HEADS UP: Because this space next week will be occupied by a "special" column having to do with summer--in keeping with our annual summer issue--I've decided to cover the next two weeks of musical action in one "very special" column this week. In other words, check those dates a bit more carefully than usual. And since there's twice as much to cover than usual, let's get to it.

YOUNG TRIBUTE: While the Hillbilly Hayride has pulled up stakes from Plush to Vaudeville Cabaret, on a special-event basis only, the tribute nights that were once a part of the Hayride schedule have remained at Plush. If that's too confusing for you, then just remember this: next week a slew of fine local bands and musicians--Mark Insley, Truck, Doug Smith, Love Mound, the Hillwilliams, Maebelle & Randy, Cathy Rivers, Creosote, Nick Luca Trio, and Chris Burroughs, among others--will convene next week to pay Tribute to Neil Young, whose catalog is so thick with greatness that I'll personally boo anyone off the stage that dares play "Let's Roll" or any other song that heralds his newfound rabid, blind patriotism. DJ extraordinaire Kidd Squidd plays host for the shindig, which goes down at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St., and questions will be answered by calling 798-1298.

HOMAGE TO THE BEAST: The only band in the lo-fi indie pop coterie known as Elephant 6 that has been as overtly influenced by The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons as it has The Kinks, Buffalo Springfield and The Velvet Underground, Elf Power brings its songs of creatures, demons, serpents, and beasts to Tucson for the first time next week. The Athens, Georgia band has just released its latest, slickest, and perhaps least psychedelic album yet, Creatures, on SpinArt Records.

The good news about Elf Power is that even if you've never rolled an 82-sided die, you'll still be able to appreciate the fine tunage presented. Everything's simple enough on the surface--lush acoustic guitar strums, simultaneously simple and inventive beats, augmented by keyboards, violin, accordion, lap steel and cello, all used sparingly, tastefully, abettingly--but the arrangements and production shimmer, as does the band's ability to sound both innocent and foreboding. And while the noisier and charmingly ramshackle elements of past albums, like 1997's When the Red King Comes (The Arena Rock Recording Company), as well as the dense production of 1999's A Dream in Sound (TARRC), have been left behind in the pixie dust, Creatures is the sound of a band--and God help me for using a phrase made infamous by Emeril--kicking things up a notch.

Elf Power performs on Friday, June 7, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Masters of the Hemisphere opens at 9 p.m. For further info call 884-0874.

TROUBLE'S BREWIN': Every Tucsonan's favorite internationally renowned country/Tex-Mex/Celtic/bluegrass band, The Mollys--now being billed as Nancy McCallion & The Mollys--continue the annual Plaza Palomino Courtyard Concert Series next week with a release party for their fresh-as-a-baby's-derriere new CD, Trouble (self-released). (Maria Muldaur kicks off the series this week, on Saturday, June 1.) Recorded locally at Seventh Heaven Recording Studio, the album is the first to document the current lineup of the band: Kevin Schramm (accordion, bouzouki), Danny Krieger (guitar, vocals), Dan Sorenson (bass), and Marx Loeb (drums), as well as McCallion (vocals, guitar, penny whistle, and the bulk of songwriting duties).

Easily the band's best release to date, Trouble demonstrates the continued progression in quality of McCallion's storytelling skills--evidenced in tunes like the post-divorce tale "You're a Stranger Now" ("The scent on the sheets and the soap in the drain's/Been wiped up and washed out and wrung clean again/It's all spanking new like a white dress and vow/And you're a stranger now")--as well as an even wider sonic palette than usual (e.g., the rootsy-meets-reggae vibe of "Put the Baby in the Shopping Cart").

Nancy McCallion & The Mollys perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at Plaza Palomino, at the corner of Fort Lowell and Swan. Advance tickets are available for $12 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City, City Grill, and Enchanted Earthworks, and by phone at 1-866-GOT-TIXX. They'll be $15 at the door. For further info call 297-9133.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: Though they began their career over a decade ago in Chico, California, as a hippie-charming quasi-jam band, The Mother Hips have become a disturbingly overlooked act in subsequent years. Following stints on American Recordings and Warner Brothers, the label-less band released 1997's Later Days, which found the band in full-on Americana mode a la Gram Parsons or The Jayhawks, on its own. While the group's cultish fanbase wondered what happened when four long years passed without a sign from their beloved Hips, the answer finally came in the form of last year's Green Hills of Earth, on indie Future Farmer Recordings. The album still bears the stamp of the band's alt-country leanings, but suffuses it with elements of Beatles-esque pop harmonies (to die for) and string-enhanced arrangements, and AM-rock-radio-era power pop. "Such a Thing" sounds like a Varnaline song with quirky sitar flourishes, while "Rich Little Girl" reminds of the greasy funk-rock of Royal Trux.

The Mother Hips perform on Sunday, June 9, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Sun 7, featuring Alana Sweetwater, and Pure begin the proceedings at 9 p.m., and cover is five bucks. Call 622-8848 with those burning questions.

QUITE A STATEMENT: "Imagine Chan Marshall, the matte-finished chanteuse behind Cat Power, had contributed songs to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and invited John Cale to throw in viola squalls for good measure." That's how one writer accurately summed up New York City's Nina Nastasia, who released her latest album, The Blackened Air, on Touch & Go, in April. Not convinced yet? Steve Albini, who recorded both of her albums and is never less than brutally honest about his disdain for 99 percent of the albums that line record shop walls--even if he worked on them--had this to say about her previous release: "Nina Nastasia's Dogs is a record so simultaneously unassuming and grandiose that I can't really describe it, except in terms that would make it (and me) sound silly. Of the couple thousand records I've been involved with, this is one of my favorites, and one that I'm proud to be associated with." Still not convinced? Go see for yourself.

Nina Nastasia performs, along with openers One AM Radio and Spoke, at 9 p.m. on Monday, June 10, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. For more info call 884-0874.

SWINGIN' AGAIN: And finally, a bit of proof that the neo-swing renaissance that had folks of all ages learning to lindy hop a few years back isn't quite dead yet, as a pair of shows in the next couple weeks proves.

In 1998, former Kings of Pleasure members Kyle Bronsdon (drums), Steve Grams (bass), and Brendan Kearney (piano) formed Kearney, Grams & Bronsdon (cleverly abbreviated as the KGB Trio), which placed swing music in a context usually reserved for jazz performers and Ben Folds Five. The group released its debut CD, Nine Waters, No Tip (self-released), in 2000, and this week sees the release of the trio's follow-up, To Go, which was recorded live at Plush last year by house soundman Randy Lopez, and is the first release on Bronsdon's new Vitalegacy label. The release is a bit bittersweet, though, as Brondson is soon to relocate to Los Angeles--get your KGB fix while you still can.

Kearney, Grams & Bronsdon perform on Sunday, June 2, at Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave. For more information call 690-0991.

One of the bands most responsible for the neo-swing movement in the first place--and arguably the best of the bunch--Royal Crown Revue spins its way back through town this week. Formed as the '80s gave way to the '90s, RCR was formed by members of Cali punks Youth Brigade, and injected big band swing with a dose of punk energy, simultaneously lampooning and paying homage to the original zoot-suited swing of the 1920s and '30s.

Royal Crown Revue performs on Friday, May 31, at Backstage, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades opens. Advance tickets are available at all Zia Records locations. For details call 733-6262.

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