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Don Flemons comes to South on Main 

click to enlarge DOM FLEMONS: The self-described "American songster" brings his 1924 banjo, "the quintessential instrument of the American African diaspora," to South on Main on Thursday evening.
  • DOM FLEMONS: The self-described "American songster" brings his 1924 banjo, "the quintessential instrument of the American African diaspora," to South on Main on Thursday evening.

THURSDAY 5/26

DOM FLEMONS
8 p.m. South on Main. $14-$22.

Dom Flemons' solo album "Prospect Hill" was recorded the day Pete Seeger died. Seeger's starring role in the 1947 Alan Lomax film "To Hear Your Banjo Play" inspired Flemons to pick up the banjo in the first place; he made Flemons newly aware of the instrument's roots in the black community, "the quintessential instrument of the American African diaspora," as Flemons called it in an interview with Music Maker. Though he plays a handful of instruments (fife, jug, harmonica, bones, guitar), it's Flemons' custom 1924 banjo that characterizes the sound of "Prospect Hill," modified, as he told NPR, with "lights that you could clip onto the truss rod so that you can heat the head of the banjo, in case it happens to be a hot day and the skin gets moist and soggy." Flemons brings the entirety of his old-time and jug band influences — and, of course, his vintage banjo — to South on Main on Thursday as part of his post-Carolina Chocolate Drops sojourn, playing amid oversized cover photographs of the Oxford American magazine, for which he penned an intimate tribute to gospel innovator Thomas A. Dorsey last December.

THURSDAY 5/26

THE HICKOIDS
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.

By all means, count The Hickoids among the things that fueled the slogan "Keep Austin Weird," and for a litmus test of whether you do or do not dig their cowpunk aesthetic, view their "amateur corn" video for "Jumping Bean Bolero" from 1989's "Waltz A-Cross-Dress Texas," comprised entirely of shots of a voluptuous, apron-clad woman shucking, then buttering a corn cob. Born in 1983 from the brains of vocalist Jeff Smith and founding guitarist Jukebox, the group roared off on a tour of what Blurt's Greg Beets called "squalling, beer-logged collision of punk rock and degenerate country," opening for Black Flag and the Meat Puppets. They swilled liquor, donned what they called "Cajun realtor" outfits, exposed their naughtier bits during dystopic interpretations of The Eagles' "Take It Easy," and somewhere around 1991, the whole thing sputtered to a stop. According to bass player Davy Jones, things are a little different this time around, as he states on the band's new bio, saying that despite the band's revolving lineup of musicians, (this is) "the best batch of Hickoids that we've ever had. We even practice every week. It's a whole new era for us being responsible." A full 30 years after they first played the S.O.B. club in Little Rock, the notoriously ramshackle group returns with a most befitting opener, Hendrix professor Danny Grace's psycho-Western band, Frontier Circus.

THURSDAY 5/26

POOR OL' UNCLE FATTY AND THE FREELOADERS
8 p.m. The Joint Theater and Coffeehouse. $10.

Be assured, the music scene in Russellville is alive and well. There's a DIY punk band called Fiscal Spliff, the sparse and seasoned poetry of songster William Blackart, the dreamy voice of Jamie Lou (and the Hullabaloo), decibel-bending space rock group Sad Magick, the Offbeat Times and Russellville Art Zine that tie it all together, and a professed desire to prosper by way of collective support, inclusion and a network of couches available to touring musicians. And then, there's Poor Ol' Uncle Fatty. It's Matthew Ritchie, a plaid-clad man whose sour lyrics are sung in an undeniable drawl, supported by shuffling, understated drums and a twangy pedal steel from his band The Freeloaders. "Fatty" is something of a Pope County pioneer; he and his friends began playing music in Russellville before there were any music venues in which to play. Ritchie hosted "Sunday Night with Fatty and Friends" at Bugsy's Wings and Things, a tradition that carved out a space for original music in a town otherwise characterized by sleepy storefronts and a persistent burger controversy: C.J.'s Butcher Boy vs. Whatta-Burger. The show is part of the "Shoog Radio Presents" series, and will be recorded as a live album in the acoustically favorable theater at The Joint.

FRIDAY 5/27

click to enlarge BURLESQUE LIVES: In Hot Springs, thanks to the Foul Play Cabaret.
  • BURLESQUE LIVES: In Hot Springs, thanks to the Foul Play Cabaret.

FOUL PLAY CABARET
9 p.m. Maxine's, Hot Springs. $10-$12.

Nostalgically following in the high-heeled footsteps of Lili St. Cyr and Mae West, women like Hot Springs' Sarah Curtis (a.k.a. Ruby Lead) and Brittany Thompson (a.k.a. Violet D'Vine) are proving that the art of the striptease is just that — an art. They are part of a full-fledged neo-Burlesque movement, and unlike the brand of dollar-centric dance that takes place at the local "gentleman's club," burlesque can employ daredevil stunt work, comedy, drama, dance, elaborate and often painstakingly handmade costumes, makeup requiring complete precision in its application, torch songs and — perhaps most importantly — an inspiring, much-needed degree of body positivity. The women of Foul Play Cabaret formed the group in 2011, after a "Spa City Sweethearts Revue" benefiting Low Key Arts left them wanting more, and they'll join rockabilly roots band Nathan Kalish and the Last Callers at Maxine's for a show that (thanks to the burlesque troupe's craft) undoubtedly will require much more time to prepare than it will to perform. Joining Ruby and Violet at Maxine's are Doris Night, Rosa Lee Bloom, Jezebel Jax, master of ceremonies Vinny Vadge and a "stage kitten," Kat Tastrophe.

SATURDAY 5/28-MONDAY 5/30

DINOSAURS REVEALED
10 a.m., Mid-America Science Museum. $8-$10.

Nearly 20 years ago, "Jurassic Park" sparked (rekindled?) an American love affair with dinosaurs that has sprawled quicker than West Little Rock, inspiring a Lego-themed video game, a river ride adventure at Universal Studios and perhaps even "Sad T-Rex," a running webcomic meme poking fun at the towering predator for being unable to do things like perform CPR, spin vinyl, make the bed, take a selfie, and so on. In honor of all things lizardlike and terrible, Hot Springs' Mid-America Science Museum opens "Dinosaurs Revealed," the first summer exhibit since the museum's grand reopening last year. There are six full skeletal replicas, animatronic dinos, "vignettes" that replicate a prehistoric world and even a "dig box" for those who have developed a preoccupation with prehistory at an early age. The museum was one of 10 recipients of the 2016 National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and is Arkansas's only Smithsonian affiliate. Established in 1979 and reopened with a generous grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the museum has an unlikely but lovely home just a few hairpin curves down from Whittington Park and across from National Park College.

FRIDAY 5/27

BIG PIPH AND TOMORROW MAYBE
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.

"I am not them." The mantra is plastered across the story of Epiphany Morrow (a.k.a. Big Piph), a Stanford University grad who's opened for Snoop Dogg and Ne-Yo and who took his band of all-star musicians (Bijoux Pighee, Lucas Murray, Dee Dee Jones, Cory Harris, Paul Campbell, Dre Franklin) on a tour of schools and communities in Morocco, Algeria, and Equatorial Guinea last year as part of a grant from American Music Abroad. In the prelude to Piph's "Dear White People" on his Soundcloud page (a treatise on cultural appropriation that Big Piph playfully ripped out live in the studio on an episode of Shoog Radio last year), "them" refers to those with unchecked racial privilege and a willingness to remain ignorant of the ways in which black cultures have shaped American history: "In Dear White People, and of course by white people I don't mean ALL white people, but THEM white people, I'm giving you a lilac-hued butterfly with wingtips kissed by unicorn sprinkles fluttering in a Maui spring breeze over a volcano." The track begins with the announcement, "The chorus of this song contains 100 percent authentic white folks," followed by a snippet of standup from a Louis C.K. routine over the intro groove, "I've got a lot going for me. I'm healthy, I'm relatively young, I'm white, which, thank God for that shit," and opens up into an intentionally catchy groove that accompanies his open letter, "Now freedom through art is fine, let's be clear, but y'all conveniently amnes' [he's using a shortened form of amnesia as a verb] when it comes to pioneers." To this listener, "I am not them" is not an attempt to fracture or divide people into categories of "us" and "them," but more of a standing, radical challenge to self-define, and to acknowledge others who do the same.


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