Thursday, October 05, 2017

Anonymous Festival: Residents' Day

Let's begin October with some suitably weird shit, shall we? I'll get to Tom Petty on his birthday in a couple of weeks so fear not, all you American Girls and Refugees.
But today we have a 31st anniversary post from the far reaches of the lunaverse, taped for Norwegian TV and thankfully rebroadcast on the NRK site not that long ago.
The stars of today's movie have been around for 45+ years, and only recently have people begun to figure out who exactly the dudes in the band are.
If you were trying to name the world's most unusual rock band during those nearly five decades, they would surely be finalists for top prize.
They began in the early 1970s, taking over a decrepit warehouse in San Francisco and turning it into a production facility.
Taking their name from anonymous mail that would periodically be delivered, addressed to "The Residents," they kept their identities a closely guarded secret.
They signed with Warner Brothers and made two records that I'm still not sure were ever released. Then they founded their own Ralph Records label and had a home base from which to issue their completely unprecedented, mind-scrambling output.
Finding their trademark immediately, they donned disturbing costumes and preserved their anonymity absolutely. Who they really are has been one of the most enduring mysteries of culture for decades.
They hit upon the idea for their signature eyeball masks for the cover of 1979's Eskimo, and have featured them ever since.
As much pioneers of music video as any artist or band you could name, their clip for 1976's The Third Reich and Roll featured Dick Clark pastiched into an SS uniform and was shot on color film on a set made of all black-and-white newspaper.
Today's utterly warped 26+ minutes of mindmelting mayhem dates from their "13th Anniversary Tour" in 1986, and is one of the rare instances where their music and singular, often frightening presentation of it made the boob tube anywhere in the world.
This luscious half-hour of terminal strangeness and totally uncompromised artistic vision also features their oft-times collaborator, the guitarist Phil Lithman, who for performance purposes was and is always known as Snakefinger. There are also two wild dancers who make ample use of their skeleton outfits, contributing even more of a primal and terrifying vibe to the set.
The Residents 
Den Norske Opera
Oslo, Norway
10.5.1986

01 Jailhouse Rock 
02 Eva's Warning 
03 Picnic In the Jungle 
04 It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World 
05 Cry for the Fire 

Total time 26:32

The Residents 
featuring Snakefinger - guitars
and two unspecified dancers

FLV file of an HD web rebroadcast from the NRK archives
459 MB here
I was fortunate enough to see these guys jam with a Balinese Gamelan group in around 1999 (no, that isn't a typo or a vivid hallucination, I have a tape of it) in which they -- in full skull-mask regalia --  joined Gamelan Sekar Jaya for a lovely little tune about masturbation. I don't know that I've ever seen an audience more flattened and dumbstruck.
I shall return next week with a cracking 100th birthday tribute to some piano guy that danced around the stage to his own tune, but for now you really must destroy your Thursday with this ridonkulous Norwegian Residents footage, captured 31 years ago on October 5th, 1986. I'm afraid I must insist that things are getting weird enough for it to be time for these guys.--J.