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Mary Gauthier at White Water Tavern 

THURSDAY 5/23

MARY GAUTHIER

9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $20.

I've listened to and loved plenty of sadly beautiful music in my time: Leonard Cohen, Cat Power, Nick Drake, Townes Van Zandt, Jackson C. Frank. All of those folks have made timeless records that have resonated on a deep emotional level. I have never been as emotionally wrecked as I was after listening to Mary Gauthier's 2007 album "Between Daylight and Dark." I fired the album up on the ol' Spotify, thinking, "OK, what's up next? Acclaimed folk singer/songwriter I've never listened to before. I'll check out some of her tunes, play a few of them from throughout her catalog and write up a To-Do. No biggie." What I heard stopped me from doing anything else other than listening and trying to keep my eyes from welling up, which had become a very tall order by the time the final strains of the last song, "Thanksgiving," were ringing out. I listened to the entire album start-to-finish. The playing is masterful, the instrumentation full and rich but never overshadowing Gauthier's extraordinary voice, which is smoky and smoldering one moment, clear and high the next. And of course, the songs are just devastating. I started to listen to Gauthier's 2010 album "The Foundling," which has to be her most personal work. But by the time I got to the second song, "Mama Here, Mama Gone," it was frankly just too much to take. It's not maudlin, it's neither self-pitying nor over-the-top nor anything else that might diminish its power and thus make it easier to withstand. It's a simple, beautiful, utterly devastating song that becomes truly wrenching if you know Gauthier's backstory, of her troubled upbringing and how she finally made contact with her birth mother later only to be denied a meeting. But Gauthier never wallows in misery. She faces down some of the most painful feelings imaginable with honesty and grace. A lot of very good singer/songwriters have come through in the last few years. Very few have been close to the stature of Mary Gauthier. I believe she deserves to be counted among the ranks of the great. This show is not to be missed. Winnipeg native Scott Nolan opens the all-ages show.

THURSDAY 5/23

FLOWING ON THE RIVER

5:30 p.m. River Market Pavilions. $35.

This looks to be a fine way to get yourself in the Riverfest spirit: A wine and craft beer tasting the night before things kick off. You can mill about the River Market Pavilions and sample from an array of beverages while experts, including Bruce Cochran of Custom Beverage, fill you in on all of the interesting tidbits and tasting notes of each beverage and their respective vintners and brewers. And what would a booze tasting be without some delectable nosh to accompany it? Providing hors d'oeuvres will be Blue Coast Burrito, Your Mama's Good Food, Bray Gourmet, Brenda J. Majors Catering, Palette Catering, Newk's Express Cafe, Boscos, Cabot Cafe and Cake Corner, Sufficient Grounds Cafe, Cheers in the Heights and J&M Foods. FreeVerse Duo provides the live musical entertainment. Also of note, this event is a fundraiser for Argenta Community Theater's upcoming ACTing Up Summer Camp, which will provide students in grades K-8 with the opportunity to learn about stagecraft, theater, film and filmmaking. There are a small number of scholarships available. Find out more at ArgentaCommunityTheater.com.

FRIDAY 5/24

MAD NOMAD

9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.

Mad Nomad is one of the newer entries on the Little Rock musicscape, having formed in September. But they're not exactly taking the leisurely route, having already finished up their first full-length, the nine-song "Black Out," available at this album-release show. The group plays an amped-up sort of indie rock that's informed by the classics (Replacements, Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr.) and unabashedly guitar-centric. They remind me a bit of the Springsteen-gone-punk sounds of Against Me! circa "New Wave." Most of the tunes are of the fist-pumping, triumphant sort, but they slow down the pace a bit on the Southern-rock-riffing "Me Tarzan, You Jane" and they break out the acoustic guitars on the wistful "When You Were Here." The band includes Joe Holland, Jacob Mahan, Jesse Bell, Adam Hogg and Chris Honea. Hogg's piano playing adds some nice texture to the guitar squall. The album, good on its own merits for sure, is also a promising indicator of things to come. Good-time party-rockers Booyah! Dad and The Bootheel of Springfield, Mo., will open the show.

SATURDAY 5/25

7TH STREET UNDERGROUND FESTIVAL

1 p.m. 7th Street. $10.

Little Rock's 7th Street has long held a special place in the city's cultural landscape. Within a few blocks of each other, you've got The Weekend Theater, 7th Street Tattoos, Art Outfitters and Vino's, all of which qualify as institutions at this point. So what better way to celebrate the spirited artistic hub than with an annual festival featuring art, music, food, beer and more? An outdoor stage in the lot just east of 7th Street Tattoos will host a raft of bands and other entertainment, including magic tricks, sideshows, fire spinners, spoken word performances and music from Austin Jones and Smooth Spirit, Itinerant Locals, Go Fast!, Jab Jab Suckerpunch, Peckerwolf and This Holy House. Inside Vino's, they'll be screening episodes of "The Ren & Stimpy Show" and other cartoons from 5-9 p.m., followed by live music from Flameing Daeth Fearies, Sam Walker, Neon Skin and Flint Eastwood. There will be beer, margaritas and carnival food vendors in the lot next to 7th Street Tattoos and Vino's, naturally, will be serving up beer, wine, pizza, sandwiches and more.

SATURDAY 5/25

COLLECTIVE SOUL

8 p.m. Timberwood Amphitheater. $50-$60.

Magic Springs gets the live music rolling at Timberwood Amphitheater with a concert from erstwhile bubble-grunge megastars Collective Soul. The Georgia quartet has kept things rolling all these years. After splitting with Atlantic Records back in 2001, after several hits and millions of units sold, Collective Soul came back in 2004 with "Youth," which is a real head-scratcher for anybody who hadn't thought about the band since "Shine" was blasting out of car stereos all over the country long about 1994. No lie: it sounds a hell of a lot like Bowie singing for, say, Supergrass (for real, singer Ed Roland sounds eerily similar to the Thin White Duke at times — eerily similar). They dialed the power-pop/glam sound back a bit on subsequent albums, but Collective Soul is clearly a band that is much more than a one-hit-wonder grunge-lite nostalgia act. As with all the Timberwood concerts, the show is free with admission or $5-$10 for reserved seating. In other Magic Springs news: At 10 a.m., the park hosts a grand opening ceremony for its newest attraction, the four-story water complex Splash Island. Radio Disney star Tiffany Thornton will be there.

TUESDAY 5/28

VINO'S PICTURE SHOW: 'A CLOCKWORK ORANGE'

7:30 p.m. Vino's. Free.

Stanley Kubrick's 1971 classic "A Clockwork Orange" is one of those works that stands out among its contemporaries and even among its creator's massively influential oeuvre. The film left an indelible mark on the culture not only through the philosophical quandaries it raised, but also via the sinister otherworldliness of the characters, the stunning visual qualities of Kubrick's dystopian vision and the groundbreaking soundtrack by the pioneering electronic musician Wendy Carlos. Based on Anthony Burgess' 1962 novel, it provoked enormous controversy on release, on account of its brutal violence, which is still shocking more than four decades later. The film was censored in the U.S. and banned in the U.K. for decades. Though it was a hit with audiences and many critics, the film had notable detractors upon release (Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert among them) and does now as well. It's definitely not for everybody, but any film buffs who haven't watched "A Clockwork Orange" owe it to themselves to see it.

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