REEL CIVIL RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
Various times. Historic Arkansas Museum. Free.
The Reel Civil Rights Film Festival kicked off earlier this week with a panel about the Six Pioneers, the African-American students who desegregated the University of Arkansas School of Law. The event featured George Haley, the only surviving member of the group, and a man who went on to a distinguished career, working with Thurgood Marshall and taking on various roles in seven presidential administrations, including as U.S. ambassador to The Gambia. On Wednesday, activist Annie Abrams was to be honored at an event with keynote speaker Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain activist Medgar Evers. The film fest continues Thursday at 6 p.m. with a screening of "Gideon's Army," which tells the story of three young public defenders and the herculean tasks they face. On Friday at 6 p.m., there will be a showing of the documentary "Medgar Evers: An Unsung Hero." Saturday's screenings start at noon with "Beyond Galilee," which focuses on the Civil Rights movement in Shreveport; "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" screens at 3 p.m., and at 6 p.m., there will be a showing of "Central Park Five," which looks at the 1989 case of five young black and Latino men who were wrongly convicted of rape. All of those screenings are free and are at the Historic Arkansas Museum.
THURSDAY 9/26- SUNDAY 9/29
HOT SPRINGS HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
Various times. Central Theater. $10-$85.
Horror film buffs here in Arkansas have it pretty good. First came the Little Rock Horror Picture Show, and now there's the new Hot Springs Horror Film Festival, which will bring four days of blood, guts, suspense and screams to the Spa City. The scene of the crime will be the Central Theater, where dozens of short and feature-length films will be screened, including several made right here in Arkansas and many that will be accompanied by Q&A's with some of the films' creators. There are far too many screenings and related events to list here, but Thursday night will see the Arkansas premiere of "Contracted," the new flick from Natural State native Eric England, whose 2011 backwoods slasher "Madison County" was particularly unnerving if you've ever spent much time in Madison County. Check out HotSpringsHorrorFilmFestival.com for the full schedule.
DIARRHEA PLANET, THE SO SO GLOS
9 p.m. Stickyz. $8.
Not trying to sound the alarm here or anything, but I think Nashville's Diarrhea Planet just might be going pro on us. Not that that's a bad thing. However it must be noted that there's a serious amount of sheen on their brand-new album, "I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams." It's not just in terms of the production (though it is much, uh, slicker than past material), but the songwriting itself seems a little more, dare I say grown-up? "I'm Rich" has tons of the soaring choruses and triumphant quad-guitar weedly-weedly-weedly-weedlies we've all come to expect from this outfit (check out "Ugliest Son" for a fine example), but there are more serious concerns expressed on this new album than a mere "Ghost with a Boner" drinkin' their beer. Also on the bill: The So So Glos, who were in town a while back opening for Titus Andronicus. They've got a power-pop-punk sound that's refreshing like an ice-cold beer for your ears, or, well, you know what I mean. You should track down their very excellent song "Lost Weekend" — there has never been a better lead-off song for a killer mixtape ever.
9 p.m. Revolution. $17 adv., $20 day of.
By now it's a familiar story: Groundbreaking, critically adored band breaks up because two of the principal egos come to loggerheads (a.k.a. "creative differences"), calling it quits just as they're really starting to take off. Such was the case with Uncle Tupelo, whose Jeff Tweedy went on to form the pop-oriented Wilco and whose Jay Farrar founded the decidedly more country-informed Son Volt. Farrar is one of the real-deal originators of the post-'70s country-rock sound. Along with his previous band's records, Son Volt's debut album, "Trace," is indisputably one of the cornerstones of that sound. Every grizzled, denim-clad songwriter who picked up a guitar to write some earnest alt-country tunes at any point in the last 20 years was inspired by Son Volt whether or not he or she was aware of it. The band's most recent album, "Honky Tonk," might be the purest distillation of Farrar's musical vision: Contemporary country music that's authentic without seeming concerned about authenticity, embracing of its influences without wearing them on its sleeve, confident without being cocky and just really good. Opening the show will be Colonel Ford.
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Richmond, Va., band Windhand put out a really killer album last year. That self-titled, self-released debut was a slab of cut-above sludgy doom metal. On the strength of that record and an excellent live show, the band signed to Relapse Records and this year released its sophomore disc, "Soma." Whereas that first album was quite good and all, this new one is a major step forward. In the most basic sense, they're still churning out lumbering doom metal, but there's a vortex-like quality on "Soma" that is the mark of a band really coming into its own — the riffs are near trance-inducing, the solos are searing yet they are also deeply soulful, the tracks are loooong but never bog down nor feel like they've overstayed their welcome. Recommended. Opening this show will be the heavy-amp blues abuse of Iron Tongue and the epic, classic rock-inspired crushing-ness of Sumokem.
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Richard Buckner is that rare singer/songwriter who has the soul of a folk/country artist like Townes or maybe Fred Neil, but also embraces the restless, experimental bent of explorers such as Sonic Youth. He's on tour now for his brand-new long-player, "Surrounded." The record was written all on an electronic autoharp and fleshed out in the studio with other instruments, samples, loops and various synthesizer swishes and swooshes. "Ambient Americana," critic Fred Thomas called the new record. But despite the electronically generated tones that shimmer through, "Surrounded" is still classic Buckner: unhurried, slightly elusive, not many rough edges. Adam Faucett is without a doubt the best possible choice to open this show.
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $15.
Back in the aught-three to aught-five timeframe, it seemed like there was this small crop of smarty-pants indie rock bands that wore their hearts on their sleeves and had worn out their copies of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and/or most of the Springsteen catalog, going from relative obscurity to critical darlings in pretty short order. To a disinterested observer, Okkervil River always seemed like the most down-to-earth of the bunch and the easiest ones to root for. The Austin, Texas, outfit wasn't melodramatic and humorless like the Arcade Fire, nor were they all "look-at-how-literary-we-are" a la The Decembrists, nor were they as navel-gazing and precious as Bright Eyes. The band started gaining traction in 2005 with "Black Sheep Boy," but really hit a homerun in 2007 with "The Stage Names." Subsequent albums have also been both popular and warmly received by critics, including the recent "The Silver Gymnasium," a concept album about founder Will Sheff's hometown, tiny Meriden, N.H. Opener Nashville singer/songwriter Torres — a.k.a. Mackenzie Scott — writes haunting, spare tunes that recall P.J. Harvey at her most open and spookiest. If you've got a farm to spare, you might wanna bet it on her to be a next big thing.