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Wakarusa returns to Mulberry Mountain

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THURSDAY, JUNE 2

EUREKA SPRINGS BLUES WEEKEND

Downtown Eureka Springs.

Head for the hills, blues fans: For four days, the mountains and valleys of Eureka Springs are going to be echoing with electric, Delta, Chicago, Texas, 12-bar and just about every other type of blues you can imagine when the annual Eureka Springs Blues Weekend returns to a slew of venues and bars in the historic downtown. The lineup includes Elvin Bishop, the Chicago blues icon and founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; Coco Montoya, the celebrated southpaw who spent years backing John Mayall as one of the legendary Bluesbreakers, and Tinsley Ellis, the high-energy and higher-volume electric guitarist, headline the festivities. Rounding out the line-up: Marquise Knox, a 20-year-old making waves in blues circles; Little Joe McLerran, who was recently tapped by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. State Department to be an American musical ambassador to the Middle East; and Rosie Ledet, an award-winning zydeco musician, among dozens of others. Weekend passes are sold out, but tickets to most individual shows are still available at the festival's website, EurekaSpringsBlues.com.

WAKARUSA 2011

Mulberry Mountain, Ozark. $29 and up.

It's been three years since Wakarusa, the annual music and outdoors festival, relocated to Arkansas and, since, organizers have been focused on recreating the sights, sounds and smells of your dad's hippie fests: jam bands, light shows, knotted hemp, stray clouds of sticky icky icky smoke. Stay fast, we say. But we're thrilled to see the festival flirt with big names outside of the proverbial drum circle. This year's line-up welcomes back the regular cast of friendlies — Ben Harper and Relentless 7, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Umphrey's McGee, STS9 — while making room on stage for a few bright-lit names. Leading the pack of surprises: My Morning Jacket, the not-Southern-rock Southern rockers whose career path has taken the band from fuzz-ball "Live Rust" acolytes to ambitious, epochal critical darlings. The festival showcases other drawling indie acts like Mumford & Sons, the folk ravers who were handed the "Best New Artist" and "Best Rock Song" Grammys last year; the Oscar-winning songwriter Ryan Bingham; and a soon-to-be-huge Nashville grrrl-country act, Those Darlins. The festival seems to be expanding its techno offerings, as well, booking Thievery Corporation, the jazzy, trip-hop duo; Shpongletron, a jam-friendly electro-eclecticist; and Austin electro-rockers Ghostland Observatory. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, those much-celebrated soul revivalists, also duck into the festival for a Friday evening set. Other notable names: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Toots & the Maytals, Lucero, Minus the Bear, Budos Band, Lanhorne Slim, Peelander-Z and, one of Arkansas's contributions to the festival, our beloved two-headed beast, Tyrannosaurus Chicken.

FRIDAY, JUNE 3

BIG K.R.I.T.

9 p.m., Cornerstone Pub. $20 adv.

With every new track, it gets harder to justify listening to any post-Rikers Lil Wayne. Jay Electronica is brilliant, but – imperfection be damned – he won't make a peep for months at a time. Ditto Andre 3000. Bun B and Scarface are already part of the canon. So who are we supposed to get in a tizzy about? Right now, I and thousands of others are looking to Big K.R.I.T. to take the wheel and keep the South on track. Only 24, the Meridian, Miss., native has gone from rap-blog favorite to emcee-to-beat over the last year, writing, producing and releasing two of the best mixtapes in years with "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here" and its follow-up, "Return of 4Eva," my pick for the best rap album of the year by a country mile. It's essential listening, the sound of a buzzy draftee defying the high expectations and knocking any potential "over-" labels off of "over-hyped." Since, K.R.I.T. (and his logo, a repurposed Basquiat crown) has broken through the Internet bubble, getting co-signs from NPR and the New York Times. He's crossed the Mississippi to visit Little Rock a few times over the years, but this may be your last time to see the next big thing up close and without binoculars. K.R.I.T. gets local support from members of the Conduit Fam: Arkansas Bo, one half of Suga City, opens alongside 607, who, alongside his brother Bobby, uses the night to release the latest Ear Fear album, "Art Class." Because, as Lord Six says, "everyone enjoyed their mandatory art class."

'SHOOG RADIO LIVES!'

8 p.m., Maxine's, Hot Springs. $6 adv., $8 d.o.s.

Let it be known that we're pretty sweet on Shoog. Every Monday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., local lady on the scene Cheyenne Matthews takes to the KABF 88.3 airwaves to host an infectiously ramshackle block of local music. If the tunes aren't dialed up from her iPod encyclopedia, they're performed, live on the air, from the rotating cast of locals who pack, elbows to butts, in the tiny Main Street studio. It's one of the many small charms that Little Rock has to offer. And we want to see it keep keepin' on. This weekend, the show is raising money for new equipment for the radio station by heading down the road to Hot Springs alongside a crew of Shoog regulars. The night's lined up to offer sets from Adam Faucett, the inimitable local; Ace Spade & the Whores of Babylon, those long-tenured psychobilly prowlers; Bryan Frazier, who recently released a career-spanning anthology; Sweet Eagle, the testosterone-jacked crew of local Detroit rockers; and The Walking Lawsuits, a Hot Springs trio with one foot in the '50s and an amp in the early-'90s.

SATURDAY, JUNE 4

'TIME FOR TENDERNESS'

9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $10.

Our man Luke Hunsicker's big-hearted legacy is going to live on for a long time if Little Rock has anything to say about it. During his fight with brain cancer, members of the local musical establishment banded together for a string of concerts, raising funds for medical bills addressed to the multi-talented musician and general smile-about-town. And even now, nearly a year after he passed away, the events keep coming. This weekend, White Water hosts a benefit show to rally money and support for the Lucas Clayton Hunsicker Scholarship Fund, which provides a yearly stipend to a high school senior from Luke's alma mater, Parkview High, who plans to pursue an education in the arts. Saturday, expect a helping of '50s doo-wop, pop and soul – dancing and singing encouraged, if not irresistible – from a cast of Hunsicker cohorts and local musicians. Also, a wall of locally-made art pieces will be on display with sales going to the scholarship fund, as well.

WILLIE NELSON'S COUNTRY THROWDOWN

3:30 p.m., North Shore Riverwalk Park. $34.

We're in the deep end of summer festival season, but make no mistake: This traveling showcase is the most Southern-fried of them all. The hyper-nomadic, red-headed septuagenarian has wrangled up a crew of hard-edged country singers to join him for the better part of five weeks, crisscrossing the map and laying into the guitars for Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown, a sort of Warped Tour for the country crowd. Willie, of course, headlines. But a crew of young torchbearers round out the cast. Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Lee Brice, all Nashville slingers with a history of heavy songwriting, share the bold print at the top of the line-up. Two other stages feature up-and-comers like Brantley Gilbert, Craig Campbell, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real and others, including Little Rock regular Austin Lucas, whose latest record, "Live at the White Water Tavern," was recorded at the watering hole of champions and released by local Travis Hill's alt-country imprint, Last Chance Records.

SUNDAY, JUNE 5

CONWAY PRIDE PARADE & FESTIVAL

2 p.m., "The Pink House." Free.

Conway, Ark., may not strike you as a bastion of LGBT culture. And you'd be right. But for eight years, Robert Loyd and his partner of 35 years, John Schenck, have spearheaded the annual Conway Pride Parade and Festival, which draws hundreds of paraders out to the streets. Kicking off at 2 p.m., the parade departs from "The Pink House" on 1605 Robinson before making the march to Simon Park. The festival offers food, refreshments, live music from Dee Jay MoonGod and a slate of drag queens, drag kings and live singers throughout the afternoon. For more information on one of Arkansas's biggest pride parades, visit ConwayPride.com.

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