I had the immense pleasure of receiving a surprise wedding present from a sick friend last night in the form of two tickets to see the Residents on their 40th Anniversary Tour at the Hawthorne Theater. Having seen them the last time they played Portland about 3 years ago, I had decided forlornly to sit this show out as the absolutely justifiable $30 ticket price was just too rich for my blood at present time. So while I was sad for my friends to be home sick and missing the chance to see the legends of experimental music play, I could not thank them enough for thinking of me when they could not go.
There is so much music in the 21st century that I can't assume that everyone knows of the importance of this unique ensemble, or even that everyone has heard of them, but I cannot take it on myself to retell their massive recording and performance history as it would take more space and research time than I have at my disposal. So we'll let Wikipedia do what it was designed for: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Residents and of course their own website is an incredible resource of high weirdness: http://www.residents.com/home/
Although I've seen the Residents once before, I have unfortunately not seen them in their classic incarnation of humanoid eyeballs with tophats. While this three person enemble was exactly the same set up as the show at the Wonder Ballroom show in 2010, they did play homage to their much more well known classic look quite a bit. The singer "Randy" told the story of their 40 year history interspersed with a dadaist stand-up comedy like routine, constantly changing t-shirts that matched the album they were playing from.
They played for nearly two hours straight with no opening act (who COULD open for The Residents??) and included material not only from most of their classic albums but also a surprising number of Snakefinger songs in homage to the late guitarist who played both within and without the group. Randy's between song patter was nearly as entertaining as the songs themselves, particular when he told the ultimate loser story of losing the voice-over job for the donkey in Shrek to Eddie Murphy. The other musicians "Chuck" on electronics (including frequently iPad) and "Bob" on guitar created the consistent dark minimalist electro sound we all want from the Residents.
It would be nice to see the Residents in a larger group, I have to admit. Who knows if that is in their future or not? While the actual identity of the players has been successfully kept anonymous for 40 years now, it is clear these were the core of the group and they put on a very successful show. I'm very glad I didn't miss it.