Having grown up in Los Angeles during Devo’s early days, I was anxious to see what their show would offer 30 years down the road. I still recall their forward-thinking outfits and stage antics when I saw them live in 1980.
At the time, they were promoting their third album, Freedom of Choice. The energy dome hats the band wore were fire-engine red, however it was their first MTV video, Jocko Homo, that shook my world. This video was so ahead of its time!
If you were a teenager living off of the late 70′s rock stream, Devo came onto the scene in a slightly frightening manner. The Jocko Homo video featured Booji Boy, a character who appeared from time to time taking on the persona of a small boy — a freakish boy with an odd face mask. Thinking back to that time, I can’t emphasize enough how much of an impact that early video had on me. Bands such as the Talking Heads and the B-52′s were just beginning to flourish, and Devo helped to pave the way for them and other bands to enjoy parallel success.
“Thirty years ago, people said that we were cynical, that we had a bad attitude,” says Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh. “But now, when you ask people if de-evolution is real, they understand that there was something to what we were saying. It’s not the kind of thing you want to see proven right, but it does make it easier to talk about.”
“We’re inspired by reality,” says Gerald Casale, “because the world is so ridiculous and stupid. DE-EVOLUTION IS REAL.”
I knew where Devo were staying in Vancouver. But I’m not *that* kind of fan (admittedly I was tempted!).
With media access to the Live at Squamish music festival, I had hoped to be able to interview the band, however final word from their management indicated that I wouldn’t be lucky this weekend. So you can imagine my surprise when pulling into the festival parking lot on Saturday morning to the distinct sound of lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh working through the band’s sound check!
Fortunately for my husband and I, Devo’s sound check was running beyond its given 9:30 to 10:30 time slot. We headed straight for the Stawamus Stage and I proceeded to shoot video and photos while I had the chance. It didn’t matter one iota to me that they weren’t dressed in their trademark Devo gear (which changes several times throughout their set).
The band is not nearly through being cool. During sound check, Mark sang on stage wearing stylish mirrored shades, while the band rehearsed portions from their latest CD, Something For Everybody. “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” (one of the CD’s first break-out tunes) contains several catchy hooks and proves that the band members still have a lot of creative juice left in them. Shivers creeped up my spine when they launched into Girl U Want and then Uncontrollable Urge.
It was as though we’d received a private concert. Only a few dozen onlookers were present, the sun was shining, and the gorgeous natural backdrop of Squamish only served to heighten the experience.
At this point I should mention that the festival included a collection of talent including Maurice Ryan, Said The Whale, Tennessee Three, The Dudes, We Are The City, and Matthew Good (you can view photos of our day at Live at Squamish here).
I spotted several Devotees in the crowd (of all ages), and interviewed one fan (wearing the now-blue Energy Dome hat), asking him to describe his first exposure to Devo.
Before Devo took to the stage, a giant LED screen began cycling through a collage of images from their early days, getting the crowd excited for the first notes to begin. I spotted other fans wearing some pretty offbeat outfits worthy of a few photos, but by then all focus was on the stage.
The 70-minute set featured a couple of their latest tunes from Something For Everybody, “Fresh” and “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)”. They soon dove into their glory days with “Peek-A-Boo”, “Girl U Want”, “Mongoloid”, Whip It”, “Jocko Homo”, “Gates of Steel”, and even brought out Booji Boy for their final encore, “Beautiful World”.
This was a fantastic concert, given the band members are all (excepting new drummer Josh Freese) 60+ in age. Devo perform less frequently these days. Their next appearance will be in Phoenix on September 18, performing at Arizona Fall Frenzy, for those in the mood for a road trip. Oddly enough, they’ll be performing mid-afternoon, and headlining band will be Weezer.
Devo is Los Angeles based and comprise Gerald and Bob Casale, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, and Josh Freese. Gerald Casale is credited as group founder in Akron, Ohio, 1973.