Residents Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Sold Out (Music) Soundboard

When: Fri., Feb. 15, 9 p.m. 2013

The Residents have been making their twisted, surrealist pop music so prolifically and for so long, apparently following no guide but their own uniquely cryptic impulses, that putting their picture next to the word “avant-garde” in the dictionary wouldn’t do them justice. They began experimenting with music and art soon after leaving Louisiana for California in the late 60s (though they wouldn’t start calling themselves “the Residents” for a few more years), and their prodigious output since then has included not just dozens of albums but also performance-art pieces, multimedia projects, and theatrical spectacles. When they started formally releasing music in the early 70s, the Residents’ entire existence subverted the rock-star ethos of the time: they were nonmusicians, interchangeable and anonymous, whose demented, shambolic, darkly comic songs seemed designed to make adults uncomfortable and give children nightmares. One of their most recent proper albums, 2011’s Coochie Brake (Ralph), sometimes sounds like a collection of Saturday-morning cartoon themes given a warped shoegaze treatment and then dubbed into Spanish. It’s included in the Residents’ recent Ultimate Box Set, released to celebrate what the group is rather arbitrarily calling its 40th anniversary; packaged in a full-size refrigerator and priced at $100,000, it contains 40 LPs, 50 CDs, and dozens of singles, EPs, DVDs, and CD-Rs, plus one of the band’s iconic eyeball-with-a-top-hat masks. The Residents are playing two intimate Chicago shows this weekend, a rare treat for anyone who isn’t scared of standing so close to these weirdos. They’ve discarded their long-held anonymity, after a fashion—the Residents in concert are now a “power trio” calling themselves Randy Rose, Chuck, and Bob, and they don’t always wear the eyeball masks—but at these concerts they’ll honor their own history by interpreting their classic material. —Leor Galil

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