KING BISCUIT BLUES FESTIVAL
King Biscuit time is upon us, dear readers. For the faithful, blues-loving throngs, that means it’s time once again to head over to Phillips County to set up camp, soak up the sounds, have a little fellowship with your peers and maybe take down a smoked turkey leg and an ice-cold lite beer or three. And hopefully the weather will be a bit more cooperative this year than it was in 2012. That Saturday last year was just downright unpleasant, what with the rain and cold and wind and general December-y bluster there in mid October. I was told by some Dutch KBBF regulars that last year’s was the weirdest weather they’d seen in their 17 years of festival-going. As of Sunday night, the weatherman was forecasting partly cloudy and upper 70s-ish for the Thursday-Saturday time frame in the Helena-West Helena area, which is about the best you could hope for. The lineup is pretty great too, with headliners Marcia Ball, Robert Cray and Gregg Allman, plus longtime festival faves such as James Cotton, Paul Thorn, Cedell Davis, Bobby Rush and so many others.
7:30 p.m. Christ Episcopal Church. $20-$35.
Wow, this is a big get, Little Rock. Mavis Staples is up there with the greats of gospel (with a career spanning seven decades), and she also has also one of the most expressive and distinctive voices in soul ever committed to tape. Of course, many will be familiar with the singer via her years with Stax hitmakers The Staple Singers, whose “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself,” and “Let’s Do it Again” were among the biggest hits of their era. Staples is no stranger to venturing out on her own however, having cut her first solo album in 1969. Her two most recent discs — 2010’s “You Are Not Alone” and this year’s “One True Vine” — were both produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. They’re also both excellent, with the former winning a Grammy for best Americana album. There are some interesting choices of material on the albums, including selections by Low, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, Rev. Gary Davis and Randy Newman, among some traditionals, a few Tweedy tunes and some gospel-era Staple Singers numbers. Covering early Funkadelic is a risky gambit for anyone (“Funkadelic” through “America Eats Its Young” is as good a four-album run as any in pop music, IMO), but Staples’ and her crew’s cover of “Can You Get to That” is mostly faithful to the original, though it sticks out just a bit amidst the slightly more subdued material that makes up the rest of the set. But if I had to guess, I’d venture that a Mavis Staples concert is anything but a somber affair, likely to be equal parts soul fireworks and spiritual firepower. What better venue could you ask for? Don’t skip this one y’all.
8 p.m. South on Main. $45.
Now, see, there’s this young pop singer name of Molly Serious or something (her dad was a one-hit wonder country mullet-doofus back in the ’90s), and recently she went and acted foolishly on an awards show. She had some full-figured ladies dancing with her and she herself attempted to shake what the Good Lord had given her. I guess she thought it’d be clever, but it was kinda pitiful, really. Still, people got all in a high tizzy about it, as they are wont to do. “Twerking” I believe is the style of dance they call it, but it’d probably look familiar to anyone who’s seen a show by Bobby Rush and his dancers, including the beautiful Mizz Lowe. You know Bobby Rush ain’t studdin’ Molly Serious or any of this “twerking” nonsense, so we probably shouldn’t give it too much thought either. He’ll still be bringing down the house with the ass-shakin’ rhythms and sweaty funk grooves long after ol’ whatsername has moved on to doing whatever she ends up doing.
FRIDAY 10/11-SUNDAY 10/20
HOT SPRINGS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Various times. Arlington Hotel. $5-$175.
A couple of weeks ago, Times honcho Lindsey Millar offered a peek at the lineup for the 22nd annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which he called “surely the festival’s best lineup ever. Multiple award winners from the likes of Sundance and Hot Docs are on the bill. A biographical look at Arkansas-born football legend Bear Bryant called ‘Mama Called’ will make its world premiere. The Bryant film is part of the festival’s new sports documentary series, which also includes ‘The Big Shootout: The Life and Times of 1969,’ about the storied national championship game between Arkansas and Texas. The festival’s biggest draw might be ‘Good Ol’ Freda,’ a portrait of The Beatles longtime secretary and fan club manager, Freda Kelly, who’ll be in attendance on opening night.” There are so many awesome-sounding films to be screened. My picks: “Antenna,” about the legendary Memphis venue; “Tiny: A Story About Living Small,” about the small-house movement; and “Punk in Africa,” which sounds utterly fascinating.
ASO: ‘HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR’
8 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $18-$59.
Outside of “Beethoven & Blue Jeans,” your typical evening at the symphony calls for dressing it up a bit. But this performance really calls for stepping up your apparel: For the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s “Halloween Spooktacular,” concertgoers are encouraged to wear their terrifying, funny, or terrifyingly funny costumes to the show. The orchestra itself will be decked out in Halloween finery, and the program will include some spooky sonic treats, including Roy Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” theme; Danny Elfman’s “Edward Scissorhands: Main Title”; John Williams’ “Jaws: Main Title” and “Jaws: First Victim”; the theme from TV’s “The X-Files”; Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”; Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”; Elfman’s “Music from Spider Man” and more. The ASO also performs the program Sunday at 3 p.m.
2ND ANNUAL HOT PEPPER EATING CONTEST
4-6 p.m. The Root Cafe.
There’s something really satisfying about eating a fluorescent-colored, wrinkly, weird-looking pepper that immediately engulfs your entire face in a scorching halo of jet-engine blast pain, you know? The searing, mind-erasing heat really purifies as it cuts away every other thought or worry or concern you might have had a few minutes prior. But there’s also something satisfying about not doing that, and instead watching some other chump endure pure misery in pursuit of glory and prizes. I once watched a dude eat 45 jalapenos in 5 minutes. I know jalapenos are fairly pedestrian by the standards of today’s pepper arms race (“Whooooaaaa maaaaan, this Uruguayan silver death pepper clocks in at eleventy zillion Scoville units!”) But still, jalapenos are pretty dang hot and this dude ate a whole bunch of them. His prize? A bottle of tequila. Now, the peppers that the fine folks at The Root Cafe and Dunbar Garden’s Doug Pierce have lined up will be substantially hotter than good ol’ jals. The lineup starts relatively innocuously, but builds in intensity, culminating with such terrifying sounding creatures as the bhut jolokia (ghost pepper), Trinidad scorpion and the Carolina reaper.
An earlier version of this article misidentified Dunbar Garden’s Doug Pierce.