Summer's just around the corner. Sunburns and heat-inspired freak-outs are coming, but so are sno-cones, swimming pools and lots of great entertainment. Time to start marking up your calendar.
The Weekend Theater closes its new season with decorated playwright David Mamet's bleaker take on the world of Willy Loman, “Glengarry Glen Ross” (May 14). Local NPR affiliate KUAR's annual answer to “A Prairie Home Companion,” “The Arkansas Flyer” (May 14), moves to Wildwood Park for the Arts for its fourth edition. Local singer/songwriter Amy Garland hosts, honky-tonk heroes The Salty Dogs and bluesman John Craig perform and the Invisible Radio Theater stages “old-fashioned” radio skits. A host of local acts, including Times Showcase winner Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth, Adam Faucett & the Tall Grass, Bear Colony and Frown Pow'r (May 15), unite to raise money for American Princes' bassist Luke Hunsicker, who's battling brain cancer.
This year's Timberwood Amphitheater Concert Series at Magic Springs (May 15-August 15) kicks off with Disney channel star Mitchel Musso (May 15) and features the likes of country crooner Pat Green (June 5), still-charting '90s modern rock act Train (June 10), REO Speedwagon ( June 17), Ted Nugent (July 3), Arkansas-born new country star Joe Nichols (July 10), Randy Travis (July 31) and emo-pop young bucks Boys Like Girls (August 8).
Spend back-to-back weekends noshing at food festivals. There'll be blintzes, corned beef and matzo galore at the River
Market Pavilion for the annual Jewish Food and Cultural Festival (May 16), as well as live performances by acts like the Meshugga Klezmer Band. The following weekend, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church hosts the 26th annual Greek Food Festival (May 21-23), with plenty of backlava, gyros and souvlaki to go around.
Local record label Thick Syrup celebrates its fourth anniversary (May 22) with a concert at White Water Tavern that fea-tures a one-night reunion of widely beloved bar rockers Smoke Up Johnny, avant-rock act Androids of Ex-Lovers and Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth. Angst-laden Canadian indie-rock band The Most Serene Republic co-headlines at Sticky Fingerz with North Carolina's The Annuals, a hook-y six-piece that favors instrumental experimentation. Former members of Evanescence Ben Moody, John LeCompt and Rocky Gray didn't like working with Amy Lee, but apparently really dug her look and sound, because they've recruited former “American Idol” contestant Carly Smithson, a Lee doppleganger, for their new band We Are the Fallen (May 25), which makes its Little Rock debut at Juanita's.
A quarter of a million folks are expected at Riverfest (May 28-30), long Arkansas' biggest entertainment event. This year's headliners includes the usual slate of nostalgia acts — New Jack Swing pioneers Bell Biv Devoe, Aussie yacht rockers The Little River Band and classic rock staple Steve Miller Band. But perhaps more than in years past, there are also a number of acts still very much relevant in modern music, like Southern rock stalwarts The Black Crowes, booming-voiced rapper Ludacris, country stars Gary Allan and Blake Shelton and rising roots-tinged rock bands Cross Canadian Ragweed and Lucero.
The Rep closes its season with Terrence McNally's musical adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel, “Ragtime” (May 28). As it does annually, the Hot Springs Music Festival (May 30-June 12) brings together more than 250 classical musicians from across the globe for dozens of performances in venues throughout Spa City. The Little Rock Film Festival (June 2-6) returns with five days of documentaries, features and shorts and, new this year, a $10,000 prize for the best Southern film. The lineup will be announced on May 11.
The Black Keys, Widespread Panic, Robert Randolph and Hayes Carll are among those playing at the Wakarusa music and camping festival (June 3-6), which returns to Mulberry Mountain, near Ozark, for the second year.
The Eureka Springs Blues Weekend (June 3-6) returns to venues throughout the city with the likes of John P. Hammond, Magic Slim and the Teardrops and Bob Margolin. Legendary songwriter John Prine (June 4) offers hits like “Angel of Montgomery” and “Sam Stone” to a crowd at Robinson Center Music Hall that's hopefully much better behaved than the last time he came to town. Down the street, at Revolution Todd Snider (June 4) employs similar humor and wit (he recorded for a time on Prine's record label) in his folk-flecked tunes.
Movies in the Park, the annual outdoor free weekly movie series, returns to the Riverfest Amphitheatre with “Back to the Future” (June 9). Other films in the series, which continues through August 4, include “Twilight” (June 4), “The Dark Knight” (June 30), “Sixteen Candles” (July 7), “Wedding Crashers” (July 21) and “Grease” (July 28). R&B throwbacks Mint Condition share a bill with contemporary soul crooner Joe (June 10) at the Riverfest Amphitheatre.
Now in its fourth year, the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival (June 16-July 3), returns to UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall with “Comedy of Errors,” “Henry V,” “Dracula” and “Alice and Wonderland.” Opera in the Ozarks (June 18-July 17) celebrates 60 years of performances at Inspiration Point (just outside of Eureka Springs) with Bizet's “Carmen,” Mozart's “Don Giovanni” and Puccini's “Tosca.” And Celebrity Attractions brings a national stage production of “The Wizard of Oz” (June 21-23) to Robinson Center Music Hall.
Before Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant (July 15) and John Bonham played together in a group called Band of Joy. Now, Plant's resurrected the group and populated it with Nashville talents like Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin. In perhaps the summer's most anticipated concert, he brings the reconstituted group to Robinson. Unfunny but hugely popular ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (July 18) yuks it up at Verizon Arena.
Finally, expect fainting tweenage girls to pack Verizon Arena to the brim for Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber (July 29), who brings R&B crooner Sean Kingston along as an opener.