- BLUESY INDIE-ROCK: From the Moaners, playing White Water Thursday.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
There's an open letter on the website of the Moaners' record label, Yep Roc, where the Chapel Hill indie-rock duo spend a lot of time reflecting on their time in Mississippi recording their latest record, “Blackwing Yalobusha,” at Blackwings Studio in Water Valley, where R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and other North Mississippi greats recorded. The duo, Laura King and Melissa Swingle, write, “We wanted to capture the atmosphere of the blues and the feeling of the South, Faulkner's South, O'Connor's South, but play with the form and take it somewhere new.” Before you get all “Carpetbaggers!” on the ladies, consider the “play with the form” bit. Indie rock, like most rocks, has occasionally, often egregiously, been blues obsessed. There's a small helping of Jon Spencer's career, the Black Keys and the White Stripes, but if you dig too much deeper, the well gets barren pretty quick. So, bravo to the Moaners, who sound an awful lot like Sleater-Kinney if Kenny Brown were playing guitar. Swingle, who spent a fair number of years leading the band Trailer Bride, plays a pretty mean slide guitar, alternating between dirty, feedback-laden runs and more hypnotic atmospherics. King isn't a slouch either; she plays spare enough to let the groove take the lead and, when the song dictates, rambunctious enough to get the kids bouncing. Local new-wave rockers the Reds open.
9 p.m., Juanita's. $6.
It's not 15-year-old Tanya Tucker singing “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone),” but when 19-year-old singer/songwriter Elise Davis sings, “I tried my whole life to be someone who you would love,” a blip of skepticism passes through. Really? Your whole life? But then again I've got Davis' bio. Judged only by her rich voice and breezy, open-road arrangements (courtesy of the fellas at Blue Chair Studios, who've put out a diverse handful of some of Arkansas's strongest releases in the last couple of years), Davis sounds mature well beyond her years. And judged even by her resume — two albums already under her belt and a third, “Another Lonesome Romance,” releasing on Thursday — she's farther down the road to Sheryl Crow-dom than virtually all her 19-year-old peers. Fittingly, the show is open to all ages.
WHITE RIVER WATER CARNIVAL
5 p.m., Riverside Park, Batesville. $15-$25.
For 65 years, folks in Independence County and beyond have been gathering on the banks of the White River in Batesville. Elvis played the 12th annual, and at least according to a Scotty Moore tribute web page, told off-color jokes, “stormed off stage” after only four songs and effectively “ruined the show.” The Colonel refunded the carnival its $50. For shame, Elvis! Guessing from a survey of this year's line-up — not quite Kingly, but still pretty heavy — this year will probably be shenanigan-free. On Friday, '80s refugees Night Ranger, who're famous mostly for singing “Sister Christian,” headline. Saturday, the names get bigger and countrier as young, leggy country starlet Ashton Shepherd performs at 6 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by one of the founding fathers of bluegrass, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and with country stalwart Earl Thomas Conley finishing out the music part of the festival at 9 p.m. Like any good carnival, there's also a host of kids' activities, wrasslin' demonstrations and beauty pageants. Get the full schedule at mybatesville.org/white-river-water-carnival.php.
HEIFER THEATRE PROJECT
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. Free.
For the past two weeks, high school students from around the country and world have gathered at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville to live in yurts, work fields and prepare meals with meager rations. They are, as the project's web page says, living “the lessons of world hunger and poverty.” On Friday, they'll take what they've learned and developed in workshops on writing, dance, music and drama and put it into an original theatrical production.
9:30 p.m., White Water Tavern. $8.
Thick Syrup, the local label that's given the scene a near essential collection of local rock, an album by everyone's favorite Michael McDonald-style keyboard crooner Nathan Brown and Smoke Up Johnny's barroom opus, isn't super prolific — those releases represent its entire output in about three years — but who needs quantity, when TS is releasing such quality? Continuing down that path: The latest from San Antokyo, the raw cowpunk-ish trio fronted by the brothers Kerby, Josh and Kevin, with Bryce from the Contingencies on bass, and a dude who's been around for a while who everyone calls Slaughterhouse or sometimes just Slaughter, who plays drums. From the demo tracks San Antokyo has on its MySpace page, expect chunky riffs and elemental lyrics about blood, cigarettes and robots. Kyoto Boom, who made a strong showing in the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, opens with arena-sized post-punk, which always gets the White Water crowd bouncing.
7 p.m., Riverfest
The kids will be out in full force. So: angular haircuts, tapered too-tight jeans, dye jobs, hipster bouffants, Hot Topic everything and lots and lots of texting. Paramore is huge. Like Avril Lavigne, to whom Paramore is often favorably compared, huge. Like possibly soon-to-be Fall Out Boy huge. It's easy to not be a kid and listen to Paramore's lyrics of teen-age angst and roll your eyes (or get a nostalgic pang of awkward times past), but it's refreshing, at least, to hear a band that sounds earnest instead of contrived-by-middle-aged-corporate-execs bitchy (we see you, Avril), and lead singer Haley Williams, who sports a fluorescent orange haircut and comes, awesomely, from Meridian, Miss., sings with more force than just about anyone in her generation. Next time Paramore comes through, expect to see them in Alltel. Phantom Planet, the popular Cali rockers who came to Juanita's back in March, open the show with Jack's Mannequin and Paper Route.
THE BACKYARDIGANS LIVE!
7 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $17.50-$38.50.
Based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon that you've probably only heard of if you're between the ages of 2 and 5 or if you're the parent of a child that age, “The Backyardigans” is all about kids using their “vivid” imaginations to come up with wild adventures in their backyard. The live-action performance at Robinson, subtitled “Tale of the Mighty Knights,” follows two backyard friends, Uniqua and Tyrone, who become knights charged with protecting King Pablo's “unpredictable egg.” Look out, also, for descriptive-adjective-heavy Grabbing Goblin Austin and Flighty Fairy Tasha. Parents and children be warned, Uniqua and Tyrone won't protect the “unpredictable egg” or do whatever they're supposed to be doing without help from the audience, which very well may mean singing and dancing.
8:30 p.m., Revolution. $15.
After a five-year hiatus, Filter returned earlier this year with “Anthems of the Damned,” an album filled with lyrical musings on contemporary problems (the cover art features an army helmet on a rifle; the lead track is “Soldiers of Misfortune”) and the band's somewhat anthemic take on the doom and gloom of industrial rock. Filter comes to Little Rock fully pedigreed. Richard Patrick, who sings, plays guitar, bass and drums, programs beats and is the group's driving force, was a member of the original touring incarnation of Nine Inch Nails. In 1995, the band's debut album, “Short Bus,” became a surprise hit on the strength of the single “Hey Man, Nice Shot.” Then, after a four-year gap, Filter returned to the charts in 1999 with “Take a Picture.” Since then Patrick's been recording and touring with a new band, Army of Anyone, culled from former members of Stone Temple Pilots and David Lee Roth's touring band. Here's betting that Filter still has enough fans to pack Revolution.