Little Rock, Arkansas, has quietly become an indie music lover’s paradise.
People who ponder going to SxSW, but worry about the expense, the hassle and its growing commercialism are discovering Arkansas’ indie musician– and audience-friendly scene. Many of Little Rock's venues are within walking distance of each other or provide a free courtesy van.
Indie music has a hard time surviving elsewhere in the U.S.: the major radio station chains and venues have been force-feeding listeners a diet of artificially packaged boy bands, ex-pageant queens and other plonk for decades. True lovers of music have several venues in Little Rock to expand their aural horizons, with a shocking level of talent often not seen in other cities.
Those turned on by the harder stuff – punk, hardcore, hard Southern rock – can get their rock on at Juanita’s. Tasty Tex-Mex is served during the earlier evening hours, and the bands come on later at night. They’ve just moved to a more inviting, accessible location in the River Market District.
Stickyz – formerly Sticky Fingerz, for those of you who still have the old t-shirt – is that perfect bridge between listening to what the cool kids are listening to and relaxing like a grown-up. You can catch anything from blues to soul to country here, while sitting at real tables, real booths, and eating housemade chicken fingers with freshly prepared dips.
Cajun’s Wharf, serving Cajun/Southern dishes in view of the Arkansas River, has perfected talent scouting for interesting music over a period of 30 years. Even the happy hour acts – with no cover, mind you – are exceptional.
Recently, they had Andy Tanas, a local legend from his days in Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus. With all of his new projects dropping, including a CD and book on the rock star’s view of the music industry, it takes a special place like Cajun’s Wharf to persuade him to fit an evening of performing into his busy schedule.
I spoke to him about what drives him to play in Little Rock. Tanas has seen firsthand what the music biz does to other venues and cities; he appreciates the support that Little Rock gives him. He knows that, as he puts it, “the silly little bands” he was in grabs people’s attention, but he’s touched that audiences stay to hear his indie-rock/alt-country original style.