The Culturalist

A month’s worth of folk rock, films and gran fondo

Conor Oberst at George’s Majestic Lounge | May 23

Fayetteville | When Conor Oberst recorded his 2016 album Ruminations, it was meant to be somewhat of a one-man show. Him crooning. Him playing piano. Him picking guitar strings. Him flaunting his fluency with the harmonica. It was, as you might expect, lonely, raw and honest—exuding the trademark melancholy that first brought him fame recording as Bright Eyes in the mid- and early-2000s. But just last month, Conor dropped a new album titled Salutations. Same songs (plus seven unreleased ones), different sound. This time around, the Omaha native boosted his emotionally charged vocals with a star-studded band—The Felice Brothers, Jim Keltner, Jim James, Blake Mills and Maria Taylor, to name a few. When his tour brings him to George’s space in Fayetteville this month, you’ll experience the album the way it was originally intended to be heard—full, fleshed-out and rich with folk-rock arrangements. (

Back to the Future with the ASO | May 13-14

Little Rock | Remember Back to the Future? That glorious Delorean flux capacitor? 88 miles per hour? The iconic theme song? (Doesn’t ring a bell? Consider yourself robbed of simple childhood pleasures.) So here’s your chance to experience the film the same way you did when you first watched it back in the day—jaw dropped and mind blown. Because this month, the 32-year-old blockbuster comes to a big, hi-def screen in the concert hall of the Robinson Center, backed by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performing Alan Silvestri’s score in sync with the movie. And to top it all off, the symphony will perform 20 minutes’ worth of Silvestri’s brand new compositions for the movie that—gasp—we’ve never even heard before, music that’s guaranteed to draw the audience simultaneously backward and forward, or backward to the forward. (

Little Rock Gran Fondo | May 20

Little Rock | The Little Rock Gran Fondo cycling event, which, in Italian, literally means “the big ride,” is an appropriately big happening. And not just because of the close-to-80-mile-long route charted through the byways of Southern Pulaski County. It is, as the event’s website explains, “a bit more adventurous and spirited than your normal T-shirt ride and with much higher-level amenities.” We’re talking an exciting culinary lineup, live performances and even concierge service on the road. And with all the festivities, the $125 registration fee (and the additional $35 Food Festival Ticket) is well worth it. Not, um, fondo of grinding it out for 80 miles? Go for the Medio Fondo, which is roughly half the distance—easier on your legs and, with the $99 fee, easier on your wallet, too. (

The Bernice Garden Market | May 6

Little Rock | Fancy a treasure hunt of the antique variety? You’re not alone, friends. Enter The Bernice Garden Market. Formerly known as the South Main Vintage Market, it has all the trappings of vintage heaven, from a galaxy of objects from Anthropologie-esque kitchenware to decades-old books. And thanks to the market’s hard and fast rules—it’s not “vintage” unless it’s at least 20 years old, not “antique” unless it’s 50—you know anything you see is the real deal. Already a hit in the SoMa district, the BGM got a bit of an upgrade last year to include the works of artists, craftsmen and jewelers. The result? A cache of original, locally made goods you’ll want to take home, like, say, beaded chokers and pendant earrings from Oliver & Django, or copper and silver necklaces made by local metalsmith Deitra Blackwell. (

Bentonville Film Festival | May 2-7

Bentonville | A world-class film festival right here in our neck of the woods? Um, consider our schedules cleared. The Bentonville Film Festival, where filmmakers from around the world converge to screen their works, notched a big uptick in attendance after the festival planted three mobile cinemas (repurposed shipping containers) in one spot last year—eliminating the long trek between previous screening locations. Prominent industry leaders and A-listers thronged to see what the BFF had to offer. (Well done, Bentonville). But that’s not the point. Not really. The bigger picture behind the event—something it’s been hailed for during the three years it’s taken place—is to support diversity, to champion women, to elevate their voices. And with its selection of poignant documentaries, slice-of-life narratives and stirring shorts, this year’s lineup echoes that mission completely. You can choose to attend specific films, panels or events, or just snag a pass for the entire thing, because if nothing else, any day spent in picturesque downtown Bentonville is a day well spent. (