Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
BENNETT RYEL BENEFIT
9 p.m., Revolution. $5.
If you follow local music, you've probably heard of Bennett Ryel. The violin player is a member of the Munks and has collaborated with everyone from 607 to Notion to Sara Thomas. Ryel has a rare form of cancer, which started in his neck and has since spread elsewhere, making it hard for him to work. To help him with his expenses, several musician friends have organized a benefit. On the bill: The Good Time Rambers, who play an elastic style of country rock. Sometimes it's shuffling and twang-y, others it's raucously shout-along. Lead singer John Lefler sings in a gravelly tenor about things like drinkin' and cross-country misadventure. He plucked the rest of his band — Rich Dwiggins (vocals, bass), Alex Piazza (lead guitar, pedal steel, etc.) and Brooks Browning (drums) — straight from the Munks. Also: Full Flavor Menthol, a cover act with Munks' front man Aaron Grim and fiancee, Ganelle Holman. Local five-piece jam band FreeVerse shares the bill. LM.
7:30 p.m. Weekend Theater.
A high school staple at the Weekend Theater, home of social justice dramas and outre musicals? Yes, but despite what you remember of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, director Jamie Scott Blakely — who first read the play in high school English class, natch — doesn't want anyone to confuse the spirit of “Our Town” with nostalgia: “It's not sentimental, but eye-opening,” she's said. Behind the set-up — a day in the life of Grover's Corners, N.H., and in particular, the lives of two families who live next door to each other — the play delves into what Blakely says is “perhaps the most important social issue”: that there's nothing more important in life than relationships. The director hopes “Our Town,” which as usual is being staged minimally, with only tables and chairs for props and action mimed, might inspire a bit of reflection. “There is no way to truly understand what is happening now and how precious it is. The catch phrase of today is ‘live in the moment,' but can we truly do that?” she asks. Performances continue Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 26. LM.
9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $5.
We've been here before, brethren. Twice, in fact. Back in July, the lads in Frown Pow'r scheduled a CD release party at Sticky Fingerz for their debut, “Don't Doubt It, Shout It!” only to spin it a pre-release party when the album got hung up at the distributor. Same deal in August at White Water (local bands, Frown Pow'r is well-positioned to tell you who not to get to duplicate your CDs). But saving some unforeseen catastrophe, you won't get burned a third time. The CD is in and ready to be sold. I've seen it; there's a cathead sticking out of a Funland-style vortex on the cover. More importantly, I've heard it, and can say with some confidence, that it'll appeal both to the band's fervent base, those who appreciate the cracked-out hoedown feel of their live show, as well as to anyone who appreciates smart, allusive songwriting, dissonance and tambourines. Or, how's this for a plug? Courtesy of David Fair, of Half Japanese fame: “[The album] sounds like the Beatles if they came from the United States instead of England and kept playing in a little club instead of touring the world. And I mean that all in a good way. Maybe if the Beatles had followed this path they would've ended up this good.” The See and Androids of Ex-Lovers open. LM.
LUCERO / CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED
6 p.m., Arkansas Music Pavilion. $25.
This is the last, at least officially announced, chance to see Lucero before they head back out on tour. Locals may have been a bit peeved when the Memphis rockers released tour dates that did not include stops in Little Rock or Memphis. Keep your chin up; those are probably forthcoming. The band, notorious for its grueling touring schedule, will play 39 shows over the course of the next two months. Its new record, 1372 Overton Park, hits stores on Oct. 6. Judging by the six tracks offered on the band's website through a pre-order deal, this is not your usual good ol' Lucero record. There's more intricate guitar work than the band's been known for, horns and, yes, back-up singers. If the past is any indication, Little Rock native Ben Nichols and the rest of the crew will play until they can't stand up. Southern alt-rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed, who are touring in support of their latest, “Happiness and All the Other Things,” share the bill. Jonathan Tyler and Northern Lights open. GM
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall.
n Saturday marks the beginning of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's conductor candidate performances. At each of its five Masterworks concerts, a candidate will take the reins in a try-out of sorts. Arthur Post, now serving as music director of the San Juan Symphony, goes first (read a Q&A with Post on page 28). The Tchaikovsky in the program's title is the composer's famed violin concerto, which will feature acclaimed young violinist Karen Gomyo. To augment the already-selected concerto, which Post says gives him “once-upon-a-time feel,” he chose works by Carl Nielsen (“A Saga Dream”) and Jean Sibelius (“Symphony No. 2”), Scandinavian composers whose work evokes storytelling, Post says. With Post conducting again, the ASO reprises its program on Sunday at 3 p.m., same place, same price. LM.
9 p.m., Revolution. $10 adv., $12 d.o.s.
Charlie Robison is part of that Texas country royalty honored for its literate song-writing and, more often than not, broke-down voice. Robison's voice is honey next to some of his forebears — Townes Van Zandt, say — but in that growled tenor, there's plenty of world weariness. Who could blame him? His nearly decade-long marriage to the former Emily Erwin of the Dixie Chicks fell apart last year, and the two divorced. “Beautiful Day,” his first full-length in five years, wades through all the range of emotion that comes with a divorce. But, as the title suggests, his was perhaps not the typical divorce. The two ended things amicably, and there's an upbeat tone and tempo through much of the album, even with heavy themes and sardonic spots. His brother Bruce and sister-in-law Kelly Willis seem to pass through with some regularity, but it's been a long while since Charlie deigned to come to Little Rock. Look for the same raucous energy and humor you remember from way back when. Walker Hayes opens. LM.
8 p.m., Afterthought. $12 adv., $15 d.o.s.
If you consider yourself a jazz lover or admirer — hell, even if you're curious in the slightest — you must, repeat, must catch the Astral Project at the Afterthought at least once before you die. Lately, the New Orleans-based quartet has been in town a couple times a year, and half of them came last year to play with the Ted Ludwig Trio for the release shows for the trio's sophomore album (Ludwig grew up in New Orleans and studied under the Astral Project's Steve Masakowski). But who knows how long the band will keep up that pace in visiting Little Rock? They've certainly earned license to do whatever strikes them. Together since 1978, the group, which includes saxophonist Tony Dagradi, guitarist Masakowski, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich, has long been regarded as the Crescent City's premier modern jazz act. Venerable jazz mag OffBeat even called them “one of the most unique jazz groups period.” Live, they swing like no other. Don't miss out. LM.