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Valley of the Vapors returns to Hot Springs 

Plus, other happenings.

THURSDAY 3/17

TREVOR GORDON HALL

7:30 p.m. The Joint. $20.

Hailing from the outskirts of Philadelphia, Trevor Gordon Hall is known for his mesmerizing, virtuosic performances on the Kalimbatar, a self-designed instrument that blends a traditional acoustic six-string with a kalimba (a so-called "thumb piano," of African origin). Lest you think this is some sort of gear-head, showy, guitar nerdery, well, it partly is that, but it's mostly just plain impressive, and fascinating to watch. Hall is a multitasker of the first order, combining intricate fingerstyle wizardry with hand percussion and kalimba-plucking, a routine that might seem exhausting or cloyingly one-man-band-ish, but certainly doesn't come across that way — he leaves room for space and silence, reverts to simplicity when appropriate, and avoids all those weird, over-determined facial tics that guitarists so often exhibit to make sure we're aware of their intense physical exertions. He's also a moving, intelligent songwriter, a talent that instrumental virtuosos too often neglect to bother with, in their Everest ascents to Guitar World-style mastery. WS

FRIDAY 3/18

ARGENTA ARTWALK

5-8 p.m. Main Street, NLR.

Greg Thompson Fine Art is hosting an exhibition marking Thompson's 21 years of art dealing, the last seven of which have been from his gallery, which he opened in 2009 at 429 Main St. in Argenta. The all-star show of regional artists includes work by John Alexander, Walter Anderson, Gay Bechtelheimer, Carroll Cloar, William Dunlap, John Ellis, Charles Harrington, James Hendricks, Pinkney Herbert, Robyn Horn, Clementine Hunter, Richard Jolley, Dolores Justus, Henri Linton, John Harlan Norris, Sammy Peters, Joseph Piccillo, Edward Rice, Kendall Stallings, Rebecca Thompson, Glennray Tutor and Donald Roller Wilson. (Dunlap will be at the gallery in April to sign his new book, "Short Mean Fiction.") Painter Katherine Strause is showing her work at Argenta Gallery. Laman Library's Argenta branch will feature paintings by Susan Chambers that she says are inspired by home and garden, but don't expect watery florals. She takes a hard-edge approach to soft subject matter; think playful Rousseau in Arkansas. Mugs Cafe opens "Networks," paintings by Kasten Searles, art professor at Henderson State University. LNP

FRIDAY 3/18

PRISON ART EXHIBIT

6-9 p.m. River City Coffee.

Compassion Works for All, a Buddhist prison outreach program, is holding an exhibition of art by 12 prisoners that the group says "explores communication, silence and the space between freedom and confinement in beautiful, raw and playful ways." Many of the 12 did not begin to make art until they were behind bars, but found art to be an outlet, and one artist, Davis Carpenter, creates cards for other prisoners to send to families. Another artist, Lonnie Franks, does portraits from photographs given him. This is art that comes from a place of pain but can create joy, giving it a kind of profundity. "Ultimately," the Compassion Works for All group says, "this collection is meant to give a voice to the voiceless." The exhibition runs through April 19. Some of the work will be for sale. LNP

FRIDAY 3/18-TUESDAY 3/22

12TH ANNUAL VALLEY OF THE VAPORS

Low Key Arts, Hot Springs. $10-$75.

One of Central Arkansas's best and most consistently compelling music festivals returns this week: Valley of the Vapors, the multiday celebration of independent music. It was kicked off in 2005 by Low Key Arts founders Bill Solleder and Shea Childs, who hit on the idea of recruiting bands headed to and from Austin's monolithic, overlapping SXSW by offering them a smaller, more intimate (and less grossly oversaturated) pitstop along the way. I was there last year and was genuinely impressed by its tight-knit, grungy allure and well-oiled, deceptively professional effectiveness. It's the D.I.Y. ethos pulled off right — with taste, effortless grace and very affordable Mexican food. This year's event features R. Ring (featuring The Breeders' Kelley Deal), Gus Unger Hamilton (of alt-J), Water Liars, Juiceboxxx, Adia Victoria, Christopher Denny, Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe, Dikki Du & The Zydeco Krewe, Guerilla Toss and many more. There are also the festival's famed workshops, which this year look more interesting than ever: Learn knitting from Kelley Deal (4 p.m. Saturday); "junk cam" lo-fi photography from Bill Daniel (2 p.m. Sunday); instrument building from Bryan Day, sound artist and inventor of the Whiskerphone (3 p.m. Monday); and painting, scratching and drawing on 16mm film strips from Dan Anderson (3 p.m. Tuesday). Day passes are $10 and festival passes are $75. WS

TUESDAY 3/22

'LABYRINTH'

7, 7:30, 7:45 and 9:30 p.m. Riverdale 10 Cinema. $7.50.

What better way to commemorate the passing of David Bowie than with a screening of the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy epic "Labyrinth," which features a city of goblins, a maze full of monsters with detachable body parts, and an anthropomorphic fox named Sir Didymus. Picture "The Wizard of Oz" as reimagined by Shel Silverstein, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the pervy outsider artist Henry Darger — this movie is so, so damn strange, a full-throated and commercially ill-advised celebration of the discomfiting darkness usually left implicit in the works of children's storytellers from Hans Christian Andersen to Maurice Sendak. The script was a collaboration between Henson, Monty Python's Terry Jones, George Lucas and comedian-filmmaker Elaine May, which is to say it's an essential work of 20th century American art, coherence (and quality) be damned. Now that I think about it, the plot — in which David Bowie (as Jareth the Goblin King) attempts to seduce a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly — is a kind of patently uncomfortable foreshadowing of the statutory rape allegations against Bowie that have resurfaced since his death. But I guess I'll leave that to the psychoanalysts (and the lawyers). WS

WEDNESDAY 3/23

AUTOLUX

8:30 p.m. Revolution. $10-$13.

Since their emergence in the turn-of-the-century L.A. indie rock scene — a scene that has largely vanished into obscurity far quicker and more efficiently than anyone would have guessed, given the city's intrinsic industry access (anybody listen to Acetone lately?) — Autolux has been championed by a range of successful, nominal taste-makers, from Trent Reznor and Thom Yorke to T-Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers. (That's pretty cool, right? To have the Coen Brothers be on record as fans of your rock band? How does that even happen? Don't they only listen to, like, the Anthology of American Folk Music?) The band makes visceral, shoegaze-y, wall-of-sound art-rock with occasional digressions for electronica and earnest pop songwriting — common reference points are My Bloody Valentine and Portishead. In interviews, they reference Orson Welles and William Blake and seem like generally well-rounded, interesting people. "I could spend the rest of my life just reading James Joyce," band member Greg Edwards told The Quietus in 2010. Lucky for us, they decided to put down the Joyce and get back to work. Their new record — the inscrutably titled "Pussy's Dead" — is due to be released on April 1, though you'll get your chance to hear it early Wednesday night at Revolution. WS

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