In the late 1960’s/ early 1970’s, a small band of artists and musicians came together in San Francisco to form what stands as the most important multimedia avant-garde rock and roll group of all time; The Residents. After decades of bizarre albums and live pieces, in the 1990’s the band released two CD-ROM games which really brought animation and music together in a very interesting way; so much so that they won awards from Entertainment Weekly magazine for top computer entertainment software with 1995’s Freak Show CD-ROM and 1996’s Bad Day on the Midway CD-ROM (remember CD-ROMs? sigh.). Their early short films are held in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection here in NYC and a couple of them were featured a few years back in the MoMA’s music video retrospective series. The band’s live shows were legendary experiences, with the band peforming in their trademark tuxedos and giant eyeball costumes (which have since been retired). Despite a website not quite up to their typically quirky standards, the band still exist today having recently toured with their shows Wormwood, Icky Flix, and Demons Dance Alone.
The Residents have always held a special place in my heart; the perfect antidote to the grandiose ‘art rock’ show. Instead, The Residents were more circus, carnival, and punk rock experience at the same time. I haven’t seen them in years, but over the past few months, via a series of web animations, I think I have found their heir; Weebl.
The first time I saw his work was the famous Badgers animation, sent via e-mail by my friend Mark. The music is clearaly a direct descendent of The Residents work; obsessively bizarre, and somehow, utterly addictive. Of course, Weebl is using the internet as his forum (instead of creating albums and concerts). His music and collaborative flash animations are absolutely mad and have rooted themselves into my brain forever.
But something is missing; it is the great disappointment of the digital age that artistic collaborations like Weebl and his gang (who appear to be from England) are making aren’t translating awesome digital art like this into a live, human experience. There is so much here that would transform itself into an amazing live show! I, for one, would pay top dollar to see what an artist like Weebl and his gang could do with a song like Strawberry Pancakes in a live setting; I have a feeling my head might explode. There is so much rich potential here for an exceptional human interaction and experience. Just look at the fan video of Kenya; Ok, it’s a bit underachieving, but proof of possibilities. Of course, the fact that I am devoted to Weebl’s work on-line (where it is available for free) is, in itself revolutionary. In the 1980’s, people like me would dig for 45’s and albums in our local record stores, often a terribly frustrating experience. I would read about a record in a magazine like the controversial Maximum Rock N’ Roll and then try desperately to get your hands on a copy weeks, sometimes months later. Now, the instantaneous nature of the internet has changed distribution altogether. In the past, there was always a physical, human payoff; I could always go to my local punk rock show. I still can (and do), but the breadth of work available on-line has created a new frustration, a desire to connect to virtual art on a human level.
No matter what records I bought, I would still go to see local and national bands playing :30 second songs at shows in my town. There was always a local scene in the 80’s; most communities had a place for bands and artists to create and perform, no matter how small the venue. But what has happened to ‘the local scene’ in an on-line context? Weebl’s work is both an extension of and challenge to that idea of the punk rock song; each idea lasts under a minute or so, but it is looped in a never-ending format that pushes the listener’s endurance. In a live setting, a song like aaaaaaaaaaaaahaha might cause a riot. Oh, how I long for a good punk rock riot. The internet and web art are a wonderful extension of the creative experience, but I still crave the flawed, wonderfully human experience of seeing a live performance. Even if, like a Residents show, it was as wild and bizarre as could be imagined. C’mon Weebl. Let’s see what you’re made of.
Weebl’s Greatest Hits