ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
This month sees the return of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's summer festival, which will run through June 29 at venues in Conway and Little Rock. Catch outdoor performances of Shakespeare's supposed first play "The Two Gentleman of Verona" at The Village at Hendrix on June 13 and 15 (donations and lawn chairs encouraged), or at the Argenta branch of the Laman Library June 19, 21 and 22. "Hamlet" will come to UCA's Reynolds Performance hall on June 20 (tickets $28) and "The Comedy of Errors," a production aimed at younger audiences, will be at Reynolds beginning June 24 ($10). This year, the company will also be presenting "Pippin," which has nothing to do with Shakespeare but which was just recently revived on Broadway and won four Tony Awards in the process. The musical, with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (and originally directed by Broadway-auteur Bob Fosse, who left his stamp on the production), will be staged at Reynolds Performance Hall at 7:30 p.m. June 11, 12, 14, 25 and 26, and at 2 p.m. June 13, 15, 22, 25 and 27 (tickets $28). WS
$5. Juanita's. 9 p.m.
More than 10 years ago, I was at a house party in town. Someone was playing an old record I wasn't familiar with. For just a moment I thought it was Bessie Smith, but no, the sound was too crisp. I just couldn't place it one way or the other — man or woman, black or white. I wandered outside toward what I thought were the speakers and it wasn't a record at all: There was Chris Denny, probably no more than 20 years old at the time, sitting in a lawn chair, playing guitar and wailing out songs. Who was this? It's too obvious to say the kid sounded like he was from another time. Hell, he sounded like he was from another planet. Denny, a North Little Rock native, gets compared to all sorts of things: Roy Orbison most commonly; Bob Dylan is also sort of a fit; plus gospel, blues, old-time country, soul. But the thing about Chris Denny is that he sounds like nothing so much as Chris Denny, a one-of-a-kind. His voice is a singular instrument — a cinematic warble that veers between sorrow and joy, between Sunday morning and Saturday night. All that preternatural talent had plenty of folks in Arkansas convinced he was bound for big things, but in 2007, after "Age Old Hunger," Denny's career — and life — went off course, overwhelmed by his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. So it was welcome news indeed to hear that Denny is back: Clean and sober now, he'll make his comeback performance in Arkansas this Thursday at Juanita's and his new album "If the Roses Don't Kill Us" will be out from Partisan Records in August. I've been listening to a review copy and am happy to report that I recognized that unmistakable voice right away. DR
THURSDAY 6/12- SUNDAY 6/15
EUREKA SPRINGS BLUES WEEKEND
Various Venues. $75.
Eureka Springs, the perennial outpost for Ozark bohemia (along with ghost hunters, New Age crystal connoisseurs, wealthy folk artists, metal sculptors, UFO spotters, et al.), has assembled a suitably impressive lineup for its Blues Weekend, with icons and road legends from Kansas City, New Orleans and Memphis playing with hometown favorites. You can spend the day in Basin Park watching harmonica-playing Brandon Santini, the Doghouse Daddies, Brick Fields and Danny Cox, or catch blues guitarist Fast Johnny Ricker at the Barefoot Ballroom. You can purchase individual tickets for the headlining shows at The Auditorium for $25. Friday night's set features Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, and Saturday night will be Little Rock favorite Lucious Spiller, Brick Fields and The Chosen Ones, Moreland and Arbuckle, and Carolyn Wonderland. There will also be a Father's Day Blues Picnic at Turpentine Creek, 1 p.m., featuring food and drinks, arts and crafts, kite flying and music by The Stacy Mitchhart Band. Pets are welcome, too, as long they are "well-behaved." WS
7 p.m. Barnes and Noble.
David Sedaris' books "Me Talk Pretty Once Day," "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" and "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" have solidified his reputation as one of the latest in a long line of American essayists, stretching back to Twain and beyond, who sift the pain and absurdity of daily life for comedy gold. On Friday, June 13 Sedaris will bring his smart and quirky brand of humor to the west Little Rock outlet of Barnes and Noble Booksellers, which serves as a stop on the nationwide tour supporting his book of essays "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls." The event kicks off at 7 p.m. and will likely run long, as a note on the B&N website says that the doors will be locked after 11 p.m., exit only after that. Seating will be available first-come first-served with no reservations, and no photos or audio recording will be allowed. If you want to get a book signed by Sedaris at the event, the website says, you'll have to buy it at a Barnes and Noble store or at their online website, barnesandnoble.com, and you'll have to produce an original sales receipt on command to prove you bought it there. A little heavy-handed 9what about my prized, heavily annotated copy of "Barrel Fever" that kept me laughing through the hard times?), but if you want Sedaris' John Hancock that bad, you'll likely fork out for a new book if need be. DK
THE LIBRAS PLAY THE BEATLES
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5.
The Libras, a rotating cast of long-tenured local musicians that usually includes Isaac Alexander, Greg Spradlin and Jason Weinheimer, is our favorite cover band in town. They have good taste. They're always loose like a wedding band at the end of the night. And even when they're screwing around and deep into their cups, they still sound good. On Friday, they're taking on The Beatles, with a little help from their friends: Amy Garland Angel, Indy Grotto, Kevin Kerby, Danny Johnson, John McAteer and John Willis will all take turns singing with the band. The night's a benefit for the Pulaski Heights Elementary Garden, a noble effort to teach kids how to grow their own. LM
WALTER 'WOLFMAN' WASHINGTON
8:30 p.m. Stickyz. $10
New Orleans native Walter "Wolfman" Washington dropped out of high school to play in the house band at the Dew Drop Inn, a club near his small apartment. "It wasn't but a room," he said once in an interview with Gambit, "but I had my own room." He sang in a church choir with Ernie K-Doe, toured with Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas, and soon started bands of his own, like Solar System and The Roadmasters. There have been solo albums, too, many of them with titles playing off his nickname: "Wolf Tracks" (1986), "Wolf at the Door" (1991), "On the Prowl" (2000). A good place to start is "It's Rainin' In My Life," a song you can find on YouTube. He celebrated his 70th birthday late last year, but is still a Frenchmen Street club fixture, a workhorse guitarist and an icon in the blues community. WS
GINSU WIVES, VISION CONTROL
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Ginsu Wives will give you nightmares; their synth-punk, techno-clash sound is over-stimulated and over-stimulating. They sound a like a freak-folk band playing Suicide covers, and the effect goes beyond frightening into refreshing, and then back to frightening. Former !!! drummer and "Towncraft"-era Little Rock punk veteran John Pugh is the man behind Vision Control, a project he's been pursuing under enigmatic circumstances since the demise of his band Free Blood last year. I say "enigmatic" because their website doesn't feature any of their music, just YouTube videos, like clips from "All That Jazz," a lecture by Werner Erhard and a tutorial on how to escape from handcuffs (it also links to an empty SoundCloud page). Pugh, a guy who deserves the city's trust at this point, describes the sound as "minimalist R&B proto-punk ... where Terry Riley meets Bo Diddley," which demands respect. WS
ARKANSAS JAZZ HALL OF FAME CEREMONY
$20. Afterthought. 8 p.m.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame (maintained by the nonprofit Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation), which has inducted 42 musicians since its founding. Whether or not you've heard of the organization or know about any of these people, its importance is more or less undeniable: If these guys weren't preserving the state's jazz history, who would? This year's honorees include Martha Burks, Carwin Pleasant, Tom Richeson, Dave Rogers, Joe Vick and, posthumously, Richard Boone, Fred Marshall and Robert Trezvant. The venue is especially appropriate since, as the Foundation notes, the Afterthought is "the only Little Rock venue which has presented live jazz continuously — at least once a week — since the 1970s." WS