6:30 p.m., Riverfest Amphitheatre. $10-$15.
Contemporary Christian rock has come a long way since the days of Petra. Goodbye cheesy riffage and terribly earnest lyrics. Hello ambiguous messages and modern rock as tuneful (or depending on your persuasion, tuneless) as the heathens'. Consider the title track from Memphis' Skillet, “Comatose”: “I hate feeling like this/I'm so tired of trying to fight this/I'm asleep and all I dream of/is waking to you/Tell me that you will listen/Your touch is what I'm missing.” See that slight of hand? Taken in the context of the band's Christian roots, it's clearly about yearning for Jesus' love. Without that background, to any old casual radio listener, it's another love-sick anthem. Either way, expect lots of young folks singing along. Dallas alt-metal band Fair to Midland opens with local act Kingsdown, which plays an epic brand of alt-rock. LM.
THE TED LUDWIG TRIO
8 p.m., Afterthought. $5.
Local jazz fans know Thursday night is always there if they need a fix. That's when 12-string phenom Ted Ludwig leads a jazz trio, which includes Joe Cripps on standing bass and Brian Brown on drums, that delivers the best of the genre Little Rock has to offer. But that kind of regularity can breed complacency — there's always next week. Don't make that mistake on Thursday. Shared roots bring two New Orleans standouts to town. Saxophonist Tony Dagradi has performed with just about everyone who's anyone in New Orleans — Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint — but he's most famous as the bandleader of the renowned improvisational jazz group Astral Project. Pianist and composer Michael Pellera is an instructor at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and has performed with the likes of Chet Baker, Wynton Marsalis and Buddy Rich. Dagradi and Pellera are in town to record with Ludwig, who's currently at work on his sophomore release. LM.
‘1964 … THE TRIBUTE'
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $27-$42.
Complete with signature bowl cuts and matching suits, “1964 . . . The Tribute” returns to Little Rock for another highly anticipated show, with replica instruments, stage arrangements and a set list packed with hits from the Beatles' catalogue. The tribute act is known far and wide for its portrayal of the Fab Four, and its mission, simply put, is to recreate the Beatles' invasion of America. According to Lennon alter ego Mark Benson, the concept is to perform a show “that gives you an idea of what it was like to see the Beatles when they were touring.” In fact, only two distinguishing features of the show differ from what fans experienced during the band's heyday: sound quality and set length. “1964” (along with any other band that suffered from audience overload) has a sound system strong enough to compete with the ear-splitting shrieks that plagued the Beatles' live performances for both members and fans alike. They also perform two 45-minute sets instead of two half-hour sets. In theory, concertgoers get more bang for the buck than they would have 44 years ago. The band has earned the working title as “The Best Beatles Tribute on Earth” from Rolling Stone magazine. Also, George Harrison's sister, Louise, was apparently so moved after experiencing a “1964” show that she held a party at her home in their honor. PP.
‘THE FEMININE FREAKSHOW'
10 p.m., Public Theater. $12.
Nearly naked ladies! That's right, it's time again for Little Rock's Finest Assettes to present its take on burlesque, which is sure to mean plenty of corsets, bustiers, fishnets and heavy eye shadow. And if past installments are any predictor — this is the troupe's fourth production — look for a hearty dose of feminism informing the production. The only act I was able to confirm before press time involves everyone's favorite Whore of Babylon, Sophira N Brimstone, who reports she'll play some variation of the wild woman who can't be restrained. In the past, shows have sold out pretty quickly. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, when the show repeats. LM.
8:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
Michael Burks was born into the blues. His grandfather played Delta style in Camden, and his father played bass alongside harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson II. Like any good, probably partly apocryphal blues bio, Burks' has him playing alongside his father by the time he was five. Skip ahead a decade or two and Burks' father has moved the family to Camden and opened the Bradley Ferry Country Club, a 300-seat juke joint, where he installs the younger Burks as the leader of the house band. When the club closed in the mid-'80s, Burks put the blues to the side and worked for a time as a mechanical technician. It wasn't until 1997, when Burks was 40, that he released his debut album. It drew rave reviews. Ever since, he's been steadily grinding it out on the road. For his tireless touring and long, feverish sets, he's earned the nickname “Iron Man,” which is also the title of his latest album. Look out for a fiery guitar attack. Northwest Arkansas's blues group the Eoff Brothers opens the show. LM.
9 p.m., Gallery 26. Free.
Some years ago, Jerry and Jeremy Colburn, AKA the rockin'-est father-son musicians in town and two-thirds of the Bloodless Cooties, played in a band with Jen Shaw and Mark Lewis (Moving Front) called New Jazz Assassins. The band called its music “garage jazz,” which was probably a cool way of saying it sounded a little ramshackle. With Shaw singing breathily, occasional whistle solos and dirty cocktail grooves, NJA sounded like they should've been house band for a speakeasy happy hour. Maybe they were. But now they're taking a new, expansive direction. Re-formed as Stella Fancy, the band's added three members — Damian Thompson on congas, Dan Huff on various percussion and Jen Finley on backing vocals — and worked up new originals and lounge covers of B-52s and Dead Kennedys songs. They're debuting the new project with two sets at Gallery 26, an early acoustic one and a later electric jam. LM.
4 p.m., Alltel Arena. $21.75-$51.75.
Get it? That's right, Total Nonstop Action. What, you had other ideas? For shame. This is wrasslin' for a new generation, set in a hexagonal ring (more opportunity for ropes bouncing) and featuring some of the baddest brawlers in the “sport.” Like Kurt Angle, a former Olympic gold medalist, who's become the face of TNA. Or Awesome Kong, a nearly 300-pound female wrestler, whose signature move is the Awesome Bomb, a standing neck scissors drop maneuver. Or LAX, short for the Latin Xchange, the Hispanic tag team made up of “high-flying” brawlers Hernandez and Homicide, whose signature moves are the Border Toss and the Gringo Killer, respectively. Also on the bill are Christian Cage, “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, Motor City Machineguns, “Cowboy” James Storm, Scott Steiner, Tomko, ODB, Jay Lethal, Petey Williams, Shark Boy, Roxxi Lauveaux, Eric Young and Jackie Moore. More than likely, too, there'll be a few “Knockouts,” the full-figured, spandex-wearing, female division of TNA. Say it again: Total Nonstop Action. LM.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
The Austin, Texas, trio Fastball makes its return to Little Rock after a four-year absence. Formed in 1994, the band originally called itself Megneto USA, but became Fastball after signing with Hollywood Records in 1995. Still beneath the radar after extensive touring, Fastball began throwing strikes following the release of its second album, “All the Pain Money Can Buy,” which sold 1 million copies with the U.S. radio hit, “The Way.” After gigs the world over, Fastball released its third album on Hollywood before stepping up to the plate to record “Keep Your Wig On” on Rykodisc (Morphine, Frank Zappa). With catchy hooks and a full-body sound, the trio is set to release its fifth album this fall, currently being mixed by Bob Clearmountain, known for his work with Springsteen and the Stones. The guys have also done quite a bit of side work, writing and recording with other artists such as Bruce Robison, Al Anderson and Bowling for Soup. PP.