Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
6 p.m., M.L. Harris Auditorium,
Philander Smith. Free.
When he speaks to what is sure to be a standing-room only crowd at Philander Smith's M.L. Harris Auditorium, Chuck D won't lack for material. The early days — working with Rick Rubin, hanging out with an equally crazy but less profit-minded Flavor Flav, crafting bass-heavy polemics like “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” that've become canonical — would be ripe territory, but something tells me Chuck D isn't a nostalgic. He's more likely to be in culture critic mode. After all, he called himself the Charles Kuralt of hip-hop in a newspaper interview. In recent years, he's testified before Congress in support of peer-to-peer online music sharing, narrated a documentary about blood diamonds and told the French newspaper Le Monde that the relationship between a rapper and his label is like that of slave to master. So who knows what strange turns his lecture will take. Wherever it goes, look for the brunt of his talk to focus on rap, race and technology and their interstices.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Kevin Gordon comes to White Water with a surfeit of bona fides. A published poet, with an MFA from the University of Iowa, Gordon's written vivid story-songs for the likes of Irma Thomas, Webb Wilder, Ronnie Hawkins and Sonny Burgess. Keith Richards, who recorded Gordon's “Deuce and a Quarter” with Levon Helm in 1996, used some colorful English himself when he called the songwriter a “fucking bloody William Shakespeare.” Gordon's last album, a strong collection of literate swamp blues called “O Come Look at the Burning,” picked up critical acclaim from Playboy and No Depression, and one of the album's stand-out tracks, “Watching the Sun Go Down,” is slated to appear in HBO's new vampire drama, “True Blood.” This show marks a break in recording for Gordon. Earlier this week, he went into the studio with producer (and Hot Springs native) Joe McMahan to record his first album in three years. Look for Gordon to try out some new songs on what's been, for the singer/songwriter, a reverent audience in the past. Charming folk singer Samantha Crain also performs along with one of our finest local acts, the Boondogs.
‘THE PAJAMA GAME'
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $15-$42.
It's an unlikely premise for an award-winning musical. In the heat of the McCarthy era, the workers of the Sleep Tite pajama factory demand a seven-and-a-half-cent raise to keep up with other garment workers' pay. Sid, the new superintendent of the factory, pushes himself and the workers hard to prove he's worthy to the new owner, but when Babe, a representative from the factory's union grievance committee, makes a visit, she brings out the softer side in Sid. I've not seen the musical, but something tells me you can expect more dance numbers than union wrangling. “Pajama Game” is scored by Broadway legends Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
DEAD CONFEDERATE/ WAX FANG
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz.
In a review of Dead Confederate's just-released debut full-length, “Wrecking Ball,” Spin, only half-kidding, suggested that the “ ‘redneck shoegaze' movement starts here.” That's pretty stupid, and not just because the Athens band is less interested in drowning itself in feedback and atmospherics than wrapping everything in mildly psychedelic post-grunge sludge. Like its name suggests, Dead Confederate isn't out to rep Southern rock. Lead singer Hardy Morris often seems to be channeling Kurt Cobain. Which isn't a bad thing. The band's simmering debut should translate well to the stage. Louisville's Wax Fang make the bill even more appealing. A favorite of My Morning Jacket, who brought the band on tour last year, and the Whigs, Wax Fang does an epic, glammed-out brand of rock, full of reverb, sweet guitar licks and jocular chanting. The group's latest album, “La La Land,” comes out next month. Maybe you can sweet-talk them into an advance.
8 p.m., Revolution. $15 adv., $18 d.o.s.
Paul Thorn's bio is the stuff of PR flaks' dreams. Raised in Tupelo, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, Thorn got into music only after he'd worked his way through the ranks of professional boxing. The pinnacle of that brief career came when he squared off and, he says, gave a good account of himself against Roberto Duran in a nationally televised fight. Working in a chair factory and painting folk art inspired by Howard Finster followed. At night, Thorn wrote songs and performed in local clubs. A cousin, who at the time was a keyboardist in Parliament-Funkadelic, had inspired him, and Thorn wasn't easily deterred. He spent more than a decade grinding it out before Miles Copeland (Stuart's brother) discovered him and signed him to his Ark21 label. For the last decade, Thorn's toured heavily and released new albums about every two years. With every one, the singer/songwriter's star seems to rise a little higher. His grizzled baritone and plainspoken lyrics of Southern craziness serve as a nice complement to his everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Delta rock.
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $10-$14.
A terrifically dark fable, Martin McDonagh's Tony and Drama Critics Circle award-winning play focuses on surely the most universally abhorred member of modern society — the child predator. Katurian is a fiction writer living in a police state who's arrested and interrogated about the grisly content of his short stories and their similarities to bizarre child murders. The Weekend Theater bills the black comedy as somewhere between “Brothers Grimm and Quentin Tarantino,” and warns away children or those “easily upset by stage violence.”
1:30 p.m., Hillcrest. Free.
Hillcrest's annual autumnal street festival quit being a quaint neighborhood festival years ago. These days, it's more like the fair, albeit with more strollers, dogs and better food. But this year promises to inspire the throngs from neighborhoods far from Hillcrest. “Project Runway” star Korto Momolu returns to show her collection in the Box Turtle Fashion Show, which also features other local designers, including wunderkind Augusta Fitzgerald and Erin Lorenzen. It happens at 7 p.m. Earlier, there's dance from the Little School of Dance (1:30 p.m.), the Mexican Folklore Ballet (2 p.m.) and the O'Donovan's School of Irish Dance (2:30 p.m.). Then, there's an impressive slate of music to bookend the fashion show. In the afternoon, that means local honky-tonk heroes the Salty Dogs (3 p.m.), acoustic duo Rob and Tyndall (4 p.m.), rootsy singer/songwriter Kevin Kerby (5 p.m.) and gloom-pop favorites the Boondogs (6 p.m.), possibly debuting new, more upbeat material. New-wave standout Kyoto Boom (8 p.m.) and engaging oddball act the Winston Family Orchestra (9 p.m.) close out the festival. Somehow, I've been coerced into emceeing. Feel free to heckle.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz.
Her voice has been compared to Janis Joplin's and PJ Harvey's, neither of which sound right to these ears, though each vocalist summons deep bursts of feeling by swinging between quiet and howling. Which is what Erika Wennerstrom does really, really well. She could almost be a less breathy, more rangy Cat Power — bluesy and oddly beautiful — but thankfully, the Heartless Bastards are far from dour. The Cincinnati trio kicks out brawny, head-whipping rock somewhere in the same sonic geography as the Black Keys. A new album, on Fat Possum — the band's third — appears to be in the works, so look out for new songs. Up-and-coming indie-folk singer/songwriter Langhorne Slim opens the show. Early in his career, he called himself the bastard child of Hasil Adkins. He's much smoother now than his former fake father, but there's still quite a bit of mischief in his songs.
6:30 p.m., Vino's. $10 adv., $12 d.o.s.
It's a father/son bonding special. Far from the emo-punk Vino's has lately been known for, New Jersey's Gaslight Anthem writes detail-heavy working class anthems and plays them fist-pumpingly loud and fast. Bruce Springsteen's easy lyricism and R&B melodies are obvious touchstones, the Replacements' endearingly sloppy melancholy, too. Since it formed in 2006, Gaslight Anthem has played some 500 shows, and it's starting to pay off. It's got a feature in the latest Rolling Stone and the New York Times and NME have raved about the band's latest, “The '59 Sound,” named for an amplifier lead singer Brian Fallon built himself. As a bonus for the bonding, the group usually plays punked-up covers of songs by the likes of Ben E. King and Sam Cooke. Polar Bear Club, O Pioneers and Harbour open.
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…