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Laverne Cox comes to Fayetteville 

And much more.

click to enlarge SOUTHERN GOTHIC: Amythyst Kiah takes her expansive voice and bluegrass propers to the stage at South on Main as part of Oxford American's 2018-19 Americana series. - RANDY GENTRY
  • Randy Gentry
  • SOUTHERN GOTHIC: Amythyst Kiah takes her expansive voice and bluegrass propers to the stage at South on Main as part of Oxford American's 2018-19 Americana series.

THURSDAY 9/27

AMYTHYST KIAH

8 p.m. South on Main. $25-$32.

I'll bet you night owls have heard a lot of singers this year, and I'll bet you anything you'll count Amythyst Kiah's contralto among your favorites if you're at this show, part of Oxford American's 2018-19 Americana series. A haunting Mack truck of a voice with the delicate handling of a Corvette, Kiah is scholarly but never pedagogical, taking on storied blues laments, her own "Southern Gothic folk" tunes and historic gems from the likes of Vera Hall and B.F. Shelton, often adapted from versions unearthed by folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. As a student of Bluegrass and Old-Time Country Music Studies at East Tennessee State University, Kiah discovered the music of future peers, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the ways in which the story of bluegrass and Old Time music isn't one that belongs only to white people. "Once I read about the history of this music and how blacks and whites both played this music," Kiah told The Bluegrass Situation in 2016, "that this is something that is integrally a hybrid — I was like, 'Well, hell, I have just as much right to be here as anyone else!'" Then again, anyone who's taken in "Myth" or Kiah's arrangement of "Darling Cora" wouldn't have questioned that right, anyway. This show is for fans of Rhiannon Giddens, Tracy Chapman and Jimmie Rodgers. SS

click to enlarge James Fallows
  • James Fallows

THURSDAY 9/27

'OUR TOWNS'

6:30 p.m. Sturgis Hall, Clinton Presidential Center. Free.

Come listen, for free, to the story of a couple who boarded their single-engine propeller plane for repeat, intermittent visits to small towns across America — places like Guymon, Okla.; St. Marys, Ga.; and Chester, Mont. James Fallows, an instrument-rated private pilot, national correspondent for The Atlantic and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, trades chapters with his wife, Deborah — a linguist, writer and former assistant dean at Georgetown University — in describing those small-town encounters, the results of which make up "Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America." The pair hits up libraries, Y.M.C.A.'s, schools and breweries, dodging crop dusters and skydivers to ask questions about flyover country that have, since the 2016 presidential election, become a mainstay of political temperature-taking in rural America. Despite the Fallows' connection to political reporting, though, their findings are not inherently partisan, or even political at all, really. At this lecture, James Fallows speaks about those encounters for the Central Arkansas Library System's J.N. Heiskell Distinguished Lecture for journalism, followed by a book signing. (Harvard Magazine printed a photo titled "White River, Arkansas" in its article about the Fallows' journey; wonder whether their window seat observations held true to the real deal?) Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling 683-5239. SS

click to enlarge Rodney Crowell - DAVID MCCLISTER
  • David McClister
  • Rodney Crowell

FRIDAY 9/28-SATURDAY 9/29

DEPOT DAYS

5:30 p.m. Fri., 9:30 a.m. Sat. Front Street, downtown Newport. Free.

Newport is doing it up right with its free Depot Days Music Festival, most clearly through bringing to Jackson County headliner Rodney Crowell, who was first brought to the public eye by Jerry Reed in the 1970s, who penned pithy numbers like "I Ain't Living Long Like This," "'Til I Gain Control Again," and "Shame On The Moon," and who produced then-wife Roseanne Cash's records before his five consecutive country No. 1 hits from his goldmine album "Diamonds & Dirt" in the late 1980s. But since then, Crowell has become something even bigger and better: a keeper of the flame of Americana music. A fall night in the Delta to see one of the curators of this country's sound? You'd be crazy for leavin.' Crowell's not all, though; Cate Brothers offshoot Earl & Them will cap off the festivities Friday evening with a set at 9 p.m., preceded by blues guitarist Larry McCray, 7:20 p.m., and The Arkansas Brothers, 6 p.m. And before Crowell's set Saturday evening are the Lockhouse Orchestra, 7:30 p.m.; Elvis tribute artist Cody Slaughter, 6:15 p.m.; The Legendary Pacers paying tribute to their late frontman, Newport's own Sonny Burgess, 4:15 p.m.; and more. Newport's Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67 Museum will be open for visits between noon and 4 p.m., and a fireworks show wraps up the festival Saturday night. See depotdays.org for more. SK

click to enlarge SHOUTIN' IN KEY: Taj Mahal gives a concert at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View Friday night. - JAY BLAKESBERG
  • Jay Blakesberg
  • SHOUTIN' IN KEY: Taj Mahal gives a concert at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View Friday night.

FRIDAY 9/28

TAJ MAHAL TRIO

7 p.m. Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View. $30-$40.

Born in and during the Harlem Renaissance, multi-instrumentalist and multiple Grammy winner Taj Mahal has brought a triple threat of fandom, musicianship and academia to blues over the decades, incorporating all its geographic musical strains into his own sound. Along the way, he's become an elder statesman of the blues himself; his tour of Arkansas colleges in the early 1990s is still talked about, and the 76-year-old continues to tour at a breakneck pace, dropping in to Lincoln Center to record with Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis, and dropping into the set of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" to sit in with The Roots. Likewise, this performance at the Ozark Folk Center on a fall Friday in Mountain View sounds like one of those shows people will find reason to mention they attended for years to come. See ozarkfolkcenter.ticketleap.com for tickets. SK

click to enlarge SONIC BRUTARIANS: Lydia Lunch Retrovirus takes the stage at Four Quarter Bar Friday night.
  • SONIC BRUTARIANS: Lydia Lunch Retrovirus takes the stage at Four Quarter Bar Friday night.

FRIDAY 9/28

LYDIA LUNCH RETROVIRUS

9 p.m. Four Quarter Bar. $10.

If, as Plato says, it is "the task of the enlightened not only to ascend to learning and to see the good but to be willing to descend again to those prisoners and to share their troubles and their honors, whether they are worth having or not," I'm calling Lydia Lunch a philosopher queen. In interviews about her earlier work with "no wave" pioneers Teenage Jesus, her current project Retrovirus, her absconding to Barcelona when George W. won a second term in 2004 and her subsequent return to New York, Lunch comes across less as someone who's pursued an artistic life than she does someone who was drafted for it, assigned some mandatory lifelong duty in psycho-sexual rabble-rousing with a concentration in underground art. Eschewing management or PR representation for a self-directed creative path that includes collaborations with Thurston Moore, Nick Cave, Exene Cervenka and other contrarians, Lunch's resume spans from punk rock to photography, to spoken word experimentalism, to film. She's a noise rock heroine for the timid and the pissed-off alike — a transgressive, contentious voice that weaponizes words in a war on artifice. The Retrovirus, an assembly that features Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore), avant-garde jazz bassist Tim Dahl and composer/guitarist Walter Weasel (The Flying Luttenbachers) self-describes as "an all-star cast of sonic brutarians in a no-holds-barred survey of [Lunch's] musical output from 1977 to the present." Lunch told the Tom Tom Mag in 2017 that she preferred playing in intimate venues, saying, "I like to be able to look into people's eyes," so she should be right in her element at Four Quarter Bar. Mouton and Listen Sister open the show. SS

click to enlarge Arkansas Symphony Orchestra - KELLY HICKS
  • Kelly Hicks
  • Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

SATURDAY 9/29-SUNDAY 9/30

ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: 'SORCERER'S APPRENTICE'

7:30 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. $16-$68.

Thank Paul Dukas if you're a fan of Disney's "Fantasia"; his 1897 scherzo — inspired by a Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poem written a century before — was the film's sole catalyst. Only after Walt Disney's chance meeting in a Los Angeles restaurant with conductor Leopold Stokowski was the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" Mickey Mouse short slated for expansion into a full-length feature film, with a redesigned Mickey at the center, one who was, as Jay Gabler says for yourclassical.org, "more akin to a human child and less like a fishing bobber." The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opens its season, scheduled to be Maestro Philip Mann's last with the ASO, with this colorful Dukas vignette. Next up: Rockstar pianist David Fung takes the bench to play a beast of a piano piece: Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466. The concert closes with Igor Stravinsky's whimsical ballet burlesque "Petrushka," of which Stravinsky wrote, "I had in my mind a distinct picture of a puppet, suddenly endowed with life, exasperating the patience of the orchestra with diabolical cascades of arpeggios. The orchestra in turn retaliates with menacing trumpet blasts." And, lest you leave the table without your fair portion of Mozart, check out the Tuesday night (Oct. 3) concert at the Clinton Presidential Center's Great Hall, the opening to the ASO's River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series. You'll be treated to a rendition of Mozart's String Quartet in A Minor, as well as Schumann's Clarinet Quintet in A Major and a wildly jaunty 2012 piece from American composer Kenji Bunch called "26.2," in which Bunch sets his experience running the New York City Marathon for a horn and string trio. See arkansassymphony.org for tickets. SS

click to enlarge Club Sway
  • Club Sway

SATURDAY 9/29

YONCE

9 p.m. Sway.

When you're so famous your mononym needs a mononym, you shorten it some more and gay clubs throw parties for your birthday: "And why you think ya keep my name rollin' off your tongue/'Cause when you want a smash, I'll just write another one/I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker/Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor." Club Sway is summoning the Beyhive for a Beyonce-themed throwdown with tunes from DJ PorterHouse, a Beyonce costume contest and more. Happy hour begins at 9 p.m. SS

click to enlarge AIN'T I A WOMAN: TV star and trans activist Laverne Cox gives a lecture titled "Ain't I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood" at the Fayetteville Town Center Wednesday evening.
  • AIN'T I A WOMAN: TV star and trans activist Laverne Cox gives a lecture titled "Ain't I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood" at the Fayetteville Town Center Wednesday evening.

WEDNESDAY 10/3

LAVERNE COX

7 p.m. Fayetteville Town Center. Free.

Mobile, Ala., native, Emmy Award-winning actress and trans trailblazer Laverne Cox is kicking off the 2018-19 Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a talk titled "Ain't I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood." Anyone who fell in love with her as the immovable Sophia Burset on Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" (before the show's writing went swiftly south, probably) can attest to her power as a character creator, and anyone who watched her field Katie Couric's cringeworthy inquiries about surgery can attest to her gracious ability to take a potentially dismal situation and use it as a platform to talk about the things that really matter: the disproportionate rate at which trans women are murdered, for example, or discriminated against in the workplace. In conjunction with Cox's visit is a screening of "Free Cece!," the documentary Cox executive produced to tell the story of CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman incarcerated in a men's prison after accepting a plea bargain for second-degree manslaughter. That airs at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the University of Arkansas School of Law (1045 W. Maple St.), with McDonald and fellow trans activists Major Griffin-Gracy and Diego Barrera in attendance, as well as UA assistant professor of law Jordan Blair Woods. Count on being impacted by Cox's story, and count on a crowd; the lecture is free to attend, but you'll need to reserve a ticket at osa.uark.edu. SS

click to enlarge Squirrel Nut Zippers
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers

WEDNESDAY 10/3

SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS

8 p.m. Rev Room. $30-$35.

Squirrel Nut Zippers helped create, and rode, the swing revival of the 1990s. SNZ was always deeper and smarter than the scene as a whole — but then, you could say that for pretty much any project involving Clarksdale, Miss., native and Zipper mastermind Jimbo Mathus. The Zippers did fine for themselves — TV appearances, a platinum album, the radio tenacity of 1996 earworm "Hell." (However, an unjust world cast Royal Crown Revue in the 1994 movie "The Mask," and put Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show with Stevie Wonder.) After a very unamicable split at century's turn, Squirrel Nut Zippers reformed again in 2016 with Mathus and some new members to promote the 20th anniversary of the band's watershed LP, "Hot." Squirrel Nut Zippers are returning again to Central Arkansas, and promoting a new album, "Beasts of Burgundy" — the band's first in years. SK

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