9 p.m., Juanita's. $12 adv./$15 d.o.s.
In his official bio, former Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies lead singer Mike Farris talks about God a lot. And not just God, but Jesus and love and grace. Several years back, Farris pulled a prodigal son and returned to the flock after a long battle with chemical dependency. Along the way, he started recording what became “Salvation in Lights,” a document of the faith that girds his recovery. All that might be reason to ignore Farris for those of us who would rather listen to white noise than praise music. But Farris isn't plying chirpy, hand-waving pap. His worship music comes in the far more palatable soul-gospel variety. On “Salvation,” he covers standards like “Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down” and “Oh Mary Don't You Weep” and sings blue-eyed soul as convincingly as anyone. His music borrows from dozens of Southern traditions — Memphis soul, Johnny Cash, early New Orleans gospel. Farris' performance will be acoustic; 18 and older will be admitted.
8 p.m., Vino's. $8 adv./$10 d.o.s.
Joe Lally is probably the third most famous member of Fugazi, the most famous DIY band ever (which is to say, in relatively small circles). In the four years since Fugazi began its indefinite hiatus, the bassist has occupied himself with a burgeoning solo career. Anchored by slow, loping bass lines, Lally's music is contemplative and, despite the pace and soft vocals, often urgent. On tour almost continuously since 2006, Lally will be backed on Thursday by Ricardo Lagomasino and Andrea Moscianese. His tour mate of late is Edie Sedgwick, a D.C.-based transgendered electro-pop artist with a mean celebrity obsession and a penchant for using video accompaniment. The Reds, the finest bass-player-led band in our neck of the woods (and probably yours, too), open the show with a spare, hook-heavy set of pop-rock.
6 p.m., UALR, Donaghey Student Center, rooms A, B and C. Free.
Bakari Kitwana doesn't flinch in the face of controversy. An activist and former editor at the Source, Kitwana has published three books, the most recent of which, “The Hip-Hop Generation,” investigates the lives of African-Americans born between 1965 and 1984. Overwhelmed with more pop cultural access, this hip-hop generation, Kitwana contends, uses culture only to “strengthen associations between blackness and poverty, while celebrating anti-intellectualism, ignorance, irresponsible parenthood, and criminal lifestyles” and enjoying “a free pass from black leaders” and “non-black critics who … fear being attacked as racist.” Kitwana's presentation is called “The Generation Gap: Building between Civil Rights and Hip Hop.”
8 p.m., Vino's. $5.
There are a lot of rappers on the grind in Little Rock, but none seem as adept at multi-tasking as Rockst*r. Busy nurturing a flourishing solo career — with new singles coming, lately, every couple of weeks — the MC has also found the time to take night classes, do voice work, grow his F.R.E.S.H. Goods clothing line of T-shirts and hoodies, perform steadily across the state and region and organize regular local concerts. Shew. On Friday, he's assembled a host of Little Rock's top young talent, including the 4X4 Crew, who put on a strong show at last week's Showcase; Young Taz of Next Page Records; the youth movement in Grim Muzik, Combination; 7 Deuce and Maxx of the Hip-Hop School, and Bonafied Music. The always-on-point DJ Discipline holds down the wheels of steel, Dirtbag hosts and of course Rockst*r will perform. Bring some dollars. Rockst*r will be ready to hook you up with some F.R.E.S.H. Goods for your spring and summer needs.
ORIGINAL TOUGHMAN COMPETITION
8 p.m., Statehouse Convention Center. $16-$25.
You'll note that in this week's Arkansas Reporter (“State goes easy,” page 8), John Williams details the lack of regulation in Toughman competitions in Arkansas. A participant died just two weeks ago in Texarkana. Call me cynical, but I doubt that'll amount to even a blip in attendance. The appeal of watching one random guy kick another random guy's ass weighs too heavy. Or perhaps even more — the appeal of watching one random woman pummel another random woman. The only bio of a woman I have is for Angela “The Georgia” Peach (5 feet 4 inches, 150 pounds), a single mother from Little Rock, “who loves boxing, dirt bikes, running and just about anything outdoors.” On the men's side, we've got “Grandpa” Mike Cagle from White Hall (6 feet, 240 pounds), a 52-year-old autoworker who's apparently won before and wants to win again before he's “too old.” Then there's Robert “Too Tall” Davis from Searcy. He digs swimming pools and is an avid weight lifter and race car driver. He made it to the finals two years ago. The competition continues on Saturday.
8 p.m., the Village. $13-$15.
On Saturday the Village comes full circle. Two years ago, the former movie theater opened its doors with a packed Lucero show. Attendance has been intermittent since, but Saturday's show should be a boon to the venue. Central Arkansas has had an insatiable hunger for Lucero and its Little Rock-born lead singer, Ben Nichols. There's sure to be some 500 eager fans ready to sing along to his gravelly wail. Still hard-touring behind 2006's “Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers,” the band comes to town a month before it takes off for a European tour. Talented local blues-rockers Jeff Coleman and the Feeders open along with the smart, shimmering guitar pop of Grand Serenade.
8 p.m., Alltel Arena. $49-$63.
Harmonies don't get much better than this for country fans. Rascal Flatts, one of the hottest young country groups, comes to town behind its fifth record, “Still Feels Good.” Country purists would call the trio pop, but with mandolins and mournful violins and a touch of twang in those big vocals, it's a kind of pop this part of the country can get behind. The trio has sold 12 million records in eight years. If there's any correlation between albums and concert tickets, Alltel will be full up on Saturday. Former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler is likely to charm the audience in the opening spot with her down home charm and big vocals.
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $16-$55.
Renowned classical saxophonist Eugene Rousseau has earned such acclaim in his decades-long career that he has a saxophone mouthpiece named after him. In two performances — Saturday night and again on Sunday at 3 p.m. — he'll perform a meditation on “recent troubling world events, natural and human” with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The ASO will also perform Beethoven's Third Symphony, better known as Eroica. Often cited as the beginning of Romanticism, the symphony is as dynamic and complex as anything Beethoven produced.
8 a.m., downtown Little Rock. $80-$95 for participants.
Folks from all 50 states and a handful of foreign countries will bunch up bright and early on Sunday morning on Sherman Street and President Clinton Avenue and do what most of us consider abhorrent: run (or walk) 26.2 miles. Now its sixth year, the 2008 marathon is likely to be the biggest yet (nearly 1,300 people finished the race last year). The course this year goes briefly into North Little Rock, tours around the River Market and takes a loop through the Quapaw Quarter before making a long trek out Markham and up Kavanaugh. The home stretch takes runners down North Lookout to Riverfront Drive and back to Cantrell. Non-runners: Your brunch plans may be affected.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ‘SALTIMBANCO'
7:30 p.m., Alltel. $40-$90.
Give it up for French-Canadian contortionists in really bizarre costumes! The oldest major touring show of Cirque du Soleil, “Saltimbanco” was the first production in which Cirque narrowed its focus to tell a themed story. The show is meant to be about multi-culturalism and new urbanism, but good luck wading through the allegory.
A taste from the Cirque website: “The Vers multicolores (or multi-colored worms) are symbols of conventionality. They all look the same in their unadorned costumes. The Vers masqués (or masked worms) are faceless and nameless. They are followers who never question the rules. The Baroques are independent, daring, a touch anarchistic and are true urbanites.” So now that you've got that CliffsNote, you can sit back and enjoy the Chinese pole acrobatics; aerial, bungee-propelled ballet; men balancing, on one hand, on other men's heads; high flying trapeze work and of course, a lot more indescribable stuff. The show continues at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.