Here is a look at the big acts that will be playing on the Riverfest music stages this weekend.
Brave Combo
7 p.m. Friday, Triple-S Alarm Stage
Outstanding, and astounding, musicians from Denton, Texas, who manage to blend polka with rock, or blues, or jazz, or world music to pack music clubs everywhere. A dance band par excellence.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band
7:30 p.m. Friday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
Back in Little Rock after opening last year for Eric Clapton at Alltel Arena, this jam-fans favorite, featuring Randolph on pedal-steel guitar, blends Sly and the Family Stone-style funk and stage presence with rootsy blues-rock and gospel.
Richard Thompson
9 p.m. Friday, Triple-S Alarm Stage
Folk-rock guitar phenom Thompson, who founded the British group Fairport Convention in the 1960s, has performed to sold-out shows in his rare club appearances here; now he steps onto a bigger stage. Influenced by such greats as Django Reinhardt and Les Paul, Thompson’s superb songs have been covered by dozens of well-known acts, most recently by bluegrass star Del McCoury.
B.B. King
9:15 p.m. Friday, Riverfest Amphitheatre
The thrill is NOT gone, baby. It’s here and now, in the anticipation of blues legend King’s headline appearance. The native of Itta Bena, Miss., who spent his musically formative years in Eastern Arkansas, and his guitar, “Lucille,” are synonymous with blues.
The Wallflowers
9:30 p.m. Friday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
Jakob Dylan and his band will appear fresh from a well-received show two weeks ago at Birmingham’s Crawfish Boil festival, where they played such favorites as “Three Marlenas,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” “One Headlight” and “The Difference.” The group’s newest CD, “Rebel Sweetheart,” is out this week.
7:15 p.m. Saturday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
Shaun Morgan may be known around here for being the boyfriend of Evanescence’s Amy Lee, but his deep, powerful vocals guide this world-worried South African rock trio. Maybe Lee will be in town to join her man for Seether’s biggest hit of the past year, “Broken.”
Andy Childs
7:45 p.m. Saturday, Riverfest Amphitheatre
Riverfest always manages to find an up-and-coming Nashville country crooner who could be the next country star du jour, and Childs may be it. This Memphis native well-known in Nashville circles formerly fronted Sixwire (“Look at Me Now”) and has toured with assorted big-name country stars.
4th Avenue Jones
9:15 p.m. Saturday, Triple-S Alarm Stage
The song “Stereo” alone will be worth hearing from this lively hip-hop/rock/soul group from South Central L.A. Lead singer Ahmad Jones says the group’s sound is an optimistic celebration of music.
The Black Crowes
9:15 p.m. Saturday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
One of the truly great blues-rock bands of the 1980s was reunited by brothers Chris Robinson (vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitars) earlier this year, and Riverfest joins such prestigious festivals as Bonnaroo and New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival in landing the Austin sextet, which also includes Marc Ford (guitars), Eddie Hawrysch (keyboards), Sven Pipien (bass) and Steve Gorman (drums). Their publicist says the group likely will have a wide-ranging set list pulled from their six studio albums, B-sides and unreleased material, as well as any of 19 special covers that illuminated the band’s rich musical heritage.
Hank Williams Jr.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, Riverfest Amphitheatre
Bocephus celebrates birthday No. 56 this week before he brings his rip-roaring country rock to Little Rock. With such a revered father, Hank Jr. said he had a lot to live up to, and he almost didn’t, which he sums up nicely in his signature classic, “Family Tradition.” “Texas Women,” “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “Dixie on My Mind” are fan favorites, and Hank will no doubt celebrate seeing “All My Rowdy Friends.”
Joe Nichols
5 p.m. Sunday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
This Rogers native became a Nashville star seemingly overnight — singing in a tiny ribs-and-beer joint named Rippy’s one day, opening for Alan Jackson the next, then becoming a headliner and winner of several country music awards, including 2002’s Billboard Best New Artist and 2003’s top male vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. His newest single is “What’s a Guy Gotta Do.” His longtime best friend, Brian Spradlin, will play guitar.
6 p.m. Sunday, Riverfest Amphitheatre
The young (and young-at-heart) fans of new modern rock will enjoy this West Coast quartet, who hit the scene hard this past year with “Headstrong” and “Still Frame,” picked up a couple of Billboard Music Awards along the way, and were prominent in Rolling Stone’s “New Faces” feature.
Trout Fishing in America
8 p.m. Sunday, Kidzone Stage
With the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the Jesse White Tumblers, Grammy Award-nominated Trout Fishing (Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet) are Riverfest traditions, entertaining both kids and adults with their off-beat, fun, folksy songs. They’ll be performing throughout the weekend; the 8 p.m. show is geared toward older audiences.
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
8:15 p.m. Sunday, Riverfest Amphitheatre
Riverfest just wouldn’t be the festival it is without the group that helped start it all, playing popular symphonic favorites before and during the fireworks display.
REO Speedwagon
8:15 p.m. Sunday, Budweiser Stage (NLR)
Their songs of the late 1970s and early ’80s (e.g. “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Keep on Loving You,” “Time for Me to Fly”) still ring true, and Kevin Cronin’s soaring vocals have lost little over the years. Original keyboardist Neal Doughty, Cronin and the rest of the band will rock out on “Riding the Storm Out.”