Some days in the very early '90s, on the moist greenswards of the Seattle Center, there appeared a troupe of human oddities so strange and offensive as to startle even the wondrous Space Needle right out of tourists' wandering minds. After all, even a bravely phallic glimpse of tomorrow pales in comparison to a fella hoisting cinder blocks by means of metal hoops rammed through his nipples.

Or, for that matter, who can resist a man driving nails into his nose?

This was the embryonic Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, starring Mr. Lifto, he of the stretchable-wretchable nipples and other erogenous organs; Zamora the Torture King, a self-laceration expert; and a bent pharmacist from Montana called Matt the Tube, who designed one of the largest stomach pumps in world history for his own personal performance use. The capo of this performance-art street gang was Jim Rose, born huckster and showman extraordinaire.

Jim Rose freaks out Saturday at the UC.

Rose lead the Sideshow to great fame on the punk circuit and beyond. Appearances on the X-Files, The Simpsons and the new Guinness cavalcade of weirdness cemented Rose's fame; although he's put together a number of new touring acts since the original Sideshow dissolved years ago, much of his renown is still based on his years with the freaks.

On Saturday, Rose's latest road show hits Missoula, and he promises a barrage of cunning stunts. This time, though, his mission is to "take off the masks," revealing the psychological underpinnings of death-defying performance, mind-control, brainwashing and other outré goodies.

"We used to have something called Fainters' Corner, and every night there would be significant others wiping the bubbles off their loved ones' noses," Rose recollects. "But I can do the same act (today) and no one will faint. It's all in the presentation, the psychological tactics used to present the information. And that's what this show is about."

Rose says his new show, while it will open with a quick succession of hot tricks, focuses more on letting the audience in on dark secrets. At least in part, the goal is to put the Sideshow and other old Rose gambits in perspective.

"They'll see all of the stunts they're familiar with, except the stuff that's been on TV time and again," Rose promises. "But you're going to see those stunts at warp-speed at the beginning of the show, just an entré into the bigger world of the show. Then we settle into unmasking, and the rest of the show unfolds like a psychological thriller.

"I'm not gonna talk about the X-Files, I'm not going to talk about Homer running away with the circus. That's great, but that's been on TV. But if I tell you that a sword-swallower tickles his gag reflex seven times a day for three years until it doesn't respond anymore and then, only then, can he pass cold steel down his throat, then you've learned something."

Jim Rose performs his "Secrets of the Strange" show at the UC Commons on the University of Montana campus on Saturday, February 20. 8 p.m. $11.

You can have anything you want-at Arlo's show


If there's anyone who looks most like they're trying to live the '60s today, it would have to be Arlo Guthrie. Arlo is 51, but his long, graying, curly hair and dark, gold-rimmed glasses with the peace-sign reflections give you the sense that he never grew into anything like an establishment type with the passage of time.

Of course, he is famous for one of the most anti-establishment songs of the Vietnam era, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." And after beginning his career singing songs like "Coming to Los Angeles" and "City of New Orleans," he's gone on to release over 20 albums, start his own record label and web site, form two major philanthropic projects, and stays on tour an average ten months a year.

This year's tour brings Arlo and family to Montana for a week, when he plays shows in Bozeman and Helena, before moving on to visit Missoula on Wednesday night.

Arlo Guthrie and family play the University Theatre this Wednesday.

In case you didn't already know, Arlo is the son of legendary folk singer (and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer) Woody Guthrie, the man whose music captured the soul of the nation during the Great Depression. Today, Arlo continues a family tradition of sorts by having his son, Abe, and daughter, Sarah, share the stage with him, performing accompanying vocals and keyboards.

But having the family onstage for concerts is about the only constant to an evening with Arlo. According to post-concert reviews from around Guthrie's stomping grounds in the Northeast, the show promises to be free-flowing. Reviewers are comparing Guthrie with Will Rogers now, rather than his father, what with Arlo often stopping his songs with a funny anecdotes about how he came up with the music, or whatever is on his mind at the time. And don't expect the full-length, 20-minute version of "Alice" either; Arlo usually just teases audiences with parts of the song that started his career.

Guthrie's most recent release Mystic Journey, carries the concern of the times that typified both his father's music and his own origins in folk singing. The album is dedicated to people who have been forgotten by society, especially those lost to AIDS.

Arlo has even turned his concern into action by forming two not-for-profit organizations devoted to supporting groups like children recovering from abuse and the HIV and AIDS community. The Guthrie Center, which handles most of the support work, is actually housed in the Old Trinity Church made famous by "Alice."

With such a social conscience, and with another generation of this legendary family on its way up, American folk seems to be in good hands well into the next century.

Join An Acoustic Evening with Arlo Guthrie and Family Wednesday, February 24, at 8 p.m. at the University Theatre. Advance tickets are $20 general, $18 for students. Call 888-842-4830.

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