JAZZLIGHTS IN THE PARK
6 p.m. First Security Amphitheater. $25-$45.
This year's Jazzlights in the Park, a particularly urbane benefit for the Boys and Girls Club at the First Security Amphitheater, will feature iconic jazz fusion group The Yellowjackets (est. 1977; maybe you'll recognize them from the soundtrack to 1986's "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"), local favorites Rodney Block and The Real Music Lovers, The Julia Buckingham Group, Twice Sax and That Arkansas Weather.
Standing room, general admission is $25 in advance or $34 day of show (bring your own blankets); seating at the front of the amphitheater is $35 in advance and $45 on the day. VIP tickets are also available, with table options ($250-$2,500), featuring waiters, food and beverages, and what the festival calls the "ultimate experience," which is apparently a table that's on stage.
SONNY BURGESS' 85TH BIRTHDAY BASH
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $10.
Eighty-five years ago, Albert Austin "Sonny" Burgess, rockabilly legend and now co-host of the Jonesboro weekly radio program "We Wanna Boogie" (on 91.9 FM), was born on a farm near Newport. After some time in the military and some tips from Sun Records head Sam Phillips, he formed The Pacers and started making records in Memphis. Now called The Legendary Pacers, Burgess' group will perform at the Ron Robinson Theater Friday night to celebrate Burgess' birthday, alongside a venerable Little Rock lineup that includes Rodney Block (presumably teleporting over after his set at Jazzlights in the Park), Bonnie Montgomery, Kevin Kerby and members of the Salty Dogs.
NIGHT OF THE PROMS
7:30 p.m. Verizon Arena. $19.90-$99.
This isn't going to be easy to explain, so please have patience. There is an orchestra from Belgium called Il Novecento, and they will be in town this Friday at the Verizon Arena. But it's not just that; that would be too simple. There will also be a 24-voice choir called Fine Fleur and an 8-piece "electric band" headed by a British guy named John "Music" Miles. The press materials call Miles a "pop star," but I had never heard of him, so I looked him up (so I could pretend that I had) and it turns out he had a Top 3 hit single in the U.K. in 1976 called "Music." It was produced by Alan Parsons and opens with the line, "Music was my first love, and it will be my last." John "Music" Miles. The show will also feature "comedic opera diva" Natalie Choquette, and headlining this concert, strangely, will be Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, The Pointer Sisters and Chic. The whole thing, which I really have trouble envisioning, is called "Night of the Proms" and is apparently a big deal in Europe.
9 p.m. Vino's.
Lee Buford and Chip King of The Body are Little Rock exiles who for several years now have been making a kind of boundary-pushing doom metal that is utterly chilling and resonant and intelligent. Their music doesn't induce despair, exactly, but it certainly complements it. The effect of albums like "All the Waters of Earth Turn To Blood" and "Master, We Perish" was sort of the inverse of awe-inspiring: They evoked the depths and textures of absolute nothingness, and there's something valuable about that. Their new record, "I Shall Die Here," is a collaboration with the British electronic producer The Haxan Cloak (an idea suggested by fellow Little Rock exile Matt Werth, who released the album on his label, RVNG Intl.), and it is possibly the most intense and sonically disconcerting Arkansas-affiliated release of the year. Track titles include "Alone All the Way," "Hail To Thee, Everlasting Pain" and "Darkness Surrounds Us," and if you listen to the album these are sentiments you'll relate to. The great Iron Tongue will open, along with Laser Flames on the Great Big News.
11 a.m. W. 9th and Broadway. Free.
Juneteenth, a.k.a. Emancipation Day, a.k.a. the anniversary of the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger posted up in Galveston, Texas, and read the order to free the state's slaves, is the oldest continuously celebrated holiday observing the end of slavery in this country. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is once again the place to be in Little Rock to commemorate the day (over 1,000 people to came to last year's event), hosting a block party that will include vendors, food and entertainment, with a lineup that includes Ricky Howard, Delya Russell, Foreign Tongues, Steven Young, Butterfly (with Irie Soul), Big Piph and the Big John Miller Band. Also check out the center's new exhibit, "Arkansas African American Legislators" and the 1 p.m. premiere of the new film "American Experience: Freedom Summer" produced by the Arkansas Educational Television Network and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
7 p.m. Verizon Arena. $42.50-$69.
On April 23, as many of you probably know — maybe it's all you've been thinking about in recent weeks — Blake Shelton tweeted the following message out to his over 6.5 million Twitter followers: "Doing vocals today on my last album ..." Not his "new" album, that is, but his "last" album. Could Shelton, who won us over in 2006 with "Austin" and has done it every year since, even wearing us down last summer with the unavoidable, lachrymose schlock-classic "Mine Would Be You," really be wrapping up his recording career at age 37? Many of us eyed his Twitter timeline in the following weeks with a mixture of fear and exhaustion, but he gave us no further hints. "Well," he said on May 13, "the good news is my truck doesn't smell like weed anymore." Later that same day, he seemed in good spirits. "@Pizzahut named a pizza after me," he announced. "Blake's Smokehouse BBQ ... Can y'all believe it?" Of course we could, it was only a matter of time, but what about his career? So far, he's kept us in the dark. All we can do is wait, hope, follow him on Twitter (@BlakeShelton) and go see him this weekend at Verizon Arena.
ORSON WELLES' 'THE TRIAL'
8 p.m. Vino's. Donations.
Orson Welles' career was in a strange place when he wrote and directed his adaptation of Kafka's "The Trial," which the folks at Splice Microcinema will screen Wednesday night at Vino's. A few years before, he'd made "Touch of Evil," a stone classic today but a commercial dud at the time (as most of his post-"Citizen Kane" output tended to be), and it hadn't done much for his profile; he'd been written off, exiled, trapped in the amber of his early wunderkind status and considered an obscenely self-indulgent, under-performing menace to the studio way of life. They loved him abroad, though, and he still wanted to make films, so he picked "The Trial" (public domain, so no copyright issues) and trusted a producer who'd later abandon the project, leaving Welles to pay the actors out of his own pocket so they wouldn't walk off the set (in a recent book of interviews with the director, he claimed he could never go back to Zagreb because he couldn't afford to pay his hotel bill from this shoot). Given the budget (low) and the circumstances, the film is more or less astonishingly great. Visually imaginative, stark and paranoid, it feels homemade and claustrophobic. Don't trust anyone who calls "Citizen Kane" his best film, especially if you haven't seen "Chimes at Midnight" or "The Trial." No popular filmmaking myth is more wrong than that Welles burned out young. The opposite is true: He got better with age.