9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $5.
Quirky Austin quintet Golden Bear might be the most unassuming, unpretentious band on the planet, or, at least, on the indie rock music scene. Lead singer Chris Gregory, a middle school science teacher, composes clever, energetic pop-rock songs in between making lesson plans and grading papers. In typical do-it-yourself fashion, Gregory, with band mates Matt Gardiner (keyboards), Andy McAllister (drums), Jamie Reaves (guitar) and Brent Pennington (bass), recorded the band’s sophomore album, “To the Farthest Star,” in a spare bedroom in his house. While it functions as a side project, the band takes itself seriously without being self-involved. Gregory sings with playful sincerity, and his vocals are often backed by sprightly handclaps and harmonious “oohs” and “aahs.” Channeling the Shins and the Polyphonic Spree, the single “Galaxy Queen” opens with a spacey synth sound and builds into a lively rocker that reflects on love lost in an honest, refreshing way — letting in light, leaving out gloom. On break from school, Gregory is taking his band on a five-stop summer tour.
50 YEARS OF STAX
7:30 p.m., Orpheum Theater, Memphis. $25-$1,000.
Jim Stewart, a white ex-fiddle player, and his sister, Estelle Axton, put the first two letters of their last names together to form Memphis’s Stax Records in 1957. Over the next nearly 20 years, the label put out enough classic music that one could easily make the case that Stax is the greatest soul record label of all time. This weekend’s solid-gold anniversary show will likely be the last opportunity to get a glimpse of any kind of wide-angle shot of what made the label unique. Of course Otis is gone, along with Arkansas’s Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Rufus Thomas and, for all practical purposes, his daughter, Carla, who’s been willfully out of the public eye for years. Anywhere else that might signal a death knell, but Stax still has enough alums to fill out a large bill in style. He may be crazy, but he’s still got that booming baritone: Isaac Hayes headlines the night with the label’s famous house band, Booker T & the MGs; Eddie “Knock On Wood” Floyd; and Mavis Staples, who’s lately been touring behind her new album, “We’ll Never Turn Back,” a collection of Civil Rights-era songs cast anew. Plus, treats for deeper soul aficionados: Deep soul crooner William Bell and “Able” Mable John will also perform, along with the Soul Children, the Reddings (Otis’ children doing a tribute) and Angie Stone. Public Enemy’s Chuck D hosts with Randy Jackson. All proceeds benefit the Stax Museum of American Soul.
9 p.m., the Village. $12.
Local comedy troupe Red Octopus Theater has been producing dramas, musicals and sketch comedy since the waning days of the first Bush administration. After some 16 seasons, they’re one of the oldest troupes in the country. Named for a coffee table that looked like an octopus and known for their annual “Pagans” holiday revues, the troupe recently put out “Asswell?”, a collection of their material from the last 10 years. This weekend, they take over the Village on Friday and Saturday, for a sketch collection they’re calling “It Takes a Village.” Expect booty-bass, skits featuring the devil and general twisted hilarity. Students get in for $10.
9 p.m., Revolution Room. $15.
Here’s the second sentence from the new bio on Coolio’s website: “His international hit song ‘Fantastic Voyage’ was recently used in a national Pepsi ad that ran during the 2005 Super Bowl, featuring P. Diddy, Carson Daly, ‘Desperate Housewives’ star Eva Longoria and many more.” Wow. You sell 27 million records (according, again, to the bio), then take a 10-year hiatus to do “Celebrity Paranormal Project” and act in “Dracula 3000” and a Croatian drug movie, and, well, I guess, Pepsi ads start sounding pretty relevant. Snark aside, Little Rock is still a small enough market that we’re not likely to get too many club gigs with big-name rappers — even nostalgia-miners — unless they’ve fallen down a peg or three. A note of warning: Coolio’s still making music, so don’t expect just a night of extended versions of “Fantastic Voyage” and “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Local cover favorites Tragikly White open.
ATA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS OPENING CEREMONIES
7 p.m., Alltel Arena. $15.
Folks have been jumping and kicking and chopping in downtown Little Rock since last Tuesday as part of the American Taekwondo Association’s World Championships in downtown Little Rock. The week has been mainly about instruction thus far, with novices and experts alike working things like single and double Ssahng Jeol Bong, Gum Do and broad-sword form. Friday Brings first the dedication of the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden (the new add-on to the Statehouse Convention Center grounds) at 10:30 a.m., and later, throughout the day at the Statehouse Convention Center, the finals for the championship’s heavy-hitters. The opening ceremonies officially get underway on Friday night at Alltel Arena, where the ATA-Xtreme team and the ATA World Demo Team will be kicking each other’s asses in a collegial kind of way for everyone’s enjoyment. On Saturday and Sunday, from 7:30 a.m. until late in the afternoon, Taekwondo contenders of all sizes and ages continue to compete at the Statehouse Convention Center.
OPERA IN THE OZARKS
8 p.m., Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony. $15-$20.
The annual Opera in the Ozarks Festival kicks off on Friday near Eureka Springs with Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” a tragic masterpiece about a young geisha and a naval officer caught up in a doomed love affair. This opera contains many of Puccini’s most famous arias, including “Un Bel Dì” (“One Fine Day”). The 2007 season runs through July 20 and will also feature “Susannah” by Carlisle Floyd and “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Mozart. In its 57th season, the four-week summer opera series is held at the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony, five miles west of Eureka Springs on Hwy. 62. “Madama Butterfly” will be performed June 22, 27 and 30 and July 3, 12, 16 and 20. A July 7 production of “Madama Butterfly” will be a special performance at the Arend Art Center, located at 1901 S.E. J St. in Bentonville. “Le Nozze di Figaro” will be staged June 26 and 29, and July 1, 5, 10, 14 and 18. The third opera of the season, “Susannah,” will be performed June 23 and 28, and July 2, 6, 9, 13 and 19. Also included in the season are a children’s opera on July 8 and a chamber orchestra concert on July 17. All evening performances are at 8 p.m. Visit www.opera.org for more information. For ticket information, call 479-253-8595.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
You can’t much touch the bona fides of Awesome Color. After just months together, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ann-Arbor trio landed on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label, where the Sonic Youth front man is so hands-on, he produced the garage rockers’ self-titled debut last year. A swirling, feedback-laden slab of psychedelic garage rock, the album sounds like the Stooges, had the proto-punks ever been young and sweet (and not always marauding sex-jackals). Maybe that’s in part because lead singer/guitarist Derek Stanton grew up across the street from Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, and maybe it’s because the band is young and sweet. After all, they’re called Awesome Color and on the inside of their debut album, they’re all wearing fiery pink, orange and yellow headbands and neckerchiefs. That’s not to suggest that Awesome Color doesn’t kick out the jams, only that their jams — sax-honking, breakbeat-filled, fuzzed-out jams — are about “hat energy” and skateboards instead of blood and destruction. Also on the bill: Atlanta’s All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, who formed in the ashes of the Rent Boys. The group features Lloyd Benjamin, a veteran of at least a half dozen great Little Rock bands, and true to their Clash-lyric-inspired name, manage to squeeze a dozen disparate genres into their pop-punk. One of Little Rock’s most impressive groups, the Moving Front, also performs.
MERLE HAGGARD/ KELLY WILLIS
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center. $42.50-$47.50.
The Hag abides. Seventy years young and without any hint of slowing, he might be the most consistent performer country music has ever seen. Unlike some of his peers, he’s still getting rowdy on occasion too, throwing his voice around — moaning a little here and there — and still digging into the Bakersfield sound and jazzy Western Swing numbers. Just off the “Last of the Breed” tour with Willie Nelson and Ray Price, with whom he recently teamed to record an album of the same name, Haggard is sure to mix standards with a wealth of his impressive new material, including questioning political numbers like “Where’s All the Freedom” and “America First.” Kelly Willis, a storied alt-country singer in her own right, opens. She’s touring behind her fine new album, “Translated,” which signals a departure from her traditionalist sensibility. The album finds her covering Iggy Pop and experimenting with genres from Girl Group to garage-rock.