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[whitespace] Big Eyeballs and Alien Poetry

The Residents unleashed a visually stunning freak show at the Rio

By David Espinoza

PERFORMANCE ART never came so close to resembling a religious cult experience as it did with the Residents on Saturday (May 26) at the Rio Theatre. Stranger than Devo with rabies, though much less musically talented, the four-member Residents (six if you count the two hosts who ventured out onto the stage to dance) unleashed a visually stunning freak show that had all the makings of a massive brainwashing session for the packed house.

Situated behind see-through screened booths, with headlight contraptions obscuring their faces, the instrument-wielding members played heavily fortified synthesizer compositions synchronized with Icky Flix--the group's venture into the world of DVD. Attention had to be spread between the computer-generated movies on screen above the band, and the two hosts illuminated by backlighting, whose insectlike singing eerily resembled the demon creature's in the '80s fantasy flick Legend.

The secret to the cult success of the Residents (one of the world's most obscure batches of multimedia artists) is the fact that few people know what they look like or who they are. The brilliance of Icky Flix is that it allowed the audience to see firsthand what the set looked like through a rotating list of songs (caged in a gigantic eyeball that bounced out at you before every track) without the band having to utter a single word. Of these "music videos," the one-minute movies like "Frog Fuck" garnered some-much needed laughter from an otherwise traumatized audience. The computer-generated minimovie "Bad Day on the Midway" would have to take the gold in terms of special effects--the lyricless story is set in a defunct amusement park Tim Burton would be proud of, where a lone boy gets caught in many askew scenarios. Personally, it was reassuring to be able to step back from the show, exit the theater and get some fresh air; there is after all a reason the Residents do not perform very often.

Wired Revolt

The members of the local quartet Depth Charge Revolt name No Means No and Sebadoh as some of their influences but want to make it clear that this is not necessarily what they sound like. Though I only caught their opening song at last Friday's Wired Wash gig, their five-track self-titled CD proves the band to be very versatile indeed.

There's a heavy emo-meets-psychedelic-guitar vibe with vocalist Kevin Harp sounding the part of a Subpop Records star. Musically, the band offers a mix of heavy distorted full-throttle spasms of aggroness and occasional moments of indie-rock sensitivity. On "Yourself," the screaming is of the early '90s Sonic Youth canon, with solid drumming to back it up. The third track, "Anal Wreckdom," is worth skipping over, though it's important to note the connection between the former song and the following, "Astronaut."

Heads Up

Estradasphere will be venturing out into the waters of video and live music at the Rio Theatre on June 8. Also coming to the Rio, Techno-fiends Mouse on Mars will be returning to Santa Cruz on June 19. For all the old-school funk fans who mark their calendars way in advance, the legendary Oaktown-based Tower of Power will be playing P-ville in October. Friday the Lowdown will take over the Wired Wash with the Curtains and Zdrastmootie Mushi Mushi. Hate Mail Express looks like it will be winning the "one show a week award" for 2001, hitting the Wired Wash Saturday (June 2) with Impractical Cockpit (from New Orleans) and County Z.

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From the May 30-June 6, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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