The Residents are performing in the Berkeley Art Museum’s L@TE program tonight at 7:30 p.m. If you know who The Residents are, the rest of this post is superfluous. If you don’t, read on.

Here’s how The Resident’s FAQ tries to explain things:

1. Are The Residents a band, or what?

A. I guess I would have to say a “what.” The Residents write, record and perform music, so I suppose that kind of makes them a band. However, they think of themselves as a “group” which is not so directly music-orientated.

2. Who is in The Residents?

A. If the question is “what are the names the parents gave to the people making up The Residents,” then I would say that those names belong to individuals and not the group. The group doesn’t have names within its structure. If the question is the real “who,” meaning the philosophy and outlook, then that is all clearly stated in the work. I would find it difficult to summarize.

Seeking something less mysterious? This won’t help:

Over the course of a recording career spanning several decades, The Residents have remained a riddle of Sphinx-like proportions; cloaking their lives and music in a haze of wilful obscurity, the band’s members never identified themselves by name, always appearing in public in disguise (in the old days… tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball masks) and refusing to grant media interviews.

More helpfully, BAM describes them as “a renowned group of performance artists and musicians occupying the fringes of modern culture since 1972”.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...