FESTS ASSESSED: Music festival season gets into full swing this weekend with two very different outdoor shindigs.

A true Tucson cultural tradition, the downtown Tucson Folk Festival has been celebrating acoustic music and other folk arts for 15 years. The Tucson Kitchen Musicians' Association (TKMA) works all year round to ensure a healthy roster of local, regional and national acts, set to perform on three stages and present workshops in two separate areas.

This year's festival runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 6 and 7, in El Presidio Park, 115 N. Church Ave. Wholeheartedly devoted to keeping the festival in the heart of downtown Tucson, TKMA has held it in the same spot since its inception in 1985. Local and regional musicians and dancers perform throughout the weekend, and national headliner John Cowan caps off each day's events (see article at right).

Sunday winds down with a 7 p.m. performance from legendary folk trio The Limeliters, who imbue their feel-good brand of acoustic music with a healthy dose of humor, as the opening track of their just-released Until We Get It Right (GNP/Crecendo) demonstrates. "Generic Up-Tempo Folk Song" is the folk equivalent of the theme song to the old Garry Shandling Show: "This is the middle of our up-tempo folk song / It's called the second verse...And if we sing the second verse softly / The crowd usually quiets down." It's highly enjoyable stuff.

Other Folk Fest highlights include a noon children's show at the Main Library (101 N. Stone Ave.); a Saturday evening performance from Pueblo High School's Mariachi Atzlan; a Summerdog reunion, billed here as Ghost of Summerdog; and workshops with members of the John Cowan Band and The Limeliters.

If you've never been, the Tucson Folk Festival is a perfect weekend outing for the whole family. And best of all, admission is free to everyone. Just remember to say "thank you" to TKMA.

And now for a music festival with a far more narrowly targeted audience: teens and 20-somethings will be flocking to KFMAY Day -- the first-ever giant rock show thrown by the folks at alterna-rock radio station KFMA-FM -- and they shouldn't walk away disappointed.

Headlining the festival in anticipation of their fourth album, Songs From An American Movie Volume 1 (Learning How To Smile), due July 11 on Capitol, is Portland, Oregon's Everclear. Other performers on the all-star bill are:

· stoner-rap pioneers Cypress Hill, who have just dropped a new double CD, Skull & Bones (Columbia/Sony), which consists of a 10-song traditional Cypress disc, plus a six-song rap-metal EP (gotta keep up with the Bizkits and Korns, y'know);

· ska-pop pranksters Goldfinger, who recently released their third album, the decidedly more-punk-rock-than-usual Stomping Ground (Uni/Mojo), and whose live show is always a load of fun (especially the covers medleys);

· Canadian jailbait girl-grrrowlers Kittie, whose debut album, Spit (Ng/Artemis), is hard as fuck;

· reggae/dub/ska Sublime survivors Long Beach Dub All Stars;

· punk royalty Bad Religion, whose new album, The New America (Atlantic), was produced by Todd Rundgren;

· and Dynamite Hack, whose first single skewers hip-hop white-boy frontin' in a fresh, acoustic fashion.

In addition to the seven-band lineup, the fest also promises a halfpipe for inline skaters and BMXers, vendors galore, DJs, a multimedia village, and plenty of food booths. KFMAY Day kicks off at 3 and continues till 11 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Pima County Fairgrounds (take Exit 275 at Houghton Road off I-10). Advance tickets are $20 at all Dillard's locations, by phone at 1-800-638-4523, and online at They'll cost $22 at the door. Kudos to KFMA for gathering such a large stable of big-time names and keeping ticket prices low.

KID STUFF: When a couple of brainy computer geeks formed a rock band 13 years ago at the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana, who would have known they'd become elder statesmen in the indie rock underworld? That's just what the Poster Children have done with their jagged guitar verses, soaring choruses, and all-around big rawk sound over the course of eight releases (seven full-lengths and an EP).

Smarter than your average rock bears, the Kids were well aware when they were signed to major label Sire in the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy in 1993 that they, along with countless others, would eventually be dropped from the labels and have to once again fend for themselves. The Poster Children had the foresight to take their Sire earnings and use them to build their own studio in Champaign, ensuring huge future savings in recording costs. And that's exactly what happened after their final Sire release, 1997's disappointing RTFM.

Indie powerhouse SpinArt picked them up last year, and released their first self-recorded effort, New World Record, which represented a true return to form after their last two lackluster Sire releases. Returning to indie representation has also allowed the band to operate on its own release schedule: rather than having to get clearance from the label to release a new album -- which on a major means roughly a two-year process and huge promotion costs -- the Children went directly back to work in their studio after touring to support N.W.R. The result, the just-released DDD (SpinArt), marks another step forward in the band's comeback of sorts. The album has more churning New Wave guitar riffs than most bands half their life span can muster.

Opener "This Town Needs A Fire" explodes right out of the gate with a typical chunky guitar riff, but adds uncharacteristic hand claps and "ba-ba-ba-ba" backing vocals to Rick Valentin's throat-scorching howl of a chorus; "Strange Attractors" uses another tried-and-true Poster Kid-ism, with its snaky guitar lead placed over a wall of power chord noise, and the melody slowed almost psychedelically down on top of it all; and the slinky, almost-but-not-quite funky "Daisy Changed," which seems to, at least by title, self-reference the band's second album, Daisychain Reaction. Another slight oddity is the pair of instrumentals included: "Judge Freeball" alerts us to the fact that the Children have recently dug up those old Rush albums, while album-closer "Peck N' Paw" for the first time noticeably adds elements of the band's electronic-based side project, Salaryman. The astounding part is that after so long together, the band has managed to avoid burnout, and, save a couple missteps, has consistently dished out album after album of kick-ass rock songs for twice as long as most bands exist.

And on top of it all, for my money they're still one of the best damn live bands on the planet.

You must go see the Poster Children at 9 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Locals Peel and Wise Folk Malcontent open the show, and cover is $6. Call 622-8848 for more information.

KEYING IN: The Tucson Jazz Society's Plaza Suite Spring series continues in style this week with an appearance by Latin jazz pianist extraordinaire Rebeca Mauleón. In addition to having performed or recorded with the likes of Tito Puente, Chucho Valdéz and Pete Escovedo, she also currently serves as the musical director for ex-Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's Planet Drum ensemble. In 1998, Mauleon released her solo debut, Round Trip, on Rumbeca Music, her own label. The disc gained enough accolades and attention that Bembé Records re-released it on a national scale last year, and it's not difficult to see why. The album, while rooted in the Latin jazz tradition, manages to incorporate a plethora of globe-hopping styles, including funk, salsa, blues and flamenco, often within a single song. A perfect example is Mauleon's self-penned "At the River," which sounds like a Sergio Mendes tune with a gospel choir and soloist (Brenda Boykin) thrown in to keep it fresh, and ultimately unique. This one promises to be a fine show, indeed.

Check out Rebeca Mauleon at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at St. Philip's Plaza, at Campbell Avenue and River Road. She'll be playing with both Jazz Werx I and her own quintet. Tickets are available at the door for $15, $8 for TJS members. Call 903-1265 for more information.

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