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The Residents

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Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 20:36:09 GMT -5

For years I've had a tendency to derail threads for pages at a time while I indulge digressions concerning The Residents. I am starting this thread to serve as a repository for those digressions, as well as a resource for people who might get curious about them reading about them on the board.

It is well documented that I have a lot of pretty words to say about the Residents. They are my passion and my obsession, and although they are certainly not for everyone they mean an awful lot to me and I tend to encourage people to educate themselves on their career anyway.

All of that will come later, but for the next couple of days this thread is roll call for the shows next week in Seattle (2/21) and Portland (2/22). I know a lot of you are coming -- so many, in fact, that I don't really have an accurate head count just yet. If you plan on being there, please indicate so here.

And don't be shy! It doesn't matter if I have given you a hard time, or if I don't particularly like you, or even if I don't know you. You will see the happiest, friendliest and generally most expansive Gramma you will ever see in your life at the Nepchune and Hawthorne Theaters next week. I want to share this with every last one of you fuckers, so let's do a thing.

Sound off!
Posted by emptyfox
Feb 14, 2013 20:51:51 GMT -5
Why oh why is this on a Thursday and Friday? (never mind the fact that I'm waiting for my new passport)
Posted by j3ff8
Feb 14, 2013 21:07:08 GMT -5
I have booked my flights! I'll be in Seattle by 2:30 on Thursday and I'm flying out of Portland at 5:30am on Monday!
Posted by StormyPinkness
Feb 14, 2013 21:10:55 GMT -5
Posted by nick
Feb 14, 2013 21:15:01 GMT -5
I will be at the Seattle show, and hopefully prefunking/meeting ya'll for the first time ever! Whoa!
Posted by StormyPinkness
Feb 14, 2013 21:19:20 GMT -5
Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:21:15 GMT -5

Fox, I was just about to throw down the gauntlet and twist your arm about coming down. Mostly because I miss your goofy face, but also because it's the fuuuuuuuckin' Residents and everyone should be there. The idea of a large scale board party coinciding with two consecutive nights of the Residents is... I mean... Just imagine being me right now. Just imagine how awesome this is for me. I get to see my most favorite thing in this life -- twice -- and I get to share it with actual dozens of my most favorite people. It's a little bit out of control.
Feb 14, 2013 21:24:58 GMT -5
I'm really bummed that I will have to miss this...I've been waiting for an opportunity to see these guys for awhile..I'm sure that it will be a blast...
Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:31:53 GMT -5
A couple of classics from the Record a Day thread.

The Residents - Duck Stab

How the hell do I write about The Residents? Trying to cover even the most essential aspects of historical information would take pages. They formed in the late `60's in Shreveport, Louisiana and relocated shortly after to San Francisco. They take their name from a rejected demo tape they sent to a record exec at Warner Bros. without a band name or any personal information on it; it was returned, addressed to 'residents'. Over a nearly forty year career, they have released more than five dozen albums and undertaken nine world tours, but have never revealed their names or appeared in public without a disguise. They are credited with inventing the music video format, and were in heavy rotation on MTV in its earliest days. The Residents make music from another planet, and 'Duck Stab' was their moment in the sun.

Almost too strange for words, unsettling at its best and terrifying at its worst, 'Duck Stab' reminds me of an admonition from the pages of MAD Magazine, in which Alfred E. Newman urges his loving gang of idiots to "Add your voice to the howls of a dying culture!". Sun Ra, Van d**e Parks, Zappa and Beefheart had paved the path for The Rez' brand of weirdness, and ten years down the line bands like Talking Heads and DEVO were cramming that weirdness into conventional song structures. And it was working for them. So the Residents - NEVER to be outweirded - convinced themselves that they could mine the same territory and have it be dismissed outright, because they were The Residents and they were used to being the weird kid that nobody wanted to dance with.

They were wrong, and 'Duck Stab' was a (relatively) huge success. This is the record that Les Claypool hangs his hat on. Pretty much every song he's ever written can be traced back to 'Duck Stab'. He admits to copping his entire vocal style from this period of the Residents career. When in an interview, a band indicates that the Residents were a huge influence, this is the disc they're talking about.

All of The Residents' most recognizable songs are here, including 'Hello Skinny', 'Sinister Exaggerator' and 'Constantinople', all of which have been covered by Primus. The lyrics - which to the last sound like a stream of concsciousness emerging from a fever dream - were written using 'phonetic organization', meaning the words were chosen specifically for the way they sounded without any regard for what they mean. Brian Eno used much the same approach writing 'Here Come the Warm Jets', 'Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)' and 'Another Green World'. Coupled with the weirdly distorted guitars, shrieking violins, a refusal to adhere to the scales traditionally used in Western music and the woozy, stoned southern drawl of the Singing Resident, the effect is like robo-tripping your way through a nervous breakdown.

Sounds menacing, right? It is. But can you dance to it? Well you sure as hell can. It's not really any more abrasive than the cradle death of punk music at the time, but no matter how many times you listen to it and try to let it under your skin it still never starts to sound normal. 'Blue Rosebuds' comes close, for a minute sounding almost safe with the singer adopting a sappy croon before he inhales a weather balloon's worth of helium and nitrous and starts shrieking about how 'infection is my finest flower, mildewed in the mist'. 'Krafty Cheese' pulls the halves of your brain in different directions with burbling bloops and bleeps and then hands you off to the false security of 'Hello Skinny', before you surrender yourself to 'The Electrocutioner', which I honestly feel is attempted mass murder pressed on wax.

It doesn't sound anything like any other Residents album, but no two Residents albums are at all similar. 'Duck Stab' lacks the high-minded unifying theme that pretty much every other Residents record has, but for a time when I think The Residents felt like everyone around them was writing Residents songs, they just wanted to give it a try themselves. The result is one of the most strangely self-assured, but entirely gonzo, choruses of 'Happy Birthday to Me!' ever sung.

Guaranteed to clear the room. God bless 'Duck Stab'.

Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:32:44 GMT -5

The Residents - Demons Dance Alone

It's Residents day. I've been putting off writing about Demons Dance Alone since I started this column; more than any of their records, it means a lot to me. I've been concerned about not being able to communicate my thoughts on it satisfactorily, but Residents day seems like a fine time to try.

I can't recall the exact date, but as of this writing I am probably within a week or two of the ten year anniversary of the birth of my obsession with The Residents. In early 2001 I was just beginning the never-ending task of digging through and absorbing their body of work, like a blind and dumb earthworm who does his job through a sense of instinctive compulsion. Their material from the 70's, 80's and 90's was all equally incomprehensible to me, but the fascination persisted and so did I.

I was ears deep in my budding collection of Residentia during the events of 9/11, and in the weeks and months after. The Residents themselves were on tour at the time, in support of their video retrospective Icky Flix. Now, the Residents and their representatives attempt to control very carefully the information which is released about the band, but by Spring of 2002, it was announced that The Residents had completed a very different and very personal record which had been written in the two weeks or so following 9/11. It was indicated that one of the members of the band had lost a family member who had been on one of the hijacked planes.

It was the first new album to be released since I discovered them, and I was waiting outside the record store when it opened to get my hands on a copy. Demons Dance Alone is as different from any of the other Residents projects I have written about as it could possibly be. It is a gentle, conversational and mournful record. It is melodic, even soothing sometimes. And it is very, very sad. The structure of the album follows that of the mourning process, with sections of the album classified as 'Loss', 'Denial' etc. There are unanswerable questions and unplaceable anger, subtle hysteria and helpless defeat. It is The Residents most personal record, birthed quickly and recorded and released in an unfiltered state.

The first time I saw The Residents perform was on Halloween night 2002 at the Warfield in San Francisco. A Residents Halloween show is tradition in the Bay Area, their home turf, and the piece they put together for the Demons Dance Alone tour stands as their greatest achievement. Honestly I think I may have seen the very best performance in their 40 year career.

The rule of the Demons Dance Alone tour was that each night, each of the performers was required to come forward and make a personal statement, whether it be in the form of a story or a song or a solo of some kind. Twenty-one year old me waited in front of the Warfield for more than four hours and placed myself front and center, and I felt as if those statements were being made directly to me. I was close enough to see what was either sweat or tears, close enough to see the Singing Resident's fillings when he would throw his head back and roar. Close enough to peer up under the mask to an unrecognizable face.

The band was dressed in bizarre camouflage beekeeper suits; the Singing Resident himself was wearing an elaborate camouflage tuxedo and the mask of a tragedian. Miss Molly Harvey, who toured and recorded with the Residents between 1998 and 2003, was some hellish Madonna replete with a dangerous looking camouflage cone bra.

The fellow in red is the dancing demon in question. He was silent throughout the show, with the exception of a few snide little trumpet solos, and he would caper and writhe and taunt the performers as they were up there baring their souls. The 'demon' here is the spectre of fear and death that lodged itself above the doorframes of all of our homes after the terrorist attacks, laughing and mocking us even as we tried to grieve. The members of the band would alternately confront or ignore or flee from the demon; the demon's attitude remained unchanged.

The big finale consisted of the band members building a murky soup out of guitar loops and hand claps and chanting, and then forming a moving circle around the demon. Clapping, chanting and dancing in a circle around the demon as the music reaches a fever pitch. At first the demon feeds off of it, and his movements become erratic and gleeful. Waving his arms and kicking his legs and rolling on the ground, he realizes too late that he is being beaten at his own game. The Residents have become the demons, and the exorcists as well, and as the almost tribal dance reaches critical mass the demon is defeated.

I'm a paranoid person. I don't remember if I was that way before 9/11, but it is certainly the case now. I'm sure that every day is the day that the world is going to end; the day when the mountaintops explode and the saints go marching in. It's pretty severe; debilitating some days, even. So it's not hyperbole when I say that I am certain that I would never have been able to compartmentalize the sadness and fear that resulted from the terrorist attacks if I hadn't seen what I just described.

It was beautiful.

My father took me to that show; flew me to San Francisco from Utah for the occasion, not knowing what he was signging up for. My dad has completely lost his shit in the intervening ten years; an undiagnosable madness has seized his mind and wrung all of the kindness from it. He's still kicking, but my attitude is that my father as I knew him is dead. So I treasure the statement he made a few weeks after Demons Dance Alone : "I've never felt as close to you as a father or as a human being as I did that night." I don't know how my dad could have even known how important it was that I be at that show; I didn't even know how important it was to me. He may be a total asshole now, but I saw him stare down a 300 pound biker that rode through the night from Texas when he tried to snake our place at the front of the line after we'd been standing there for three hours.

Seeing The Residents perform is as good as life gets for your dear old Horned Gramma. I am seeing them tonight for the fifth time. Many good friends are coming with me, and as a lark I'm going to be fucking high as a giraffe's ass. Every time they take the stage, I am surprised when they aren't ten feet tall, like I remember them. These weird, tired old hippies have brought my world view into focus over the course of the last ten years. I hope tonight is the night that I get to shake their hands.

Watch this. This is the summation of their career. The centerpiece of the Demons Dance Alone show, and the official retirement of the classic Eyeball masks. Stay chuned after the clip for a cut from the album. Enjoy!


"The Weatherman", featuring the lovely Miss Molly Harvey:

Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:33:36 GMT -5

The Residents - Cube E: The History of American Music in 3 E-Z Pieces

I could easily write 5,000 words about each individual Residents project and still not be able to shut up about them. There is such a wealth of fascinating stories, absolutely unique projects and stunning sounds and images to puzzle over. I considered devoting this space each Friday to a different Residents album, if only to illustrate how far-reaching and varied their career has been to this point. I don't like to regiment myself like that, though; today I was going to write about Bruce Haack's "Electric Lucifer II" but strangely I woke up to a Bruce Haack review on Pitchfork, so this is just as good. No, better.

Previously we talked about 'Duck Stab', which is an excellent primer for virgin ears but does not even touch on a couple aspects of the Residents that have made them such an enduring and influential presence. Most importantly, 'Duck Stab' was recorded before the Residents were a touring entity. The Residents had existed for nearly ten years before they mounted their first tour, called 'The Mole Show', which was based on their complex, jarring trilogy of albums collectively called 'The Mole Trilogy': "Mark of the Mole", "The chunes of Two Cities" and "The Big Bubble". The tour was massively complex, nearly bankrupt the band and caused two original members to leave. So it is amazing that they ever toured again. A brief run of shows in Japan in 1985 for their '13th Anniversary Tour' was so successful and so well received that it turned into a world tour, and when they returned from that they were ready to try something big.

Another essential aspect of The Residents career is their roles as de-constructionists of American music. 1975's "3rd Reich n' Roll", 1984's "George and James" and 1986's "Stars and Hank Forever" are all covers albums focusing on specific composers or music from a specific time period. What the Residents do is pull apart the melodies and the words and give them back to you in a way that exposes the ugliness, desperation, perversity and childishness that is at the heart of every pop song.

As the title suggests, "Cube E: The History of American Music" is very much concerned with this kind of deconstruction. "Cube E" is not a studio album; it was conceived as a live production, one of the most stunning and elaborate of their career. More than a concert, it was a touring theater piece that attempted nothing less than the title declares.

The first act opens on a stark, moonlit prairie. Three spectral cowboys gather around a campfire made of what look like glowing traffic pylons:

The Singing Resident, his Southern drawl either exaggerated or just completely unbound, favors the audience with a half-dozen old trail songs. "From the Plains to Mexico" and "Bury Me Not" are the kinds of songs my great-grandfather used to sing, but are presented here literally over a bed of percussive synths. This section of the performance is notable for it's elaborate choreography. If anyone has ever seen the Blue Man Group's show in Las Vegas, the Buckaroo Blues segment of 'Cube E' will look familiar because the Blue Men kind of ripped it off wholesale.

Halfway through the first act, the cowboy hats come off and we relocate from the Old West to the plantations of the deep South. A handful of backup dancers come onstage dressed as dark, ghostly women:

The wistful loneliness and desperate violence of the plains is replaced by a collection of slave songs and spirituals, and the Singing Resident turns into a ferocious, howling demon. The perversity and ugliness of this material doesn't need pulling apart and reassembling to become apparent, the period of history from which it is coming is already dark with shame. The Residents' live rendition of "Shortnin' Bread" is like the winds of hell.

Closing the first act is the incredibly powerful "Organism", with its church organ and ascending chords, meant to invoke spirituality and reverence, marries together the first two E-Z pieces of the history of American music and give birth to the third:

An enormous Cube-headed Dr. Garbanzoure rises from the center of the stage, the Messianic child of the trail songs and the spirituals: Rock and Roll is born.

An intermission is required to set the stage for Act II, and when we come back we join an elderly Elvis impersonator and his two grandchildren:

Act II takes the form of a conversation between this man and the two children, telling the story of 'The Baby King'. The clever wording of the grandfather's tale continuously draws parallels between Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ, and frequently upon the children's insistence the man agrees to step back into his former glory as an Elvis impersonator and tears through a dozen classic Elvis hits, in Residential style:

Here the Residents have their work cut out for them. The lyrics of almost any Elvis song, when laid bare, clearly concern such things as stalking, threatening and extorting in the pursuit of sex. Even so, it's amazing how well the comparisons between Elvis and Jesus hold up. It's not a comparison that is often made, but Elvis really was the first sacrificial lamb America offered up in it's pursuit of entertainment. To close the show, the old man sings directly to the audience: "Love me Tender? Love me true?" He is begging, pleading for the adoration of the crowd, because by the end of his life that is all that The King had left. This is something I have seen Wayne Coyne do; the look of terror in the eyes of a person who has made a career out of making people love him is unmistakable. As the Singing Resident whimpers through the final verse of 'Love Me Tender', the sound of Dr. Garbanzohter planes mixed with snippets of old Kinks and Beatles chunes fill the air. The old man begins to expand, to literally inflate into old, fat Elvis, before succumbing and collapsing back into his chair, defeated: the first victim of the British Invasion. After a final, brief discussion with the children, the Residents bring the house down with a triumphant rendition of 'Hound Dog', as THIS happens:

Every ten years or so comes an example of The Residents at their very best. The financial freedom and boundless creativity they had in the late 1980's gave them the ability to do something truly spectacular with 'Cube E'. The show was a HUGE success, playing two shows a day for days at a time in San Francisco, New York and at other stops along the way. The tragedy of 'Cube E' is that although it was performed over 100 times it was never filmed in it's entirety. Almost no footage exists of the 'Black Barry' segment. This is a mistake the Residents have never made again; anymore they document every tour to an insane degree.

It is a monumental piece. Although I have seen some equally awe-inspiring Residents performances, I regret not being old or aware enough to have seen this one. Residents fans generally acknowledge this to the be The Residents at the height of their power. There is a fantastic, complete live recording which, although released in a limited edition several years ago is available for download.

Check out a live TV performance of 'From the Plains to Mexico' below. We once lived in a world where The Residents would perform on late night television.

Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:34:08 GMT -5

The Residents - The Bunny Boy

I know who The Residents are. The notion of anonymity is something they have stretched, twisted and played with as part of their act for nearly forty years, but truthfully it does not take a very discerning Residents fan to Dr. Garbanzoure out who the men behind the masks are. That doesn't mean I'm going to tell you, but I can explain why it doesn't matter.

The number of Residents has always been four. It was one of their founding notions that FOUR was the magic number; it must be, because that was the number of Beatles. The Residents were the Anti-Beatles, the polar opposite of those beautiful boys with their personalities that could light up the world.

Blame Yoko, blame the corn chips, whatever... What destroyed the Beatles was fame. Every smile that crossed their lips photographed, every word they spoke quoted ad infinitum. The fashion and the politics and attitude were as essential to Beatlemania as the music was. The Residents didn't want that, it was important to The Residents to let their art speak for itself.

Under the guidance of the Residents own Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a man who went by the name 'The Mysterious N. Senada' (who many believe to actually be Captain Beefheart), the Residents formulated their 'Theory of Obscurity': that true art, pure art, is created for an audience of no one. Created in a vacuum, hermetically sealed away from the influence of contemporary art or fashion. If the individual Residents were taking credit for individual pieces of music, there would be no Residents: The Residents are an entity, it is The Residents working as a collective that is responsible for what The Residents produce. Even though almost all Beatles songs are credited to Lennon & McCartney, it was entirely apparent who wrote which songs. Remove the names, remove the pretty faces, remove the personalities and the ability to scrutinize the conflicts that might occur between them, and you are on your way to pure art.

As a part of their incredibly powerful 2002 world tour for 'Demons Dance Alone', the iconic Eyeball/Tophat mask that had become so closely associated with The Residents was symbolically killed and retired. Many fans at the time were concerned that this was the end of The Residents. It wasn't, but it did signify a major shift in artistic direction and the start of one of their longest hiatuses from touring. The Residents appeared in public fewer than half a dozen times between 2003 and 2008, and it was generally believed that they had retired from touring completely. Then one morning out of nowhere came the announcement of one New York performance of something called 'The Bunny Boy'.

'The Bunny Boy' was one of the Residents' best-loved and most hugely ambitious projects. It was an album, yes, and a tour, and also a long-form web series consisting of roughly seventy 2-5 minute episodes which would appear on the Rez' website three days a week. The story goes that one day an envelope arrived at the Residents' office in San Francisco containing a video tape sent by an old friend, a man known to them in the 70's as 'Bunny'. Bunny was a little fried and pretty crazy and, well, he loved bunnies. The VHS contained footage of a clearly deranged Bunny, rambling about his twin brother has disappeared on the island of Patmos in Greece - which, for all you Bible scholars out there, is the location of the Cave of Revelation where St. John the Divine received the vision of apocalypse and destruction which constitues the final book of the New Testament. Apparently, Bunny believed that his brother had gone to Patmos to Dr. Garbanzoht 'The Beast' and prevent the impending apocalypse, and that since he had apparently failed it became his, Bunny's, responsibility to follow in his footsteps and succeed.

The Residents presented this bizarre, batshit crazy old man - who for half the duration of the web series runs around in a bunny suit - as a real person. In one of the early episodes, Bunny provided his audience with an active email address asking us, his friends, for any information we could possibly provide to aid in his search for his brother. The Residents, as a loving gift to their fans, were finally dropping the veil just a little bit and giving us a DIRECT LINE OF COMMUNICATION (!!!) to them. Emails sent to Bunny were replied to, in character. Possibly relevant information supplied by fans was acknowledged in the episodes. The Residents promise was that they didn't KNOW how this story was going to end, that they were just using their creative facilities to bring their old friend's struggle into the public eye in the hopes they could actually help him.

'The Bunny Boy', the album, is a collection of songs which document the beginning of Bunny's hunt for his brother. They are brief, cacophonous, sometimes fairly aggressive songs dealing with insanity, revelation, prophecy, apocalypse and bunnies. The Residents had this first batch of songs ready to go and hit the road with the stage show before they had even begun production on the second season of Bunny Boy episodes, and let the guiding forces of fate combined with the sudden inspiration of life on the road and input from their devoted fans shape the story and the nature of Bunny's interaction with the audience.

The fans went nuts. We picked over every detail, every word and every image. Anything had potential meaning, and sometimes we found it where The Residents did not. The Residents have always said that anyone who collaborates on one of their projects with them is, for the duration, a Resident. We, the army of Residents fans in our many hundreds, were Residents. At last.

This is some of their more rockin' material from the last ten years. Verses and choruses, distorted guitars of all things. The Residents are not a singles kind of band, and the death of the album as a format is really shaking things up for them. They attempted to write catchy, self-contained songs which could be downloaded and enjoyed individually, while attempting to take the idea of an 'album' to new levels with the inclusion of the web series and everything else. The downside, I think, is that the Residents finally understood just how few in number their truly loyal fans are. A Residents performance will still sell out almost anywhere, based on how truly incredible they are live. But a Residents album arrives at least once a year, and it hardly makes a ripple, which I just don't understand. The last ten years has seen the longest run of incredible material of their career.

This is still a great collection of songs, even though the event is over. It's a fascinating and twisted, top-shelf Residents story full of ambiguity and moments of terrific beauty. At the end of it all, Bunny just kind of wandered off... He stopped answering emails. We don't know where he is. We don't even know if he was a real person, but we are concerned for him and we miss him. The Residents gave it to us with both barrels on 'The Bunny Boy', and everything that was ever great about them is represented in this massive endeavor.

I saw the very first performance of The Bunny Boy, the 'public rehearsal' at the Rio in Santa Cruz. When the Singing Resident came on-stage, he was in character as Bunny - he wasn't wearing a mask, he was in baggy, dirty jeans and a flannel shirt. He had a crazy beard and crazy hair; he was not anyone but Bunny. The notion of anonymity is a strange thing; here he was, face bared, and he wasn't anyone but a character. Part of being the Anti-Beatles is a proportionately opposite level of fame and recognition. He can hide in plain sight.

Bunny, if you read this: we miss you. Be careful out there.

Posted by Fig
Feb 14, 2013 21:39:41 GMT -5
Not in the financial cards for me unfortunately but I will most definitely be celebrating with y'all up here.
Posted by Pea
Feb 14, 2013 21:50:26 GMT -5
Sooooooo...I just realized this is the same night as Feed Me, and I've had my ticket to that show for a while now. Sorry Grams, I totally thought the Residents show was on Saturday for some reason. Otherwise I would have been all over it.
Posted by Horned Gramma
Feb 14, 2013 21:55:35 GMT -5
It's all good, Pea. You've done your due diligence with the Residents, and it's safe to assume that you'll have way more fun at Feed Me. However, you are welcome to hop on the caravan to Portland the next day and either catch the show here or else just enjoy the city and then stick around for our Oscar party on Sunday night. Stormy's making her Famous Seventy Dollar Chili (as well as her brand-new Famous Seventy Dollar Vegetarian Chili) and we're gonna get drunk and get our ass kicked by wonk in the Oscar ballot competition.

Basically we'd just love to see ya.