Tommy Emmanuel, 'Pippin', Dala and Buckethead 

Plus, 'Marathon Boy', R.I.O.T.S., Harvest and more


7:30 p.m. University of Central Arkansas. $50.

If you'd like to hear a guy play acoustic guitar faster than you'd ever think was possible by a human being, look no further than Tommy Emmanuel. The Australian virtuoso is one of only five in the world to be designated as a "Certified Guitar Player" by the late, great Chet Atkins. (The others in this tiny fraternity are John Knowles, Steve Wariner, the late Jerry Reed and Atkins himself.) In "Nashville Cats," The Lovin' Spoonful's ode to the studio bad-asses of Music City, John Sebastian estimated "there's 1,352 guitar pickers in Nashville / And they can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee ant hill." Well from the sound of it, Emmanuel can play more notes than the number of ants on all the ant hills in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana combined. At 50 bones, this concert isn't for the light of wallet, but hell, by now, there are probably at least 1,500 pickers in Nashville. There are only two other Certified Guitar Players still with us.


7:30 p.m. The Weekend Theater. $16-$20.

Along with precursors such as "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Godspell" and "Hair," "Pippin" was one of several pop/rock musicals of the late '60s and early '70s that paved the way for the rock musicals of today. The music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz (who also wrote for "Godspell" and "Wicked"), and the show was directed on Broadway by the legendary Bob Fosse. The original production ran for nearly five years, and racked up several Tony nominations, including a win for actor Ben Vereen. The story, by Roger O. Hirson, concerns the eldest son of King Charles, Pippin. He has just returned home and is determined to find some meaning in his life. Like so many young folks, he tries out politics, war, religion and good ol' meaningless flings, but comes up empty-handed. The Weekend Theater promises a colorful production that draws on Fosse's style while maintaining a distinct identity. The production runs through Oct. 23.

5 p.m. Downtown El Dorado. $15-$20.

There probably aren't too many other music festivals where you could see a lineup as diverse as the one featured at this year's MusicFest El Dorado. It's all over the map. You've got your R&B, your country, your rap, your rock and/or roll, your blues, your Southern rock, your post-grunge, your elementary and middle school choirs, your "Full On" rock, your singer/songwriters, your high school orchestras and your high school jazz bands. What say you, Coachella? Bonaroo? Lollapalooza? Whatchama-have-you? Your Pitchfork-approved indie pabulum seems pretty conventional when compared to MusicFest El Dorado. The festival hosts headliners Boyz II Men, Tone Loc and Devon Allman's Honeytribe (Friday) and Sawyer Brown, the Robert Fortune Band and James Otto (Saturday). Saturday's good times get rolling at 10 a.m.

3 p.m. Hill Wheatley Plaza. $5.

Dang but Arkansas has a lot of music festivals these days. It seems new ones, such as Festival on the Border, which took place a few weeks back in Fort Smith, are popping up all the time. And hey, that's awesome. Here's another new one: The Hot Water Hills Music & Arts Festival in Hot Springs. Headliners include Big Smith and Lucero front-man Ben Nichols on Friday night, and The Extraordinaires and Mountain Sprout on Saturday night, with sets by The Grand Marquis both nights. But as the name makes clear, this festival is about more than just music. How much more? How about: a pie-eating contest, an arm-wrestling contest, an egg-tossing contest, a pumpkin race, pottery demonstrations, a hay bale pyramid (for climbin'), a drum circle and music workshops. Plus there will be lots of beer, wine, soft drinks and food from such purveyors of deliciousness as Nom Noms, La Pasadita and others. Shea Childs and Bill Solleder of the much-loved Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival are the organizers of this new event.



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