7:30 p.m., Electric Cowboy. $15.
Joe Nichols is coming home, new album in tow. It's called “Old Things New,” which is probably an apt summation of Nichols and his music. For more than a decade, the Rogers native has eschewed Nashville gloss for traditional country sounds — pedal steel, fiddles, twangy guitars. Nichols' voice, warm but gritty, harkens back to a rougher time, too (the Washington Post recently said that “no one in Nashville has a ‘countrier' voice” than Nichols). Couple that voice with songs like “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Cheaper than a Shrink” (“About 18 bucks will get you four six-packs/No pouring out your heart to some high-dollar quack”), and it's not hard to see why Nichols is steadily emerging as country superstar. Admission on Thursday includes a copy of “Old Things New.” LM.
8 p.m., Peabody Hotel. $10.
If you're going all out for Halloween this year, this is the party for you. Top costume earns you a cool $1,000. With stakes that high and with hundreds expected, you better come with some Lady Gaga-style innovation if you've got any hope at taking home the prize. A host of celebrity judges, including Pamela Smith, Christina Munoz and the Alice 107.7 morning crew, pick the winner. There's also a “Blood Curdling Scream” contest for dinner for two at Capriccio. Local cover bands Crisis! and Tragikly White perform. LM.
8BALL AND MJG WITH HILL COUNTRY REVUE
8 p.m., Revolution. $15 adv.
In an interview this summer, 8ball told me that live instrumentation would play a big part in the future of 8ball and MJG. Hill Country Revue wasn't exactly what I had in mind from a band that's built its reputation on “space age pimpin',” but damn if the prospect of the two acts together doesn't ring with potential. As North Mississippi Allstars fans know, HCR is what Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew keep busy with while Luther Dickinson's off cheatin' on 'em with the Black Crowes. Like the Allstars, blues-filtered Southern rock is their standard mode. But for one of the South's most respected rap duos, expect them to be pliable. For more than 15 years — starting in 1993 with “Comin' Out Hard” on Suave House, an album that set the standard for much of Southern rap that's followed — the pair's represented Memphis with gritty lyrics and percussive flows. They've got a new deal with T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint that, this summer, 8ball promised would yield a new album this fall. Maybe we'll get an update. Epiphany and One Night Stand, Rockst*r and Dirtbag open. LM.
THE SCREAMING MIMES
9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $10.
It's a dream come true for fans of mid-to-late-'90s local funk. In what's emerging as an annual tradition, Fayetteville's Punkinhead reunites for a pair of Halloween shows in Fayetteville and Little Rock, two cities in which the band reigned supreme back in the day. Expect a heavy dose of wah-wah pedal, hollered harmonies and funky drumming. Ditto for the Screaming Mimes, who, on their way to becoming perhaps the most beloved high school band in the history of White County, worshiped at the altar of Punkinhead. (With Gossip at Vino's, Friday night is all about Searcy High School reunions; see Rock Candy for more nostalgia). If you've long wondered what the Easys or Big Silver would sound like with a touch of funk, here's your opportunity, courtesy of Isaac Alexander, Rob Bell and co. LM.
ACAC HALLOWEEN COVER-UP
9 p.m., ACAC Space. $5-7.
As in years past, the Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative has assembled a wildly diverse slate of local folks to not just cover but fully impersonate iconic acts. Lots of potential here. Members of Style Guide and Hector Faceplant will be blonde-wigged-up and pop-hooked-out as pop sensation ABBA. Which, hopefully, will be paired with Minneapolis post-punks Husker Du, as covered by Do You Remember, an ad hoc band made up of members of the Thing That Always Explodes, the Evelyns and the STDs. Or even better, next to the quintessential Halloween band, the Misfits, as realized by Little Rock's God City Destroyers, who, at least based on their photo on MySpace, seem to have that burly, Danzig thing going on. Also on the bill: a collection of UALR music students doing Blondie and local punks Jungle Juice doing hardcore heroes Infest. Those in costumes get in for $5. There's a $50 costume contest prize. LM.
THE MOVING FRONT/ THE GOOD FEAR
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
For at least recent memory, White Water has copied the ACAC formula, with some tweaking. Smaller line-ups. Proven bands. Fewer good costumes. This year, the bill — which features the Moving Front as REM and the Good Fear reprising their Six Tom Pettys and the Heartbreaker from last year — is a traveling Halloween hoorah. On Friday, both will be in Fayetteville at the Boom Boom Room warming up. Which is good not just because it means the bands will have a test show under their belts, but even more because, while you could imagine a band winging it for one cover gig, two shows means actual practice. I know that's the case with TMF. Dudes are usually fairly blase about what they're doing, but not about this. They know it sounds good. Practice or no, the Good Fear should be sturdy from their blonde wig extravaganza from last year, which was nothing but fun. LM.
ON THE PRAIRIE'
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $20-$52.
Since her star-making run as Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie,” Melissa Gilbert has not always lived the good life. She's been jilted by Rob Lowe twice, received a bad nose job, battled with drugs and alcoholism and guest starred on “Nip/Tuck” as a woman who gets intimate with her dog. But with a new book (“Prairie Tale”) and the lead role, as Ma, in this musical adaptation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, everything's looking up. With a book by Tony Award-winner Rachel Sheinkin and music by Oscar winner Rachel Portman, the musical's already managed positive reviews in its short run. For die-hards who can't imagine a “Little House” that deviates from the NBC mini-series standard, Gilbert has a few words of warning. “My Ma's a little more feisty,” she told the New York Times in September. “I'm a redhead … So there's some fire under those petticoats.” The musical continues through Thursday. LM.
7:30 p.m., $30-$35. UCA Reynolds Performance Hall.
Central Arkansas should feel lucky to host a group that's graced high-end concert halls, performed in private for the British royal family and has an expanded repertoire of 2,000 works. Created in Cambridge, England, in 1968, by six choral scholars, this a cappella musical force has evolved into international sensation. Its operating principle is known as the “Pyramid of Sound,” a heavy blended baritone/bass foundation upon which the other voices sit. Concerts are typically divided into distinct groups, including madrigals, folk songs, spirituals, recent commissions and “close harmonies.” Which could mean anything from Beatles, Billy Joel, Queen and Gershwin tunes, usually arranged by top-shelf composers specifically for the group. Although no original members are in the current lineup, their 12-to-20-year tenure average speaks for itself, as do their collective and individual voices. PP
THE MEAT PUPPETS
8:30 p.m., Revolution. $10 adv., $12 d.o.s.
Almost two years to the day since they last came to town, the Meat Puppets are back. Who'd have thought, after a hiatus that stretched across much of the last decade, including at least a year when brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood didn't speak, that the band would be on such steady, productive ground these days? You can't even really call it a comeback at this point. This line-up, featuring the brothers Kirkwood and replacement drummer Ted Marcus, has been at it for more than three years, touring the States and Europe and cutting two albums, both of which come close to recapturing the glory of their output in the '80s and '90s. You know, cowpunk at its finest — an infectious blend of laid-back psychedelia, desert rock and oddball, mumble-y lyrics. Locals Big Boots and the Dangerous Idiots open. LM.