ARKANSAS TIMES READERS NIGHT OUT
All day, throughout Little Rock.
Call it Black Friday redux. Except it's on Thursday and it probably won't attract the glut of humanity that the day after Thanksgiving does. In other words, the Times' Readers Night Out is another chance for you to score bargains without having to camp outside your favorite retailer and worry that you'll be caught in a stampede. In the tradition of Hillcrest's Shop and Sip, we've enlisted retail outlets and restaurants all across the city — Hillcrest, Heights, Riverdale and West Little Rock including Market Street Center, the Promenade in Chenal and Pleasant Ridge Towne Center — to offer one-day specials to readers of the Arkansas Times. Find all the details starting on page 32. LM.
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM AND BAILEY: "ILLUSCINATION"
7 p.m., Verizon Arena. $45.75-$56.00
I'm already lit up off the words and names surrounding the newest Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus that's coming to town: "Illuscination." It's the best Nas album title that never was and the big, flashing name of this big top show, suggesting a bit of illusion, fascination — maybe even a bit of hallucination — in store for the audience. It's led by David DaVinci, a flashy, spiky-haired fellow who can escape a straitjacket while being hung upside down over a den of lions. Magician? No! Extreme magician? No! He's a "thrillusionist!" (This show is a parade of portmanteaus.) There's Viktoriya and Widny, who dangle 35 feet off the ground, hanging only by their hair; Francleib Rodrigues, who walks upside down; and The Clowning Caveagna Family who, you know, do clown stuff. Expect other circus mainstays like ninjas jumping on, in, around and through stuff on fire, lions going out of their way not to eat people and trapeze artists making you feel inadequate. The show continues with a 7 p.m. show on Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. performances on Saturday; and a final 1 p.m. circus on Sunday. JT.
'THE CONTROVERSY OF VALLADOLID'
7:30 p.m., The Weekend Theater. $14.
The Weekend Theater isn't a house to stray too far from productions with heavy themes, especially when human rights are involved. Their latest offering, "The Controversy of Valladolid," follows the infamous deliberations in 16th century Spain in which the Catholic Church debated whether indigenous Americans were mere savages or actual humans, worthy of the same theological consideration as, well, whitey. It's a period piece with courtroom drama underpinnings, but don't let that dissuade you. "Valladolid" is a psychopolitical thriller at its core. Think "Law & Order: Soul Quantifying Unit." The topic may be half a millennia old, but with all the condom and sex abuse controversies latched onto headlines out of the Vatican, it should have little problem being relevant today. The play runs through Dec. 18. JT.
9 p.m., Revolution. $16 adv., $18 d.o.s.
Since hitting its stride in the mid-'90s, alt-country has maintained a precarious position in the musical landscape. The standard-bearers of Uncle Tupelo bisected into Son Volt and Wilco, Ryan Adams became a megastar after shedding extra weight of Whiskeytown, and Drive-By Truckers upgraded their three-chord, three-minute songs for epic, ambitious lit rock. But Rhett Miller and his Old 97s have aged slowly and gracefully, toeing that rough shod road of twang and punk ethos while Jeff Tweedy is huddled away with an echo pedal and a pile of Can records. Through 13 releases, an essential best-of compilation and years of critical backslapping, Old 97s have stuck to doing what it knows well and doing it, well, well. Really well. It's a twangy blend of roots rock, British invasion and power-pop, mixed with folk heartache and classic country mope. And their live shows are notorious, shuffling blasts of pure alt-country. Little Rock's proved itself an alt-country town for years and years, so expect an elbow-to-elbow house for this one. The gypsy-tinged Texas sound of Fort Worth's Whiskey Folk Ramblers open the night. JT.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $12.50
And here's where it gets interesting for the hordes of alt-country devotees in Arkansas. While Old 97s are downtown, White Water Tavern hosts Slobberbone, the '90s alt-country cult heroes who reformed last year; Glossary, the Tennessee roots rockers with an electric following in Arkansas; Two Cow Garage, a raspy punk-country outfit; and Kevin Kerby, the unofficial poet laureate of Pulaski County. Thankfully for the folks torn between the two nights, the four-band lineup, a loose "This is American Music" revue, is in town for two nights. It's a double-header birthday party for Last Chance Records' Travis Hill that has the bands doing regular sets on Friday night before getting loose on Saturday night (also at White Water; same time and price) for a roundtable of pickin' and grinnin' through covers and rarities. Also, Saturday afternoon has Joey Kneiser, Micah Schnabel and Brent Best (of Glossary, Two Cow Garage and Slobberbone, respectively) at Arkansas CD & Record Exchange for an in-store performance around 4 p.m. Birthday boy Hill says he's confirmed visitors from 16 different states who are driving and flying in for the weekend shindig, so Little Rock, be sure to be on your rowdiest behavior for our guests, y'hear? JT.
7 p.m., Verizon Arena. $51.50-$91.50
Good god, it's about to be Ladies' Night 2010 in Little Rock when the Justin Bieber for the 40-and-up crowd croons his way to Verizon Arena, sprinkling that blue-eyed, non-threatening charm through the Great American Songbook and probably touching a lot of hands in the crowd along the way. For years, Canadian standard-bearer Michael Buble has been the Coldplay to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett's Beatles, racking up awards and album sales every step of the way. Like the bulk of the traditional crooner-loving world, Buble rubs me in a generally wrong way. Try as he may, he's no Rat Packer — not even a Pat Boone — but, dang it, I can't commit to hating the guy. He's got a "Today Show" charm that's broad enough to leave even snobs like me susceptible. And, hey, if he's leading people on the right track to picking up Sinatra's Capitol records or any of the Tony Bennett/Count Basie Orchestra collaborations, he can fawn and pander as much as he needs. JT.
SWEET EAGLE ALBUM RELEASE
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. Donations.
"Super 1968 Dog Shit E.P." It's instantly on the shortlist for "Greatest Local Album Title Ever" even before it sees a release. Leave it up to Sweet Eagle, the local rock and rock and rock 'n' roll supergroup, to come up with it. For the uninitiated, think MC5 with a Thin Lizzy bent. The band's pieced together from folks from Smoke Up Johnny, Brother Andy and his Big Damn Mouth and other bands that could rock you under a table and drink you straight to an early grave which, considering the album release party offers $3.50 pitchers of Pabst, isn't much of a stretch. The Eag is set to be joined by Memphis partners-in-crime, The Dirty Streets. JT.
7 p.m., Downtown Music. $15 adv., $17 d.o.s.
When I was 12, I saw a video at church about the evils of pop music — George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" wasn't about standard copulation so much as "soul sex," whatever that is; Metallica, Megadeth and Motley Crue were in legion with the devil (the "m's" had some significance I've forgotten); and, surely you've heard, KISS is an obvious acronym for "Knights in Satan's Service." Unless you're on the Arkansas Family Council's team, those ideas have become laughably passe. These days, if you want to tweak moral convention, you've got to dig a little deeper. Like, say, into legendary New Orleans underground metal bands with names that sound like made-up swear words. Sludge kings Eyehategod, whose sound owes a debt to The Melvins and (of course) Black Sabbath, are playing new material in preparation for their first new release in a decade. Goatwhore specializes in black metal, or according to the band, "the sounds of utter madness that take us to a new level of understanding through disturbing tones and an overwhelming purge of depravity." As underground metal shows go, it doesn't get much bigger than this. Phobia opens. LM.