It’s been a cool and unforgiving winter, marked by political unrest, rising income inequality and the baffling widespread affirmation of Donald Trump’s crypto-fascist rhetoric, stoking the fears and deep-seated insecurities of the American heartland. Probably, you’ve been mostly holed up at home, sobbing and checking Twitter. But then here you are, poised at the threshold of spring, which brings with it a diverse array of Arkansas entertainment options. Go see Mavis Staples and Earl Sweatshirt, by all means — Weezer and Steely Dan, too. Jay Farrar, The Coathangers, Animal Collective, the freaking Doobie Brothers. It’s time to shake off your wintertime misanthropy, your bottomless nostalgia and self-pity. “Get up, get out and get something,” as the great Cee-Lo Green once put it. “Don’t let the days of your life pass by.”
The weekend of March 10 will kick off with a performance by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Howie Day at Stickyz and the legendary Nashville gospel group the Fairfield Four at South on Main. South Georgia country icon Luke Bryan headlines at Verizon Arena on March 11, while Austin alt-country band Micky & The Motorcars play at Stickyz, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”-veteran Trixie Mattel performs at Sway and Patrick Sweany returns to the White Water Tavern. On March 12, local R&B group Sean Fresh & the Nasty Fresh Crew plays at White Water and Memphis rapper (and Yo Gotti affiliate) Blac Youngsta comes to Power Ultra Lounge. In Fayetteville, gospel and soul legend Mavis Staples shares a bill with New Wave rocker Nick Lowe at the Walton Arts Center on March 12.
On March 17, the award-winning trumpeter, vocalist and composer Bria Skonberg performs at South on Main. Waco, Texas, native and country songwriter Wade Bowen performs at Revolution and Memphis singer-songwriter (and self-proclaimed “no-hit wonder”) Cory Branan plays at White Water. Hot Springs’ independent music festival Valley of the Vapors returns March 18-22, featuring Adia Victoria, Juiceboxxx, Kelley Deal (of The Breeders), Water Liars and many more, at Low Key Arts. Rising North Carolina alt-country songwriter Caleb Caudle plays at Stickyz on March 19, followed by the two-piece Nashville punk band Blackfoot Gypsies on March 22. Electro indie-rock group Autolux — former tour-mates of Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor — play at Revolution on March 23.
Country Western punk group Supersuckers play at Stickyz with Jesse Dayton on March 28, and Texas folk-rock duo The Oh Hellos come to Revolution on March 30. Progressive bluegrass group the Yonder Mountain String Band plays at Fayetteville’s George’s Majestic Lounge on March 30 and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert at the Capital Hotel on March 31.
April starts strong with a concert by the great Barry Manilow — Vegas legend, ’70s TV special stalwart and dean of adult contemporary easy-listening — at Verizon Arena on April 1. Also that night: Beloved alt-country band Lucero plays at George’s Majestic Lounge, St. Louis Americana trio River Kittens plays at South on Main and Grateful Dead tribute act The Stolen Faces play at Stickyz.
On April 7, Grammy-winning British indie-folk group Mumford and Sons plays at Verizon Arena and Texas blues singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster plays at South on Main. Rapper and Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt performs at Hendrix College’s Worsham Performance Hall in Conway on April 8. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center April 9-10, and jazz legend Branford Marsalis plays at Fayetteville’s Walton Arts Center on April 12.
On April 16, three-time Grammy Award-winning blues artist Keb’ Mo performs at the Walton Arts Center. Atlanta punk band The Coathangers plays at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs with locals Ghost Bones. On April 28, country star Carrie Underwood comes to Verizon Arena and — on the polar opposite end of the sonic spectrum — art-rock favorite Animal Collective performs at George’s Majestic Lounge. Grammy Award-winning Latin jazz ensemble Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Octet plays at the Walton Arts Center on April 29. On May 1, the May Festival of the Arts begins in Eureka Springs, a month long series of live music, performing and visual arts.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs the movie music of John Williams at Pulaski Academy’s Connor Performing Arts Center May 7-8. Eighties’ glam metal favorite Def Leppard plays at Verizon Arena on May 11. Jay Farrar, former front man for Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, comes to South on Main on May 12. Austin one-man band Shakey Graves performs at Stickyz on May 13, and jam band icon the Dave Matthews Band plays at Verizon Arena on May 18. On May 19, country heavyweight Jason Aldean plays at the Walmart AMP in Rogers.
English pop star Ellie Goulding performs at Rogers’ Walmart AMP on May 20 and the Artosphere Festival Orchestra performs at the Walton Arts Center on May 24. On May 26, Dom Flemons, old-time music preservationist and founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, comes to South on Main. Classic rock fans are in for an embarrassment of riches (if not another kind of embarrassment) when Journey, The Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason perform at the Walmart AMP on May 31. That same night the ineluctably great Janet Jackson pays North Little Rock a visit with a performance at Verizon Arena.
Country royalty Kenny Chesney performs at the Walmart AMP in Rogers on June 2. Riverfest, Central Arkansas’s biggest annual music festival, will this year be held June 3-5 (arts and crafts, a 5K, dog events and family-friendly activities will be held at a separate event this year, Springfest, on April 2). Headliners have not yet been announced (check the Rock Candy blog at staging.wordpress-237995-832720.cloudwaysapps.com for updates later this month). The Blue Man Group, which still — surprisingly and gloriously — exists, performs at the Walton Arts Center June 3-5.
Billboard-charting country singer Hunter Hayes performs at Hot Springs’ Magic Springs Water and Theme Park on June 4. The Hot Springs Music Festival, featuring world-class classical musicians from orchestras around the country, will be held at Hot Springs National Park June 5-18. Yacht rock (and dad rock) fans rejoice: Steely Dan comes to Verizon Arena with Steve Winwood on June 25. That same night, ’70s rockers Cheap Trick play at Magic Springs Water and Theme Park. One-time Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar (a.k.a. The Red Rocker) will headline at the Walmart AMP on July 2, and Weezer, nerdy power-pop icons to millennials everywhere, will perform at the Walmart AMP with Panic! at the Disco, July 17. Closing out the summer concert season is a headlining performance by country legend (and actor and regular “Tonight Show” veteran) Dwight Yoakam, who will play at Magic Springs on July 30.