- FRICTION AND VELOCITY: Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race," speaks at the Statehouse Convention Center's Wally Allen Ballroom, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 23, free, registration required.
MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY
6 p.m. Wally Allen Ballroom, Statehouse Convention Center. Free, registration required.
In an interview with The New York Times following the successful box office debut of "Hidden Figures," Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the nonfiction book on which the film was based, said, "The black experience isn't exclusively slavery/civil rights/Obama. There are certain stories that are automatically on the trajectory, and anything that's not on that is hidden in the shadows. Meanwhile, most people live their lives between those dots." The acclaimed film, nominated for three Oscars and two Golden Globes, tells the stories of the NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, and of their work as "computers" in the Langley Research Center in Shetterly's native Hampton, Va. Based on Shetterly's "Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race," the movie rights were snagged before Shetterly had even finished the book. For this lecture, part of the Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture series, Shetterly will sign copies of her book following a talk on Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson and the importance of being able "to see those people who are working in these fields. Even in the black community, they're a little invisible. If we're going to change these things, we all have to be responsible for having more imagination and being able to accept that these are part of our experience, too." Tickets may be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 683-5239, and if you can't make it, stream the event live at clintonschool.uasys.edu/uacslive/.
THE STEEL WHEELS
8 p.m. South on Main. $20-$32.
All four members of The Steel Wheels — Trent Wagler (guitar, banjo), Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass) and Jay Lapp (mandolin) — grew up in Mennonite families, and although Wagler and Dickel took a detour by way of punk music, it's undeniable that the quartet's upbringing influenced the band's sound. "Red Wing" (2010) and "Lay Down, Lay Low" (2012) are the true blue stuff of bluegrass tradition — frantic fiddling, ambient-mic harmonies, measured waltzes — but the group seems to have superimposed some gospel and grit onto its later efforts: "Leave Some Things Behind" (2015) and its 2017 release, "Wild As We Came Here," recorded in 10 days at producer Sam Kassiter's farmhouse in rural Maine. For five years running, they've been spearheading a summer roots festival called Red Wing in Natural Chimneys Park in Mount Solon, Va. This year, the festival features the likes of Steve Earle & The Dukes, Lake Street Dive and Sarah Jarosz. If mountain music on Mule Resophonics is your bag, check out this final show in Oxford American magazine's Americana concert series.
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $10.
Itsjusbobby Tillman, the rap artist responsible for some major charm added to November Juliet's set at the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, the "Weirdo Wednesday" shows and 2015's album "Anybody But Bobby," is releasing his newest record via a musical meditation on race and, as he says, discomfort. "Discomfort can either make you or break you," Tillman told us. "Society's going through a transition with the way we talk about racism. Everybody's uncomfortable with these conversations, but we've gotta have 'em. I'm basically trying to give my own interpretation about how to move forward, dealing with it in a different way. Some new rules need to be made." To that end, itsjusbobby's album release is accompanied by live instrumentation and "theatrics on the big screen." See arkansassounds.org for tickets.
ARGENTA READING SERIES: JAY JENNINGS
6:30 p.m. 421 N. Main St., NLR. Free.
When Jay Jennings moved back to Little Rock in 2007 after a 20-year journalism career in New York, he did so with the knowledge that "the city was preparing to commemorate the integration anniversary," as he told Steve Barnes in a televised interview on AETN. Jennings wanted to "take the temperature," as he said, of Little Rock 50 years after the historic crisis at Central High (a time that, coincidentally, equaled the span of Jennings' own life), and did so by following the Central High School football team through an unexpectedly tumultuous year, chronicling the school's team — and the climate of race relations surrounding it — in his 2010 book "Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City." Jennings then edited "Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany," including an interview with the notoriously elusive Portis by Arkansas Gazette journalist Roy Reed, and has written for Garden and Gun magazine, The New York Times, Lowbrow Reader and the Oxford American magazine, where he's a senior editor. Jennings is the next featured author in the Argenta Reading series, and his talk is preceded by a reading from UA Little Rock Professor of Rhetoric and Writing George H. Jensen Jr., author of "Some of the Words Are Theirs: A Memoir of an Alcoholic Family." Singer/songwriter and Late Romantics frontperson John Willis opens the evening with a performance, 6:30 p.m., followed by the readings, 7 p.m.
- Luca Prospero
- DESCENDANTS OF HILL COUNTRY: The Cedric Burnside Project channels its Mississippi genesis at the White Water Tavern 9 p.m. Friday, March 24, $10.
CEDRIC BURNSIDE PROJECT
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.
If you've heard any music from Mississippi harmonica player, guitarist and sharecropper R.L. "Big Daddy" Burnside, chances are you heard him in the latter part of his career. Despite having played his first public appearance around 1947, he didn't land on most listeners' radar until the 1990s, when he began recording for Fat Possum Records in Oxford, Miss. Chances are, too, you heard his grandson Cedric drumming behind him. Cedric began touring with R.L. before he turned 15. He recalled that upbringing on his website: "We'd have house parties every weekend. Johnny Woods would come over and blow harmonica, and he'd drink two or three gallons of corn liquor. We just stomped up dirt." Later, during the days of his collaboration with Lightnin' Malcolm, Cedric would come out from behind the drums and play guitar, not so much imitating R.L. as channeling him, alongside childhood friend and fellow blues heir Trenton Ayers, the son of longtime Junior Kimbrough sideman Earl "Little Joe" Ayers. Ayers, Cedric and Cedric's uncle Garry Burnside released "Descendants of Hill Country" in 2015, which was funded by 101 people on a Kickstarter campaign and ended up winning a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. Maybe, like me, you've heard enough synthesized horn rock masquerading as blues to justify a "meh" toward the whole genre. Don't mistake this for that. It's the genuine article, too often appreciated more in France and Switzerland than in its own backyard — and made by men who have never not lived in and around blues music. Or, as Cedric said on that Kickstarter campaign, "I was born a blues baby, raised a blues child and I'm gonna die a blues man."
- Brian Chilson
- THE SPOKEN WORD: Roots Art Connection co-founder Chris James debuts his play "Dear Black People" at Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall with a performance from Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners Dazz & Brie, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, $15.
'DEAR BLACK PEOPLE'
7 p.m. Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, UA Little Rock. $15.
Chris James, the co-founder of Roots Art Connection, the self-described "social entrepreneurship" endeavor based at North Little Rock's House of Art (108 E. Fourth St.), will direct "Dear Black People," a one-act play he wrote entirely in poetic verse. James was inspired, he told us, by Justin Simien's 2014 film "Dear White People" and felt a subsequent need "to write a piece to talk to my beautiful black Americans about what we should work on and what we should be proud of." The satire, he says, "talks about black culture in America: identity, racism, relationships, politics and the typical stereotypes ... meant to make the audience laugh and learn all at the same time." In one segment, the writer recalls a list of insults hurled at him in childhood, jokes that James says "are the very reason black children grow up to believe they aren't beautiful." Preceding the play are performances from guest artists, including Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners Dazz & Brie. For tickets, search for "Dear Black People" on eventbrite.com.
HARD PASS, ATTAGIRL, SPERO
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $5.
It's not hyberbole to say that Hard Pass is a local supergroup. The band's 2016 release "The Axe Forgets" features the talents of Little Rock mainstays Mitch Vanhoose, Jordan Trotter, Jonathan Dodson and Chad Conder, and the album credits note contributions from Will Boyd of Marvin Berry, R.I.O.T.S. and American Princes; Ryan Hitt of Amasa Hines; Alisyn Reid of A Rowdy Faith, and more. Little Rock's Attagirl (not to be confused with "Attagirl," Dutch band Bettie Serveert's third album, or with Toronto indie rockers Attagirl, or Richmond twee pop quartet Atta Girl) played an unbelievably tight and cohesive set at a toy drive at North Little Rock's The Parlor last year, and shares the bill with delightfully titled thrashers like "JK Unless You're Into It." The show opens with a solo set from Spero (Correne Spero of Northern State, Lucky Bitch), featuring songs from her projects SPERO and Daughters of Triton.
7 p.m. Clinton Presidential Center. $10-$23.
There are, no doubt, many reasons why royalty might figure so prominently in the works of classical composers, but chief among them is that most great composers were, at one time or another, beholden to patronage from the aristocracy — and their wallets. Haydn was no exception, and his "Quartet No. 62 in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3" is nicknamed "Emperor" because its second movement riffs on "God Save Emperor Francis," a Croat peasant song Haydn adapted for Francis II's birthday in 1797. It's the third in a set of six of Haydn's last quartets, and though it's unlikely anybody could spontaneously hum a few bars of "God Save Emperor Francis," they'd surely recognize the melody itself if it were played. It's been resurrected in Christian and Masonic hymns, and in 1922, Germany adopted Haydn's melody as the basis for its national anthem: "Deutschland, Deutschland, uber alles, Uber alles in der Welt ..." Following on the program is Stephanie Berg's "The Promise of All My Tomorrows," the Kansas City composer's 2015 trio for oboe, French horn and harp, and Brahms' lush "Sextet in B-flat, Op. 18." This last one has pastoral beauty for miles. It's from the period when Brahms was still feeling his way through writing for strings without the aid of piano, and so he added two voices to the standard, bare-bones string quartet, something that lends the movements much more than two extra voices' worth of drama and depth.
- Trudi Knight
- 'LOVE SONGS FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED:' Ex-Georgia Satellite Dan Baird and his band Homemade Sin get loud at the White Water Tavern 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, $15.
DAN BAIRD & HOMEMADE SIN
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $15.
Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings" occupied two of Billboard's top 10 spots in 1986, and that alone gives us a pretty good sense of what sort of soft-rock synth party the Georgia Satellites were walking into when they released "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" that same year. Frontman Dan Baird's yodels came across like drunken hiccups, and the guitars were nasty enough (RIP, Chuck Berry) to stand in for the sexual frustration the song's narrator never got a chance to work up in the first place. I was learning to navigate school bus culture when it happened, but I imagine its arrival must have felt like somebody had called up the "Delilah" radio show and requested Motor-head. "I don't know if we were swimming against the tide or, as Wee Willie Keeler said, 'hittin' 'em where they ain't,' " Baird said in a 2013 interview with the Ultimate Classic Rock blog. The tune became a barroom anthem, and Baird eventually left the Satellites and scored a hit with a track from his solo project, "Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired": the goofy, lovesick plea "I Love You Period." Maybe because Baird didn't take himself too seriously, audiences didn't, either, and found ample reason to ignore the sort of deeper tracks that relegated him to "musician's musician" territory: "Younger Face" and "Cumberland River" from his 1996 record "Buffalo Nickel," for example. He's back, though, and as of 2008, has been playing with fellow ex-Satellite drummer Mauro Magellan as Dan Baird & The Homemade Sin. Georgia Satellites hits and Baird's solo work make appearances on the current set list, along with tunes from 2015's "Get Loud," including "Fairground People," a track Baird told Rolling Stone was inspired by the residents of Nashville's forgotten neighborhoods. "They're the poor white trash who didn't finish high school. I know they're Trump supporters and 'white man can't get a break' people, but still they're salt of the earth. I hate them and I love them." See lastchancerecords.us for tickets.