Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus
7 p.m., Barton Coliseum, $14-$45.
In 1871 P.T. Bailey declared his Wisconsin circus “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Its heir, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, is coming to Little Rock for a four-day stand at Barton Coliseum. This particular incarnation, “An Upside-Down World,” features, as the show's title suggests, performers doing all sorts of crazy stunts while hanging upside-down. Come an hour early to meet the carneys and the animals at a free pre-show party. Tickets range from $14 to $45 and are available through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 975-7575. Show times are 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Hope Watermelon Festival
Through Sunday, City Park at Jones St. and Hwy 174 in Hope.
The watermelons keep getting bigger and bigger in Hope. In 1925, Hugh Laseter nursed a 125-pound whopper of a watermelon into being; in 2005, Lloyd Bright created a 268.8-pound baby. How do they grow them so big? What do they do with all that melon? Get answers to these questions and more at the 31st annual Hope Watermelon Festival this weekend. Opening night events include a Kiwanis Club BBQ chicken supper from 5-7 p.m. and a dog show at 6 p.m. Contestants will compete for the Traveling Trophy at the Watermelon Olympics at 6 p.m. on Friday and Little Miss and Little Mr. Watermelon will be crowned at 6:30 p.m. Saturday is jam-packed with events, including a bass tournament, a car show, a baseball card show and a motorcycle show, as well as the more melon-centric eating and seed-spitting contests. The watermelon judging is at 10 p.m. Gospel, bluegrass and country music entertainers will perform. Visit the Hope Chamber of Commerce website at www.hopechamberofcommerce.com for a complete schedule of events and an entry form for the Watermelon Olympics.
7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Windsong Performing Arts Center, $65.
In 1964, Gary Lewis and the Playboys found instant success when their debut single “This Diamond Ring” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The tune was notable for more than its chart position: Al Kooper, who played keys on Dylan's “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde,” co-authored the song and Leon Russell contributed to the arrangement. Lewis followed that chart-topper with six consecutive Top Ten singles, but the end of the ride came when he was drafted into the Army in 1967. Discharged a year later, he never regained his earlier momentum as rock began to move away from the teeny bop sounds that dominated the early '60s. Backed by a new version of the Playboys, Lewis is sure to break out all the old hits tonight. Located at 7318 Windsong Drive in North Little Rock, the group will play two shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For directions, call 758-8694 or visit www.windsongcenter.com.
Oh No! Oh My!
9 p.m., Revolution, $10.
Oh yeah! The Austin-based indie rock trio Oh No! Oh My! makes a stop along its nationwide tour in Little Rock tonight. In DIY fashion, the band self-released its 2006 debut before issuing the EP “Between the Devil and the Sea” last month on Dim Mak. The five-track collection includes the single “The Party Punch.” If their other songs are like this one, concert-goers can expect a breezy, upbeat set with songs following a fairly predictable twee-pop template. Opener Snowglobe, a Memphis outfit, uses piano and horns to create a fuller sound that still bounces along within the confines of pop-rock.
9 p.m., Revolution, $10.
L.A.'s DJ Irene will hit the Little Rock scene on Friday night. Like our own local spinner Debbi T, Irene got into deejaying in the late '80s. She learned the ropes by watching Michael Angelo spin at East Hollywood hot spots before going out on her own at Arena, then one of Hollywood's newer venues. In the mid-'90s, she spun a bouncy “hard house” sound resonating with SoCal post-ravers and cheesy clubbers. By 1997, the “Global House Diva” began releasing multiple mixtapes every year. After spending 10 years at Arena as its Friday night dance floor diva, she ended her weekly residency to focus on recording and touring. Her sound has changed over the years as she's incorporated more progressive house and trance into her sets. She'll be promoting her latest compilation, “Rockstar,” at the Rev Room.
Lord T and Eloise
9:30, Sticky Fingerz, $10.
Since last fall, Memphis rap duo Lord Treadwell and Maurice Eloise XIII have been introducing common folks to what they're calling “aristocrunk.” Donning 18th-century wigs and ruffled attire, Lord T (Cameron Mann) and Eloise (Robert Anthony) spit tongue-in-cheek lyrics about popping “Pillz” and wearing “Million Dollar Boots.” Mann, who was called the “whitest of white-boy rappers” while enrolled at Tulane University, runs Memphis recording studio Young Avenue Sound, serving artists such as Yo Gotti, Ying Yang Twins, 8Ball & MJG and Al Kapone. Anthony, former editor of the Chattanooga alt-weekly “Outlook,” who is also white, often performs covered in gold paint as Eloise. While their style is gimmicky, even laughable, their quirkiness comes at a time when hip-hop hooks have degenerated to “laffy taffy” and “throw[ing] Ds on that b*tch.” This duo claims to write songs about real life, from playing golf to running self-owned businesses to hanging out with the “who's who” in the industry. Having earned a featured spot on VH1's “Best Week Ever,” it appears their weirdness works. Friday night they'll take the stage at Sticky Fingerz to promote their debut album “Aristocrunk,” which dropped earlier this year. St. Louis soul Fundamental Elements opens the 9:30 show.
10 p.m., Juanita's, $10 in advance, $12 DOS.
Luke Bryan squeezes Juanita's into a tour that includes stops at five state fairs, a Wal-Mart and two establishments that call themselves saloons. Yup, Bryan is a country artist, one who might be worth a listen if you're looking for something new on that scene. Although he'd been writing songs since his teen-age years and had long harbored ambitions of pursuing a career as a performer, he didn't hit the road until his father threatened to fire him from the family business unless he gave the Music City a shot. The move paid off when an A&R man discovered him and offered him a contract. While Bryan's lyrics don't take a leap into the great musical unknown on songs “Country Man” and “We Rode in Trucks” off of his forthcoming Capitol debut “I'll Stay Me,” those interested in a new Nashville artist should be pleased.
9 p.m., Whitewater Tavern, $5.
At a stop in San Francisco, part of the Munks' recent West Coast string of gigs backing Little Rock-native Jason Morphew, the band's U-Haul, filled with all its equipment, was stolen. Wills bent, but not broken, the band is back home ready to move onto more positive territory. They're currently mastering the follow-up to their excellent debut. Produced by Ho-Hum frontman Lenny Bryan, the new outing promises, at least based on initial MySpace offerings, to be a tad sunnier than past material — at least in tone. Lead singer Aaron Grimm still bellows gravelly, almost Tom Waitsian, about dark matters. Death, drugs, dark barrooms — they all factor in on new track “Little.”
9 p.m., Revolution, $10.
Brothers Prince Be (Attrell Cordes) and DJ Minute Mix (Jarrett Cordes) of the hip-hop soul act P.M. Dawn hit it big in 1991 with “Of the Heart, of the Soul, of the Cross: The Utopian Experience,” which produced the popular single “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss.” They fell off the hip-hop radar a few years later, but have now released their first album in seven years, “P.M. Dawn Loves You.” The duo will perform at Revolution on Saturday night as part of the “Back in the Day” party.
5 p.m., Riverfest Amphitheatre, $30.
Alice Cooper headlines this year's Magic 105 birthday bash at the Riverfest Amphitheatre. Drawing from heavy metal and horror movies, Alice Cooper is known for his often bizarre sometimes scary onstage antics. (Look him up on YouTube and you'll find him heavily made-up, wildly costumed and typically sporting guillotines, electric chairs, “dead babies” and boa constrictors as props.) His theatrical brand of '60s psychedelic art rock came to be known as “shock rock” and he gained a large following — David Bowie, Elton John and Salvador Dali among them (Dali called it “surreal”). A year after “School's Out” in 1972, he released his biggest seller, “Billion Dollar Babies,” and while he's never found as much success with studio releases since, he has managed to keep his garage rock/glam rock shtick going strong all these years with TV appearances, big screen cameos and radio show gigs. Set to release a new album next year, he's on tour this summer and stops in Little Rock for a 5 p.m. show on Sunday. Supporting is Black Stone Cherry, a Southern rock-heavy metal act. Tickets are $30 in advance and are available online at www.lizardpass.com. For more information, visit www.magic105.
“Voices at the River”
6:30 p.m., Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Main Stage, free.
The Rep kicks off its first “Voices at the River” festival this with a reading of plays by Arkansans Clinnesha Dillon and Spirit Trickey. Dillion, a student at the University of Arkansas, will present “Tough Love,” and Trickey, daughter of Minnijean Brown Trickey, contributes “One Ninth.” The festival continues Thursday with a “Voices at the River Soiree” honoring award-winning playwrights Luis Valdez and Lynn Nottage at the Clinton Center, a panel discussion, “Art and Social Change'” at the Clinton School on Friday and more readings. For the complete schedule, visit www.therep.org.