- SOUL MAN: John Legend performs at Robinson.
It's time to step out again, people. Your summer of languor — of dips in the pool, jaunts to the lake and air-conditioning overdoses — is a thing of the past. With the end of daylight savings time on the horizon, it's time to start preemptively building up your defenses against S.A.D. And what better way than by indulging in the season's dizzying array of arts and culture?
As usual, we offer the highlights in local music (September alone features John Legend, Taylor Swift and the Dave Matthews Band), theater (“Mamma Mia!” and Second City, anyone?) and art (the Arkansas Arts Center unveils its long-awaited “Pharaohs: Treasures of Egypt Revealed” exhibit). And, in this year's feature, we consider an issue plaguing arts institutions countrywide: How can they attract new, young patrons? Plus, as always, there's our statewide Fall Arts calendar. Start making plans …
Months of music
For more than a decade, Austin's favorite sons, the Gourds (Sept. 18, Juanita's), have kicked out rollicking country rock, filled with accordion breakdowns, keen fiddle work and oblique lyrics that seem clear when you're hollering along. It's probably not appropriate to holler, but boomers might have trouble suppressing the urge to at least hum along to the hits at “Motown Gold” (Robinson Center Music Hall, Sept. 18-19), the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's first Pops concert of the season. Half of the popular country quartet Little Big Town (Sept. 18, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville) hails from Arkansas. Just a few days after Kevin Eubanks debuts as the musical director of “The Jay Leno Show,” the jazz guitarist comes to UCA (Sept. 19, Reynolds Performance Hall). The Itals (Sept. 19, Revolution) have carried the torch for Jamaican roots reggae for more than 30 years.
The organizers of Bikes, Blues and BBQ (Sept. 24-26, Arkansas Music Pavilion, Fayetteville) know their demographic. Rather then sticking with the theme, they've enlisted '70s-era Southern rock survivors Blackfoot, the Marshall Tucker Band and Molly Hatchet to headline.
The L.A.-based quartet Silversun Pickups (Sept. 25, Revolution) leans heavily on layered, distorted guitars, inspires a lot of Smashing Pumpkins comparisons and has a popular new album that debuted high on the Billboard charts. Rick Rubin is the latest convert to North Carolina's Avett Brothers (Sept. 25, Robinson Center Music Hall), an expansive folk rock trio with rabid followers. The super producer recently signed the group and produced their latest album, which will be released the Tuesday following this concert. With six Grammys and two multi-platinum albums, John Legend (Sept. 26, Robinson Center Music Hall) might be the most acclaimed male soul singer working today. Country phenom Taylor Swift (Sept. 26, Verizon Arena) is a superstar at 19 thanks in large part to her knack for turning lyrics of teen-age heartache into pop gold. The River City Men's Chorus (Sept. 27-28, Trinity United Methodist Church) considers the role of heroes in a concert that features songs like “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.” The Dave Matthews Band (Sept. 29, Dickey Stephens), which gets little radio or video play, continues to be a testament to the staying power of jam bands.
Alt-rock survivors the Toadies (Oct. 1, Revolution) remain best known for their 1994 single “Possum Kingdom,” a song introduced to millions more recently on “Guitar Hero.” For more than 40 years, the horn-heavy act Tower Power (Walton Arts Center, Oct. 2) has been a force in funk and soul music. Instead of capitalizing on nostalgia tours, the original members of the Beach Boys (Oct. 4, Robinson Center Music Hall) were embroiled in a series of lawsuits for most of the last decade. They finally settled their dispute last year, but still, vocalist Mike Love is the only original member in this touring incarnation, which performs with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Virginia-bred bands Lamb of God and GWAR (Oct. 7, Metroplex) don't look anything alike — the former favors black clothes, goatees and long hair, while the latter looks like D&D characters come to life — but they kick out metal with equal ferocity. Forever King Biscuit in the hearts of the faithful, the Arkansas Heritage Blues Festival (Oct. 8-10, downtown Helena-West Helena) hosts veteran acts like Michael Burks, Pinetop Perkins, Bobby Rush, T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour. For the first time ever, the festival is forced to charge admission; don't worry, it's only $5 per day or $10 for all three.
In their fall program, the Arkansas Chamber Singers (Oct. 9, St. Mark's Episcopal Church; Oct. 11, Clinton Library) perform works from Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn. After a seven-year absence, neo-soul standard bearer Maxwell (Oct. 10, Verizon Arena) is back with a critically acclaimed new album. Rising R&B star Chrisette Michelle and sophisticated rapper Common come along in support. From hard touring and MySpace support, acoustic-folk performer Corey Smith (Oct. 10, Revolution) has grown an ardently devoted fan base.
From Jacksonville, Fla., Shinedown (Oct. 14, Metroplex) is yet another post-grunge act. Former Pedro the Lion front man David Bazan (Oct. 17, Vino's) continues to explore themes of doubt and devotion in his solo career. Prospective Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conductor Philip Man leads the ASO in “The Majesty of Beethoven” (Oct. 17-18, Robinson Center Music Hall), with guest pianist Andrew Von Oeyen. With help from the Brothers Four and the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio (Oct. 22, UCA) helped kick-start the American folk revival of the late '50s and early '60s. They'll be pickin' and grinnin' at the fall festival Harvest (Oct. 24-25, Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts), where the Arkansas Pickin' and Fiddlin' Championship serves as a centerpiece; bands like Posey Hill and The Hartley Family also perform. In its fall concert, the Little Rock Wind Symphony (Oct. 22, Second Presbyterian Church; Oct. 25, Wildwood Park for the Arts) takes on pieces by the likes of Debussy, Grainger and Wilson. Steve Earle's sister Stacey Earle shares his songwriting chops. For more than 15 years, she's barnstormed the country with her husband Mark Stuart, though they've said this will be their last tour together (Oct. 22, Studio Joe.) Despite the recent flak she's caught for simulating pole dancing at a teen award show, Miley Cyrus (Oct. 24, Verizon Arena) remains the queen of tweens. Memphis rap legends 8ball and MJG (Oct. 30, Revolution) have been to Little Rock recently, but not with their live band in tow. Dance punk trio the Gossip (Oct. 30, Vino's), two-thirds of which are White County natives, has played at Vino's a number of times before, but not since it became an international sensation. British vocal ensemble the King's Singers (Nov. 3, Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA,) has long been one of, if not the, most respected a capella acts around. The dysfunction that long plagued desert punks the Meat Puppets (Nov. 4, Revolution) seems to be a thing of the past. Much revered folk singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III headlines the annual Ozark Folk Festival (Nov. 5-8, Eureka Springs). Young cellist Joshua Roman accompanies the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor George Hanson in “Beethoven's Fifth” (Nov. 7-8, Robinson Center Music Hall). It's a dream come true for '80s-rock-loving ice-skating fans looking to get into the holiday spirit early: Rick Springfield, of “Jessie's Girl” fame, and REO Speedwagon, of “Can't Fight This Feeling” fame, team up to provide the soundtrack for ice skater Brian Boitano, of Olympic gold fame, and his pals in “Holiday Celebration on Ice” (Nov. 19, Verizon Arena). The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Nov. 21, Revolution) is celebrating the 25 years since the release of its classic debut album, “My Feet Can't Fail Me Now.” More than a decade after it emerged on the rap-rock scene, Insane Clown Posse (Nov. 22, Village) continues to be known for its elaborate stage show, which often features dancing clowns, trampolines and Faygo cola sprayed far and wide. Hendrix alum and Americana favorite Hayes Carll (Nov. 27, Sticky Fingerz) scored a national hit last year with his song “She Left Me for Jesus.”
In an annual tradition, the River City Men's Chorus takes on seasonal favorites in “Holiday! 2009” (Dec. 6-7, 10; Trinity United Methodist Church). The New Sigmund Romberg Orchestra and Vocal Soloists take a similar approach with “A Viennese Christmas” (Dec. 6, Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA). The Arkansas Chamber Singers' “The Special Time of Year” (Dec. 11, Trinity Presbyterian; Dec. 13, Cathedral of St. Andrew) features works by Mendelssohn, Buck and Jacquet de Mantua. Finally, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's annual holiday concert features the eight-member brother-and-sister act the Leahy Family (Dec. 18-19, Robinson Center Music Hall), who'll sing carols and hymns.