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Cory Branan to White Water Tavern 

WEDNESDAY 7/18

LITTLE ROCK FASHION WEEK

Various times and venues. $5-$40.

The fourth installment of Little Rock Fashion Week is upon us. The fashion festivities officially got rolling Monday and will continue through Saturday with events around the city. Wednesday is highlighted by the Child's Play Day and For Kids By Kids Fashion Show at The Little Rock Zoo. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the show is at 2 p.m. The Young & Fabulous Experience is Friday at Robinson Center starting at 6:30 p.m., and the week culminates with the Posh Expression Fashion Experience at Robinson Center Exhibition Hall. Several labels and designers from all over Arkansas and points beyond will showcase their fall/winter lines this year. Check out the full schedule at littlerockfashionweek.com. You can buy tickets on the website or at Uncle T's, The Joint, The Salon Professional Academy or Round One Fashions in Conway. This is the second year in a row that LRFW has teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas to recruit mentors for children. Brandon D. Campbell, founder of LRFW, was himself a "little" when he was in elementary school, and he'll become a mentor this school year, according to a press statement. Attendees can donate or sign up with BBBS to become mentors at LRFW events.

THURSDAY 7/19

CORY BRANAN, AUDRA MAE

9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $8.

I hear a strong Springsteen/Mellencamp/Petty influence on "Mutt," Cory Branan's latest album and first for Bloodshot Records. As Branan told Yahoo! Music, "musically it's kind of a grab bag — so much so that I ended up calling the record 'Mutt.' " True that. This collection of tunes has the DNA of a pound's worth of musical critters. If you squint your ears just right, "Survivor Blues" could be a raspy Warren Zevon fronting Thin Lizzy. "The Snowman" is a Tom Waits-ian dirge with a keening clarinet and a violin sawing away in the background. "Darken My Door" and "The Freefall" have some great weepy lap steel that somehow sounds too low in the mix and just right at the same time. "Jericho" has an almost Bo Diddley beat and an array of keyboards and wind instruments. Surprises and left turns abound, such as the angelic female voice that peeks into the last few moments of "Hold Me Down." This record will reward persistence; it doesn't take all its clothes off on that first date. Branan is on tour right now with fiery Oklahoma singer/songwriter Audra Mae. Those two play Wednesday up on The Hill at George's Majestic. Adam Faucett, one of the finest singer/songwriters in the state, opens the show at White Water.

THURSDAY 7/19

DIAMOND RIO

7 p.m. Oaklawn. $20.

The year 1991 must've been a hellacious time to try to break out in the country music scene. There were a lot of big albums that year from newcomers and established giants as well. You had Alan Jackson's smash "Don't Rock the Jukebox" to contend with, as well as Brooks and Dunn's massive "Brand New Man" and Travis Tritt's "It's All About to Change," plus big albums from well-known names like George Strait, Reba McEntire and Randy Travis. Oh, and a young bull named Garth Brooks was busy wrecking the china shop with his wildly popular fusion of traditional honky-tonk twang and high-flying stadium rock and selling about 14 zillion albums in the process. It was into this highly competitive milieu that Diamond Rio emerged. But even with formidable opposition, the band staked out a solid claim on the country music landscape, with the hit "Meet in the Middle," which became the first debut single ever to go to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. There followed a string of gold albums and Top 10 singles that eventually trailed off. The other thing to keep in mind about the band is that, while there were a lot of great mullets back in the early '90s country scene, none were finer than those sported by the members of Diamond Rio, with the possible exception of Billy Ray Cyrus. Now, the band has put out some well received records in recent years, including the gospel album "The Reason." But they haven't been able to replicate the chart success they saw in the '90s. To be clear, I'm not saying that Diamond Rio was like Samson and that their country music hit-making powers were somehow tied to their mullets and that if they grew them back they'd start having big hits again. But hey, it couldn't hurt, you know, just to make sure.

FRIDAY 7/20

GOOSE ISLAND CRAFT BEER DINNER

6:30 p.m. Sonny Williams' Steak Room. $75.

Goose Island bills itself as "Chicago's Craft Beer." That's a pretty bold statement, but have you tried any of these beers? They're delicious, especially the Summertime, a Kolsch-style beer that's light and refreshing and tastes like the nectar of the beer gods. While the Summertime and the Honker's Ale and the Mild Winter are all stellar brews, the beers in question at this dinner are the Belgian style offerings from Goose Island. Perhaps you've eyed them in the liquor store, the big bottles with the labels that look more like something you'd see on a nice wine? Yeah, those. If you've had a hankering to try these fancy beers, Sonny Williams has the ticket. This beer dinner includes the following four brews: Sofie and Pepe Nero, both farmhouse style ales; Pere Jacques, a Belgian Abbey Ale; and Matilda, a pale ale. While $75 is a bit pricey for a lot of folks, consider that you're getting a four-course meal at one of the best restaurants in town, plus what will almost certainly be four incredible beers. Call 324-2999 for reservations.

FRIDAY 7/20

THE CONTORTIONIST

6 p.m. Downtown Music Hall. $12 adv., $15 day of.

Indianapolis quintet The Contortionist has an appropriate name. This is a group that takes heavy metal and bends and twists and turns and warps it into improbable shapes. In a recent interview with metalobsession.net, Contortionist singer Jonathan Carpenter and guitarist Robby Bacca cited Meshuggah as an influence, which probably won't be a surprise to anyone familiar with that experimental Swedish metal band. But Carpenter also mentioned cult prog rock favorites Dream Theater and ambient innovator Brian Eno. You can hear the Eno influence on the new Contortionist track "Holomovement," from the band's album "Intrinsic," released yesterday. It's largely an atmospheric, quiet song, buffeted by bursts of brutal math-metal. There are moments that recall the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich. But even though it's rife with these quieter stretches, there are enough tricky time signatures and down-tuned guitar skronk to satisfy the most discerning of cerebral metal heads. Also performing: Jeff Loomis, a seven-string sorcerer who was in the long-running genre-bending metal band Nevermore; Death metal outfit 7 Horns 7 Eyes; U.K. prog-metal act Chimp Spanner, and Arkansas five-piece They Were All Goliaths.

SATURDAY 7/21

TESLA

7:30 p.m. Magic Springs' Timberwood Amphitheater. $30-$65.

Sacramento hard rockers Tesla emerged during the hair-metal heyday of the mid '80s. It was an exciting era of loud guitars, brightly colored spandex, caked-on makeup, coked-up egomaniacs run amok, sexual innuendo that was disconcertingly literal and enough hairspray to float an armada. Tesla's music could certainly be considered of its time, but the band always seemed a bit deeper and less silly than many of their contemporaries, what with the band name and song titles that referenced the oddball genius inventor Nikola Tesla, and also by generally eschewing the tackier sartorial inclinations of their colleagues. The group is perhaps most widely remembered for a hit acoustic cover of "Signs," a track that was originally cut and released in 1971 by The Five Man Electrical Band as a way to tell all the squares, "Hey man, stop putting up all these signs. You're blocking out the scenery." Tesla broke up for a spell in the '90s, but got back together in recent years for a bit of touring and some albums released on their own Tesla Electric Company Recordings.

SATURDAY 7/21

WWE RAW

7:30 p.m. Verizon Arena. $17-$97.

This match is highlighted by 10-time WWE Champion John Cena, who'll take on the seven-foot, 441-pound human tower known as Big Show. Will the Cenation turn out to root for their leader? The "Long Island Iced-Z," a.k.a. Zack Ryder will go head to head with the bleached-blonde narcissist Dolph Ziggler. But is Ziggler hated enough by the fans to truly own his heel status? And what about Big Show? Is he really a super-heel? Bleacher Report's Michael Guadalupe is unconvinced: "The bottom line is that the WWE is thin on good heels," Guadalupe wrote. "While they may try to push Big Show on us as a super-heel, Big Show is very far away from super. He lacks wrestling ability and has yet to come up with a win at any pay-per-view since his heel turn this year." But who knows what drama might unfold at Verizon Arena?

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