Spa Con returns to Hot Springs 



8 p.m. South on Main. $25-$36.

We've got Sullivan Fortner's childhood church choir director to thank for his having picked up the keyboard in the first place — not because she taught him how to play, but because Fortner had such a crush on her that he mimicked her playing the organ around the house. His mother finally broke down and got him a keyboard, and later discovered him picking out the melody to the theme song from "Jeopardy!" that was playing on the family's TV set. Fortner's just 29 now, having jumped directly from his time at Oberlin College and the Manhattan School of Music to apprenticeships with vibraphonist Stefon Harris and trumpetist Roy Hargrove. In a Paris recording with up-and-coming clarinetist Oran Etkin titled "Reimagining Benny Goodman," Fortner sits with a subtle forward slouch, peers studiously into the soundboard at the heart of the grand piano, occasionally raising his eyebrows above the frame of his glasses to take a pulse on the silence between Etkin's phrases. Fortner can channel electricity, as he does on the title track from his 2015 album "Aria," but that's not his trademark. Instead, it's that most folks who lead a band with Fortner's degree of rhythmic intuition and maturity are twice his age. SS



Venues in Little Rock and North Little Rock

The third annual ACANSA festival, which officially opened Wednesday with a performance by Ballet Arkansas in the Junior League of Little Rock Ballroom, swings into high gear with music, dance, studio tours, comedy shows, art exhibits and theater through Sunday. Thursday highlights include a performance by Parsons Dance of New York at Pulaski Technical College's CHARTS theater (8 p.m.) and "Late Night Comedy" with the Main Thing, the comedy troupe from The Joint in Argenta, appearing in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Black Box Theatre Annex on Main Street (9:30 p.m., tickets $20). "My Mother Has 4 Noses," an autobiographical play by Jonatha Brooke about her caring for her beloved mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, will be at the Argenta Community Theatre both Friday and Saturday (8 p.m., $30 or $50 VIP tickets to meet the artists); also Saturday, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will perform tango-inspired works with Jason Vieaux and Julien Labro at the CHARTS theater (8 p.m., $35 or $50 VIP tickets to meet the artists). The ACANSA Gospel Brunch on Sunday features the St. Mark Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir at Wildwood Park for the Arts (11 a.m. brunch, performance at noon, $40 for both, $15 performance only). There are also gallery tours and children's events; for a full schedule, go to acansaartsfestival.org. LNP

FRIDAY 9/23- SUNDAY 9/25


Various times. Hot Springs Convention Center. $25-$30

Somehow, the Cheetos-stained fingers of that weird-ass kid with all the comic books you knew in middle school came to be the digits on the pulse of pop culture. Don't ask us how, but it happened. These days, comic books and superhero worship are big business, from Hollywood to big convention events like Spa Con 2016, which swoops in to the Hot Springs Convention Center this weekend for three big days of panel discussions, celebrity appearances, and gratuitous displays of geekflesh in spandex. On the bill for celebrities in attendance: original "Star Trek" cast member Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura; actor Richard Hatch, who starred as Capt. Apollo on the original "Battlestar Galactica"; Michael Hogan, who played the gruff Col. Saul Tigh on the "Galactica" reboot; a concert by Peelander-Z (which a promo says is a "Japanese Action Comic Punk band based in New York City"), in addition to a slew of comic artists, pro-level cosplayers, vendors and panel discussions. Weekend passes are $30, or $25 for teens 13-17. Under 13 get in free with a paid adult admission. Tickets for the Q&A luncheon with Nichols are $35 per person, or $75 if you want to meet and greet. For more information, visit spa-con.org. DK



6 p.m., UALR William H. Bowen School of Law. Free.

Gloria Browne-Marshall's book "The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice," her chronicle of the struggle of African Americans to cast a ballot, has been called "riveting, captivating and awakening." The civil rights lawyer, an associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of the City University of New York and host of the weekly radio program "Law of the Land with Gloria J. Browne-Marshall" on New York's WBAI-FM, 99.5, will bring that background to a talk about inequality under the law for women and people of color in this UALR Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity-sponsored appearance in the courtroom of the Bowen Law School. Co-sponsors are the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and the National Parks Service. LNP



12:30 p.m. Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Free.

After a couple of years on hiatus, the Arkansas Times Festival of Ideas returns with a can't-miss lineup for anyone who enjoys hearing from smart people, appreciates free things, needs an excuse to get out of the house on Saturday and can use a dose of inspiration from folks working to make their communities better. In the Innovation Hub's roomy co-working space, we'll hear from five of the Visionary Arkansans we featured in last week's issue: Matt Campbell (12:30 p.m.), the Little Rock lawyer, civil rights champion and muckraker; Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira (1:30 p.m.), director of UALR's George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center and an internationally regarded expert on virtual reality; North Little Rock Police Officer Tommy Norman (2:30 p.m.), who's gotten national attention for his devotion to community policing; members of Arkansas's Citizens' Climate Lobby (3:30 p.m.), including Chris Balos, who is fighting to save the Marshall Islands from rising seas; and Grant Chandler, a brewer at Lost Forty Brewing who uses his microbiology background to isolate wild strains of yeast and in other experimental efforts. There'll be plenty of time for questions, perhaps free beer and an after-party at nearby Crush Wine Bar. LM



Noon. 11711 Bethel Road, Dardanelle. $20-$30.

Once, the guy behind me at an Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass show wandered out between songs to engage with a cigarette or maybe something else, muttering, "It's too pretty, man. It's too fuckin' pretty." The Otis Redding-tinged bellow that blasts from behind Faucett's beard is one of at least a dozen reasons to head to Dardanelle and dig this first-year festival. The other 11 are as follows: the idyllic foot-of-Mt. Nebo scenery showcased in the video Jamie Lou and the Hullabaloo shot there for her song "Happiness" ("the back 40," as the festival organizer's family calls it), Cody Belew, Bonnie Montgomery, Stephen Neeper and the Wild Hearts, Knox Hamilton, Charlotte Taylor, a spendthrifty BYOB policy (no glass) and the fact that a portion of the profits will go to the National Stroke Association and another portion goes to preserving this family-owned-and-operated horse farm. Admission is free for kids under 10, and includes camping. SS



8 p.m. Vino's. $7.

Bit Brigade shows begin with some version of the following explanation from bassist Luke Fields: "This is our lead singer, Noah McCarthy. But he will not be executing any poetry of the winds or of the changing tides or the depths of his heart. He will be vocalizing his emotions via the NES control pad. What Noah's gonna do is play through a game from the time of the credits about as fast as he can do it, and then we're gonna play the music that goes behind it, real fucking loud." Shortly afterward, the discordant notes that announce the opening credits of Metroid — once tinny, staccato, canned, 8-bit synth sounds — ring out instead from electric guitars as McCarthy, seated at the stage's front and center spotlight, selects a user name and presses start to begin the game, which is projected for the audience on a large screen behind the band. He proceeds to rip through levels at roaring speed without the aid of super-boosting game codes as the band accompanies with the appropriate music to match each mini-world Noah enters. The Brigade stops at Vino's on the way from a gaming convention in Tulsa to play the Hi-Tone in Memphis, with help from our very own Becoming Elephants, who played a live score to a screening of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" back in June. SS




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