9 p.m., Juanita's. $10 adv./$12 d.o.s.
The grit is gone, but Against Me! hasn't gotten any less defiant. Long the standard-bearers for quick-strummed punk-folk, the Gainesville four-piece built their reputation on socially conscious barroom anthems and political rave-ups. In 2005, they signed to Sire and thereafter headlined the Warped Tour and recorded with super-producer Butch Vig (Garbage, Nirvana). Through the storm of cred questioning, the band last year put out one of 2007's most critically acclaimed albums. “New Wave” trades the punk and folk of old for tuneful rock, some of which you can even dance to. Breathe deep, old fans. This isn't a bad thing. The band hasn't left its ethos at the door. Lead singer/songwriter Tom Gabel is as considered and self-aware as ever, singing largely about the politics of making music. A rare chance to see Against Me! in a club setting, Thursday's show is the only club date outside of the arena tour the band is on with the Foo Fighters for the first four months of the year. Two of Arkansas's finest acts, alt-country-leaning singer/songwriter Cory Branan and barroom rockers Smoke Up Johnny, open.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
One of Little Rock's finest singer/songwriters takes a solo turn on Thursday. As the lead singer of Big Silver and the Easys, Alexander starts with a solid base of the Beatles and builds — a hearty dose of the Band in the former, the likes of Elvis Costello and Jellyfish in the latter. While Beatlesque melodies are pretty much a given, who knows what Alexander's latest solo foray will yield? Last year, the singer/songwriter traveled to Nashville a half dozen or so times to record a solo record. I hear tell that Max may put it out in thick vinyl in the not-too-distant future. Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, from the demos on his MySpace page (myspace.com/isaacalexander), it sounds like he's using this album to experiment — different pacing, more vocal acrobatics. It sounds good. A side project of members of the Global Test, Flat Top Tony and the Purple Canoes, opens. It sounds like the Global Test gone gonzo. The shadow of Andrew W.K. looms large, as does, if the band's “influences” section on its MySpace page is to be trusted, Molten Lava, Alexander's college band. Maybe we'll get some covers.
CHRISTOPHER DENNY AND THE OLD SOLES
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
There is, officially, nothing new to say about Chris Denny. He's been writ up in these pages and elsewhere locally probably a hundred times. So since it's all been said, I'm going to be redundant for the new folks and casual entertainment readers. First and foremost, the 23-year-old has a preternaturally strong voice. I've called it a high warble before. Others bandy about Jimmie Dale Gilmore and a young Roy Orbison. Over the last several years, he's released two albums of old-school folk rock, the latter of which came out on a national indie, which led to a face-to-face with Rick Rubin, a glowing review from Pitchfork and a profile on NPR. Lately, the newly married crooner has been a ghost around town. Whether he's been flirting with the precipice of what stardom there is for old-school folk-rockers with high warbles or seeing the country with his new bride, it's always a big to-do when he returns. On Friday and Saturday, Denny and his backing band, the Old Soles, hold down White Water's stage.
7:30 p.m., Alltel Arena. $17.
I've never been to a Monster Jam, but here's what I can tell you after watching a half dozen videos. Trucks, resting on top of tires the size of normal trucks, with names like Grave Digger and El Matador, crush measly normal cars and jump off dirt mounds. Sometimes the trucks race each other and sometimes they crash spectacularly. After a triumphant race or jump, the trucks always do 360 peel-outs. Six will be on display on Saturday along with the jet quad, a go-cart-looking ride propelled by a jet. Hopefully, the guy with the booming, echoey voice will be on-hand announcing. You can meet and greet and grab autographs from the stars of Monster Jam from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Free passes are available at Advance Auto Parts locations.
CHOPIN & RACHMANINOFF
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $16-$50.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Chopin's Second Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3. Only 19 when he composed this concerto, Chopin infused his piece with poetry and romance; he was in love at the time. Acclaimed pianist Navah Perlman (daughter of Itzhak Perlman) lends her “lyrical eloquence” to the compositions. There will also be a second performance at 3 p.m. Sunday.
BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS
7 p.m., Revolution. $15 adv./$20 d.o.s.
OK. First thing's first. Big Head Todd does not have an abnormally big Elephant Man-sized head. Or even an especially bigger-than-usual head. Lest you be disappointed. Formed in Colorado in the late '80s, rock outfit BHT&TM built their audience the old fashioned way — they toured ceaselessly and self-released albums. By 1993, the band's extensive audience earned them a record deal and production work from Prince homie David Z. “Sister Sweetly” eventually went platinum and spawned the hits “Circle,” “Brokenhearted Saviour” and, perhaps the group's biggest, “Bittersweet.” The band has performed steadily since, releasing albums, even after it lost its major deal, at a fairly regular pace. With its latest album, “All the Love You Need,” Big Head Todd is taking a nontraditional approach to promotion: They're giving the album away, hoping to attract new fans to their concerts. Something for nothing: http://bigheadtodd.com/alltheloveyouneed.
JAMPIRE CD RELEASE SHOW
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Of all the past performance names of the local British-born rapper Dessalines Agginie — Bizarro, Anti-Christ Sperm Donor, Jampire — the first might be the most telling. As part of the hip-hop collective Traumah Team that introduced 607 to Little Rock stages, Agginie's stage name seemed to reflect his bizarre flow — sometimes arrhythmic, clipped and with an unusual inflection. After Traumah dissolved, Agginie reemerged as Anti-Christ Sperm Donor, a solo project that confirmed his penchant for lyrical matter as bizarre as his flow. Now reincarnated as Jampire, the rapper continues to nurture the weirdness. On Tuesday, he'll release “Vampire States of Amerika,” an album full of industrial beats and goth-tinted flows that mesh politics with gore. The fainthearted are warned. Mad Trucker, the rapper who supplied beats to the album and whose Rip Shop Records will release it, opens the show with Audioreliks and Underclaire.
7:30 p.m., Alltel Arena. $45-$95.
For the first prolonged tour since 1985, David Lee Roth is fronting Van Halen. For dyed-in-the-wool VH fans, who include most everyone raised on late-'70s rock radio, this is the best news to hit reunion rock shy of Led Zeppelin announcing a world tour (it ain't happening, friends). For the VH-ignorant, here's a brief crash course. In the beginning, there were two brothers — a guitarist and a drummer — named Van Halen, and a singer named David Lee Roth (who cares about the bassist?). Guitarist Eddie Van Halen made finger-tapping de rigueur for rawk guitarists and the band put out dozens of hits — “Runnin' with the Devil,” “Ain't Talkin' Bout Love,” “Eruption,” “Jump.” In 1985, band tensions led to David Lee Roth's exit. Into his place Sammy Hagar slid, ushering in what many a VH fan considers a dark period. Whatever your feelings about Hagar, he stuck around for awhile and he was certainly a better option than those who followed, also-rans like Mitch Malloy and Gary Cherone. Now, after more than 20 years apart, the original line-up, sans bassist Michael Anthony (again, who cares?), is back together. There will be screaming and singing along.