FAMILY FESTIVAL AND FREE ADMISSION DAY
10:30 a.m., Clinton Presidential Center. Free.
Peruse a bit of our nation’s recent history at no charge on July 4, when the Clinton Presidential Center will offer free admission in celebration of Independence Day. The Delta Brass Quintet will perform in the Great Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the family festival starts at 2 p.m. with children’s activities, food vendors, live music and more. The Dell Smith Experience featuring Tawanna Campbell and J. White will provide music and entertainment from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Watch the Fourth of July fireworks over the Arkansas River at 9:30 p.m. PP
9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8.
Sardinas, currently signed to Steve Vai’s Favored Nations record label, is a powerful guitar player known for his engaging live shows. A natural left-hander, Sardinas first picked up the guitar at age 6 and eventually converted to a right-hand playing style. After absorbing the soulful realm of Motown, gospel and R&B, Sardinas graduated to the emotionally intense sounds of the Deep South, including Son House, Robert Johnson, Bukka White and Mississippi Fred McDowell. The Dobro dominated his 1999 debut, “Treat Me Right,” and his next two releases, “Angel Face” (2000) and “Devil’s Train” (2001). But “Black Pearls” (2003) and this year’s “Eric Sardinas and Big Motor,” set for release in late July, reflect the influence of the electric explosions of the 1960s and 1970s. Fireworks are certain to explode at Sticky Fingerz as Sardinas and his crew celebrate their constitutional freedom to rock. PP
DEAN AGUS BAND
9 p.m., Club 2720, Hot Springs. $5.
In its previous incarnation, the Dean Agus Band — then called Crash Meadows — stayed busy winning titles at regional competitions, guest-hosting local radio shows and opening for the likes of Blues Traveler, Confederate Railroad and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Now, these Hot Springs locals have earned a new popularity based on a repertoire of Motown, modern and classic rock and roll, R&B and a well-received assortment of original numbers. Aside from being Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase standouts in 2007, any band with two siblings on its roster is worth listening to just for its bloodline chemistry. DAB consists of brothers Dean (acoustic guitar/lead vocals) and Medo Agus (lead guitar/vocals), drummer Hampton Taliaferro and bassist Daniel Keith.
The music should be all the entertainment you need, but Club 2720 will also be hosting a bikini contest Friday night in the nightclub room. PP
25th ANNUAL POPS ON THE RIVER
Gates open at 5:30 p.m.,
Riverfest Amphitheatre. Free.
As the fireworks go boom, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will perform its annual patriotic concert — as it has now for a quarter of a century — at 8:30 p.m. at Riverfront Park. Entry is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for donation to the Arkansas Food Bank Network. Be advised: The Junction Bridge will only be open to the general public until 8 p.m., after which access requires one of the 1,000 passes, available at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Festivities kick off early with a 6:30 p.m. concert by Happenstance, a band whose performances have been said to “slip over you like long-lost flannel shirts,” and opportunities to plunge Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Wally Hall in a dunk tank and to out-sweet-tea Sweet Tea columnist Jay Grelen. Beverages will be for sale; coolers and pets strictly verboten. “Dogs are American” is not an excuse. JW
BATTLE OF HELENA RE-ENACTMENT
10 a.m., Delta Cultural Center, Helena-West Helena. Free.
If you’re in the mood for fireworks of a different kind on the Fourth head east. The Delta Cultural Center commemorates the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Helena, one of three Confederate defeats over a two-day period on July 3-4, 1863. (You might have heard of the others — Gettysburg and Vicksburg.) Dr. Thomas DeBlack, award-winning author and professor of history at Arkansas Tech University, will speak on the events at Helena and the ramifications of the battle. Light refreshments will be served. DeBlack will also offer copies of his book, “With Fire and Sword: Arkansas 1861-1874,” for sale and will autograph copies. The center is located at 141 Cherry St. in Helena. For more information, call 870-338-4350 or 800-358-0972 or visit the Web site at www.deltaculturalcenter.com. PP
FUN ON THE FOURTH
10 a.m.-2 p.m., Pinnacle Mountain State Park, free.
Celebrate and cool off on the Fourth of July at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. There will be a watermelon-seed-spitting contest, water balloon volleyball and water relay races. There won’t be fireworks: They’re illegal in the park. More information is available by calling 868-5806 or by visiting www.arkansasstateparks.com/pinnaclemountain. PP
FRONTIER FOURTH OF JULY
2-4 p.m., Historic Arkansas Museum. Free.
Celebrate the nation’s independence with 19th-century music, traditional fiddling, crafts, living history performances, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and lemonade and watermelon refreshments. The museum is located at 200 E. Third St. and admission is free. More information is available by calling 324-9351. PP
8 p.m., Peabody Hotel. $15.
In what’s becoming an annual tradition, the Venus Mission (“The hottest band between Memphis and the sun!”) closes out the RiverTop Party series at the Peabody on the Fourth. What can you expect? Well, boatloads of people. Few touring club acts draw as strongly. You’ll notice that local bookers typically schedule them around holidays and Razorback games. Nostalgia jams, too. Specifically, from the ’80s — Belinda Carlisle, Wang Chung, the Bangles, Madonna. But, like any good cover band, their range extends beyond their focus into radio hits of today. Plus, like any band that plays to consistently large crowds, they’ve gone and written originals. So anticipate that, or not. Look, also, for the hallmark of next-level commitment from a cover-band: The members of Venus Mission dress up. Sort of like extras in “American Pyscho” — tight mini-skirts, skinny ties worn scarf-like, Ray-Bans. There will be dancing. And in honor of Independence Day, there will be barbecue and hotdogs, too. LM
8 p.m., Magic Springs Timberwood Amphitheater, Hot Springs. $35.99-$45.99.
Mixed messages dominated pop radio last summer. The biggest jams were sparkling and buoyant in tone, but dreary lyrically. Most were variations on the breaking-up-is-hard-to-do theme. Beyonce, in the year’s number one song, asserted, as usual, her independent woman-ness, but while kicking her man to the curb. Gwen Stefani asked her lover to imagine an escape with a non-bitch version of herself, and even though Rihanna offered shelter from the storm, it was “rainin’, rainin’.” But no one used a bright melody as a counterpoint to dark themes like Sean Kingston, a baby-faced 17-year-old raised in Jamaica. Over a sample of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” his “Beautiful Girls” staked out a position Woody Allen would appreciate: You’re too beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that when we break up, which, because of your beauty, is inevitable, I’ll be “soo-icidal.” Can I get a little pathos in my effervescent summer jams? Kingston’s appearance is a huge coup for Magic Springs, a legitimizing force for the park’s concert series that’s sure pack ’em in tight. Park admission is $45.99, or $35.99 after 5 p.m. LM
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Sundown, Riverfest Amphitheatre. Free.
We had already written a fairly cool assessment of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Tim Burton’s hyperactive Johnny Depp vehicle, when we learned that Movies in the Park is actually showing the 1971 original, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” A good choice, we say. The remake is eye candy, but it mainly seems geared to give Depp another offbeat character to add to his resume. The old edition can’t match the new for spectacle, but it compensates with its focus on character and plot. By balancing the sentimental tale of impoverished Charlie with the sardonic ramblings of Gene Wilder’s hermetic confectioner, “Willie Wonka” manages both pathos and humor. Plus, the original has the superior music: For better or worse, it’s impossible to forget the Oompa-Loompa theme. JW