When I was a kid, Devo scared the everloving crap out of me. They seemed demonic and evil and terrifying. (I was also terrified of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.)
I mean, if you see the video for Peek-a-boo, you will not only develop a fear of clowns, you will find the nasty icky evil core that is inside of you. See for yourself:
The bastards at WMG won’t let anyone post this video on You Tube so I had to search the depths of My Space itself to bring it to you! I suffer for you! I can’t even get it to embed.
Damn you, WMG!
So anyway, as I was saying, Devo scared the Cheerios right out of me until I was much older. I didn’t really appreciate them until they were long gone, and I had never seen them perform live. Needless to say, when I found out they were coming to Austin, I got myself a floor ticket and made up for lost time.
The DEVOted were there in droves. Blue energy domes and the new grey masks were for sale at the merch stand, and many ponied up the dough for their own piece of Devolution. There was a chance to get your photo taken in Devo gear, for free, while holding up a sign that said “JOCKO HOMO!” I should have done that but I didn’t want to stand in line, plus I was there by myself and felt self conscious. Missed opportunities…
The opening act was a local Austin band, the Octopus Project. Their set was a good mood-setter. Their music was what I guess you could call ambient, but it was more danceable than most ambient music. I really admired their use of the theremin.
By the time they left the stage, I had managed to make my way to the front of the crowd on the floor and I stayed perched there the rest of the night. The people around me were mostly 30- or 40-somethings like myself, ready to relive the 80s.
Not that Devo is totally a nostalgia act – they released an amazing album last year, Something for Everybody, which holds up to their classic stuff and even exceeds it in some cases. Devo started their set with a track from the new album, and it wasn’t a letdown in the least.
There were many costume changes throughout the night. First up were the grey suits and masks that the band debuted in 2010. I was really excited to see them play live, and had been hoping for weeks that they would play Peek-a-boo. It turned out to be the second song they played, and it was kind of like premature ejaculation for me. I wasn’t ready for that so early in the set, and I felt like I missed the “moment”. Not that it wasn’t mind-blowing to see them perform that song while the actual video played behind them. Jerry Casale was scary as ever while singing, “ha ha ha HA!!” and waving his arms threateningly. I definitely had a tingle of fear down my spine as I relived the old days.
Would you like to know the set list?
There really was something for everybody!
I don’t really know how to review this show, because it was weird. Really weird. Like, gonzo weird. So I’ll just tell you what I thought was weird.
Devo are old dudes now. I mean, they are paunchy, balding, grey-haired members of AARP. It was very very disturbing to see them prancing around in shorts and kneepads. I was pretty close up to the front of the stage and they all had those grandpa legs, you know? Yet they were trying to act like sex machines. Maybe it was irony, I don’t know. If it was, the irony was lost on me.
For example, when they were performing in the yellow hazmat suits, the guys started tearing and ripping their suits off. At first it was a really punk, aggro type of thing to do. But after they started really stripping the suits off, revealing the aforementioned shorts and kneepads, it was disturbing. I felt like I was about to watch my parents having sex. I guess I just can’t think of the Devo guys as sexual beings, because to me they are scary monsters and super creeps. (I know that’s a Bowie song, but it fits.)
Video filmed by Michael Pilmer/Devo-Obsesso
Mark Mothersbaugh took it to the ultimate level during Freedom of Choice, when he improbably produced 6 or 7 bananas from his shorts and threw them into the crowd. I honestly do not want to know where those bananas were hiding. He was really digging around in his shorts for them. Did I mention he was wearing a shirt that was entirely decorated with photos of hot dogs? (I bet he drives a Hummer!)
I don’t want this to sound like a negative review, because I had a wonderful time and would recommend that everyone on Earth see Devo before they die. The music was perfect, and the crowd was thrilled. During Girl U Want, a mosh pit formed near me and I retreated in haste. The oldsters such as myself were not pleased, so I know that it was started by one of those young whippersnappers. I knew that guy with the TSOL jacket was trouble…
The best thing about Devo is that they don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s a tradition that when they perform Beautiful World, Mark Mothersbaugh will come out to sing it dressed as Booji Boy after Jerry sings a verse.
Booji Boy sings in a tuneless high pitched voice. For the entire song. He never breaks character. Before he sang, he told a story about Godzilla awakening from underneath the sea, walking from the Gulf of Mexico to Austin, tearing the roof off of the venue, and declaring that “It’s a Beautiful World!” This is why Devo is awesome. They just don’t care what anyone thinks, they are there to provoke the audience.