OAKLAWN OPENING DAY
10 a.m., Oaklawn.
Oaklawn's website currently offers a “$10 Free Play Coupon,” so print that dude out about 912 times*, nominate a designated driver and go cheer the ponies and place some video-game bets. The 106-year-old venue and the state's largest tourist magnet just got enhanced to the tune of $3 million, finally giving us a long-awaited option to the forced march to Tunica. The recent unveiling of an 850-station electronic gambling parlor with craps, poker and blackjack tables, as well as machines bearing an uncanny resemblance to slots, will give plenty of anxious hustlers their gaming fix. Apparently, Oaklawn's appeal has broadened beyond state boundaries. With last year's introduction of a rating system for North America's 65 thoroughbred tracks, the Horseplayers Association of North America placed Oaklawn ninth in its top 10, but we'd be wise to expect a higher ranking before the season's over.
*This probably won't work. PP
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $10-$14.
The Weekend Theater kicks the year off with a “black comedy about white trash.” From playwright Del Shores, whose “Southern Baptist Sissies” played memorably at the theater in 2008, the comedy is set at the funeral of a family matriarch. That she met her end in a seedy motel after tripping over the wooden leg of her young, secret lover and hitting her head on a bathtub gives you an idea of the tone this one takes. Those gathering for the funeral have names like LaVonda, Wardell and Brother Boy, and they all come with heavy baggage. One's a cross-dresser, long institutionalized by his parents, with a special knack for channeling Tammy Wynette. Another's traumatized for life because of a “pig-bloating” incident. Then, of course, there are all the requisite ex's, preachers, bickering kin, and “de-homosexualizing” psychiatrists you'd expect. Adapted into a cult film (starring Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John and Beau Bridges) and, later, a cult TV series, the play's likely to draw a good number of folks who'll see the punchlines coming. The play runs through Jan. 30. LM.
‘GRIEG'S ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO'
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $20-$58.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra continues its search for a new conductor with a program directed by Fusao Kajima, the fourth of five candidates. Kajima, who helms the Bellevue Philharmonic in Bellevue, Wash., leads the ASO in Heitor Villa-Lobos' “Sinfonietta No. 1 (A memória de Mozart),” Antonín Dvorák's “Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88” and the centerpiece, Edvard Grieg's “Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16.” Acclaimed Ukranian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa guests on the piano concerto, which the ASO bills as a “beautiful melding of virtuosity and lyricism.” LM.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
Jemina Pearl's only 22, but she's a seasoned rock vet. She started her ascent the way indie kids everywhere dream of: When she was a teen living in Nashville, her band Be Your Own Pet broke through in the UK when someone passed a CD-R to a prominent DJ, and before long, labels like Rough Trade and XL started putting out EPs. Back in the U.S., after doing the big festival circuit (CMJ, SXSW) the punked-up pop quartet signed to Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. After two well-received full-lengths and much rowdy touring, the band called it quits, leaving Pearl to carve her own niche. Luckily she's got some collaborators. On her solo debut, “Break it up Bad,” released last October, she counts not just label head Thurston Moore as a guest, but also TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, Red Kross' Steve McDonald and Iggy Friggin' Pop. Iggy, of course, won't be around on Friday to duet on “I Hate People,” a misanthropic love song with plenty of tweaked girl-group pep. But here's betting Pearl doesn't have any trouble carrying it herself. Little Rock's Flash LaRue opens. LM.
9 p.m., Low Key Arts Building, Hot Springs. $7.
Nashville's punk ‘n' roll poster boys are bypassing Little Rock this time around, but for a good cause. With March just around the corner, it's time to grind the fund-raising gears for the annual Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival, and the Blacklist Royals are forgoing the night's wages in true Tennessee Volunteer fashion. Certainly among the heaviest of acts with actual sing-along, country-fried punk-ish anthems, this crew brings the heat every time it plugs in. Survivors of endless touring, lineup changes and terminal illness, their attitude speaks long and loud with numbers such as “Fuck It, Let's Roll,” especially with the splashes of freewheeling harmonica and piano licks. As with anything VOV-related, there's always an added dose of character to shows at the Low Key. Along with the Fayetteville pop-punk quintet Dreamfast, a karaoke free-for-all shares the bill. PP.
‘A DAY OF SERVICE: LIVE THE DREAM, MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN!'
10 a.m., M.L. Harris Auditorium, Philander Smith College. Free.
If you get the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better way to observe the holiday than by attending this program presented by the MLK Commission and Little Rock's vibrant historically black college. Much like Philander's slate of nationally known guest speakers (Terrell Owens is coming Feb. 9), the program features a diverse line-up that includes college president Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough (some deep pockets need to start moving on his “Big Idea” in our Native's Guide issue), MLK Commission chairman Phillip Kaplan, the MLK Memorial Unity Choir and, giving the keynote address, former UA basketball coach Nolan Richardson. And take the bus. Central Arkansas Transit offers free bus rides all day long in honor of the King Holiday. LM.
7 p.m., Verizon Arena. $21.75-$103.75.
Even the Globetrotters aren't immune to new big-time entertainment practices. Owned by a Burbank-based investment fund since 2005, the team has, in the last several years, employed a comedy writer to “punch up” its act. The only Globetrotters who are household names these day — “Big Easy” and “Flight Time” — are recent reality TV stars on CBS' “The Amazing Race.” Every night, the team continues to battle the Washington Generals, now a separate business entity “subcontracted” to play. But, as long as they're still leaning on the greatest theme song of all time (“Sweet Georgia Brown,” natch), that iconic red, white and blue ball and goofy dudes in headbands who can dribble well, the Globetrotter brand seems like a safe bet to survive just about anything. LM.
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $25-$80.
Billed as Divine Performing Arts when it came to town last year, the Shen Yun troupe returns with hundreds of dancers performing classical Chinese ethnic, folk and story-based dance routines. Like synchronized swimming but without the water, this authentic revival of Eastern culture delivers visual narratives of heroic ancient legends over the course of 16 acts entwined within 24 pieces of music. Accompanied by soothing strings, booming percussion, animated backdrops and stage-width projection screens, the troupe seems bound to deliver an evening colorful enough to rival any Chinese New Year celebration. PP.