From "Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum" courtesy of Department of Arkansas Heritage

In a year mostly bereft of live music, Old State House’s “Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum” recalls a bygone Little Rock concert scene. The pre-Alltel Arena world was one in which first-come, first-served general admission seating made for a more communal (and less “tiered”) concert experience, and much of that freewheeling pre-partying happened in the parking lot of Barton Coliseum on the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.

courtesy of Department of Arkansas Heritage
A washboard signed by Jim Dandy of Black Oak, Arkansas, part of “Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum”

AC/DC, ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers, Shania Twain, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, The Jackson Five, Charlie Pride, Van Halen, Metallica, Lawrence Welk, Tammy Wynette, Smashing Pumpkins, Motley Crue, Nine Inch Nails and Fleetwood Mac all made stops at Barton, and old school Little Rock concertgoers are known to wax nostalgic over their own mental lists of wild Barton Coliseum concerts over the years.


“Our amazing team has been curating this exhibit for well over a year,” said Bill Gatewood, director of the Old State House Museum. “There were more than 13,000 individual artifacts that were generously donated by the Arkansas State Fair which had to be catalogued and archived before our curator could select exhibit items. COVID provided some unique challenges to creating an exhibit, from contractor delays to staff working offsite, but we are so proud of the end result and welcome guests to the museum to see ‘Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum’ now until fall of 2022.”

courtesy of the Department of Arkansas Heritage
A costume of Johnny Cash’s, part of “Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum”

The exhibit was guest curated by University of Arkansas English professor Robert Cochran.


“Play It Loud” opens virtually at 7 p.m., Friday, April 23, on the Old State House’s Facebook and YouTube channels, and opens in-person Tuesday, April 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The exhibit will keep those hours Tuesday through Saturday. Bring a mask and plan to do a lot more social distancing than you did during that White Zombie/Melvins show in 1995.