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Weirdest show on Earth

The Chamber sets aside its usual rings of fire, freaks and torture rituals for the evening when it hosts New York's BINDLESTIFF FAMILY CIRKUS MAY 2. With its high-wire burlesque and drunken clowns, the "High Heels & Red Noses" tour may not live up to the whips, chains and other extreme trappings offered most weekends at this Cheshire Bridge haunt. But sword swallowing, acrobatics, contortion and striptease should help sate those hungry fetishist appetites. $10. 11 p.m. The Chamber, 2115 Faulkner Road. 404-248-1612.

-- Jerry Portwood

Music en masse

These days, number-crunching seems the only way to address Atlanta's colossal MUSIC MIDTOWN festival, so here goes: MAY 2-4, more than 130 artists perform on 11 stages in a concerted effort to bring some semblance of euphoria to the 300,000 or so music fans crammed onto 35 acres of well-trampled green space. Taken to an obsessive numerical extreme, that's one act per 2,308 fans, and 8,571 people per acre. This year's festival welcomes the usual handful of big-tickets acts (Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, Tony Bennett, Everclear, India.Arie, Ashanti), along with assorted local heroes new and old (neo-soul hopeful Donnie, modern-rock vets Collective Soul), and blasts from the past (Joe Cocker, Def Leppard, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Isley Brothers). Filling in the gaps are blues icons (Buddy Guy), country acts (Mavericks), nu-metal-mongers (Godsmack), DJs and the obligatory jam band (Bob Weir & Ratdog). For a comprehensive overview, see our Midtown Music Menu in Vibes$45 (three-day pass). Fri. 5:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. noon. 404-249-6400.

-- Hobart Rowland

Multimedia Event
Atlanta's Burning

Labor Day weekend, thousands gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for the BURNING MAN event, a celebration of creativity, art and freedom of expression. Atlanta gets into the act starting MAY 1, when Burning Man founder Larry Harvey leads a discussion of the social, civic and economic context of art in this temporary community. Then, on MAY 2, he continues the conversation at Emory with "Ritual Without Dogma: Art Without Borders," a dialogue with Art Papers Editor-In-Chief Charles Reeves about the void Burning Man fills in our contemporary lives. The following evening, artists stage the RIPE benefit, an Atlanta-centric experience that incorporates performance, fire, music, puppets and more. Lecture: free; Thurs. 7 p.m.; Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St.; 404-588-1837, ext. 21. Ripe benefit: $10-$15; Fri. 6 p.m.-2 a.m. City View Sculpture, 650 Murphy Ave. 404-752-6410.

-- JP

Hard copy

Local writer MICHAEL ALVEAR is coming out of the closet -- again. In his new book, Men Are Pigs But We Love Bacon, the outspoken Southern Voice gadfly reveals that he's the writer behind syndicated gay sex columnist Woody Miller. This roundup of Miller ... er, Alvear's "Need Wood?" sex-advice columns answers questions ranging from the everyday ("can you get herpes without having sex?") to the eye-popping, all with snide abandon. Who knew Atlanta had its own Dan Savage? Alvear reads from and signs his new book MAY 3. Free. 7:30 p.m. Outwrite Bookstore, 991 Piedmont Ave., 404-607-0082. (JP)

May 1 Thursday
BEACON DANCE presents the final installment in its four-part series, The Elemental Project (see Arts). A site-specific work, To Air is Human focuses on (yep) the element of air, and it features dance, video projections and ambient sound. Through May 11. $5-$15. Wed.-Sun. 8:30 p.m. The B Complex, 1272 Murphy Ave. 404-233-7600. (JP)

May 2 Friday
Burn your candle at both ends at the weekly late-night rock 'n' roll dance party *KISS*. Things get started after the last band sounds off (which, at the Echo, could be very late indeed). Free-$3. 1 a.m. Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-681-3600. (JP)

May 3 Saturday
"AI" fans can scope out their favorite TV crooners at BEHIND THE SCENES WITH AMERICAN IDOL. Q-100's Melissa Carter hosts the event, which features some of last year's Top 10 finalists, including the Atlanta area's R.J. Helton and E.J. Day. The tour also includes behind-the-scenes video clips from the show, dance demos and a trivia contest. And for the real closet-cases, there's a chance to win one of the red couches from the show's set. Free. 1-5 p.m. Rich's-Macy's Court, Lenox Square Mall, 3393 Peachtree Road. 404-233-6767. (JP)

May 4 Sunday
TV takes to the mall circuit yet again when "JUNKYARD WARS": ON THE ROAD sets up shop this weekend at Perimeter. On the popular TLC show, two teams race to build a contraption out of found pieces in 10 hours. In the touring version, spectators get 10 minutes to build a "junk racer." Fri. 2-8 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m. Perimeter Mall, 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Road. 404-394-4270. (JP)

May 5 Monday
Just because we won the war, that doesn't mean the battle is over. The ATLANTA PEACE POETS present "Mayday: America Why Are Your Libraries Full of Tears?" a showcase of anti-war poetry. Just back from Iraq, poet Jim Jennings speaks and reads, and others are invited to an open-mic session. Proceeds benefit Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies humanitarian relief in Iraq. $5-$20 donation. 8 p.m. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. 404-584-8815. (JP)

May 6 Tuesday
After a hype-filled weekend of music, beer and tube tops, what more could you want on a leisurely afternoon: a free concert, right? NUSOUL SOUNDSTAGE kicks off its live series with Tony Award-winning diva HEATHER HEADLEY. She'll probably stick to the songs from her latest album, This Is Who I Am, but just maybe she'll knock out an Aida chanson. (Please?) Free. 5:30-8 p.m. Centennial Olympic Park. 404-222-7275. (JP)



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