J. Cole at Clear Channel Metroplex 

Also, Sweet Crude, Avery Sunshine, Open Studios Little Rock, 'Spring Awakening,' Funk Fest and more

click to enlarge ARKANSAS DEP'T. PARKS & TOURISM
  • Arkansas Dep't. Parks & Tourism



11 a.m. Woolly Hollow State Park, 82 Woolly Hollow Road, Greenbrier. Free.

First, let's just all admit that the title of this event sends the mind reeling. (Woolly Hollow Annual Fun Day? What the hell else are people doing at Woolly Hollow State Park the rest of the year? And if we can only have one fun day a year at Woolly Hollow, why must it be on a Thursday?) That said, schools are out for summer vacation, and if your family has a hiatus before summer camps or summer jobs kick in, go check out this state park. It's 370 acres a few miles off of U.S. Highway 65 just past Greenbrier, and it served as a research site for land management and soil erosion studies in the 1920s-30s. In fact, thanks to Woolly Hollow, and the work that U.S. Soil Conservation Service founder Hugh Bennett and his team did there, some of the techniques the SCS tried out during the Dust Bowl years turned into standard agricultural practice: crop rotation and terracing, for example. The staff will likely spare your kids the history lesson, though, in favor of activities like "sack races, watermelon-seed-spitting, bubble-gum-blowing and wheelbarrow races," as listed in a press release. You can catch crappie, bass, bream and catfish there, and between noon and 7 p.m., swimming and paddle-boating are free. If you'd prefer to check out the park by moonlight, there's a "Full Moon Kayak Tour" on Lake Bennett that starts at sunset Friday, June 9, for which you'll need to bring $5 for admission, your kayak and a headlamp or light device, and register by calling 501-679-2098.

click to enlarge 'MAMA WHO BORE ME:' Seven young men and women bring Duncan Sheik's vivid, confrontational score to the stage for The Studio Theatre's production of "Spring Awakening." - KATIE CHILDS
  • Katie Childs
  • 'MAMA WHO BORE ME:' Seven young men and women bring Duncan Sheik's vivid, confrontational score to the stage for The Studio Theatre's production of "Spring Awakening."



7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2:30 p.m. Sun., The Studio Theatre, $20-$25.

The Broadway musical that launched the careers of "Glee" stars Lea Michele, Jenna Ushkowitz and Jonathan Groff has been picked up as the next play in The Studio Theatre's season, a fittingly edgy predecessor to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," slated for August. "Spring Awakening" is an unlikely mash-up of pop rock and an 1891 tale of adolescent sexuality from German playwright Frank Wedekind, and it made a hell of a splash when it debuted in 2007. There's something unsettling and raw about teenagers grappling with questions of suicide and consent in late-19th century Germany when it's communicated with 21st century lingo. By the time the original cast performed as part of the 2007 Tony Awards ceremony (moments before it would be announced as the winner of Best Musical that year), much of the ceremony's audience knew "Awakening" composer Duncan Sheik's numbers by heart. With the backing band right there on stage as part of the cast, its young stars — Groff and Michele among them — leapt on and off of school chairs for "Mama Who Bore Me" and "The Bitch of Living" with just as much angst as that year's "Icky Thump" from The White Stripes, covering their mouths conspicuously for the more profanity-laden bits of a number called "Totally Fucked" instead of relying on the bleep censor to do it. It's a story of a bunch of kids developing violent anger they don't know how to manage and sexual desires (and body parts) they don't know what to do with, framed by a supporting cast of adults terrified by all the blossoming — and the blood. For this production, Rachel Caffey stars as Wendla and Payton Justice as Melchior. Olivia Stephens is choreographer, the music will be directed by Bob Bidewell, and Justin A. Pike directs.

click to enlarge JIM HERRINGTON
  • Jim Herrington



9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.

In an interview with New York Public Radio in 2013, John Paul Keith was asked about the title of his 2013 record, "Memphis Circa 3am." It was recorded under the direction of the late, great Roland Janes, a house guitarist at Sun Records for Jerry Lewis and Billy Lee Riley in the 1950s. "You've heard Roland Janes play guitar your whole life," Keith said. "You just didn't know it." That jump-and-jolt sound is all over "Memphis Circa 3am," particularly the opener, "You Really Ought To Be With Me" and "True Hard Money." Though either track could have been a B-side to "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," Keith's act is homage, but it's not retro for the sake of retro. He's a sharp lyricist and the founder and author of New Memphis Beat, a blog he launched last March to explore the "the resurgent art of analog recording" and the future of musicmaking in a town whose legacy includes giants like Sun, Stax, Royal and Ardent.

click to enlarge 'VILLE MENTALITY': Multiplatinum rapper J. Cole brings a pivotal new album to the Clear Channel Metroplex as part of his "4 Your Eyez Only" world tour. - ISAAC BREKKEN
  • Isaac Brekken
  • 'VILLE MENTALITY': Multiplatinum rapper J. Cole brings a pivotal new album to the Clear Channel Metroplex as part of his "4 Your Eyez Only" world tour.



8 p.m. Clear Channel Metroplex. $35.

About 35 minutes into a 48-minute documentary that aired on HBO in mid-April, self-taught piano player, Dreamville Records co-founder and multiplatinum rapper J. Cole pays a visit to his father's hometown: Jonesboro. Outside the E. Boone Watson Community Center, Cole shoots hoops with his dad and gets a history lesson on St. Paul Baptist Church — "the oldest black church in Jonesboro," his father says — and on a movement called "Respect," in which about 250 black parents petitioned the Jonesboro school board to begin hiring more teachers and administrators of color. The film marks a departure for Cole, putting him behind the camera instead of in front of its lens, literally (he co-directs with Scott Lazer) and metaphorically. "I felt like it would be mad powerful for black people to see black people talking to each other," he told The New York Times on April 14. "And you see a rapper who's considered one of the biggest in the game, just listening." J. Cole's never really gone for caricaturizing himself, but "For Your Eyez Only," vibrates on a slower, more domestic frequency than its dynamic predecessor, "2014 Forest Hills Drive," named after the address of Cole's childhood home in Fayetteville, N.C. (He's rapping about folding clothes this time instead of watching porn for sex tutorials, for example.) When J. Cole comes to the Metroplex Friday, he comes with a message sharpened into focus from his new roles as a husband and father, and by a lot of time spent "just listening" to people in places like Ferguson, Mo., about what it means to be black in the South in the year 2017.

  • Joshua Asante



9 p.m. South on Main.

Shaun Hartman describes his music alternatively as "punk rock Frank Sinatra" and "neo-swing," and that gives you a fair idea of what to expect at this South on Main show on Saturday night. Think less Squirrel Nut Zippers neo-swing, though, and more Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with pathos and ska guitars standing in for those muted trumpets. It's twisted detective music; hyper and electric, even as the lyrics take a turn for the dark — "I just knew you would be so pleased if I smile with all my teeth and let you watch me bleed/but now I'm over it/Is it worth a damn? I'm fuckin' over it/Is it even relevant?" He shares the bill with Osyrus Bolly, a seasoned spoken word poet (Foreign Tongues Poetry Troupe) who's been making art in Little Rock for over a decade. His 2015 "holiday" release "'Tis the Season to Be Bolly" vacillated between showcasing his downtuned, densely constructed rhymes ("Syrup Sandwich Manifesto") and his pinot noir croon ("Spin Me Round"). For some context, check out his YouTube series, "Bolly Speaks," in which he riffs on everything from Kendrick Lamar to the continuing erasure of Native American identities.

click to enlarge KELLY HICKS
  • Kelly Hicks



10 a.m. Various studios. Free.

In the ultimate antidote to detachment between art and its receiver, a group of painters, potters, violinmakers, actors and even a Scottish country dance instructor will participate in Little Rock's Arts + Culture Commission's first-ever Open Studios exhibition, inviting you into their homes and studios to see what exactly it is they do and where they do it. Here's the easiest way to build an art tour of your own design: First, stop by the Welcome Booth in the Creative Corridor at 108 W. Sixth St., in front of the Matt McLeod Fine Art gallery Saturday morning. There, you can grab some complimentary doughnuts and coffee while you choose some studios to visit, two of which will be right there in front of you: McLeod's sunny gallery and the adjacent Arkansas Repertory Theatre Education Annex. As you drift around the route, you'll know you're in the right place when you see the Open Studios sign displayed outside. There are some artists participating who weren't able to open their physical studios this time around, but will set up in an alternative space at the West Central Community Center at 8616 Colonel Glenn Road. If you want a sneak peek, visit littlerock.gov and download the Open Studios map.

click to enlarge Cindy Herron-Braggs, Terry Ellis and Rhona Bennett of En Vogue
  • Cindy Herron-Braggs, Terry Ellis and Rhona Bennett of En Vogue



5 p.m. First Security Amphitheater. $42-$127.

Plenty of new jack swing pioneers are still swinging, so if the Morris Day and The Time show at Riverfest left you spinning "Poison" and "I Want Her" on Spotify (or better yet, on YouTube, where you can let Keith Sweat's asymmetrical baggy sweater usher in a litany of free association memories. Slouch socks with heels! Final Fantasy! Banana clips!), there's Funk Fest. Bell Biv Devoe, SWV, En Vogue and "OK, party people in the house, you're about to witness something you've never witnessed before — yes, it's the original human beatbox, Doug E. Fresh." DJ Traci Steele hosts with comedian JJ and DJ Dr. Doom, and you can nab tickets at Ugly Mike's Records, Uncle T's Food Mart or at funkfesttour.com.

  • Artist-in-Motion Photography



8:30 p.m. Kings Live Music, Conway. $5.

With the closing of The Afterthought at the corner of Kavanaugh and Beechwood, you may be getting antsy for some instrumental jazz that's cooler than the other side of the pillow. So check out this little trio from Fort Smith. Logan Dooly hangs low-key but steady on the bass, and percussionist Jeremy Trobaugh follows suit, allowing keyboardist Nick McFarland to spin some mixed-time magic with a Roland and a Nord on a double keyboard stand. Their February 2016 EP "ETEP" is a wordless myriad; "Clockwork Jade" sounds like Dave Brubeck w rote a score for a chill, free-roam video game, and "Street Magic" is a straight dose of cityscape prismed through a windshield spattered with fat raindrops — while the late great Bob Parlocha is reeling off detailed liner notes from memory, maybe.

click to enlarge AUSTIN YOUNG
  • Austin Young



8 p.m. Club Sway. $25-$30.

"Once upon a time there was a little dead girl dug up from the corn fields of Newton, Iowa. She was discovered by a much more gorgeous, blacker, beautiful, famous drag queen, and her career took off. ...You better burn, witch!" That's the intro to the opening track on Sharon Needles' debut album "PG-13," spoken by RuPaul, the aforementioned discoverer of Needle's "stupid genius" (Needles' words). The video for the song features Needles parading through the streets in her signature ghoulish threads with her crew to a club, bashing a bouncer over the head with a bottle of booze when he tries to enforce the dictums outlined on a metal sign that reads "No Fats, No Fems, No Freaks." Halloween is coming a little early this year, and here's hoping the self-described "PBR princess" trots out any of the following: the slow jam "Dead Dandelion," her take on Peg Bundy, fake blood.

click to enlarge 'COME DO NOTHING': Pianist and vocalist Avery Sunshine lands at the Rev Room Sunday evening with her band, The Trustees, featuring her husband, Dana "Big Dane" Johnson, on guitar. - DEREK BLANKS
  • Derek Blanks
  • 'COME DO NOTHING': Pianist and vocalist Avery Sunshine lands at the Rev Room Sunday evening with her band, The Trustees, featuring her husband, Dana "Big Dane" Johnson, on guitar.



7 p.m. Revolution. $35.

Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson are fans of Avery Sunshine, and you very well might be, too, after you hear her lay down the law in "Come Do Nothing," a tight number in two keys peppered with references to looking up an ex's new lover on Facebook, or "Used Car," an ode to second marriages. In "The Ice Cream Song," she plays keys with one hand and narrates/orchestrates with the other, listing all the things she'd give up for the love of a good partner in life — as she confesses later in the session, her husband and guitarist Dana "Big Dane" Johnson. As evidenced in her most recent video, a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, she's got poise in spades, and she's so in command of her craft that she puts the audience at ease, too. If Jill Scott or Cecile McLorin Salvant are on your frequently playeds, check out this early Sunday show.

click to enlarge OLLIE ALEXANDER
  • Ollie Alexander



8 p.m. South on Main. $10.

The first thing you'll probably hear about Sweet Crude is that the band sings in both English and Louisiana French. At a house party in their native New Orleans, the bandmembers are filmed performing "Super Vilaine" in a space barely big enough to fit the seven of them — over half of whom play drums at some point during the song, including multiple toms and a cone stack that looks like a set of antique blossom bells. The song swings back and forth between languages, and between anthemic stadium-style choruses and verses in English, giving their bilingual mission statement in two lines: "With our tongues cut in two, we're gonna do what we can do." Check them out now, before you have to pay a lot more to see them in a far less intimate setting. The inimitable Dazz & Brie open the show with their endlessly capable backing band, The Emotionalz.

click to enlarge 'WE CAN DO THIS ALL NIGHT': Milwaukee's GGOOLLDD spin their hazy, bass-heavy dance tunes at Stickyz Wednesday night.
  • 'WE CAN DO THIS ALL NIGHT': Milwaukee's GGOOLLDD spin their hazy, bass-heavy dance tunes at Stickyz Wednesday night.



8 p.m. Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack. $8.

Singer Margaret Butler wasn't always a singer — for a while, as the bio section on her website details, she was living as a starving art school graduate in Portland, Ore., where she lived on pumpkins her friends stole for her from The Home Depot. "You saute them down and add lots of black pepper and curry powder and soy sauce," she recalled. She ended up writing a song called "Gold" with some music-minded comrades, decided to name the band after that song (with the letters doubled, lest it be relegated to the un-Google-able), and started churning out breathy, pulsating dance tracks like "Dance Through the Winter" and "Undercovers." Go for Butler's glittery superhero capes, stay for the bass drops.




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