By Lindsey Millar
and John Tarpley
7 p.m., UALR University Theatre. Free.
The Central High National Historic Site and Power 92 join together to present the first of several Juneteenth events on Thursday. The celebration, as African-American history students should know, harkens back to 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with word that the war was over and those enslaved could go free. Fittingly, the event on Thursday promises to trace the African-American struggle to gain freedom and respect. The centerpiece of the program, a dance piece called "Invisible Chains" by choreographer Aeren J. Bates, traces the "lineage of the African Diaspora." Other featured performers include poets A.P.O.L.L.O. and Krysis, actor Sean Freeman, and musicians Q Note & Griff and Authur C. Smith Jr. On Saturday, the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP offers its own Juneteenth celebration, from noon until 10 p.m., with music —gospel, jazz, hip-hop, blues and R&B are all promised — a fashion show, food booths, speakers and kids' activities. Ninth Street, west of Broadway, will be blocked off for the event. Meanwhile, also on Saturday, in the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, there'll be music and film workshops, from 10 a.m. to noon, and a screening of the great Stax-in-LA-concert-documentary "Wattstax" and other films from noon to 5 p.m. Following the screening of "Wattstax," Arkansas native and former Stax Records head Al Bell, who organized the legendary concert, will discuss "the power of music as a unifier of all people." LM.
• OPERA IN THE OZARKS
7:15 p.m., Inspiration Point, near Eureka Springs. $20-$25.
Now going into its 60th (!) season, Opera in the Ozarks is back again to fill the hills and cobblestones of Eureka Springs with soaring, gymnastic vocals from up-and-coming singers from around the country. Described as an "opera boot camp," the performers undergo six weeks of intensive rehearsal before performing three operas over the course of a month. This year, the nationally renowned program presents three familiar pieces in Bizet's "Carmen," the staple that legitimized comic operas; Mozart's "Don Giovanni," long considered one of the greatest pieces of music ever, period, and Puccini's "Tosca," a musical account of Napoleon's invasion of Italy and the sociopolitical changes that followed. It's a great opportunity to get off the beaten path and visit one of Arkansas's most proudly quirked-out towns. The series runs through June 16, with an anniversary gala at the historic Eureka Springs Auditorium on June 17. JT.
• THE IGUANAS
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
A polycultural mish-mash of Latin and Caribbean instrumentation and New Orleans soul and R&B, The Iguanas are a decades-old NOLA staple and one heck of an odd party band. They integrate zydeco accordion into '60s soul-garage covers, James Brown brass into washboard porch stompers and Austin roots-rock into a traditional Spanish palette for a seamless sonic potpourri perfect for the ol' drink and shimmy. And with multiple members sporting histories with Alex Chilton as well as Panther Burns, they bring along a fair bit of Arkansas cred to Little Rock. Also in the cred department, David Simon and Eric Overmyer count themselves as fans of the band, squeezing "Boom Boom Boom," their signature song, into an episode of "Homicide: Life on the Streets" and "Flame On" into the pilot of "Treme." JT.
• MEWITHOUTYOU/ DAVID BAZAN
9 p.m., Juanita's. $13 adv., $15 d.o.s.
"Can't you see you're not making Christianity any better? You're just making rock music worse." That's one of the greatest lines ever spoken by wise old Hank Hill, the ever-frustrated protagonist of "King of the Hill," the greatest and most sublime primetime cartoon ever. The bulk of Christian rock since the advent of the distortion pedal has been bloated with indistinguishable takes on easily digestible theology and triumphant but corny praise tracks: garish punk interpretations of Psalms and, as a minister friend calls them, "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs. Then you have mewithoutYou: two sons of a Jewish father and Episcopal mother who converted and raised their family in a Sufi Muslim household. They grew up to be freegans (dumpster divers) and post-punk experimental musicians who juggle references to Song of Songs, John Donne and Kurt Vonnegut behind a twitchy, driving assault of guitar and drums that transcends any religious label. Sonically and thematically, they're miles more dangerous than the bulk of their ready-made ilk both at Christian rock festivals and on MTV. Rubik, a synth-pop act from Helsinki that dominates Finnish charts, opens. David Bazan, the controversial singer who used to be the de facto head of faith-based indie-rock until his recent turn to agnosticism, co-headlines. (See our profile on Bazan on page 26.) JT.
Noon, North Shore Riverwalk, North Little Rock. $10 adv., $15 d.o.e.
If you've fallen into a Father's Day rut of skipping church with your dad to go fishing/golfing/all-you-can-eat-buffeting, how 'bout a little international music and culture to change the pace. That's what the organizers of "¡Celebrate!" promise — with two exclamation points no less — in this second annual event in North Little Rock. The music line-up includes locals Malcadence, Fayetteville party band Groovement, Texas teen all-girl band Atomic Pink and Latino artists Sangre Michoacana, Cadetes-de-Linares and Las Kponeras. There's a motorcycle show, where you can register to win a new custom bike; a Latin dance contest that features more $1,000 in cash and prizes; food and drink vendors and a carnival that opens on Saturday at 6 p.m. Children under 13 get in for free. Get more info at myspace.com/celebratearkansas. LM.
• JUNIOR BROWN
7:30 p.m., Juanita's. $15.
In the country music universe, Junior Brown is a planet unto himself, light years away from alt-country, outlaw troubadours, watered-down twang-pop and Texas roots rockers. On one hand, he's a country and western traditionalist under a 10-gallon hat and nudie suit, supported on stage by a minimal snare drum, acoustic guitar and stand-up bass. Yet the man himself is a head-scratching, jaw-dropping, honky-tonk Hendrix, fusing together the hee-haw of Chet Atkins with the surf-rock of Dick Dale and the proto-shred of Chuck Berry. Junior's weapon of choice is his signature guit-steel dubbed "Big Red," a gorgeous mutant contraption that fuses a classic six-string electric to a lap steel guitar and, alongside its operator and his wife, made its way into one of Gap's "this is easy" advertisements in the late-'90s. Brown's a sight to behold, fingers jumping about the frets with gymnastic ease, updating the bluegrass standard "Sugar Foot Rag" one minute and taking "Voodoo Chile" to the barn the next. JT.
• 'THE WIZARD OF OZ'
7:30 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $27-$52.
Has there ever been a family film more ingrained into the popular Western consciousness than "The Wizard of Oz?" Clicking shoes, the Wicked Witch of the West, the golden road: It's all become part of our day-to-day imagery. So, naturally, when a theater troupe attempts to take the classic to stage, it has to do it faithfully and with all the attention to detail and devotion of, say, "Hamlet." Based on early reviews, it looks like this national tour has pulled it off: the gorgeous emerald and gold palette, the costumes, the songs, the whole feel of the original appear to be painstakingly faithful to the 1939 classic. (Maybe a bit too much for this writer, who has an all-too-real, deep-seated and borderline-incapacitating fear of those damn flying monkeys.) Oz by way of Kansas comes to Little Rock's Robinson Center Music Hall for a limited engagement that should pack the house through its four-day run, ending June 24. JT.
• JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT
9 p.m., Revolution. $25 adv., $30 d.o.s.
What a week to be a Drive-By Truckers fan, huh? The alt-country mega act plays Revolution's anniversary show on Friday and the Wednesday before sees Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, another beloved outfit fronted by a former Trucker who wrote and played along with the guys for six years and on three near-universally acclaimed albums. Hailing from one of America's greatest unsung musical hubs, Muscle Shoals, Ala., Isbell and his Unit work in a mural of country-soul, replete with broken-heart-on-beer-soaked-sleeve lyrics and masculine melancholy in a paced, but driving, update on the most lovelorn moments of classic country. If you've ever wanted to see someone hide the tears in his eyes with his cowboy hat, here's your chance. JT.