Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
9 p.m., the Village. $10.
The local rap collective Conduit is billing this installment of its concert series the Chill “the beginning of the end.” But don't get it confused — the way this show's shaping up, it could just as well be “the Chill to end all Chills.” Epiphany, the always-White Sox-capped head of Conduit, hints that the overarching conceptual flow of the night will revolve around a diagnosis of the ills of the local rap scene. Critique and answers for local hip-hop all rolled up into a big audio/visual showcase? I'm so there. Unlike previous installments, the event will stay tightly focused, with only three acts performing — Dat Heat, Suga City and Epiphany. Dat Heat, a crew long tightly affiliated with Conduit, includes two producers, three rappers and an R&B singer. I'm keeping my finger crossed that Z, the cartoonishly brilliant rapper from Dat Heat, will be in the mix; he's lately been trying out for reality shows and living in Ohio. If not, the speedy and charismatic rappers Bware and X2C won't have any trouble holding it down with the Maria V, a sultry R&B vocalist. Sure to have tricks up their sleeve: Suga City, a duo comprised of Arkansas Bo and Goines. Meanwhile, the ringmaster himself, Epiphany, will continue his Roots-style live-band experiment, in a long set with soul belter Gina Gee and One Night Stand, a live funk-soul band. LM
THE SALTY DOGS
9:30 p.m., Juanita's. $6.
I try my best to be impartial, even though in a music scene as small as ours I usually know half the people I write about. But to keep things on the up and up, I'll go ahead and say the Salty Dogs played my wedding reception not too long ago, and they killed. We had it in a barn of sorts, and they wore big hats and rhinestone-studded Nashville garb and played pitch-perfect, down-home country music. My father-in-law, a generally reserved 60-something, danced as if possessed (for the first time since high school, he said later). By the end of the night, cummerbunds became do-rags and some distant cousin to Irish dance became appropriate for dancing to Johnny Cash covers. I sort of doubt the Salty Dogs will get that sort of response on Friday, but it's a testament to the sturdiness of their music that they could propel (and withstand) such debauchery. The Dogs' latest album, “Autoharpoon” is a mixture of well-chosen covers, like Mickey Newbury's “Why You Been Gone So Long?” and stately originals, like “Starting Now,” that could easily be confused for covers. Expect more of the same live. LM
8:30 p.m., Vino's. $5.
Three or four years ago, no one performed more often than Johnny Mac. Imminently recognizable, with a shaved head and dark-framed glasses, the singer/songwriter always played alone, singing pop-rock songs with hooks that lodged themselves deep in the recesses of your brain. (“Fine Lines,” Mac's go-to track back in the day and an early 45 single on Max Recordings, is still, happily, stuck deep in mine today.) Lately, Mac's taken to leading a band, first as Johnny Mac and the Reds and now, simply, the Reds (“Not like communists. Like colors,” their MySpace page says). After a long stretch of inactivity, the Reds reemerge to celebrate the release of their album, “Economy of Motion,” from Max Recordings. It's a charming debut with hints of Cars-y new-wave and bubblegum. Handclaps and nonsense chants factor into just about every hook, from routine “na-na-na-nas” to an awesome sound somewhere between a retch and a kung-fu call. The album's best track, “Summer,” can't square anticipatory visions of summer with the reality (“it's all wrong,” goes the sweeping chorus); it's got just the right amount of pop and conflict to be the summer jam that carries you into the fall. LM
7 p.m., Hype Center, Pine Bluff. $20.
A couple of years ago at a rap awards show, someone masquerading as a fan punched Dr. Dre in the face. Young Buck, presumably in the middle of dinner, hopped up, jumped in the fracas and stabbed the dude with a fork. From that we can glean two things about Buck. He's a little (or more than a little) crazy, and he's fiercely loyal. Since that incident, early in his affiliation with G-Unit, the Nashville MC has remained with his clique, waiting patiently in line to release albums, though it's become clear that he's a better rapper than anyone else in G-Unit, including his boss, 50 Cent. Lately, he's even weathered public recrimination from 50 Cent after Buck tried to bury the hatchet with one of 50's sworn enemies. While all eyes will be on 50 this week as he releases his much-hyped new album (and soldiers on towards irrelevancy), Buck will be onstage in PB doing that gritty, deeply Southern rap that he does best. He's still touring behind last year's “Buck the World,” a nihilistic burner that's testament that the rapper should be around long after 50 fades. Alabama's Rich Boy, who rose to fame on the strength of “Throw Some D's,” an infectious anthem about outfitting a Cadillac with fancy rims, performs with the thickest Southern accent in mainstream rap. And Huey, a St. Louis rapper who came onto the scene with the novelty dance track “Pop, Lock and Drop It,” also performs. LM
9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8 adv./$10 d.o.s.
Davad Bazan tours hard. Like 50-dates-between-now-and-December hard. The hirsute singer/songwriter started out a dozen years ago in the Seattle indie-rock outfit Pedro the Lion. The son of a pastor, Bazan didn't even hear secular music until he was well into his adolescence. That religious background often manifested itself in Bazan's highly personal songwriting, where he was able to unabashedly delve into spiritual issues. But it's his work with narrative, with characters trapped deep in the ennui of the alienated, that's garnered Bazan a passionate following. Now, with the Pedro the Lion moniker retired (it was largely a one-man project), Bazan continues with his acerbic songwriting, with biting songs about drunken hazes and backwoods xenophobia, on his solo EP debut. He's got a strong, loping voice that always manages to penetrate the din of bleating keyboards, guitars and steady drums. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (mercifully abbreviated to CFTPA by its fans) is another solo performer — Owen Ashworth — masquerading as a band. He specializes in atmospheric keyboard jams that are wry but earnest. LM
BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES
9 p.m., Revolution. $25 adv./$30 d.o.s.
New York City native Béla Fleck, often considered the best banjo player in the world, is rumored to have picked up the banjo after hearing Flatt and Scruggs play the intro to TV's “Beverly Hillbillies.” Experimenting with bebop and banjo in high school, Fleck was invited to join famed mandolin player Sam Bush's band, the New Grass Revival, soon after graduation. After making a name for himself on the country-bluegrass scene, Fleck formed his own band, the Flecktones, in 1989. Accompanied by bassist Victor Wooten, percussionist Future Man and saxophonist Jeff Coffin, the Flecktones created a beboppy bluegrass beat (dubbed “blu-bop”) that won over fans and critics alike. The Flecktones' far-reaching range stands out on their Grammy-award winning 2006 release, “Hidden Land,” on which you'll hear swing, bluegrass and prog rock influences. Popular among fans of jam bands and jazz, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones have played Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Jazzfest and typically do more than 200 concerts a year. Promoting their latest album, “The Enchantment,” Béla Fleck and the Flecktones will perform twice in Arkansas: on Saturday night at Revolution and on Sunday night at George's Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. NB
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $30.
I'm pretty sure they came through (maybe to Juanita's?) back when they were simply just one of those post-Uncle Tupelo bands playing a jangly kind of alt-country. Four stylistic shifts later, and surely a good decade later, Wilco returns, somewhat triumphantly, as the gold standard of the new adult alternative, the soundtrack to Starbucks, the hero of hipster yuppies everywhere. Clubs can't hold them anymore. They're touring exclusively in theaters and auditoriums now, though, despite widespread critical fellating, their last album was a terrific bore. Snark aside, I bought my tickets the morning they went on sale. Few bands play with more skill or dynamism. After a steady stream of entrances and exits, the band seems to have landed on a steady five-man line-up. You'd be hard pressed to find a more innovative or compelling drummer than Glen Kotche (on tours past, he had a tube connected to his kick drum that he'd blow into to change the pitch). And Nels Cline, the band's guitarist, plays with a fierce and mesmerizing improvisatory flair. Plus, you can be sure Wilco will dip fairly deep into its back catalogue to albums with a little punch. LM
YING YANG TWINS
9 p.m., the Village. $15 adv./$17 d.o.s.
The Ying Yang Twins were initially going to call last year's “Chemically Imbalanced” “2 Live Crew,” as an ode to the controversial '80s bootie rappers. That would've brought to the fore the obvious. Over the course of five albums in seven years, the Atlanta duo has mined the Crew's sex and bass formula deep, paying special attention to the posterior, bouncing. See, for instance, “1st Booty on Duty,” “Jigglin',” “Salt Shaker” and just plain “Shake.” The group's biggest hit, however, took a subtler approach. Produced by longtime associate Mr. Collipark, “Wait (The Whisper Song)” found D-Roc and Kaine getting dirty (“wait till you see my ****” is the chorus) in hushed voices over a skeletal beat. Now split from Collipark, the Twins have returned to the basics, with playful, bass-heavy strip club anthems like their new single “Freak.” If early concert reports hold true, they'll work through all their hits and mix in familiar samples from the likes of “Black Betty” and “Maneater.” Likely, there will be booties jiggling. LM
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…