The Residents Newcastle Boiler Shop 2 February 2023

res tixThe Residents are an enigma.

I have been aware of the band, their philosophy, and their music for almost 50 years. I remember hearing about the Residents from friends in the late 70s. Now I had never heard of The Residents at that point in time, so I had to go and find out about them. What I found was a unique, crazy art collective who wore bobble head eye masks and never revealed their identity. Their music was also unique and every album very different. At that point my interest was raised and I promised myself if I ever got the chance to see The Residents then I would do so.

resi 5The Residents hail from the USA and never reveal their individual or collective identities. They always wear masks on every appearance, album cover or indeed on their website. So, there is an air of mystery and intrigue about this band. I delved further into this strange collective and found their music interesting, sometimes hard to come to terms with, but ultimately enjoyable. Now every album, and there have been many of them, is different. I have listened to some of their music but I am not familiar with all of it and can’t claim to be a true “fan”.

resi2From their website: “Alternately seen as a rock band, an arts collective, and a spirit, THE RESIDENTS have been regarded as icons in the world of experimental music for almost fifty years. In addition to their ground-breaking work in the areas of trance, world fusion, electronica, punk, industrial and lounge music, the group has also been credited with being among the originators of performance art and music video, with their videos included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Their lengthy career has also taken them into the world of film and television music, having scored numerous films and TV series as well as several projects for MTV. In addition, the group is also thriving in the world of digital media having released ten DVDs, and two internet series. “Wow! Eclectic, super productive and genre crossing or what!

resi bookSo, I was determined, throughout the last 50 or so years, to keep my promise to myself and go and see this band if they ever came to the North-East. Now, to my knowledge, The Residents have never appeared in the North-East of England before. They have played in the UK on a number of occasions, Often at prestigious venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, London and Hammersmith Odeon, London; but have never ventured close by. I guess I have been lazy, and never travelled to see them in the past. More fool me! So, when I saw that they were coming to the Boiler Shop in Newcastle, I just had to go.

resi4Bad timing of the night. I read on the Boiler Shop website that there was a support act so I figured the main act would be on stage around 8:30 PM to 9 PM. So, I asked my taxi driver to arrive at 8 PM to get me there just in time (I thought) to see The Residents. Big mistake. When we arrived at the venue and made our way up onto the wheelchair platform, our USA friends were already on stage. My carer for the evening (and thanks for the photos) Jackie, kindly went and purchased a fine pint of Guinness for me and asked at the bar what time they had taken to the stage. Apparently, they started at 8:15 PM so we had missed around 15 minutes. Anyway, their performance was fantastic in the true sense of the word. They had a great light show and behind them was a screen displaying images which, I assume, related to the songs and the bands mythology. I bought a T-shirt with their signature bubble eye mask displayed on the front, a couple of badges and a book which is an A-Z Encyclopaedia of The Residents (it will take some reading!).

resi 6The singer would do a crazy little dance moving his (?) arms up and down and bobbing up and down at the same time. Difficult to describe. They all had masks over their faces and instead of eyes appeared spooky lights. The crowd was a mixture of ages and different types drawn from their fan base: hippies, punks and those who were probably there out of interest and curiosity like myself. The place was reasonably full but by no means packed. I can’t begin to describe their music. Every song is very different with sometimes shocking and spooky lyrics. “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865).I distinctly remember some of the songs: “Die! Die! Die!”, ” Kill Him!” and “Constantinople”.Definitely leading us further and further down that rabbit hole.

resi 3I was drawn into it. The crazy, spooky, music. Indescribable. New wave? Trance? Psychedelia? Labels don’t work for The Residents. A challenging, strange, difficult to describe yet ultimately enjoyable evening. 50 years too late, but worth the wait.

Setlist (something like, based on other performances): Jambalaya (On the Bayou); Hello Skinny; Cut to the Quick; Laughing Song; Bach Is Dead; Boxes of Armageddon; Would We Be Alive?; Cold as a Corpse; Smelly Tongues; Moisture; Constantinople; The Monkey Man; Semolina; Kill Him!; Blue Rosebuds; The Theme From Buckaroo Blues; The Stampede; Lizard Lady; Cold as a Corpse; Hungry Hound; Die! Die! Die!.

Encore: Diskomo; Nobody Laughs When They Leave.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pete Lambert on February 7, 2023 at 9:51 am

    Ahh, it’s nice to welcome another follower into the wonderful and mysterious world of The Residents. The Boiler shop show on Thursday was about the 7th or 8th time I had seen them, shows in the UK are very rare and when they do come around the UK shows may only involve a handful of gigs so you need to get in there and get involved because you never know when the touring will end, after all the singer and frontman is well into his 70’s now.
    I first heard them when John Peel on his late night show nonchalantly played a track called “Ship’s a going down” from the album “Not Available”, check it out it’s probably my favourite album of the band, totally unique, mysterious, and like nothing you have heard before. Anyway, when the track had ended I just sat there, mouth open, saying to myself, “what on earth was that?” and so started my quest to find out more, which has now lasted 40 years. The first tour was in 1983 entitled “The Mole Show”, I had to travel to Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall to see them, Penn Gillette of “Penn and Teller” fame, was the compere, the show was just mesmerising with the band performing behind a mesh screen, three front of stage performers dressed in grey boiler suits and Groucho Marx masks who were also continually moving scenery which was acting as a storyboard, Snakefinger Lithman on guitar, and of course Penn Gillette who was guiding the audience through the story. Utterly blew my mind, I’ll never forget it, you had to be there, nobody had ever seen anything like this.
    After this it was 1986 when they returned, this time I had to travel to the legendary Manchester Hacienda to see them, never a wasted journey as far as I’m concerned. Since then over the years, I’ve usually travelled to London to see them with shows at Hackney Empire, The Barbican and Brixton Academy, and in 2019 it was up to Glasgow, this is why I am now penniless and living hand to mouth!! But at least I have some great memories! At the shows the tour manager, Hein Fokke, tends to always recognise me and will endeavour to get stuff signed for me, of course they don’t sign in the manner- “John” “Paul” “George” and “Ringo”, all you get is “The Residents” or “A Resident”, the enigma goes on, the mystery continues, and to be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    I could go on and on, maybe I’ve revealed too much! or maybe not enough! I could be getting notes pushed under my door late at night telling me to stay silent! All in all you could say they are the most famous unknown band in the world and long may they continue.


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 7, 2023 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Pete many thanks for sharing. You are clearly much more aware of The Residents than myself, to my shame. I need to delve deeper. Best wishes Peter


  2. Posted by treetopflier2009 on February 7, 2023 at 11:35 am

    Linda and I were at this show!!


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