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Freddie Gibbs plays free show at Hendrix

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WEDNESDAY 2/22

FREDDIE GIBBS

8 p.m. Hendrix. Free.

I chose where I attended college — among similar schools — mainly because every year the student activities board managed to bring bands like R.E.M. and A Tribe Called Quest to play for the tiny student body in Podunk, Va. I was a moron. But so are a lot of 17-year-olds. If those sorts of rising seniors are considering Hendrix, they should be in good shape. In recent years, there's been no better venue in Central Arkansas. Spoon, Clipse, Girl Talk, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Deerhunter, Big Boi and Yelawolf have all made appearances in recent years. Freddie Gibbs' name might not pop like some of those mentioned, but that'll probably change. The Gary, Ind., native was signed, briefly in the mid aughts, to Interscope. Before that and with more urgency afterwards, he's flooded the Internet with double-time raps about street life. Last year, he signed to Young Jeezy's imprint, CTE Music. Nothing he's done that I've heard sounds particularly unique; rather, as the critic Tom Breihan has suggested, Gibbs is a master synthesist, pulling technique from all sorts of greats. Here's betting that technical skill and persistence put him more into the mainstream in the years to come. LM

WEDNESDAY 2/22

PRETTY THINGS PEEP SHOW

8:30 p.m. Revolution. $5-$15.

A confession: When this whole burlesque show revival whatchamacallit started gaining traction a while back, I immediately tucked it away into the Yet Another Eye-Roll-Inducing Retro Affectation I Can Safely Ignore folder in my ol' mental file cabinet, right alongside sock-hops, hot-rods, twirl-y mustaches and arcane cocktails from the 19th century that were only invented to mask the flavor of toxic, rotgut hooch. But then I went to a burlesque performance down in New Orleans last summer and figured something out that I'd overlooked in my jaded, dismissive zeal: Quite often, these shows consist of very attractive women dancing sensuously while stripping down to almost nothing, which is somehow even more appealing than simply nothing. So, uh, count me in. If you require further enticement, I would suggest searching YouTube for "Go-Go Amy," who will perform with the Pretty Things Peep Show, along with the sword-swallowing sweetheart Heather Holiday, the diminutive damsel Little Miss Firefly, the six-string solo superman Eddy Price & His One-Man Band and, of course, your host, the fire-eating, sharp object-juggling Donny Vomit. RB

THURSDAY 2/23

JAMES MCMURTRY

8:30 p.m. Stickyz. $12 adv., $15 d.o.s.

James McMurtry's tune "We Can't Make it Here Anymore" has garnered the singer/songwriter a lot of attention since its release on his 2005 album "Childish Things," particularly since the Great Recession began grinding jobs and lives into dust back in 2008. The title is a double entendre, referring to both the diminishing prospects of the middle class in America and the dwindling manufacturing jobs that made such lives possible. In a recent post on his blog titled "We Can't Make it Here Naivete," McMurtry elaborated on the song a bit in light of reading a New York Times story about how iPhones are produced, and why, in so many words, we can't make them here. Factory hands in China toil around the clock for low wages. At gunpoint, workers extract precious metals from the ground in the Congo, metals that eventually become bundles of tiny circuits in your pocket, transmitting the ephemera of your day-to-day life to other bundles of tiny circuits in other people's pockets. "We can't make iPhones in this country because we don't want to tolerate slavery within our own borders," he wrote. "So we outsource our slavery." It's the rare musician who'll examine his own work in so frank a manner and put it in a real-world context like that. But if McMurtry's proved anything in the last many years, it's that he is just that: a rare and thoughtful songwriter. In terms of sound, his highly enjoyable 2008 album "Just Us Kids" is pretty indicative. He draws influence from the winding lyrical poetry of Bob Dylan, the down in the groove rocking of Tom Petty, the sardonic bite of John Prine and the plainspoken everyman appeal of John Mellencamp. But McMurtry always puts his own stamp on it. He's one of the best singer/songwriters going. Jonny Burke opens the 18-and-older show with some excellent roots-inspired, swaggering power-pop. RB

THURSDAY 2/23

EPIPHANY

9 p.m., Revolution. $10.

If Epiphany's new release, "Such is Life," doesn't push him into the national conversation, there'll be one explanation: Only the lucky succeed. That's because for more than a decade the Pine Bluff-raised rapper has made all the right moves. That includes (but isn't limited to) hustling national artists for features, selling mix CDs in club parking lots, hosting regular concert series, touring the South, releasing concept mixtapes, recording companion videos and making inroads with rap bloggers (who carry way more weight than radio programmers today). Now with "Such is Life" he's managed something that few in the local rap scene have pulled out — a cohesive album that sounds like a national release. Which doesn't mean that he's traded introspection for paint-by-numbers rhymes. Rather, he's managed the rare feat of existential hip-hop that you'd want to party to. Look for Piph to be backed by a live band and get support from vocalists Bijoux and Dee. The Labratz opens. LM

FRIDAY 2/24

PALLBEARER

9 p.m. Juanita's.

Pallbearer laid down a three-song demo in 2010 that turned many, many heads in the doom metal world, especially for a brand-new group. Of course, the band is indebted to Black Sabbath, but their take on that sound is so fresh and expansive and inspired that they're already being hailed as one of the finest bands in what has, over the last few years, become a very crowded field. This week saw the release of "Sorrow and Extinction," Pallbearer's debut full-length on Profound Lore, one of the best metal labels around. It's a beast, too, filled with killer riffs, natch, but also some memorably melodic playing, a few gorgeously sparse post-rock moments, soaring, emotionally resonant singing from vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell and dexterous, swinging playing from drummer Zach Stine (note: Chuck Schaaf, of Deadbird renown, is now the band's drummer). The album is a rich, rewarding listen, with an emotional heft that few of its contemporaries can touch. This show includes Pallbearer's buddies in Loss, a Nashville doom outfit that earned widespread acclaim for last year's "Despond," as well as locals Black Orchid, made up of musicians from several other veteran Arkansas metal acts. On Saturday, Pallbearer heads on over to Music City for another show with Loss. RB

SATURDAY 2/25

QUEER PROM 2012

9 p.m. Dedicated. $5-$12.

It's really good to see the people taking back prom from the clutches of authority and lameness, especially for a worthwhile cause. Case in point — Queer Prom, now in its third year in Little Rock. Last year's theme was "Dirty South," but this year the organizers are taking things back to the Roaring '20s with a speakeasy vibe. Look for lots of flapper dresses, garters and doing of the Charleston. There'll be hooch, too, of the variety that wasn't made in a bathtub, as well as music from Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass, Laundry for the Apocalypse and DJs Poebot and Calico Arms, all hosted by the always charismatic Miranda Meridian. There'll be free HIV testing, a picture booth and more. With a $12 donation, you drink beer for free. The event is LGBT-inspired, of course, but it's open to all friendly and open-minded folks, regardless of sexuality. A portion of proceeds will go to helping a local transman and the rest will go to organizing an LGBTQI prom for high school students this summer. Dedicated is located at 320 W. 7th St. RB

SUNDAY 2/26

EARL & THEM

WITH EARL CATE

7 p.m. Juanita's. $10.

Earl Cate was, of course, co-founder of The Cate Brothers, with his twin Ernie. The Fayetteville act was one of the premier white-boy soul outfits of its day, releasing four albums on Asylum Records that featured such luminaries as Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Levon Helm, Timothy B. Schmidt and others. If you're from Arkansas and you were born between 1973 and, say, 1981, odds are good that your parents have a Cate Brothers story or two, or at the very least a couple of the band's albums in their stack of LPs, which I would suggest you go get and listen to on your next gently hungover Sunday morning. Earl & Them is Earl Cate's current outfit, with Cate Brothers veteran Terry Cagle on drums, Jason Davis on vocals and guitar and Mike Murray on bass. Sunday's show features guests, including blues guitar master Jimmy Thackery, saxophonist David Renko and RJ Mischo on harmonica. All three played on Earl & Them's latest album, "Special Blend." RB

SUNDAY 2/26

POLIÇA

8 p.m. Stickyz. $10.

Poliça is a newish outfit made up of folks from Gayngs. It's woozy, drug-warped synth-funk mixed with stuttering drum patterns and art-rock tendencies, all reverbed to infinity and coated with thick, heavily Auto-Tuned vocals from Channy Leaneagh. The Internet keeps describing Poliça with the term "R&B," though if this band plays R&B, it's R&B tailor-made for a night of doing keybumps of Plutonian Nyborg with the cool kids in the bathroom of the hippest bar on planet Zorffneb 9 in the year X47-K. Replace "R&B" in that equation with "spaghetti western trance dub?" and now we're talking Marijuana Deathsquads, which also performs at this show. Remember "Brownout in Lagos," the opening track from the mighty Oneida's 2009 masterpiece "Rated O?" No? Well, anyway, Marijuana Deathsquads reminds me a bit of a spazzier take on that song, only stretched out into ultra-stoned time-warp tunnel taffy. OK, now replace "spaghetti western trance dub?" with "hardcore" and you're getting close to opening act Total Fucking Blood. All of this music makes for an alien and disorienting experience, but you'll probably come out the other side OK. This 18-and-older show will be one of the weirdest nights to come to town in a good minute or so, so don't snooze on it, weirdoes. RB

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