The Residents started their 40th anniversary by releasing a hundred thousand dollar box set that comes in a full size refrigerator and now they’re wrapping up a five-week US tour called The Wonder of Weird (WoW).
Last Sunday, the party rolled into their hometown of San Francisco with a show at Bimbos. Thursday night the tour moves on down to the regal Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz after stops in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Residents tours are rare and unique things so Thursday night is a must-see event.
Ever since the release of their first single Santa Dog they have charmed, baffled, and scared us with an ever-expanding cavalcade of utterly surreal and otherworldly music, video, and multi-media performances.
Albums such as Duck Stab and The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll contain some of the strangest and most compelling pieces of music modern pop has ever produced.
Though they are most well known in the guises of their tuxedoed eyeball helmets they have actually always performed in a variety of costumes and no one knows their true identities.
Their music and art cover a variety of territories and moods from the celestially beautiful to the darkly horrifying.
Certain releases such as the DVD version of their album Eskimo manage to create an almost perfect synthesis of image and sound.
Each project and tour is totally different from the one before. The show at Bimbos Sunday was something shiny strange and new.
It started with a rather simple stage set of an inflatable Santa Claus and snowman holding up two candy canes with the name of the band draped across them. Then, two strangely masked characters came out and began playing guitar, keyboards, and laptop.
As the music filled the room lead singer Randy Rose emerged dressed in a rundown Santa Claus suit and old man mask and the band broke into “Loser = Weed.”
Randy introduced his band mates “Chuck” and “Bob” and they launched into a scorching techno version of “Picnic In The Jungle”. Randy proceeded to give a lesson in Residents history illustrated by new versions of some greatest “hits”.
The music was wonderfully dark, orchestrated and intense. Far from being dissonant, it was beautifully melodic with a psychedelic emotional power.
Unlike previous tours, this show eschewed a lot of the audio-visual embellishments and instead was a masterful and inspired musical performance. It was a band playing interesting new versions of their songs and playing them well.
The dreadlocked and be-goggled instrumentalists were incredibly accomplished musicians and Randy Rose made a riveting and menacing central figure singing through a panoply of vocal effects, personalities and moods.
His interludes between songs were amazing pieces of black comedy performance art. He introduced songs by saying things like, “This next song is about a midget who is in a co-dependent relationship with a giant,” or “They say everything works out in the end –but that’s not true.”
He talked about his eleven ex-wives, his porno career on the website “Geezer Squeezers” and other hallucinatory exploits all of them illustrated by intense versions of songs like “The Confused Transsexual” and “The Man in The Dark Sedan.”
In Randy’s telling of The Residents’ story, “history” and myth become terribly confused. While it’s all horribly entertaining there’s no telling how much of it was actually true. In the Residents’ world even old memories are nothing but new disguises.
After concluding with music from the Mole Show, the band returned for an encore, which included a crazed Hendrix style version of Santa Dog.
This was a beautiful majestic psychedelic rock show. Make sure to head on down to see them again, or for the first time, at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on Thursday night.
It’s the last night of the American tour and rumor has it that the band has some special surprises planned and is going to be pulling out all the stops. I don’t think there will actually be copies of the new box set at the merchant table though, even if you happen to have the cash on you.