Event :The Residents
Date: March 20 2023
City: Salt Lake City
Venue: Urban Lounge
Before there was even a word for Punk, it was sort of “Performance Art” or “Artistic Rock & Roll” and bands finding a niche for their sound, not a name, there was “The Residents”. For art rock, they have been around as long as the term, and now celebrating 50 years of “Dog Stab”, The Residents have hit the road, showing us all that, even after this long, we can still be inspired and love that which is unconventional. The Residents can be seen as the biggest influence on Primus, The Butthole Surfers, and The Pixies, and countless other bands that we grew up listening to, well, The Residents are where most of that began.
I was able to interview Homer Flynn at the announcement of this tour in the summer of 2021, getting ready for this experience, it was sadly canceled due to the Covid restrictions. But they rescheduled, and I was elated to catch this gig, it was indeed 50 years in the making.
Homer Flynn is the “President” of the “Cryptic Corporation”, who are the management wing of the Performance Art collective known as “The Residents”. No one in this collective has been identified over the 50 years of their making art because of the fact that they wear masks, and do not talk to anyone on stage or during their concerts, just that if anyone is to speak on behalf of the band, it would be Homer Flynn, offstage of course.
The Residents have released many albums, and collaborations. Most recently a tribute album to “Dying Dog“, an almost mythical individual who just vanished one day, leaving behind a box of reel to reel tapes with a friend. Another notable album was “Third Reich and Roll”, an album laden with reverse nazi Imagery, it’s goal to seriously mock the nazi movement. Though that was also one of the main points of the album saying how Rock and Roll often has brainwashed people into not being able to see things for themselves. However you view these guys, the joke is usually on us.
The venue was packed with old school punks and local artists, so many that I have known for the last 35 years, and, well, this was one of those culminations of shows we all have been dying to see. There were plenty of fans in top hats, tuxedos, and lots of bloodshot eyeballs hanging off jackets. After all, it’s “THE RESIDENTS”.
The stage was pretty bare, and no opening act listed. Most of the times “The Residents” show is full of surprises, and the entire evening would be considered the performance, so we were expecting pretty much anything.
This time, they took their positions on the stage in different outfits than we were expecting. They were wearing suits, with fedora hats, black shirts and white ties. Instead of the eyeball with the top hat helmet we have seen for so many years, this time they were wearing very FREAKY masks, fitting tightly to their faces, with glaring jaws and horror film sharp teeth, eyes cut out and they were wearing glasses, with LED Lights on them. Just enough to creep you out, straight out of the Dog Stab video. The suit jackets and pants were also imprinted with bloodshot eyeballs, with the headbands around their fedora hats of the same pattern. YES, it was as unsettling as any other stage costume they have worn in the past, and it was distinctly “The Residents”.
The drummer started tapping away on his all electric drum kit, while the keyboardist started playing along, it was a haunting dark feeling we all started off with. The singer walked up to his mic, and his instrument panel, which was a voice modulator console, this all before the guitarist even got on stage, so, we were in for a long strange ride.
The singer tweaking his voice while we all sat in a strange AWE at what we were experiencing, it just thumped out “Son of a Gun we’ll have fun on the Bayou” the Hank Williams cover.
Then the reverberating sound of water dropping, and his voice turning to creating a sinister vibe, they rolled into “Hello Skinny” while the singer tweaked his vocals as he was singing each line, I then realized that this was the biggest influence on Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers.
By the time they got to “Boxes Full of Armegeddeon” the punters were all dancing in sync to the twisted message about “Death in a box” for retail, available from a politician or arms dealer near you. You really have to re think what the songs are about as you hear them live, many are just a few measures, and less than a minute long.
Unlike most bands, you will have the guitarist switching out instruments, but this evening, the guitarist had 2 guitars, and was spending as much time with his feet on the petal board managing the effects, with his feet as he was on the frets, this you noticed as he got us through “Would We Be A Live” (80 aching orphans).
The vocal shift during “Constantinople” was pretty epic, a man with a voice modulator was able to make such a change with his voice as an instrument, you really get to see how much they can do, with so little on stage.
The singer was dancing with the members in the audience, getting in their faces, and giving everyone a real close up of his mask, that, really was unsettling. All the while the video on the screen behind them was showing the animation, clay-mation, and general graphics from their history that we all have seen over the years. We got plenty of stuff that made us feel like we were in horror films “Monkey Man” and then “Kill Him” with an industrial musical backdrop. The Residents were playing all the classics, but still making them sound current. I noticed on their recent album to “Dying Dog” tribute album, they had been using a lot more industrial sounds in the music, and tonight it seemed to be how they wanted to perform a lot of these classics. You gotta respect a band for being able to play music from their 50 year catalog, and still be able to make the songs sound current. There was no “Nostalgic” feeling to any of the music at this show. I knew the songs, some were 30+ years old, but the sound did not make me remember “Good Times”, so much of it felt like we were hearing it all new.
At this point during the show, I decided “Now or never” to hit the merch table and buy the “Grab Bag” of CD’s. 12 CDs for 50$, and no bag was the same. Promised albums, and compilations, and whatever other weird from the archives. I was happy with the fact that in the bag of CDs that I bought, I got no repeats of something I already had. SCORE.
One song that really stood out was their delivery of “Blue Rosebuds” was actually very intense, for a version, The Residents were playing it off the movements of the audience, like we were all making sure to sway and dance, in perfect sync to the guitar lines. Not what we were expecting, but, then again, it is The Residents, and they do it however they want.
The finished the set with Hungry Hound, and when they left the stage, someone snagged the guitarist’s setlist. When the came back on for the final number, I actually heard him say “Where the FUCK IS MY SETLIST?” a woman handed it back to him, and he looked it over to finish with the encore “DIE! DIE! DIE!” . They walked off the stage and I got a fistbump from the singer, and the band vanished.
The show was over with no fanfare, just a lot of imagery and great music. The Residents delivered an incredible experience, no two shows are going to be the same, and you feel like you are experiencing history as it is being made at one of their shows.
If you ever get the chance to see “The Residents” perform from their vast catalog of 50+ years, Grab a ticket, and sack the merch table, there were some fantastic pieces there for sale. I wish I was made of money to have bought it all. You might be a little freaked out, even scared, but NEVER disappointed.