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Anais Mitchell comes to South on Main 

THURSDAY 8/28

ANAIS MITCHELL

7:30 p.m. South on Main. $10

If you need evidence that Satan is alive and well and still signing contacts for immortal souls in exchange for fame, just give a listen to some of the stuff on the Billboard Hot 100 these days. You don't have to be hipper-than-thou to say that the world is full of people getting rich making shitty music, most of it so formulaic it ought to be labeled "Preprocessed Entertainment Product." Luckily, there are still good musicians out there, and most of them aren't playing for $67.85 plus fees. Anais Mitchell is one of those singer-songwriters whose tunes are so good that it's a little hard to believe she's not sitting somewhere on a couch stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, being fanned and fed grapes by Sony executives. Her folksy delivery and acoustic guitar work may be sweet as peach preserves, putting one in mind of Gillian Welch, but her Dylanesque lyrics hit like a spike maul, driving home ideas and rhymes so lovely they'd probably be welcome in any poetry anthology. Take these from her beautiful "Young Man in America," for instance: "I come out like a cannonball/come of age of alcohol/raven in a field of rye/with a black and roving eye/black and roving eye/raving, ravenous/what you got, it's not enough/young man in America." That's some good stuff right there, and no deal with Ol' Splitfoot required. DK

FRIDAY 8/29

BEN KWELLER

9:30 p.m. Stickyz. $15.

Singer-songwriter-type piano melodies and grungy '90s rock seem like odd bedfellows, but both styles appear on Ben Kweller's resume. The San Francisco native grew up in Emory and Greenville, Texas, where he met drummer John Kent and, barely a teenager, formed the band Radish. Songs like "Little Pink Stars" from the late '90s recall a Nirvana aesthetic – the music video features shots of backlit jellyfish pulsating over a shot of Kweller with middle-parted Cobain-esque blond hair. Since 1999, when he moved to New York with his girlfriend, now wife, Liz Smith, Kweller's been an "independent" act, as he wrote on the About Me section of his website: "People have called me an 'indie-rocker', 'anti-folkie', a 'rock star', 'balladeer', 'crazy sum-bitch', 'pop rocker', an 'alt rocker', etc ... i'm not sure about all these things. independent yes! crazy yes! i do write a lot of songs though. they're all very different. they're all the same. i dunno." This writer has little easier time than Kweller himself pinning down the sounds of his solo albums in words: The singer-songwriter vibe seems more evident, with more singing and less screaming, than that of the shadowy music videos of his adolescence. The show is open to those 18 and older. CG

FRIDAY 8/29

BEN NICHOLS

7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $20.

Hey, look, the Ron Robinson Theater is hosting an event that's open to the public! Since the Times first wondered in July why the Central Arkansas Library System's state-of-the art theater had gone largely dark and were told something like, "Hold on, we're coming," there've been fewer events open to the public than before. That's too bad because the theater is really, really nice! If you haven't checked it out, no better time than Friday, when Little Rock's most beloved rock export, Ben Nichols, plays a rare solo show. Nichols, of course, leads Lucero, barroom rock kings of Memphis. He's been doing that for 16 years now, long enough for parents to indoctrinate their children in Nichols' lyrical prowess and gritty vocals and bring them along to this solo show as teens. LM

SATURDAY 8/30

BIG SMO

9 p.m. Juanita's, $10

Big Smo! Big Smo! I'm confused! Like me, Big Smo is a dude from Tennessee born in the late 1970s who enjoyed Johnny Cash and Biz Markie growing up. Well,54 now I'm 35 (Big Smo is 39). And maybe when I was half the age I am now, the idea of a country rapper would have been kind of thrilling (don't even get me started on the parallels between Hank Jr. and Tupac). But here today, the existence of Big Smo just makes me feel adrift in this century. He's on a reality show, I guess? He calls his style "hick hop." His first album was called "Kuntry Kitchen." Of course. He has a song with Darius Rucker. Of course. Have you ever been at an outdoor concert with bad music standing next to a sweaty, swaggering drunk guy with no shirt on? And he is not so much dancing as screaming? And he is so committed to his own good time that he seems almost wistful? But, no, that's not right, it seems like he wants to fight? But then instead of fighting anyone, he gets sick and vomits? Big Smo makes music best played at the very moment that the sweaty, swaggering, screaming, wistful, shirtless drunk guy upchucks. Cry, the beloved kuntry. DR

SATURDAY 8/30

THE KINFOLKS SOUL FOOD FESTIVAL

3 p.m. First Security Amphitheater. $45 to $65

We do love some soul food. That said, if the comments about the touring Kinfolks Soul Food Festival from other cities are any measure, you might ought to stop at Sims Barbecue or Lassis Inn on your way to the show. On the upside: Entertainment at the Little Rock Kinfolks stop will be provided by a host of great stars, including Betty Wright, Mint Condition, Lyfe Jennings, Kelly Price and Chante Moore. On the downside, there's the comments on a story about the Kinfolks stop in Kansas City by the K.C. alt-weekly The Pitch, posted by people who said they went to the show there on Aug. 23. Included are commenters who said they attended talking about $15 for a five-piece wing dinner (which the commenter decried as "some bullshit"), toasty hot beer and sodas, over an hour between acts, a ban on umbrellas in the oppressive heat, and small cups of ice (to cool the hot drinks) going for $2. Also, this epic takedown from someone posting as "Jeezy": "My cuz and I pull up, paid, go in. No music was bumpin. Da chitlins were all gone. No Ribs. Didn't even catch any mutton. Ain't never not doing that not again." We'd call that a resounding thumbs down. Your mileage may vary from Mr. Jeezy's, however. DK

TUESDAY 9/2

LITTLE ROCK TOUCHDOWN CLUB PRESENTS MARK MAY

11 a.m. Embassy Suites

ESPN football analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Mark May will make his second appearance at the Touchdown Club after kicking off the speaker series in 2012. May is a College Football Hall of Famer who won the Outland Trophy at Pittsburgh and went on to play for three teams in the NFL. This year's series includes former Razorbacks superstar Shane Andrews, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long and NFL Hall of Famers Mike Singletary and Michael Irvin. Hey, remember when Irvin said that after being inducted to the Hall of Fame, he went home and made love to his wife still wearing his commemorative Hall of Fame jacket? "I kept the blazer on because I wanted to perform like a Hall of Famer on the field and off," he said. I miss Michael Irvin. Also on the list is Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the coolest college football player of the last 30 years. For more information on the speaker series, visit lrtouchdown.com. DR

WEDNESDAY 9/3

SONNY BURGESS AND THE LEGENDARY PACERS.

7:30 p.m. Stickyz. $10

Back in the 1950s, there was a time when a rock 'n' roll band could cut a record and literally have a hit record by the following week, riding the wave of popularity as DJ's in little AM stations all over the country spun their still-warm 45s all the way to glory. Sam Phillips' Sun Records in Memphis minted their share of superstars just like that, of course: Elvis, Johnny and Jerry Lee. Not as well known, however, was Sonny Burgess, an early Sun star of equal talent who somehow missed the rocket-ride to fame enjoyed by his better-known stablemates. Born in Newport in 1929, Burgess and his band cut their first single on the Sun label in 1956, "We Wanna Boogie," with their signature hit "Red Headed Woman" on the flipside. Chock full of so-hot-it-oughta-be-criminal goodness, with plentiful brass joining the guitar/bass/drums trinity of early rock 'n' roll to create a wholly unique sound, Burgess and the Legendary Pacers may not have reached the lofty firmament inhabited by The King, The Killer and The Man in Black, but their music still makes you want to dance. Though rock has been declared dead a dozen times since 1956, it always comes back. Burgess and the Legendary Pacers, meanwhile, are still out there bringing folks a drink from the original spring. Best take a sip while you can. DK

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