Last week I got to see my favorite band, The Residents. I got to take a few photos which I put up here on Flickr.
They played at the Middle East club in Cambridge, MA. A lot of places and events in Cambridge are erroneously referred to as being in "Boston", which is understandable since it's the neighboring city and the state capital, if not the only New England town that most people outside of New England can name. Heck, I don't think most residents know where Boston ends and Cambridge begins.
I was happy to finally see The Residents in my home state again since my first time seeing them, almost exactly nine years ago. (They had stopped by Massachusetts on their last tour in 2008, but I ended up going to the two New York shows that year instead. The NYC dates had been announced first, and not knowing whether or not they'd be adding a Boston date at that time, I just went ahead and got the NYC tickets.) And this time, they're recording all of the shows and making them available for purchase. Needless to say, I bought the "Boston" show as soon as it became available.
I've been a life-long, avid music lover. And I really thought it I had heard it all, until I really heard The Residents. I first saw the band some time on Mtv when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. Then a friend of mine in high school had used a song of theirs as background music on a home movie compilation he made with his friends. Then shortly after I got into Primus, who had covered a few of their songs. Although I'd always kept The Residents in the back of my mental music encyclopedia (my brain), I didn't really get into them until late 2000, noticing their new DVD ("Icky Flix") in a used CD store I'd often visit. I chatted about them with the store owner, who told me that they were coming to Boston soon.
I bought the 2-CD compilation "Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses", and never looked at music the same way again. To most people, their stuff is going to sound like noise. But to my ears there's something so diverse and unconventional that it turned my musical ear upside-down. Two months later I got to see them perform live at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. After that, I tried to buy every CD of theirs I could find. You're lucky if you find a store that carries even one Residents CD, yet they have more releases than any other band I know. I can't imagine how much I've spent on Residents stuff over this past decade.
Another great appeal to The Residents is the whole mystique surrounding their anonymity. Ever since their first release in 1972, they've never publicly revealed their identities. They don't do interviews. They don't have any individual band member names. And whenever they perform, they're costumed. Their underlying reason for this, so it goes, is that they believe an artist's personal life should be irrelevant to enjoying the music. I can easily think of other bands I listen to whose fan base and PR got restless because some band member was busted for drugs, or because they went through major line-up changes.
(And if you want to keep that mystique, don't go to Wikipedia or read fan email lists. There are always a few assholes there who think they know who the Residents are, and think they're doing the world a favor by exposing this. Or worse, they assume that band thinks it's OK. I'll admit, the stories add up. But I wish I was still completely ignorant of who they were. It was more fun.)
Typically when you go to a concert, a lot of people in the audience look the same. The band is part of the soundtrack to some subculture, and the fans dress the part: NASCAR shirts at the Garth Brooks show, black t-shirts with band logos at the metal shows, and so on. But I have to say that the Residents show I saw in Boston in 2001 had THE most diverse-looking audience I'd ever seen at a concert before. I saw a pair of 8 year-old kids running through the aisles before the show began. Sitting near me were a few guys who looked like they were well into their 60s. Behind me was a very well-dressed black couple who looked like they had just come from a Luther Vandros show. A few rows in front of me were some men sporting mohawks and denim vests. Maybe they were regulars to the different diverse acts that come through the performance center at Berklee School of Music, or maybe they were all fans of this mysterious band that didn't seem to have any age, race, or political PSA view.
I think I'll end my general Residents Rant here. Tomorrow I'm going to post my review of the Boston/Cambridge show, and a look at some of my Residents STUFF (which is most certainly not clutter; I'll sell my furniture before I get rid of my Residents CDs).