River Market Pavilion. $5.
Since some 20,000 folks from Memphis and Texas and Miami and points in between are expected to start streaming into Little Rock and North Little Rock on Thursday evening, the organizers of Big Downtown Thursdays, a weekly concert series usually held in May, decided to start the party a little early this year. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Memphis Soul Revue, a popular party band (read: cover band), performs. As its name suggests, MSR does R&B and soul hits, though not especially, as their name suggests, Memphis R&B and soul. You might hear a little Otis or Al Green, but expect things to tilt more to the Chic, Gap Band era.
9 p.m., Juanita's. $7.
How do you know you've made it — or at least are on your way — in today's increasingly fractured music industry? You score a plumb spot on a video game soundtrack. Better yet, if you're a band that likes guitars, you end up on “Guitar Hero.” Fans of that title's third installment will be poking primary colored buttons in their minds on Thursday when the Lions from Austin, Texas, launch into “Metal Heavy Lady,” the band's paean to the brighter days of metal, when hooks actually mattered, hints of psychedelia snuck in here and there and you could actually make out a lyric or three. Which is not to say the Lions don't come heavy. Their riffs are often described as Texas-sized. While I'm stridently opposed to using “Texas-sized” to describe anything, the spirit of the cliche is on point. Bring earplugs. Popular Conway-based singer/songwriter Mat Mahar opens with Gone Was Here. The show is open to ages 18 and older.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Fresh off a big SXSW shindig in Austin, Lucero's Ben Nichols takes a solo sojourn in his hometown. What's that mean? A little home cooking, seeing some old friends and quality hours at White Water Tavern, where despite touring prolifically, Nichols still manages to be almost a regular. Most of the time he just hangs out, but often he can be goaded into taking the stage. Friday, he plays a scheduled gig — grizzled voice, a guitar and maybe a little help from Memphis' John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives, a foot-tapping honky-tonk outfit. As hardcore Lucero fans know, a Nichols solo show is a chance not only to hear clearly the singer/songwriter's rough hewn, literate lyrics — usually cloaked in the punk-country churn of the band — but also a rare opportunity to catch some of the deeper cuts in Lucero's catalog. And maybe, just maybe, a Red 40 cut?
ROCK 'N' ROAR
7 p.m., Civitan Amphitheater, Little Rock Zoo. $8.
Spring! The birds are chirping, the grass is greening and it's finally nice enough for concerts to be played outside. Rock 'n' Roar, the best Zoo-tied outdoor concert series around, returns after a successful start last year with a concert by Max Recordings' resident super group, the Big Cats, and local indie-pop heroes Grand Serenade. The bands play in the zoo's Civitan Amphitheater, a spacious and cool looking space, normally used for what? Lions jumping through hoops? Lectures? Concerts given by animatronic animals? Who knows? But it's a fantastic place to see live music when the weather's nice. For the uninitiated, the Big Cats is a fantastic pop-rock band made up of Little Rock natives who played together in bands in high school and then went on to be in bands like Green Day and the Stills and form record labels. They only play a few times a year, usually near holidays, so don't blow it. Originally from Heber Springs, Grand Serenade has built up a sizable local following with a strong sense of melody and lasting hooks. Plus, Mendoza's Taco Truck will be on hand with authentic Mexican food for sale.