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[whitespace] Place of Residents

By Mike Connor

WITH 30 YEARS of anonymous performance art under their belts, we know one thing about them for sure: The Residents know how to put on a show. Their new album Demons Dance Alone delves into some heavy shit, like struggling with inner demons, and the not-so-chipper thought that, in the end, we all dance through the veil alone. But leave it to the Residents to handle the most depressing themes with humor and class.

As per usual, we didn't see any of the artists' faces at their Rio show Friday, although they weren't wearing their famous eyeball masks (one did, however, make a cameo as a demon's baby). The show "started" even before the audience had taken their seats, with suspense mounting as people marveled at the stage. Camouflage webbing was draped over scaffolding and instruments, forming a curtain that the performers could run in and out of, and two barren coat trees stood on the front edge of the stage.

After the stragglers filed in, the lights went down and somehow everybody knew they'd come in from behind us. The Residents marched down the aisles covered from head to toe in camouflage parkas, with gas masks covering their faces. They all carried lanterns, and each had its own commission from the Ministry of Silly Walks--this one limped, that one shuffled, this one strolled. Then came the singers: a man wearing a camouflage '70s wedding suit and a mask of sadness staggered down the aisle, his eyes like big black holes, his 2-inch-wide strips of hair coifed into a nicely groomed turban shape. A gangly woman scampered down the aisle, her strips of hair swinging free like sloppy fettuccini, her face similarly contorted, her hooped skirt and tights similarly camouflaged. The light from the lanterns lent the stage the feeling of a guerrilla camp at night.

And then came the demon. Armed with two hand-held spotlights, a slight man in ribbed red spandex came tumbling and spinning, lurking and scrambling down the aisle, his masked face frozen in a hideous grimace, his insolent tongue wagging at the audience.

The demon was, of course, the crux of the show--he was a companion and a pest to the lonely characters, a witness and a teacher. His energy was dynamic and irresistible, his mischievous antics providing comic relief and balance to the brooding singers.

"Liiiiife would be won-der-ful, if ..." sang, each reclusive character with its own list of revealing desires--a refrain returned to throughout the show. In a candid moment, the male singer squeezed in a tongue-in-cheek verse about how wonderful it would be if aging hippies like themselves could get another hit on MTV and maybe a major-label record deal, so that maybe, just maybe, they could continue following their "misguided" musical dreams.

Misguided? No, but I can't imagine seeing anything like it on MTV.

Pass the Dirty Butter, Please

Thirty-three years after they first formed a group, the folks that make up the Dirty Butter Jug Band are still at it, and they filled the Catalyst Atrium with tunes of yore last Friday. There are few bands around these parts that can deliver the olde time, backwoods jug-band songs like the DBJB. Washboards, banjos, mandolins, kazoos and of course the almighty jug all do their part to drag the jig-dancing, hoot 'n' hollerin' hillbilly out of an otherwise perfectly civilized audience. From pared-down jug-band jigs to swishing washboard barrelhouse songs, DBJB churns through the hits of yester-half-century. And then there are the Butterettes--two young ladies dressed to kill with voices just as lethal, a couple of saucy chanteuses pouting things like, "I like my men like I like my whiskey--aged and mellow," prompting whistles and catcalls galore from more than just the aged and mellow types.

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From the October 30-November 6, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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