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Showcase rolls on

Those who have wished the Arkansas Times would publish daily have a least some semblance of that with our daily-updated web log (www.arkansasblog.com). It was on the Times blog this weekend where you first could have read that Michael Marion, Alltel Arena’s general manager, was named the nation’s Facility Executive of the Year by Pollstar at its annual concert industry awards in Los Angeles. Marion shared the winners’ stage with such notables as Prince, who won for Pollstar’s Major Tour of the Year. Singer Josh Groban was Best New Touring Artist. Comedian Lewis Black was host of the awards banquet. Kudos to Marion, who has made Little Rock a concert stop for some of the biggest names in the business since Alltel Arena opened in October 1999, and whose efforts have made Memphis worry about not being a major concert market anymore. Such an award might make Marion an even more attractive hire for a large arena elsewhere -– and he has gotten overtures in recent years -– but Marion says he’s happy in Central Arkansas. “My family and I like where we are and we plan on staying,” Marion said. Alltel also received a third-place award for its poster that promoted last June’s Eric Clapton concert, a category that drew 200 entrants. “The artist is a friend of mine who is an art professor at Mississippi State,” Marion said. “She did all my concert posters during my years there.” The Arkansas Times’ much-improved website has allowed us to bring the news, and now entertainment, to our readers in light-speed fashion lately with “breaking news” bulletins via e-mail, but you have to be signed up to receive them. There is a spot to do so on the main website, www.arktimes.com, to receive both news and a weekly “Jim’s Tips” of entertainment notes that arrives every Wednesday evening. I cover the main events and music shows that we feature in the paper on Thursdays, plus a look at the new movies and a weekend quick-glance calendar. I think it’s a feature you’ll love, if you haven’t checked it out already. No one could recall anything like the scoring result we saw in last week’s Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase: A single point separated three bands, two that tied for second and one that advanced to the Showcase finals with that one-point victory. I mean, what are the odds? Well, and pardon the corn, but it was the Odds, a pop-rock-and-jam band from Fayetteville, that had the winning formula. But the jazz-jam influenced Frup, from Arkadelphia, and the local jam-rock band FreeVerse impressed. In recent years, because of the depth of the 16 semifinalists, we’ve mulled over adding a fifth, wild-card entry into the Showcase finals, and this thought arose again last week after Wildwood’s strong showing in finishing second to Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain in Showcase Week 1, then following that up by winning the Arkansas Acoustic Showdown in Conway two nights later. And now, we have two bands, the Frup and FreeVerse, who on any other night could have won and advanced. That’s the kind of shows we’re seeing at Juanita’s now — full of talent. Don’t miss this week’s Showcase, which will be the most diverse lineup of the four semifinals, ranging from country to hip-hop to heavy rock. The show starts at 9 p.m. with Highway 5, a Sherwood group that named itself after the highway where three of the band’s friends were killed in a car accident last year at its intersection with Highway 89 (a stop light has since finally been installed at the crossing). Also on the bill are Stone Mountain, an acoustic duo from Conway that, at least on its demo CD, has a rock style similar to Barenaked Ladies; DJ Dirtbag, a hip-hop performer; and Further Down, a solid hard-rock outfit from Jonesboro that made last year’s semifinals. Admission is $5 for ages 18 and up. The Showcase is co-sponsored by KMJX-FM, Magic 105, and Blue Chair Studio, Trio’s Restaurant, Riverfest, the Peabody-Little Rock, Red Bull and more are providing prizes to the winner, which will be determined Friday, March 4. Next week’s fourth and last semifinal features 30 Percent Grey, Beau Nixon and the Big Machine, the Boswells and Temper Effect. The one question sportswriters failed to ask Houston Nutt in his national letter-of-intent signing day was whether it should be a concern that 11 of his 24 signees missed multiple games, if not entire schedules, during their senior high seasons due to injury. Most of these, according to the bios of the recent signees, were leg injuries. A couple of other players missed significant time as juniors but came back to play their senior years.
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