Date: March 31, 2011
Venue: Highline Ballroom (NY)
Concert review by Jim Hoey
The Residents still baffle and riddle their audience with questions of identity: Who are these freaks? Where did they come from? How do they turn out such twisted songs? What their fans DO know for sure is that they’ve been around almost as long as the Rolling Stones or Black Sabbath, have put out over 60 albums, and they came out of some swamp or dark lair of Louisiana, before heading to San Fran in the late 60’s. The rest is just hearsay. Although they did release Meet The Residents in 1972, (a parody of Meet the Beatles more in line with Zappa or Captain Beefheart), since that time they have been popping up in different incarnations, with consistently demanding and challenging punk, gothic, and noise releases over the past 3 decades.
At their latest NYC show at the Highline Ballroom, a few hundred Residents fans trudged through the rain to the west side to get up on the 2nd floor to see “Randy”, the lead singer, in creepy, clown-faced, bald uncle mode, twisting and lurching to his own horror story-inspired internal reveries and stories, which he unleashed on the crowd for a good two hours, with encore. The other two Residents, possibly original members, on guitar and keyboards and effects, worked the atmosphere up perfectly as Randy’s songs of white trash murder and burnings in the garage, and all other things unholy, right out of a horror movie, slowly built up and entranced the crowd. They played without the original drummer, and he was the running joke of the night, (first, “Sorry he couldn’t be here”, later, “Fuck him, right?”). It was all managed well with a drum machine.
With a stage like a twisted shut-ins living room, and circular panels for demented projections hanging on the walls, the effect of the night was eerie, twisted, and dirty, in a good way. Randy, even through the most disturbing stories and wicked swayings, left and right, always managed to cut through the evil sinister murkiness with a winking line or joke to let the crowd know, (or hope), that all that dark energy wasn’t really coming from reality right then (even as they knew that anything being sung about could be occurring in a barn on the outskirts of some town, or in the inside of any inner city dungeon). It’s fun to sink into an abyss you know you can creep out of at the end of the night, and the Residents perfectly create that atmosphere and possibility.