Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
ARKANSAS VS. LSU
1:30 p.m., War Memorial Stadium. $45.
n So we're not going to a bowl. Our defense has regressed from bad to disastrous. Our star running back, who had a commanding lead in league rushing stats mid-way through the season, only to struggle with injury and O-line ineptness, probably won't play. The seniors on the team who never bought into Bobby Petrino's brusque, no-nonsense style of coaching (the anti-Nutt), have surely, now, really given up caring. Plus, we're likely to get plenty of help self-destructing: After getting creamed by Houston Dale's new squad last week, LSU will be out for blood. It could — probably will — be a drubbing. But! There are worse excuses to escape further family share time than to play bean bag toss and drink Bloody Marys on a muddy golf course. And Nathan Dick, at least in post-game highlights, actually looks pretty good (he can hit a receiver in stride!), so maybe we'll at least get a few fireworks to help send off the season. Even if we get killed, the game's a rite of passage to what many a Hog fan's looked forward to since August: talking about next season. Can't wait. LM.
‘GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER'
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $25-$65.
n Goodbye Thanksgiving, hello holiday season madness. But before you get overwhelmed, perhaps a little “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” will get you in the right spirit. Chances are you've seen some iteration of this Tchaikovsky classic, but performed by real Russians? Here's your chance. The Moscow Ballet, a touring group active since the early '90s, offers a unique spin on the original ballet. Choreographer Anatoly Emelianov sets Act II in the “Land of Peace and Harmony,” where doves fly and there's no war or suffering. If you miss the doves and don't catch the lack of suffering, a “whimsical, giant, six-handed grandfather clock,” new this year, will signal the transition. The elaborate sets, paired with giant puppets of unicorns and other animals, are likely to be worth the price of admission alone. LM.
‘THE TOYMAKER'S APPRENTICE'
7 p.m., Arkansas Children's Theatre. $11-$14.
n The Arkansas Children's Theatre bills this season's play as a “modern fable.” That might be a stretch. It's a Willy Wonka-ish set-up: In a small house on a peak high above a village, Gideon cranks out the best toys in the land. Even Santa's a regular customer. After one particularly grueling day, Gideon realizes that demand exceeds the supply he can generate alone and decides to hire an assistant. Two apply, Libby and Jack. But there's a hitch. Libby's a girl, and girls don't make toys! But they do, she persists, and Gideon decides to give her a chance. With the wisdom of an exploitative King Solomon, he offers up a contest: Work for a year, after which I'll pick the best employee. Along the way, according to the preview, Jack learns “the value of working hard and having a positive attitude,” and Gideon learns “not to underestimate Libby just because she's a girl.” Life lessons! LM.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $13 adv., $15 d.o.s.
n Here's where the crowd starts hollering: “Arkansas, my head hurts/I'd love to stick around and maybe make it worse.” That's how Hayes Carll opens a song on his latest album, “Trouble in Mind.” A Texas native who schooled at Hendrix and married an Arkansas woman, Carll's no stranger to showing Natural State love. He named his second album “Little Rock,” and even as his career's blossomed, he's still managed to make it to town once every couple months. Look for Saturday's crowd to be especially swollen. There'll be two bumps: Hendrix alums and old friends home for the holiday, and those newly converted to the singer/songwriter's charms via all the year-end lists in which he's topping out. Not without good reason. Long billed as an heir to twang-y Texas songwriters who made careers out of striking an anti-Nashville pose, Carll's come into his own on “Trouble,” particularly on the song “She Left Me For Jesus.” It won the Americana Music Association's Song of the Year on the strength of lines like, “She's given up whiskey and I've taken up wine/While she prays for his troubles, she's forgot about mine/I'm a gonna get even; I can't handle the shame/Why last time we made love she even called out his name.” Check out the video for the song on Rock Candy. It was enough to get the Onion on board as a tour sponsor. LM.
NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS
8:30 p.m., Revolution. $18 adv., $20 d.o.s.
n Between 1992-93 Luther and Cody Dickinson (sons of famed producer, session man and Little Rock native Jim Dickinson) used to play Vino's as part of a young blues-infested power trio out of Memphis called DDT. A few short years later, they birthed North Mississippi Allstars. Their debut 2000 release, “Shake Hands With Shorty,” was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Contemporary Blues Album,” and they received a W.C. Handy Award for “Best New Artist Debut” in 2001. These days, they've been at it long enough to have consuming side projects — Luther joined the Black Crowes in 2007, while Cody and bassist Chris Chew have stayed busy with the Hill Country Revue. So we're lucky to get an all-ages show squeezed in here. Known for its raucous take on hill-country, juke-joint-style trance blues in the spirit of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, NMA could offer one of the city's last great shows of the year. In related news, the band heads into 2009 with a full head of steam, releasing a 10-year retrospective titled “Do It Like We Used To Do,” a two-CD, one-DVD package set for a late January release. PP.
SUGAR AND THE RAW
9:30 p.m., Juanita's. $8.
n Several years back, the kids couldn't get enough of Sugar and the Raw (who were long Sugar in the Raw before a threatening letter from the sugar giant inspired the change). The seven-piece started out funk-rock (if memory serves, Justin Collins spent several years banging a tambourine and dancing maniacally) before gradually evolving into breezy Southern pop. Their arc followed a locally typical path: Max Recordings put out a debut, the band tried to tour with mixed success, the band recorded a follow-up, but before the band had a chance to put it out, things fizzled. The spirit of the group's been kept alive in the bands that emerged in SATR's wake — Big Boots and the Winter Furs. But absence makes the heart long for a new gig, and now, for the first time in almost two years, the group's reforming to celebrate the release, on Max Recordings, of its lost second album, aptly titled “The Reunion Show.” Labelmates and longtime supporters Grand Serenade open the show. The cover charge includes a copy of the CD. LM.
6:30 p.m., Juanita's. $20-$50.
n For the third time in a year and a half, nu-soul crooner Dwele (Dweh-lay) comes to Juanita's. It's been a heady year for the Detroit-born soul man. Kanye West's “Flashing Lights,” which featured Dwele on the infectious hook, won a Grammy. And earlier this summer, the heavyweight indie label Koch put out “Sketches of a Man,” Dwele's first release in three years. As fans have come to expect, it's slinkier, jazz-inflected, throwback soul. Nighttime music. The album's lead single, “I'm Cheatin',” featuring Detroit hip-hop duo Slum Village, got some spins on BET a few months back. Rising diva Liv Warfield, from Portland, Ore., opens with a similarly sultry brand of nu-soul. Plus, local crooner Delya Chandler and jazz stalwarts Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers also perform. LM.