THURSDAY 4/14-SATURDAY 4/23
RITES OF SPRING FESTIVAL
Various times. Vino's. Free-$10.
In keeping with a recent uptick of powerful events happening in the back room at Vino's, the Rites of Spring Festival is a confluence of poetry, art, comedy and music that spans 10 days and nights. On the first weekend of the festival, you'll find five local artists taking over the back room: Erin Pierce, Matthew Castellano, John Lucas, Kurt Lunsford, William Farrell and Laura Terry, and yet another sonic challenge to the structural integrity of the beloved pizza joint: a show from mostly bearded Fayetteville rockers Shawn James and the Shapeshifters, joined by local supergroup Bad Match. Rumor has it that Shawn James may stick around for a solo performance that Sunday afternoon, during which there will be readings of poetry and prose, and a book/merch swap between local musicians and artisans. The second week of the festival is full, too: Johnny Cash devotees can dig their heels into a film and discussion of the icon's work, UALR hosts its end-of-the-year literary party, and finally, Little Rock is graced with a roaring visit from Tenacious D's Kyle Gass and his "otherworldly superteam of badass dudes," joined by local Southern sludge rockers Iron Tongue. See vinosbrewpub.com for details.
SING INTO SPRING: ARKANSAS CHAMBER SINGERS
6:30 p.m. Governor's Mansion. $65.
John Erwin is a college-level choral director, but many junior high and high school choristers in Arkansas know his name well before they ever fly the nest. Through sheer skill or, quite possibly, through some sort of choral voodoo, he can unify a patchwork of different voice types into a single musical organism — one that emits the purest of vowels and the sweetest of tones, one that bears an undying allegiance to the precise placement of his downbeat. If your pocketbook allows for a contribution to Erwin's auditioned group of 50-plus voices, consider attending a posh evening of hors d'oeuvres and cocktails at the Governor's Mansion to the ensemble's benefit.
BLESS THE MIC: ALICIA GARZA
7 p.m. Philander Smith College. Free.
On July 13, 2014, George Zimmerman smiled and shook the hand of his lawyers after being acquitted for shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Jarred by the televised outcome, longtime San Francisco activist Alicia Garza, along with collaborators Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, leapt into poetic action. Garza ended a carefully composed response to the verdict on Facebook with the words "Black Lives Matter," and Cullors added a hashtag. The three words resonated immediately, as Garza says, as "an affirmation of Black folks' contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression," and came to symbolize the movements protesting police action that led to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Freddie Gray. You'll need no reservations or tickets to hear Garza speak; simply go and be present.
JEFF FOXWORTHY AND LARRY THE CABLE GUY
7:30 p.m. Verizon Arena. $59.50.
Like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Jeff Foxworthy's literary catalogue numbers nearly 40 books. (Imagine, if you will, being a freshly caffeinated Barnes and Noble employee in 1996, head full of dreams and backpack full of Sartre, clocking in to discover that your first task of the day is to find a suitably prominent way to display the skyrocketing "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem.") In a recent interview with Houston Press, Foxworthy fondly remembered a segment on "The Larry Sanders Show" during which the late Garry Shandling (R.I.P) asked him to write down on a notecard "how much money [he'd] made off those redneck books," an amount which elicited expletives from Shandling's mouth which, had the show not been on HBO, might have been bleeped out in the name of decorum. If you're a person whose hard-earned $14.99 has ever bolstered that dizzying profit (or even if you're not), you can catch Foxworthy with longtime friend Larry the Cable Guy (Dan Whitney) for a performance of new material on their "We've Been Thinking" tour.
10 p.m. Clear Channel Metroplex. $43-$80.
After releasing his mixtape trilogy in 2010, "I Came From Nothing" 1, 2 and 3, Atlanta-born rapper Young Thug caught the attention of trap music pioneer Gucci Mane, and quickly made his way into the cadre of artists under the umbrella of Gucci's 1017 Brick Squad Records. With several mixtapes, Young Thug remains prolific, collaborating with Gucci Mane, as well as Rich Homie Quan, Birdman and Kanye West. In a 2013 interview for Fader Magazine, Arkansas Times' former A&E editor Will Stephenson described his flow thusly: "In a typical Young Thug verse, he slurs, shouts, whines and sings, feverishly contorting his voice into a series of odd timbres like a beautifully played but broken wind instrument." Young Thug's Little Rock appearance comes on the heels of his "Slime Season 3" mixtape release, and is part of a long-awaited rollout of his debut album, "HiTunes," or "Hy!£UN35." The album tour was announced a few weeks ago in a surreal promotional video, which featured Young Thug riding around Atlanta, atop a gorgeous black horse with hooves covered in the same shade of red glitter as Dorothy Gale's magical ruby slippers.
ARKANSAS DERBY DAY
12:30 p.m. Oaklawn Racing & Gaming. $2 parking.
Saturday is the culmination of the year's racing season at Hot Springs' Oaklawn Park, and that means it's last call for those sumptuous corned beef sandwiches they serve, too. Weather permitting, the gambling mecca will open up its grassy infield to those inclined to dig the races "from the inside out." It'll include a craft beer garden, bouncy houses, a petting zoo and exhibits from the nearby Mid-America Science Museum. You'll find the old-school racing devotees elsewhere, though: Look for the cocktail crowd in the windowed boxes that hover above the track (once filled with the smoke from fine cigars, but smoke-free as of 2006's Clean Air Act). The patrons there will be dressed to the nines, already well acquainted with the season's equine favorites, calculating their chances at a piece of the $1 million kitty.
MOVIES AT MACARTHUR: 'WAR LETTERS'
6:30 p.m. MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Free.
"But what about the wounds you can't see? The phantoms, the nightmares, the ghosts in your head?" One would be hard-pressed to find a more chilling portrayal of war than the one contained in the correspondence penned by the men and women fighting it. In this 2001 PBS documentary, the stories of American wars are told exclusively through these letters. The viewer, robbed of the comfortable distance afforded while reading broad, sweeping overviews of war in school textbooks, is placed squarely in the middle of the daily routine of battle, experiencing the simultaneously monotonous and horrific: "Please don't send me any more underwear, socks, or candy. The milk of magnesia was absolutely unnecessary," and, only a sentence or two later: "They teach us how to withdraw our bayonets in a certain manner, because steel sticks to warm human flesh." We have writer Andrew Carroll to thank for the preservation of the papers, of which thousands are compiled as part of an all-volunteer initiative called The Legacy Project.