7:30 p.m. Clear Channel Metroplex. $25-$30.
Neil Gaiman's cultural imprint is vast — he's responsible for "The Sandman" comic series, "Coraline," "American Gods" and a growing list of Tori Amos lyrical references. He's also the one whose tweet helped propel jazz pianist Scott Bradlee's basement videos into widespread YouTube fame. Bradlee's project, a series in which he and his friends recorded hot jazz-styled covers of tunes like Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" and Rihanna's "Only Girl," came to be known as Postmodern Jukebox. (There was a brief period when Bradlee donned a powdered wig and decided to call the ensemble "Thomas Jefferson and His Ragtime Orchestra," but, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed). The videos got more popular and slightly fancier, and Bradlee scored an interview with the Village Voice in which, as he recalls on PMJ's website, he "used a bunch of big words to communicate the importance of combining Nickelback with Motown." A "grandpa style" take on Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" landed 100,000 views overnight, and soon nothing was off limits: "Call Me Maybe," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Fancy" (Iggy Azalea, not Reba McEntire, unfortunately). It might be the vintage revivalists' take on Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" that cemented the band's social media fame, thanks to some good timing and the cleverness of Kate Davis' vocal delivery and virtuosity on the upright bass. And, as Bradlee continues, the group "went from performing for a camera in [Bradlee's] living room to performing sold out shows on four continents ... . [We've] introduced the world to more than 40 world class talents, many that have gone on to headline tours of their own" and, an accomplishment he notes he's especially proud of, "we've stayed independent and found success [on] our own path without major label support or corporate sponsors, allowing our fans to remain our single biggest influence."
- BACKSTAGE IS ONSTAGE: Chicago's Manual Cinema creates "Lula del Rey" with projectors, live actors and shadow puppets Thursday, May 4, as part of the Walton Arts Center's "Artosphere: Arkansas's Arts & Nature Festival," through Saturday, May 20.
THURSDAY 5/4-SATURDAY 5/20
ARTOSPHERE: ARKANSAS'S ARTS AND NATURE FESTIVAL
Various times. Northwest Arkansas. Free-$40.
As evidenced by last Saturday's list of weather cancellations in Central Arkansas, festivals and nature are in a serious and often complicated long-term relationship. For the eighth year in a row, the Walton Arts Center's Artosphere is honoring that symbiosis with a series of events through Saturday, May 20, at various venues in Northwest Arkansas. This year's celebration kicks off with the Arkansas debut of "Lula del Rey," a story told through shadow puppets from Chicago performance collective Manual Cinema, 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, Walton Arts Center, $10. There's "Opus Cactus," an acrobatic, illusionist performance from Arizona-based dance company Momix, 7 p.m. Sunday, May 7, $15. The renowned Dover Quartet performs "An Evening of Beethoven," 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, $10, and works from Mozart, Britten and Richard Danielpour for "Live at Crystal Bridges," 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, $25, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Lots of events are free, including "Trail Mix," in which musicians The Bike Zoo Butterflies, Squonk Opera, Claire Lynch, The Séamus Egan Project, Rozenbridge, The Crumbs, Melody Pond and others will line the Razorback Regional Greenway Saturday, May 13, to provide entertainment for pedestrians and cyclists participating in Bike Bentonville's annual Square 2 Square ride. The festival marks the opening of concurrent art installations: Diane Burko's climate change awareness project "Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives" and Livvy Pierce's typographic design study, "Things I Am Learning in My Twenties," which takes literary phrases and spells them out on city walls along Dickson Street in live moss. Third Coast Percussion's presentation of John Luther Adams' "Inuksuit" — written for between nine to 99 performers and which The New York Times called the "ultimate environmental piece" — calls for percussionists to be recruited from the local community, 6 p.m. Friday, May 19, at Fayetteville's Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. There's an Artosphere app to keep up with everything going on, available for free on Google Play for Android devices and on the Apple Store for iPhones. For more details and a full schedule, download the app or visit waltonartscenter.org.
- LET'S GO: The McCrary Sisters bring hymns and harmonies to South on Main as part of Oxford American's Archetypes & Troubadours series, 8 p.m., $25-$40.
8 p.m. South on Main. $25-$40.
Remember that scene from "O Brother, Where Art Thou" right before the saving flood? When our hero convicts Ulysses Everett McGill, Pete Hogwallop and Delmar O'Donnell are staring down three nooses intended for their three necks, with freshly dug graves just beyond? Those gravediggers are part of a 90-year-old Nashville gospel legend: The Fairfield Four. The Four's revolving cast included longtime tenor Reverend Samuel McCrary and, later, bass Isaac "Dickie" Freeman, and when T-Bone Burnett's soundtrack for the movie went gangbusters with audiences, Freeman was asked to record a solo album. He asked McCrary's four daughters — Beverly Ann, Deborah Dianne, Regina Avonette and Alfreda Antoinette — to sing harmony. That arrangement stuck, and the sibling quartet informed its 2010 debut, "Our Journey," with all the experience they'd accrued, in their hometown church and otherwise. Ann had performed with The Winans and Andrae Crouch, and Regina toured and recorded with a born-again Bob Dylan from 1979-1985. In 2015, the Sisters released "Let's Go," featuring the current members of the Fairfield Four on "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around," a song their father had recorded in 1947. "I see us as a bridge between old school and new school [gospel]," Regina told The Tennessean in 2015. "You've got to understand where the music has been to know where to take it." Following two sold-out Easter Gospel Brunches in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame, the polished quartet brings its revival tent sound to Little Rock for this concert, the final show in Oxford American's Archetypes & Troubadours series.
- Dwight Hall
DAZZ & BRIE
9 p.m. Stickyz. $10.
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. In fact, it's not even widely celebrated in Mexico, as it is here in the States. That said, there's really no good reason why you should feel obligated to brave the lines at the tequila bars and the frozen margarita machines on their busiest day of the year, especially if you've yet to catch Dazzmin Murry, Kabrelyn Gabrielle Boyce and the duo's nimble backing band, The Emotionalz: Gavin Le'nard on lead guitar, Kamille Shaw on bass, Hope Dixon on vocals and Darius Blanton alternating with Murry on drums and keys. The group won our 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, and you should come see why. Joshua Asante — guitarist, photographer, poet and voice of Velvet Kente and Amasa Hines — opens the show, paring the soul he lends to his expansive ensemble projects down to its essence.
- YEE HAW FROM ARKANSAS: Lake Charles native Dylan Earl and his band The Reasons Why bring "twangcore" to the White Water Tavern, with May the Peace of the Sea Be With You and Isaac Alexander, 9:30 p.m.
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Stylistically (and let's not fool ourselves — country music still has everything to do with style), Dylan Earl has taken things formerly relegated to the Aaron Tippin-and-Travis Tritt-circa-1992 vault and breathed new life into them: the mullet-mustache combo, music videos with lots of neon signs and pantomimed arguments, reverb. He's anything but insincere in his musical approach, though: The cover of Dwight Yoakam's "1000 Miles" on Earl's 2016 Play-Yah Records release "Yee Haw from Arkansas" borders on hero worship, and Earl's got the vocal chops to do it justice. What's more, he injects a welcome streak of pathos and goofiness into his video work. (I'd bet Travis Tritt never smeared lipstick ("One More Time") or cake ("Blessing in Disguise") on his face in front of a camera.) Earl's got serious range and tenderness; the kind of baritone that's custom-built for pairing with pedal steel and sticky VFW dance floors. His Lake Charles twang shines on heartbreak tunes like "Mornings With Me," the opener of his debut EP: "Does she live with another? Does he look just like me? Does he honor her side of the bed where she woke up on mornings with me?" Fingers crossed Dylan Earl is this guy's real name, but even if it's not, it's pitch-perfect for the twin careers he seems to have chosen: country music and leather tooling. May the Peace of the Sea Be With You and Isaac Alexander open the show.
- Chrisshaundra Pullom
7 p.m. Revolution Room. $15.
Little Rock has its fair share of free-floating vocal talent — people like Emanuel "Tiko" Brooks, Genine LaTrice Perez and Bijoux who, in addition to performing with their own ensembles, have made time to bring the characters from Charlie Smalls' 1975 "super soul musical" to life on the stage at the Rev Room under the direction of drummer Cliff Aaron. With some help from costume designer Lisa Moragne, the cast is back for an early Sunday revival of the adapted show, which filled the house at the Rev Room earlier this year. Crisshaundra Olyssa Pullom plays Dorothy, the role Diana Ross wanted so badly she forced a famous checkmate with Motown Records' Berry Gordy; Keith Savage is The Cowardly Lion; Brooks is the Tin Man; Perez is Glenda the Good Witch; Juain Young is The Wizard; Katrice Newbill, known to some as Butterfly, is Evillene; Bijoux, who will undoubtedly steal the show with "The Feeling We Once Had," is Aunt Em; and the operatic soprano LaSheena Gordon is Miss One. If you're looking to catch some musical theater in a less-than-likely venue from a host of local, polished actor-singers accustomed to performing with live bands and connecting with a crowd, bring the kids (or grandkids, or nieces and nephews) to this one.
- Allen Clark
- NOMAD: Nuevo flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook gives a concert at University of Central Arkansas's Reynolds Performance Hall 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, $30-$50.
6:30 p.m. Reynolds Performance Hall, University of Central Arkansas. $30-$50.
When superstar nuevo flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook was a boy growing up in Paris and Barcelona, his parents played recordings of Manitas de Plata, a musician who moved Pablo Picasso to exclaim, "That man is of greater worth than I am!" Those recordings made a lasting impression, and when Cook's parents separated, he spent time jamming with his dad's new neighbor in Arles, France — fortuitously, Nicolas Reyes of the Gipsy Kings. Had he been born earlier, he might have encountered more resistance from flamenco traditionalists, defensive about the integrity of the genre. As it was, though, so-called "fusion" music was already en vogue in the barrios of France's Camargue region and elsewhere, where flamenco melodies and technical approaches were being mixed with rhythmic patterns from rumba, salsa, bossa nova, tango and blues music. If you're a PBS viewer, you've perhaps caught glimpses of Cook's concert special "Jesse Cook: Live at the Bathurst Theatre," which the station is showing as part of its pledge drive — and which, we hope, is indicative of the frenetic energy Cook and his percussion-forward ensemble will bring to Reynolds Performance Hall. For the uninitiated, check out "Mario Takes a Walk" on YouTube or the notably un-bland track "Shake" from Cook's blandly titled "One World." For Cook superfans who did all their spring cleaning to the sounds of "The Blue Guitar Sessions," a $125 ticket will score you a meet-and-greet with the man himself.
- Nate Burrell
- SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER: Guitarist and songwriter Lilly Hiatt lands at the White Water Tavern, with Daniel Markham and John Calvin Abney, 9 p.m.
LILLY HIATT, JOHN CALVIN ABNEY, DANIEL MARKHAM
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.
In the video for Lilly Hiatt's "Get This Right," a deceptively breezy anthem from her 2015 release, "Royal Blue," the band members move in and out of frame, seemingly too self-aware to be at ease posing for the video camera, but comfortable enough with each other to clown about it. They're seen receiving instruction about what to do in the next take, setting up Christmas lights and glittery fringe curtains in a warehouse filled with dusty wood palettes, plywood and, inexplicably, dozens of vintage typewriters. It's a video about making a video, and somewhere in the lines Hiatt repeats on the chorus — "Are we ever gonna get this right?" — is a metaphor for the whole cinematic process, and probably for Hiatt's artistic development itself. Her father is John Hiatt, a brilliant but always-a-bridesmaid songwriter who started cranking out songs for Nashville's Tree-Music Publishing Co. for $25 a week when he was 18. His songs have been admired and covered by Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, Nick Lowe, Iggy Pop, Ry Cooder, Willie Nelson, Keith Urban and Paula Abdul, and evidently, he once gave Lilly some advice that "Royal Blue" seems to indicate she followed: "I played him some songs I was trying to write," she said. "He said, 'These are really good, but it sounds like you're trying to do something different. You don't have to come up with [a] special chord or anything. Why don't you just be you?' That was simple advice, but good advice." She's joined by John Calvin Abney, a Tulsa songwriter who put aside his gigs as a sideman for Samantha Crain and John Moreland to flesh out his own clever, introspective songs, as he did on 2016's "Far Cries and Close Calls." Also on the bill: Daniel Markham from the Denton, Texas, scene, an admittedly R.E.M.-influenced songwriter whose own tunes are too interesting and fully formed for him to have stayed behind the scenes as a sideman for Charlie Shafter and Amanda Shires.