- ALWAYS FREE: Guitarist and vocalist Jackie Venson lands at South on Main on Friday night.
9 p.m. South on Main. $10.
At the end of a live rendition of her tune "Always Free," filmed as a submission for NPR's Tiny Desk Contest this year, blues guitarist Jackie Venson announces, "All right, that was a test run." It comes off as comedic in context of what she's just done on the guitar, let alone vocally and lyrically: "I live in a little house on the side of the street where the grass is dead but they water the concrete ... Oh, try to believe that work will set you free/Only wise men see that we were always free." Her delicate voice acts as a counter-agent to the crunch of her guitar — clearly the centerpiece of the act — and she uses a mop bucket absconded from an audience member to climb onto the "desk" housing the keyboard rig. Venson is a badass and a half, a classical pianist-turned-blues-shredder whose niche falls somewhere between Alabama Shakes and Joan Armatrading, and $10 is a steal to hear her play.
8 p.m. The Joint Theater & Coffeehouse. $35.
In 1960s Mississippi, liquor stores could double as community centers. Greenville native Steve Azar's story is one in which a child of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants spends much of his time behind the counter of the family business — the Jigger and Jug Package Store — idolizing the blues musicians that would pick guitars and sing songs there each evening, and grows up to record an album called "Down at the Liquor Store" with a backing band full of former sidemen to B.B. King. Now, he's carved out a niche for himself as an ambassador of Mississippi Delta music and culture, auctioning off bespoke songs and hosting festivals and celebrity golf tournaments to funnel money into Delta health, art and education initiatives through his and his wife's St. Cecilia Foundation. Find tickets at thejointargenta.com.
- Jen Rosenstein
- Jason Mraz
8 p.m. Robinson Center Performance Hall. $38-$92.
If the age of "fake news" and sloppy partisan clickbait has taught us anything, it's that we tend to be biased toward information that confirms what we already believe. Evidently, Jason Mraz isn't immune; the songwriter and avocado farmer went to a palm reader in New York's Central Park, who called him a "youth" and encouraged him to "avoid the questioner and just go with what you know," as Mraz told NPR last December. What he knew was that he wanted to drop out of theater school and pursue a career in songwriting, so he did. It worked out, too; if you turned on a radio or rode in a car equipped with one at any point in the year 2008, you've heard Mraz's "I'm Yours." The bubblegum wordplay-as-percussion that reigns supreme on that tune and other radio earworms ("The Remedy," "I Won't Give Up") has landed Mraz fans across the world as well as a starring role in Sara Bareilles' Broadway play, "Waitress." See robinsoncentersecondact.com/opening-events for tickets.
9 p.m. South on Main. $10.
It's amazing how a seemingly simple three-beat pattern can sound so different depending on what hands are interpreting it. In a Bill Monroe waltz, for example, the beats are equal, churned out lazily in an easy shuffle. In "Tell Me the Truth" from Making Movies, a Kansas City-based band that borrows from cumbia and cubano rhythms, the third beat is cut short, charging the whole pattern with electricity and urgency. Making Movies is made up of two sets of brothers — Enrique and Diego Chi, and Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand — and is on tour in support of the band's latest, "I Am Another You." It's a 20-track exercise in empathy that alternates between English and Spanish to tell the story of three young men in crisis — one from Mexico, one from Venezuela and one from the Midwestern United States. Taken with the covers of Bob Marley and Los Tigres del Norte on its companion EP, "You Are Another Me," the album serves as a statement about walls and what it means to be an immigrant. The "yuniversal" sounds of Yuni Wa open the show.
7 p.m. Four Quarter Bar. $10.
It's a little surprising that it took so long for surf music and punk rock to get together and get freaky, as they did under the supervision of East Coast surf-punk forefathers Agent Orange. After all, breezy melodies notwithstanding, surf and punk have so much in common: Quit your jobs, squares! Pensions are dead! Hang out on the beach with your friends! All that's to say nothing of the obvious skateboard/surfboard parallels. With Mike Palm still at the helm, Perry Giordano on bass and Dave Klein on drums, the SoCal aesthetic lands in Argenta, with support from fellow punk rockers The Atom Age, of Oakland. Palm told LA Weekly last January that "it doesn't matter where you go, whether it's Europe, Alaska, Brazil, up in Canada or anywhere in the United States ... you look around and the people are all wearing punk-rock T-shirts." I suspect they're bound to find here, as they have in cities across the world, that punk rock isn't nearly as dead as it might appear to folks who haven't been out to a show since "Bloodstains" came out.
- 'THE VOICE': Levelle Davison returns to Arkansas for a show at Gigi's Soul Cafe & Lounge after a run on NBC's "The Voice."
8 p.m. Gigi's Soul Cafe & Lounge, 10840 Maumelle Blvd. $15-$20.
Through some formula intended to create maximum television magic that undoubtedly left a bunch of NBC execs emerging from a conference room patting each other on the back, contestants on the network's vocal reality competition show "The Voice" are selected for teams led by judges/coaches Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Levine, and thereafter whittled down in sudden death matches that, of course, happen on stage in front of a live studio audience. For Little Rock native Levelle Davison, that happened March 20, when he and fellow "Adam" teammate Reid Umstattd sang Rihanna's "Love on the Brain" together — but, you know, against each other. Umstattd emerged triumphant, but lucky for us, that means Davison is back in North Little Rock for a spell, and he's bringing the supple, soulful voice that whipped judges Levine and Shelton around in their chairs to claim him as a protegee as Davison began his version of The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" in late February. Davison is joined by special guests Tawanna Campbell, Haywood King, Dee Dee Jones, Keith Savage and others. Tickets are $15; pay $20 for VIP ticket and get special seating and an autographed picture of Davison.
- ALL YOU NEED IS BACH: Cameron Carpenter, the pioneer of the digital organ, gives a concert Tuesday evening at Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA.
7:30 p.m. Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA, Conway. $27-$40.
A certain organist or two in the Little Rock area would probably cry "hyperbole," but I don't think it's far-fetched to say that Cameron Carpenter's name could, with time, be mentioned in the same breath as Les Paul and Robert Moog. An aerial view of the Juilliard-educated musician at his custom-built console looks as if the pipe organ has been refitted for use in space orbit: five rows of black and white keys bookended by panel upon panel of couplers and drawknobs and stops of all timbres. It's called the International Touring Organ (ITO), and it was designed by Marshall & Ogletree especially for Carpenter, who considers it part of his artistic mission to free the organ from the shackles of church environments. Carpenter plays it, as is required, with his whole body, nimbly depressing the bass tones so deftly with his toes that you'd think the Swarovski crystals that reportedly bejewel his shoes are going to fly off and plug up a cog somewhere. The ITO is portable, digital and, as described by The Verge, "contains a primary CPU connected by a network cable to industrial-level servers, which feed their signals to six eight-channel power amplifiers, which then drive 10 speaker carts and eight subwoofer cabinets. Each of the speakers are 6 feet tall, and half of the subwoofer cabinets are larger than a refrigerator." Suffice to say, it's an appropriately grandiose machine for someone who fell in love with the instrument after seeing it in a Childcraft Encyclopedia when he was growing up in rural Pennsylvania. Expect the likes of an ethereally reconfigured Bach fugue to be programmed next to Gordon Lightfoot, expect to be offended at such an a-liturgical organ recital so close to Holy Week, expect to see the veins in Carpenter's skull pulsing below his mohawk, but do not expect to be bored.
GOOD FOOT, BIG RED FLAG
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.
As musical litmus tests go, it's pretty solid advice to use saxophonist Dave Williams as a signifier that the tunes are going to be locked up tight. Good Foot has Williams in its employ, as well as a few other MVPs of the Petit Roche jazz rock contingent: drummer Slavek Bolubah, guitarists Matt Treadway and Steve Struthers, bassist Brad Birge and keyboardist Nick Matson. Their arrangements are just loose enough to allow for trading eight bars between musicians but plenty solid enough to keep those trades lively, and they're joined on this gig by Olde World folk-punk rockers Big Red Flag, for which Matson's likely to pick up the accordion.
- BIJOUX DOES BADU: Vocalist Bijoux Pighee takes on the repertoire of Erykah Badu for an evening at South on Main.
BIJOUX DOES BADU
8 p.m. South on Main. $10.
If you already recognize the "Bijoux" and the "Badu" in this event announcement, there's not much more I can say to convince you that being at South on Main on Wednesday evening is a good idea. But, just in case: Bijoux — daughter of West African parents, uncontested earner of the nickname "Her Royal Dopeness" and a Little Rock-based siren who's fluent in expressivity whether she's singing in English, French or Allen Toussaint-ese — is interpreting gems from the catalogue of Erykah Badu, the goddess in human form whose two-phalanged boots and thoughts on Hitler's painting and radical empathy in a Vulture interview in January might, just might (along with this show and maybe 12 respins of "Baduizm") give us the thought fodder and the patience to wait it out until a follow-up to "New Amerykah Part Two" comes along.