BY MATT MUNOZ, Contributing columnist
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up: Have we got a date night plan for you.
Bringing their cavalcade of the wild and truly bizarre for one night only are The Enigma along with Bakersfield's very own George "The Giant" McArthur. They invite you to experience their sideshow of twisted wonder at On the Rocks on Friday night.
Veteran sideshow performer, tattoo artist and musician The Enigma (his real name is protected under lock and key) is eager to make his return visit -- with partner Serana Rose -- a memorable one.
"We perform an hourlong human demolition spectacular," he said in an email interview from his current home base in Denver. "It's all of the greatest sideshow stunts plus quite a few we created ourselves: neon swallowing, chainsaws, blindfolded, carving apples in our mouths, the human spotlight, electrocution and so much more."
The Enigma's enigmatic transformation began in grade school.
"My first 'body mod' was the increasing of the muscle mass of my fingers, i.e. piano lessons. I had dancing lessons, flute lessons, singing lessons and even acting lessons, all while still in grade school.
"In high school I started carving a star in the palm of my hand. At that time I was also swallowing swords. I pierced my ear with a safety pin and stretched it out with wood screws until I could fit a pencil into it. Later, in '91, I was scarring up the insides of my eyelids so that I could lift weights with my eyeballs. At the same time I got the idea to change my body color for stage and I figured I could do it by tattooing my entire body."
The art of body modification can be traced back to ancient times. No longer just for tribal leaders and biker gangs, body modification is popular among many demographic groups, a fact that has helped ease the taboo status long associated with it. Indeed, business is booming for the tattoo and piercing industry.
"My latest and greatest bit is the tattooing of my eyes. The whites are now black. I guess that makes me bulletproof."
But don't get things twisted. The Enigma wants to make sure his audience knows he's the real deal.
"I know all they see is a tattoo but that's just a flourish. ... In the show you will see and hear comedy, acting, musical numbers, dancing, mime and clowning."
I caught The Enigma's performance when he was a member of the original Jim Rose Circus, a traveling troupe that gained exposure in the '90s on the original Lollapalooza festival circuit, sharing the stage with bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. I caught the act in 1994 in Los Angeles on a triple bill with industrial music heroes Nine Inch Nails and a then-unknown Marilyn Manson. His act more than lived up to the hype.
Since going solo in 1998, he has been as busy as ever, with 20 to 40 appearances a year in addition to playing music with his band, The D3ath D3vils.
"I've performed everywhere from Perth, Australia, to Helsinki, Finland. This is the impossible possible, and just as that sounds, life is a roller coaster. I just keep thinking how can I get this thing to move that much faster."
He and his partner, Serana Rose, invite Bakersfield for an evening of dark delights, where not all is quite as it seems, or should be.
"Serana Rose is a chicken hypnotist from a goat farm in Iowa and known for her fashion designs. She is the Gracie to my George. She does more stunts on stage than I do, as she is the damsel of danger and the darling of derring-do. She is so hot on stage that we have to keep an extinguisher on hand at all times, but she is not the girl next door. She is a freak of nature. You will run screaming to the stage to see her bend twist and warp time and space itself."
If that pair isn't convincing enough to get your admission, try bearing witness to Bakersfield legend George "The Giant" McArthur, also on the bill and a talent guaranteed to shock and awe even the hardest of hearts with hammers, staple guns and swords.
With an act similar to The Enigma's, McArthur also is an actor, having appeared in feature films ("Big Fish") and TV shows ("Carnivale," "Highway to Heaven.")
"I have known George for many years. We haven't worked together too often, but when we do it's really a giant show."
As crazy as all this sounds, The Enigma would like to remind everyone that while many may naturally judge a book by its cover, an open mind is much more fun.
"People tend to think that I hang out, drink a lot, take a lot of recreational drugs, smoke and do daring things outside the show. That is definitely not true. I don't smoke -- OK maybe a great cigar. I am a horrible drinker, and I am a little too clumsy off stage to take big risks. Hopefully everyone will see the world in a whole new way. Perhaps they will be inspired by our dedication to the unusual and anachronistic art form. Or maybe they will just have a laugh that keeps them warm enough to get through another day. Our show is an historic time piece re-owned, a bit of Americana that we must keep to continue to be American."
Friday's show kicks off at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. Also appearing are deejays Josex and Princess Darkness. On the Rocks is at 1517 18th St. 327-7625 or visit showdevils.com.
The Enigma also will appear for a meet-and-greet earlier in the day at Mad Dog Tattoo in downtown Bakersfield, offering special jigsaw tattoos for fans. Contact Mad Dog Tattoo at 322-8282 for the schedule.
Journey tribute at B Ryder's
On the flipside, Bakersfield classic rock fans who enjoy their headbanging with a dose of power anthems and fist-pumping sing-a-longs should catch Journey tribute band DSB at B Ryder's on Saturday night.
Performing all the songbook and MTV-era hits made popular by singer Steve Perry and guitarist Neal Schon, who fronted the original band during their '70s and '80s heyday, this Los Angeles quintet led by singer Juan Del Castillo are about to take a journey of their own. Kicking off their latest tour in Bakersfield, Castillo says this tribute cuts no corners.
"First we set out to find capable musicians who are also vocalists because when you hear Journey recordings, there are lush vocals throughout every songs," said Castillo, 38, during a phone interview. "We needed to be able to replicate that, and not just sing, but sing well. That was No. 2 after the musicianship. If you listen to their entire musical legacy, there is some pretty complex stuff on there."
If anyone knows how to pick them, it's Castillo, who began singing at the age of 9 and into his teens as a member of the Disney events entertainment team, before scoring a record deal and releasing an all-Spanish CD for Sony/BMG.
"I've always dreamed about doing what I love doing for a living and I feel blessed to be able to do that with DSB."
So, why a Journey tribute?
"I've always gravitated towards the vocalists. I grew up in a Mexican household, I am bilingual, so I listened to both languages. I remember listening to Juan Gabriel, Vicente Fernandez, but again, I'm listening to the great vocalists of that genre. I had a lot of the same influences that Steve Perry had: oldies, a lot of R&B. It was interesting to me that we had the same influences. That must be why the Journey stuff is such a natural fit for me."
Formed from two other Journey tribute outfits, DSB, an acronym for the band's classic, "Don't Stop Believin'," the group made their debut four years ago, hitting the crowded SoCal tribute circuit with a vengeance.
"We genuinely like the music we play. It's great party music. When we play a song like 'Don't Stop Believin', a song everyone knows and hears everywhere they go, when we see the crowds, we want them to have the best 90 minutes they've had in a long time. Whether they're stepping away from their job, stepping away from whatever crazy's going on in their lives and they can come back and hear the classics by Journey in an environment it was meant to be."
According to Castillo, the band's repertoire spans the Steve Perry era, starting with the 1978 album, "Infinity" to the 1996 release, "Trial By Fire."
"We re-create what is happening on those records, because that's what people remember. You turn on any classic rock station, you're going to hear a Journey tune about four or five times a day. That's the version we wanna play, the one people remember."
You can check out Castillo and crew in action at the band's official website, dsbband.com. The vocal similarities between Castillo and Perry are uncanny, especially on "Any Way You Want It" and "Faithfully."
"A lot of tribute bands like to dress up and do the whole get-up and hair, but from the beginning, we all decided against it. For one, I don't look like Steve Perry, and it's not really what we're about."
Saturday's show begins at 9 p.m. Admission is $12 to $14. Also appearing is Elevation 406. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. 397-7304.