CENTRAL HIGH SYMPOSIUM
8:30 a.m., Philander Smith College. Free.
In honor of the 52nd anniversary of the desegregation of Central High, Philander Smith, UALR and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site team to offer a two-day symposium, “Speaking the Truth on Social Issues and Politics in the 21st Century.” That bold goal confronts on five topics — education, race relations, economics, politics and health and wellness. On Thursday, the Times' Max Brantley facilitates discussion by the education panel (10:15 a.m.), which includes, among others, Dr. Terrence Roberts and civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez (famous for her role in Mendez v. Westminster). Later, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Ralph Brodie are among those who discuss race relations (1:15 p.m.), and Delta Trust's French Hill and others talk economics (3 p.m.). Missouri State Sen. Maidi Coleman kicks off Friday with a keynote address (9 a.m.), to be followed by a session on politics (10:15 a.m.) moderated by Mayor Mark Stodola and featuring Ernest Green, state Rep. Kathy Webb and others. A session on health and wellness (1:30 p.m.) concludes the sessions, and descendants of Homer Plessy and John Ferguson provide closing remarks. To get more info go to http://www.nps.gov/chsc.
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $26.
Despite appearances, as Times' contributor Jonelle Doughty finds in her Q&A with the Avett's Bob Crawford (page 54), the Avett Brothers have not enjoyed a meteoric rise. Just because they took home an Emerging Artist Award at the Americana Music Awards two years ago does not mean that they were just emerging. Their recent bumps, from North Carolina independent Ramseur Records to American/Columbia, from touring clubs in a van to traveling in a giant bus to play theaters, from self-producing to working with Rick Rubin, all go back to a novel philosophy for music industry success in these blog-addled times: winning over fans one at a time, through prolific recording and touring. Friday, the band unveils new material from its forthcoming “I and Love and You,” out on Tuesday. Like the group's previous record, it fits under the big umbrella of expansive folk rock. All the harmony, urgency and melancholic hooks are there, just with more pop melody than in the past. It should translate well to the stage. Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers, a band that I predicted last year would soon be playing big stages, opens the set with mesmerizing folk rock.
9 p.m., Revolution. $25.
The L.A.-based quartet Silversun Pickups has left several prominent music critics drunk on descriptive adjectives. The New York Times' Jon Pareles writes, “Silversun Pickups' songs are fascinated by instrumental possibilities — pealing, crashing, shimmering, pinging, blaring,” while Rolling Stone's David Fricke does 'em one bettter: “The guitar distortion that eats up much of the air on [the band's new album] comes in many forms, including wounded-bear roars, pissed-off-snake hisses and black-syrup rivers of drone.” You might need a psychotropic assist on Friday if you're hoping to hear all that, but the band's layered, distorted guitars will undoubtedly star. Expect Smashing Pumpkin's style alt-rock that somehow manages to shimmer and sound dour at the same time. The bill's openers could headline alone. Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra blends post-grunge, indie rock and alt-country jangle, while Cage the Elephant, a swaggering rock band from Bowling Green, enjoys a reputation for its much-ballyhooed live show. LM.
COOL SHOES PRESENTS TREASURE FINGERS
9 p.m., Downtown Music. $8-$10.
After almost a year and a half, Cool Shoes has settled into a steady groove. The monthly dance party no longer draws the hordes (it topped out at 450 last year), but instead a respectable 200-250 who keep the dance floor congested and sweaty. Those numbers should build back this week as organizers bring in their first big-name DJ, Treasure Fingers. From Atlanta and signed to A-Trak's buzzy Fool's Gold label, the DJ blew up last year with his debut, “Cross the Dancefloor,” an electro-house-infused disco jam built around a vocorded hook that doesn't quit: “Let me see you move it shake it cross the dance floor.” With bass-and-synth-heavy remixes of songs by everyone from Chromeo to Fergie to Estelle to Kid Cudi, dude's bound to keep it moving like perhaps never before at Cool Shoes. Bedrocks Deeter and Shawn Lee open, and as usual Cameron Holifield provides vivid, tripped-out video art. A new addition: Jeremy Hebert mans a free photo booth that we've heard is more than worth the price of admission. LM.
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $232.
It's a banner season for soul music fans. The symphony just offered a tribute to Motown, long-absent Maxwell comes to Verizon Arena in October and on Saturday we get John Legend, probably the most acclaimed performer in contemporary soul music, making his first ever appearance in Little Rock. He comes armed with a short career's worth of material that's already netted him six Grammies, a couple of platinum albums and enough hit singles to fill a mixtape (you'd definitely want to include MSTRKRFT's “Heartbreaker,” to which he lends guest vocals; it's one of the best singles of the year). “Evolver” is his latest album. It finds the crooner — whose stage name reflects his throwback sound — playing against type: enlisting, for the first time, a hip-hop guest star (Andre 3000 on the single “Green Light”), working in chunky synth lines, flexing a new bravado. Fittingly, as he told me in an interview (read it on page 55) last month, his tour is bolder than in the past, with a 10-piece backing band and energetic production.
7:30 p.m., Verizon Arena. $21.75-$51.25.
If you've seen blips of the coverage of Kanye West behaving boorishly on an MTV awards show, you might be forgiven for lumping the lanky blonde he slighted with the ever-revolving cast of pop ingenues. Taylor Swift is young (only 19) and popular (her most recent album sold more than any other last year) and pretty (model tall, with long blonde curls). She, like a lot of her contemporaries, got her start in the music business at a young age. She signed a record contract at 14 and released her debut album at 16 (it went triple platinum). But unlike most of her peers, Swift's reputation rests not on an over-sexed stage show, pre-programmed pop or a wild personal life. It's all about her skill as a songwriter. She wrote or co-wrote every song on her last album, “Fearless,” including one when she was 12. Her material usually tackles teen-age concerns — heartache, love, awkwardness — but with a deft touch that helps her songs transcend, allows her to speak universal truths. Which means they're easy for fans of all ages and pop genres. Former “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler opens along with Gloriana.
DIKKI DU AND THE ZYDECO KREWE
9:30 p.m., White Water Tavern. $6.
Now that Matt White's got a toehold in the Mississippi blues scene — Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm play often; T Model Ford played a rare show several months back — the White Water head man is setting his aim on another roots-music-rich border state. Louisiana, like all of its neighbors, boasts a wide variety of musical traditions, but none are more closely associated with the state than zydeco. It's a bizarre mix of influences only America could produce — French Canadian (the songs), European (the accordion and violin), Afro-Caribbean (the beat), R&B (the funk) and Louisiana Cajun (the style). From Latwell, La., Dikki Du (“most people don't but Dikki Du”) comes from a musical family; his brother, Chubby Carrier, is a certified zydeco star. But don't mistake Dikki for a traditionalist. You'll certainly recognize the sounds of zydeco in his music, but he promises a hearty dose of funk as well. In other words, there'll be no excuse for not dancing.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
7 p.m., Dickey-Stephens Park. $55-$65.
Who can touch the Dave Matthews Band? With the June release of “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King,” the band landed its fifth consecutive debut atop the Billboard charts. The 15-million-plus tickets sold over the course of an 18-year-career make DMB the highest-grossing American act ever. The band's lately been in full-tilt-promotion mode for “Big Whiskey,” appearing on “The Tonight Show” and “Ellen” last week and serving as the official band for ESPN's College Gameday, which means, if you watch college football, you hear it a lot. Named in tribute to the band's late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, whose nickname was GrooGrux, the new album is DMB's first in four years. It plays like a New Orleans funeral march, a celebratory lament that allows the band — along with Matthews that includes drummer Carter Beauford, bassist Stefan Lessard, violinist Boyd Tinsley and new touring saxophonist Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck's Flecktones, to mix emotions and musical traditions in one big swirling gumbo. Fans know it's a base that'll only sound better with the group's typical improvisational flourish. Gregg Allman opens the show with his classic brand of Southern rock.