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Racing season wraps up with Arkansas Derby 

FRIDAY 4/13

2012 OZARK UFO CONFERENCE

8 a.m. Best Western Inn of the Ozarks. $90.

Scoff all you like, all you scoffers and skeptics and naysayers and demanders of peer-reviewed studies. But you cannot deny this fundamental truth: It's way more fun to believe in aliens and past lives and ESP and ancient Mayan calendar predictions than it is to lumber stiffly through existence insisting that the Official Version of reality is the only one that's real. Now, I know what you're thinking: "But why should I believe in something for which there is no physical evidence?" To which I would say: "People do it all the time. It's called religion. And astrology. And Powerball. And anyway, aren't I reading your thoughts? DUN-DA-DUN-DUNNNN!" But I realize that's not gonna cut it for most folks. Therefore I submit for your consideration the 2012 Ozark UFO Conference in — where else? — Eureka Springs. This three-day examination of all things extraterrestrial, extrasensory or otherwise extraordinary features a bevy of experts delivering lectures such as "UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities," "The E.T. Agenda: Why Don't They Land on the White House Lawn?" and "The Choice: Using Conscious Thought and Physics of the Mind to Reshape the World." The conference opens with an introduction to the art of dowsing by Dowser Dan. In all seriousness though, hanging out in Eureka Springs and drinking with a bunch of UFO experts? Yes, I want to believe.

FRIDAY 4/13

NATE POWELL'S 'CROSS SECTIONS'

5 p.m. Historic Arkansas Museum. Free.

When I first met Nate Powell, it was on a sweaty summer night back in nineteen-ninety-something, at one of those plug-in-and-play concerts at Belvedere Pavilion. I'm pretty sure most of those shows weren't officially sanctioned by The Man, which made them that much more fun. Nate's old band, Soophie Nun Squad, was the product of a group of bright, enthusiastic, hyperactive kids who all had a million projects going on at any given time: other bands, zines, comics, activism, art projects, sketch comedy shows, you name it. I can't remember the specifics of what Soophie's songs were about, but I'm pretty sure some of the major themes were: having fun, doing what you love and not letting the awful, gray burden of workaday life grind your dreams into a bitter dust. As much as anyone I can think of, Nate has embodied that ideal, still playing in bands and making comics long after so many of our peers abandoned their erstwhile obsessions. The interesting thing is that when you work on something you love for a long time, you'll often become really, really good at it. And Nate is really, really good at what he does. Over countless pages — Xeroxed and stapled in the early days, offset printed and bound in beautiful hardback editions lately — Nate has strengthened and refined his craft, creating an instantly recognizable style. His graphic novels "Swallow Me Whole" and "Any Empire" have earned glowing praise from critics both within the comics world and from more mainstream publications such as Booklist and the Los Angeles Times. The awards he's won — Eisner, Ignatz — are some of the most prestigious in the field. By living his ideals, working hard and doing what he loves, Nate has realized enormous success. That's about as inspiring as it gets, friends. At this show, he'll be exhibiting and selling works from his graphic novels from the last five years and will also have copies of his books. There will be music from Isaac Alexander and soup from Sharea Soup. Nate will sign books at The Comic Book Store at noon on Saturday.

SATURDAY 4/14

ARKANSAS DERBY

Noon. Oaklawn Park. $2.

The end of the racing season at Oaklawn is nigh. This week is the Racing Festival of the South, featuring nine races in total, kicking off with the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes on Wednesday, the $100,000 Redbud Stakes on Thursday, the $500,000 Apple Blossom Stakes on Friday and the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday. Isn't He Clever, one of the colts running at this year's Arkansas Derby, is the offspring of the legendary Smarty Jones, who in 2004 took a $5 million bonus Oaklawn had offered to any contender who won the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Of course, Smarty Jones' hopes for a Triple Crown were dashed by an upset from the longshot Birdstone. So how will Isn't He Clever fare? There's only one way to find out.

SATURDAY 4/14

ASO: 'DESERT & SEA'

8 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $14-$52.

The final installment in this year's Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Masterworks series starts off with Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman: Overture" and "Mojave Concerto for Marimba" by Michael Torke. The latter piece features Alexej Gerssimez on marimba. The show concludes with a second half featuring what Conductor Philip Mann called one of his favorite pieces of music, Debussy's "La Mer." What's in store for the audience with this work? "You'll hear in the sounds of the orchestra and in the music, the sounds and picture of a sunrise. You'll hear waves up and down in the strings and then eventually the ferocious, terrible power of the sea during a storm," Mann told KTHV's Dawn Scott. The symphony repeats the program on Sunday at 3 p.m.

SATURDAY 4/14

KAYA JONES

9 p.m. Discovery Nightclub. $12.

Formerly of prefab pop princesses The Pussycat Dolls, Kaya Jones — née Chrystal Neria — came by her stage name in an unconventional way. "I grew up in Jamaica and chose Kaya from the name of a Bob Marley album," she told Dubai News last year. "When I was in the studio rehearsing with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols he gave me my last name Jones. Who can say a Sex Pistol named them? So I took it." So does her music reflect those sounds? Nah, her vibe is more kinky dance-floor diva than punky reggae party. Sample lyrics from "Every 7 Seconds" (which is how often Jones claims to think about "it"): "Some might think that I'm a nympho / 'cause I like a little lace and leather" and "Yeah I'm checkin' what you're packin' / Are you a big boy or are you slackin'?" She's probably best known for her single "Boyfriend." It's an icy, thumping pop trifle about finding out about her boyfriend's boyfriend. In addition to Jones, who is scheduled to go on around 2 a.m., there will be all the usual Saturday night revelry you've come to expect at Discovery.

MONDAY 4/16

CURSIVE

8 p.m. Revolution. $12 adv., $14 d.o.s.

Probably it's fair to say that Cursive's latest disc, "I Am Gemini," confounded more than a few of the band's longtime fans. It's a convoluted concept album (but aren't they all?) about twin brothers named Cassius and Pollock, one good, one evil, who were separated at birth but are reunited in a creepy old house, and also for some reason there are Siamese twin girls, conjoined at the head. I don't know, there was a sizable booklet that was included with the promo CD and featured all of front man Tim Kasher's lyrics and stage directions, but I can't find it at the moment. For the most part, critical reaction to "I Am Gemini" has been middling. Drowned in Sound's Ruth Singleton gushed that it was "a monumental return to form for Tim Kasher after his somewhat dubious foray into the world of solo artistry," while Pitchfork called it "Cursive's weakest album by a disheartening margin" and Pop Matters writer Josh Langhoff dismissed it thusly: "For all its tempo shifts and attempts at fun, Gemini sounds like the work of an ascetic band scared of pleasure." But hey, as Cursive reminded us back in 2003, "Art is Hard." And even if "I Am Gemini" was a bit of a dud, Cursive has a huge back catalog and one of the most dedicated followings in indie rock. This Monday night show is sure to be packed. Opening the all-ages show are Cymbals Eat Guitars and Conduits.

TUESDAY 4/17

DANNY BARNES, TONY FURTADO

9 p.m. Juanita's. $10.

Here's one the prog 'grass-ive fans shouldn't skip. Danny Barnes was the banjo-pickin' frontman from The Bad Livers, a genre-warping group of weirdos who mixed bluegrass and old-timey notions with country, punk, musique concrete, electronic instrumentation, oddball cover songs and more. He's collaborated with such notable figures as filmmaker Richard Linklater and super cerebral jazz guitar heavy Bill Frisell. Tony Furtado's career path has been similarly omnivorous. He got started playing banjo but soon added slide guitar into his mix of bluegrass, country, rock and jazz. He's often mentioned in the same breath as such luminaries as Béla Fleck (who plays Fayetteville's Walton Arts Center with The Flecktones on Thursday) and David Grisman.

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