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"Night of the Living Dead" at Ron Robinson Theater 

Also, Faulkner Chamber Music Festival, Big Piph's "Celebrate" Release Party, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, "Crown: The Final Curtain Call," Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies and more

click to enlarge Buster Keaton in "The General"
  • Buster Keaton in "The General"

FRIDAY 7/28

'ORGAN ... PLUS: A UNIQUE MUSICAL EVENT'

7:30 p.m. St. James United Methodist Church. Free.

Creating a fantastic fugue of highbrow classicism and popular culture, St. James United Methodist Church presents this free musical event for the community. Leading is special guest Tom Trenney, minister of music at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Neb., and the first organist to be awarded first prize and audience prize in the American Guild of Organists' National Competition in Organ Improvisation in 2006. A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music, Trenney, who's performed in various venues across the country from California to Maine, will host a sing-a-long as well as accompany a silent film starring Buster Keaton. HS

click to enlarge HIGH FASHION TRAP: Dazz & Brie, winners of the 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, perform at "Crown: The Final Curtain Call," a party and fashion show at The Castle on Stagecoach. - JOHN DAVID PITTMAN
  • John David Pittman
  • HIGH FASHION TRAP: Dazz & Brie, winners of the 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, perform at "Crown: The Final Curtain Call," a party and fashion show at The Castle on Stagecoach.

SATURDAY 7/29

'CROWN: THE FINAL CURTAIN CALL'

3 p.m. The Castle on Stagecoach. $25-$45.

If "fancy day party" has a sadly empty checkbox next to it on your summer checklist, here's your chance. Don't blow it. DJ Nic Hudson is spinning tunes for a "high fashion trap" runway show at The Castle — a picturesque spot for weddings and Disney-themed "princess tea parties" that bills itself proudly as "Arkansas's Only Castle Venue." Organizers have arranged for a red carpet hosted by Jas Chyrel and a runway show (7:30 p.m.) hosted by Tap The Connector and Kaylon Blake, ripe for showing off your take on the theme. (Asked what to wear, organizer Gerald Thomas characterized "high fashion trap" as "a pair of ripped denim from Acne" and "an Adidas shirt with some Stan Smith Adidas.") Tickets include dinner from On the Border and other food vendors; popcorn; snow cones; and three complimentary drinks for ticketgoers, including an adult beverage called "trap punch," which Thomas told us is made up of "all those bad, inexpensive drinks we drank in college that weren't good for us but got the job done." And, if all that leaves you straddling the fence, the winners of the 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase are performing, and hearing Dazz & Brie's "Concept" in a castle is probably the best evidence we have right now that living in Little Rock can be a bowl of cherries sometimes. SS

click to enlarge RED DIRT COUNTRY: Jason Boland and his band The Stragglers land at the Rev Room on Friday night. - MARSHALL FOSTER
  • Marshall Foster
  • RED DIRT COUNTRY: Jason Boland and his band The Stragglers land at the Rev Room on Friday night.

FRIDAY 7/28

JASON BOLAND & THE STRAGGLERS

9 p.m. Rev Room. $15.

Jason Boland & The Stragglers have been doing the "red dirt" country thing a long time. Their debut, "Pearl Snaps," came out in 1998, and since then the band's worked with Shooter Jennings and Dwight Yoakam churning out honky-tonk along the lines of Turnpike Troubadours and Cross Canadian Ragweed. In an interview last September with guitarist blog "Pedal of the Day," Boland was asked how he got into music. Referencing the 1986 film "Crossroads," he responded with characteristic deference: "I figured if Ralph Macchio could cut heads with Steve Vai, so could I." The Stragglers' last album came out on the Thirty Tigers label in 2015, and they're still touring on the popularity of button-pushers like "Fat and Merry" and "Christmas in Huntsville," a narrative about injustice in the criminal justice system: "They ask if I have anything to say/As I think of the letter they brought me yesterday/From the mother of the man I didn't kill/I hope you burn in hell on this Christmas in Huntsville." Count Jason Boland & The Stragglers among groups who will be "red dirt" when it's not cool anymore, making Waylon-style cultural commentary with workmanship and nuance, cleverly disguised in radio-ready pedal steel riffs. SS

click to enlarge 23899861173_2e884ef157_k.jpg

SATURDAY 7/29

THE REP'S COSTUME AND PROP SALE

9 a.m.-noon, Arkansas Repertory Theatre lobby. Free.

As a child, I had elaborate Halloween costumes. I was the caterpillar from "Alice in Wonderland" and a slice of cheese-less pizza (I'm lactose intolerant). Somewhere in my teenage years, I grew lame and quit dressing up and haven't really recovered. But I have a small desire to go big at some not-too-distant Halloween party. Also, I have young children who dress up in robes and capes and masks nearly every day of their lives. If you relate to any part of that, the Rep's annual Costume and Prop Sale could be just the ticket for you or your less-lame children. The theater's costume and prop shops will have items from "Peter and the Starcatcher" (including mermaid costumes!), "Beauty and the Beast" and "Elf" on sale. Cash, check and cards will be accepted. LM

click to enlarge ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & TOURISM
  • Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

SATURDAY 7/29

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CARDBOARD BOAT RACES

10 a.m. Sandy Beach, Greers Ferry Lake, Heber Springs.

Too anchored to head to an America's Cup location? Not fancy enough to attend a local regatta? Try an appropriately Arkansas alternative: the 31st Annual World Championship Cardboard Boat Races. Boat registration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 29, at Sandy Beach. This year's theme is DC vs. Marvel: Boat engineers are encouraged to show their creativity by designing vessels that are perfect incarnations of their favorite comics. The first heat of races begins at 10 a.m., with a second heat just after. Supposedly, the Second Annual Grand Finale Race comes just after that, but how can a cardboard boat survive more than a few seconds, much less two full heats? But the awards! The Pride of the Fleet prize goes to the boat that best combines innovative engineering with artistic design, and the Captain's Award goes to the team with the greatest spirit and crowd involvement. The Titanic Award — reserved for the boat with the most dramatic sinking — might be the hardest of all to bestow. When it's all over, and the luckily biodegradable cardboard sits soaking at the bottom of Greers Ferry, you can enjoy a children's treasure dig, the World Championship Watermelon Eating Contest and, much later in the day, the Rock the Dock Concert Series featuring Stillwater Hardy, at the Dam Site Marina. You're even allowed to listen to this free music from your boat — though you might want to sit in one made of something other than a paper product. HS

click to enlarge 'CELEBRATE': Big Piph's final album gets a release party this Saturday at the Rev Room, with Faron Rashelle & The Kosher Sound, DJ Code Red, Virghost and host Sean Fresh. - MATT WHITE
  • Matt White
  • 'CELEBRATE': Big Piph's final album gets a release party this Saturday at the Rev Room, with Faron Rashelle & The Kosher Sound, DJ Code Red, Virghost and host Sean Fresh.

SATURDAY 7/29

'CELEBRATE' RELEASE PARTY

10 p.m. Revolution Room. $15.

A teaser video for the next Big Piph (Chane "Epiphany" Morrow) album, "Celebrate," is a time-traveling montage of people dancing, put together by Piph's go-to videographer, Kenneth Bell. There's a baby shakin' it, a grandma, pallbearers dressed in white with a princely coffin doing a stylish about-face, some Soul Train revelry. Then, some familiar faces pop out: Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Rosie Perez. Barack Obama. Dr. Cornell West. When I asked Big Piph about the inspiration for those faces, he eschewed the idea that it was a way for people involved in civil rights struggles to cope with adversity. "It wasn't like, this is how you're coping and how you survive. This is just another shade of who you are," he said. It's Piph's self-declared "final album," and one he says he was inspired by the idea that people can resist being defined by the struggles in which they're engaged, and that those best equipped to make a difference are whole and well-rounded, not one-dimensional. Speaking of making a difference, the rapper and emcee is headed to Myanmar (formerly Burma) as part of a program called Next Level, a program of the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that, through hip-hop, seeks to engage "underserved communities in six countries around the world and uses artistic collaboration and social engagement to enhance people-to-people diplomacy, especially among young audiences," as the program's website states. For this release concert, Big Piph is joined by Faron Rashelle & The Kosher Sound, DJ Code Red, Virghost and host Sean Fresh. SS

click to enlarge night-.jpg

TUESDAY 8/1

'NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD'

6 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $2.

George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" premiered in October 1968, just before the Motion Picture Association of America replaced a selectively enforced Production Code — the so-called "Hays Code" — with a rating system like the one we use today. The last lines of Roger Ebert's 1969 review of the film read as follows: "I supposed the idea was to make a fast buck before movies like this are off-limits to children. Maybe that's why 'Night of the Living Dead' was scheduled for the lucrative holiday season, when the kids are on vacation. Maybe that's it, but I don't know how I could explain it to the kids who left the theater with tears in their eyes." It's remarkable that, in the era of "Saw" and "Human Centipede," a film from 1968 can still terrify and repulse as this one can. It's maybe even more remarkable that it continues to be relevant; see Renee Graham's poignant July 21 essay for the Boston Globe, "What 'Night of the Living Dead' Taught Me About Race," or Alissa Wilkinson's July 22 piece on the film for Vox, in which she argues that without "Night of the Living Dead," we'd have no "Get Out." Those pieces came along in the wake of Romero's death on July 16, but its screening at Ron Robinson this Tuesday, scheduled in May, is a testament to the grotesque power of the film. "Night of the Living Dead" is part of the Central Arkansas Library System's Terror Tuesday series. If you've seen it, see it on the big screen. If you haven't seen it, see it on the big screen. (And, if your kids aren't quite ready for, as Ebert says, "ghouls eating people up" and "little girls killing their mothers," maybe leave them at home.) SS

click to enlarge FATHOM EVENTS
  • Fathom Events

TUESDAY 8/1

GRATEFUL DEAD MEET-UP AT THE MOVIES

7 p.m. UA Breckenridge Stadium 12. $14.

Since 2011, Deadheads began gathering for Fathom Events' one-night-only "meet-ups": screenings of restored audio and video from the band's heydays. They've screened Dead documentaries some years ("Sunshine Daydream" and "The Grateful Dead Movie") and archival concert footage other years. This year marks what would be Jerry Garcia's 75th birthday, and to celebrate, a previously unreleased 1989 performance at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., goes up on the big screen, complete with "Touch of Grey" as an opener, a visit from Dead collaborator Bruce Hornsby and one of the only versions of "Black Muddy River" to be committed to film. Breckenridge will be among the nearly 500 theaters in the U.S. to screen the film; this is probably your best chance to run into that guy from the Wiz Khalifa show whose phone number you lost. SS

click to enlarge 'THEN AND NOW': Violinist Katherine Williamson joins Geoff Robson, Ryan Mooney, Caitlin Sullivan and Yaira Matyakubova for "Then and Now," a faculty recital for the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock's Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. - KELLY HICKS
  • Kelly Hicks
  • 'THEN AND NOW': Violinist Katherine Williamson joins Geoff Robson, Ryan Mooney, Caitlin Sullivan and Yaira Matyakubova for "Then and Now," a faculty recital for the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock's Faulkner Chamber Music Festival.

TUESDAY 8/1

'THEN AND NOW'

5:30 p.m. Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, UA Little Rock. $15.

String quartets are sort of the soprano saxophone of the ensemble world. That is, unless you're a regular symphony patron, you've most likely heard them as background music. They're the soundtrack to a White House fete or a political drama, or a scene device in a movie where a black-tie affair is about to go terrible awry. Or, just a ritzy hotel's way of signaling its luxury to its elevator passengers, courtesy of Haydn's "Opus 76." Maybe it's because our ears are accustomed to processing string sounds as auxiliary, but something exciting happens when string quartets are given the whole stage, when we're allowed to listen to them for their own sake. That's the idea behind the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock's "Then and Now," a faculty concert that's part of the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. In this listener's opinion, this is the sort of program that tends to fly under the radar despite its organizers' intentions — the kind that people find out about later and sorely regret missing. First, there's the repertoire. The "then" gets a nod with the program's opener, Beethoven's "String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 18, No. 6," an exercise in contrasts that composer Robert Simpson called "a work of genius," with a famous final movement full of "amazing modulations and gripping pathos." Then, there's the "now:" a string quartet from Yevgeniy Sharlat called "Moth," the sheet music for which would read as frenzied to even the least musical among us. Sharlat — whose resume includes degrees from Curtis Institute of Music and pre-college studies at The Juilliard School — used Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Farfallettina," depicting the death of a moth "like a miniature lady who is having a heart attack on the way to the theater," as the piece's basis. Finally, there's a work from the It Girl of the Brooklyn classical scene, Missy Mazzoli. The composer who rendered the life of Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt in her acclaimed debut opera, "Song from the Uproar," is featured here with "Harp and Altar for String Quartet and Electronics," a haunting piece commissioned by the Kronos Quartet in 2009 that resembles Radiohead's "OK Computer" more than anything Haydn or Mozart ever cranked out. Also, the players are wicked good: There's our own violinist Geoff Robson, associate conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra since 2008 and winner of the 2017 Respighi Prize for conducting; Katherine Williamson, an adept violinist who's spent the last several years bouncing between playing with the ASO and the Rockefeller Quartet here in Little Rock and the Minnesota Orchestra in her home state; Ryan Mooney, who plays viola with the ASO and the Quapaw String Quartet; cellist Caitlin Sullivan, a New York-based member of Decoda, an affiliate of Carnegie Music Hall that pioneers outreach projects in Japan, South Africa and in the U.S.; and Yaira Matyakubova, a superstar Uzbekistani violinist who's currently serving as first violinist in The Haven String Quartet of New Haven, Conn. SS


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