As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages
8 p.m. George's Majestic Lounge. $29.
Of all the many, many wisdom nuggets contained in Joe Boyd's fascinating autobiography "White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s," my favorite is this: "The stoned ear loves complexity." Does it ever. Boyd was referring to Scottish acid-folkies The Incredible String Band, one of the groups he produced back in the heyday of the hippies. But his observation rings true still and could certainly apply to Umphrey's McGee, a Chicago six-piece that's been one of the bigger bands on the jam circuit for several years now. These are the kind of guys who in middle school worshipped Metallica and Maiden and then in high school they got into Zappa and Santana and then they went to college and somebody hipped 'em to Gong and PFM and every spare minute they had they spent hunched over their guitars or drum kits playing scales and rudiments. Then they started a band that took all those influences and countless hours of practice and put 'em in a giant blender. While UM general falls into the jam-band milieu, they're not as classic rock-oriented as peers like The String Cheese Incident and not as electronically inclined as bands like STS9 or The Disco Biscuits. They have, however, earned that most coveted jam-band distinction, which is a fan base big enough to justify having its own name. In this case, it would be the Umphreaks, who will likely be out in force for this show. Tickets are apparently going fast, so get on it, Umphreaks. NOTE: the print edition of this article contained an error. Umphrey's McGee plays in Tulsa on Thursday night, not Fayetteville.
50TH ANNUAL ARKANSAS FOLK FESTIVAL
6 p.m. Downtown Mountain View and Ozark Folk Center. Free.
The Arkansas Folk Festival isn't your typical music fest, with giant stages and $9 Bud Lights and merch booths and endless rows of port-a-potties. It's a much more down-to-earth affair, with impromptu performances taking place at venues all over Mountain View. Of course, there will be some scheduled events, including a young musicians concert Thursday night, a fiddlers showcase at 2 p.m. and a talent show at 5 p.m. on Friday, a parade downtown at 10 a.m. and a matinee program at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Old Gym. Throughout, there will be tons of arts and crafts demonstrations at the Ozark Folk Center state park, which will be offering shuttles to and from downtown on Friday and Saturday. The artisans market will feature the handiwork of scores of craftspeople.
FIRST THAW FESTIVAL
8 p.m. Harding University. $20-$25.
When it comes to booking quality concerts, the college campuses of Arkansas have been killing it over the last few years. Of course, many of these performances are only open to students. It's kind of annoying when you hear about some awesome upcoming show by your favorite band of all time, but you can't go see it no matter what. Frustrating! Anyways, the second annual First Thaw Festival at Harding University is billed as being "designed to bring music, art and film to the student body and surrounding community." Nice. This year's festivities start on Friday night, with singer/songwriters Sara Bareilles and Katie Herzig. On Saturday, things get rolling at 11 a.m. with a bazaar and performances from Brett Vanderzee, The Shindiggers, Brianna Gaither, The Sheriffs of Nottingham and The Coasts.
8 p.m. Stickyz. $10 adv., $12 d.o.s.
Colour Revolt is a Mississippi outfit that has been at it for a few years, though in a different configuration than it was at the outset. Early in the band's life, they signed to Interscope, which released their first EP on one of its subsidiaries. That release got quite a bit of interest, including the attentions of Oxford label Fat Possum, which released the group's 2008 full-length debut, "Plunder, Beg, And Curse." While "Plucky Mississippi indie label snatches hot up-and-coming band from the jaws of the majors" makes for a compelling storyline, the relationship wasn't to endure. Three of the five band members quit and Fat Possum dropped the band. Jesse Coppenbarger and Sean Kirkpatrick could've just called it a day, but they opted to forge ahead, finding replacements for their erstwhile band mates, recording a sophomore album and creating their own imprint, New Fear. In a press release, Coppenbarger said New Fear was the result of "a collapse of interest between the band and Fat Possum. We fell apart. We felt that no one was representing us but us. We lost some brothers, survived and came out feeling like we could do this on our own and better. 'The Cradle' will prove that." So does it? I think so. Whereas "Plunder" seemed plodding to these ears, "The Cradle" charges out of the gate with "8 Years," which documents the travails and pitfalls of playing music and touring and partying hard with your best friends. The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the righteous raucousness of that tune, but its themes of loss and trouble are maintained for the duration of the album, which has a more proggy feel than anything the band has done before, and points to the possibility of things to come. Opening the show is the intense local rockers Velvet Kente.
RECORD STORE DAY
11 a.m. Arkansas Record & CD Exchange.
Man, for some of us, this recently minted observance is bigger than Christmas, New Year's Day, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Diwali, Halloween, Earth Day, Thanksgiving, Boxing Day, Easter and International Talk Like a Pirate Day all put together. It's a celebration of that most hallowed space, that spiritual refuge from the disposable world of Facebook and Twitter and instant gratification and 24/7 nonstop irritating BS that is modern life in America. I'm speaking, of course, of the record store. Now, if you don't really care about music or if you're perfectly content listening to tinny mp3s you got from BitTorrent then this won't apply to you. But for the true music lovers, nothing beats an afternoon spent sifting through stack after stack of LPs, 45s and 78s looking for vinyl gold. This year, Bill Eginton over at Arkansas Record & CD Exchange will have a good number of the exclusive, limited-edition releases put out on Record Store Day. He said he won't know exactly which titles he'll have until Friday night, and many people have already called dibs on some. But with more than 250 releases, there's sure to be something to tickle your ears. And while Been Around Records won't have any of the RSD exclusives this year, owner John Harris told the Times that "every day is Record Store Day."
BLUES ON THE RIVER
3 p.m. Riverfest Amphitheatre. $25-$35.
One thing is for certain: with this lineup, there's gonna be some lovemaking going on in Little Rock Saturday night. Blues on the River is one for the grown folks, with living legend Clarence Carter headlining. I first heard Carter on a cassingle of his '90s hit "Strokin." Remember that one, where he asks about where and when you've made love? "Have you ever made love just before breakfast? Have you ever made love while you watched the late, late show? Have you ever made love on a couch?" It's a classic, for sure, but lately I've been digging on his late '60s Atlantic albums. Their stirring blend of blues and R&B sound utterly timeless. But Carter's still got his pipes nowadays, his voice as rich and powerful as it ever was. This will be a big time, for sure. Some of the other performers include Sweet Angel, from Memphis, Bigg Robb, T.K. Soul, Donnie Ray and more. You can get advance tickets at Butler Furniture, Roger's Furniture, Lindsey's Barbecue, Uncle T's Food Mart, Ugly Mike's and The Record Rack in Pine Bluff or by calling 501-401-0200.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS
7:30 p.m. Verizon Arena. $28-$100.
More than any other rock 'n' rollers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers bridge the gap between the halcyon days of rock and whatever it is we're living through now. What can you say about Petty? Both solo and with The Heartbreakers and the Traveling Wilburys, he's got one of the strongest catalogs in all of music, with a string of absolute, stone-cold classic hits that sound as good now as when they were released. He was in a band with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. No disrespect to Matthew McConaughey, but Petty possesses the greatest easygoing southern drawl of all-time (e.g., his work as Elroy "Lucky" Kleinschmidt on "King of the Hill.") His SiriusXM radio show, "Buried Treasure," is pure rock 'n' roll heaven, blasting out the deep tracks and obscurities and telling tales and anecdotes that sometimes veer off onto hilarious stoner tangents. I don't know what else to say: he's one of the greatest rockers ever and he's coming to Little Rock and I am beyond psyched about it. As his opener on this tour, Petty's bringing Regina Spektor, a critically adored singer/songwriter whose fans are probably pretty different from your typical Tom Petty followers.