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Review: DEVO Live

DEVO

All live photography courtesy of Michael Pilmer

If you were to ask any of my close friends how excited I was to about going to see DEVO, they might throw around words like: “obsessive, weird, fan boy, annoying, and of course “Who’s DEVO?”” After a month of bombarding my Facebook page with 30 year old videos and new videos for their new album “Something For Everybody“, the day had finally come to make the journey to see DEVO. I knew it was going to be a good trip because 10 minutes into my drive I saw a rainbow (sadly, not full on double).

I drove 2 hours to Iowa City, where I visited with friends and broke up the drive. Then, it was onto Des Moines for the 8pm show. I had planned for the worst in regards to weather. It is that time of summer in the Midwest where simply stepping out of your house is misery incarnate. Good weather shown down on me because in Des Moines the temperature couldn’t have been over 70 degrees.

So I parked 5 blocks from the venue in a parking garage and made my way to the Walnut Street Bridge. The show was originally intended to be held at the Simon Estes Ampitheater located right on the river front between the Walnut Street and Locust Street bridges. However, the river had flooded the venue and they shifted the show onto the bridge. Not unexpected, I received a couple “Cool Dude” comments along with confused looks as I proudly strode down the sidewalk in my custom silkscreen DEVO shirt and my blue Energy Dome. When I got to the bridge I bought a bottle of water and walked right up to the security barrier and settled left of center stage. This would not be a concert where I hid in a hobbit hole in the back. I wanted right up front.

I can’t stress how beautiful the weather was. The only reason I ever broke a sweat was because the Energy Dome simply doesn’t breathe that well. So I was standing on a beautiful Saturday night listening to a DJ play old records over the speakers. I noted the irony when Black Flag’s classic “TV Party” was played and all the people with beers raised their glass (as if the song was condoning instead of denouncing that kind of behavior. oh well).

Standing in wait, a man that I recognized as their website photographer approached me and asked me for a picture since I was wearing my own custom DEVO shirt to the concert. Soon after I was approached by 2 women and a man about getting a picture for a magazine. They pulled me and another uberfan off to the side of the stage and we nerded it up for the camera. All the while I was thinking that I had to get back to my spot otherwise somebody would gank it. Sure enough, me and DEVOtee 2 are getting back in place 2 people slide into our spots. Thankfully the people around had our backs and they scurried back like the spot stealing rats they were. 1 month of obsessing over the concert, there was no way I was going to be second row.


DEVO

The concert started late, but to be honest do any of them ever start on time? I saw Bob 1 backstage and knew that things were about to go nuts. I pull out the digital camera my sister lent to me for the occasion because I didn’t want to take my beast of an SLR. I am immediately told to change my batteries. I take 2 out of my bag that I grabbed from home and put them in. All the while, a throbbing synth effect is pulsing away and the stage lights and video display light up the stage. I’m messing with my camera trying to get any batteries to work and the next time I look up there they are. Jerry, Mark, Bob 1, Bob 2, and tour drummer Jeff Friedl. I was so busy with the camera that it took me a couple seconds to realize I was at the concert and DEVO were on stage not 30 feet from me. I immediately turned into a pre teen girl at a Justin Beiber concert. Only it was less creepy because I was a 29 year old man hooting at a bunch of 60 year old men.


DEVO

There they were in all their glory. The “Nobody” face masks they created for the new tour, the gray reflective Kim Jongesque uniforms, Jerry running in place while Mark stalked the stage, and the Bobs playing their guitars and keyboards respectively. The video for “Don’t Shoot, I’m A Man!” ran on the board behind them and the Spudboys went to work playing it. My memory is hazy about the order of songs played during the first phase of the concert but I remember which ones were. It was a mix of songs from the albums “Freedom Of Choice” to” Something For Everybody.” The songs included: “Fresh”, “Gates of Steel”, “Whip It”, “Going Under”, “Peek-a-boo” and “What We Do”. I was in spud heaven as Jerry banged away on his bass snyth and him and Mark traded back and forth singing. The Bobs were outstanding as well. I rarely saw Jeff, but I knew he was up there banging his kit behind the speaker that obscured my view.

The first phase ended and the band retreated backstage to rest and change costumes. My voice was already going hoarse by this point and when my camera allowed me, I was snapping photos and letting the batteries “recharge” before I snapped some more. The second phase of the concert began when the band emerged donning their classic yellow chemical suits and their red Energy Domes. This phase was more focused on the “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO” and “Duty Now For The Future” albums. The sound was more rock oriented as Bob 2 strapped on a guitar and Jerry grabbed his bass.


They belted out  their version of “Satisfaction” with Mark playing his Mutated Guitar. The show became a lot more action packed as they jumped up and down and jerked their bodies back and forth. Bob 1 took vocals as they played “Secret Agent Man.” They other songs from the set included “Time Out For Fun”, “Mongoloid”, and “That’s Good.”  During “Uncontrollable Urge” Mark walked around the stage ripping his suit apart as well as the other band members suits. All of this culminating in the famous formation dance. A primal joy erupted from me as I watched them in formation and it only got better when Jerry asked the crowd if they believed de-evolution was real. The crowd erupted and Jerry concurred that it was a pretty sizable percentage. This was of course the cue that the next song would be the DEVO manifesto itself “Jocko Homo.” This is easily my favorite DEVO song so you can only imagine my joy as the band destroyed their suits, flung them into the crowd and the call and response section of the song began.

Are we not men? We are DEVO!!

Are we not men? We are DEVO!!

Truly a magical moment and something I will never forget.


DEVO

Now stripped of their chem suits the band was left in their shirts, shorts, kneepads, long socks and shoes. They kept it going with “Freedom Of Choice” and “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA” and the band took a pause to refuel for the last number. When they came back out Mark wasn’t with them and Jerry asked the crowd what they wanted. Somebody shouted “We want  Booji Boy!” “You want Booji? Well, I don’t know if we can get him out here. Booji doesn’t like all this cynical stuff. Jeff was talking about a way we might coax him out.” Jeff started the drum beat for “Beautiful World” and the rest of the band joined him. Perfect because while on the surface the song sounds like love letter to the world, it is in fact one of their most cynical songs they’ve ever written. Jerry sang the first verse of the song and soon after Booji Boy made his Des Moines debut in what I learned was a brand new costume picked up right in the city earlier that day. Booji boy is really Mark in a baby mask.


DEVO

He came out and sang the rest of the song and began to tell a tale of when DEVO first moved to L.A. in 1977 and all the weird people he saw walking the streets. One day, as he was walking down the street a limo pulled up next to him and a window rolled down. It was Micheal Jackson and he invited Booji back to Neverland. They had a real good time playing with the Llamas, and sleeping in sleeping bags All this led what we assumed would be a revelation of the bad touch variety. Instead Booji admitted that Micheal had never done anything bad to him and that he was deeply sad that Micheal was dead. All the parents with kids at the show breathed a sigh of relief and Booji continued. He said that if Micheal could be raised from the dead, and become a zombie like he was in the “Thriller” video, if he could do that and make it to Des Moines and make it up on stage. He’d say one thing. “It’s a beautiful world.”

With that, the band wrapped up the song, and Booji reached into his fanny pack and peppered the crowd with rubber balls. Jeff threw his sticks out. Booji blew kisses and told us he loved us and with that the show was over. I screamed until I could barely talk.

What a show and what a band. I truly felt proud that I made it there to witness it. I balked when they played Chicago last November with another hero of mine, JP Incorporated and I regretted it ever since. I wasn’t going to miss this show. You can take it as sense or as the ramblings of a fanboy, but if you have any interest in the band  at all go see them. Don’t get hung up on cost or distance. It is worth it. This is the first time that DEVO have toured in support of a new album in 20 years. The tour, like the album, isn’t just a cash in on nostalgia. I’m not even nostalgic about DEVO. My first knowledge of them was Beavis and Butthead. I was not even born when “Freedom of Choice” came out and I was 9 when they stopped making albums together. This tour and this new album are the real deal and any spud owes it to themselves and to DEVO to witness it first hand. Almost all influential bands from the 90′s list DEVO as an inspiration and pay homage to them. I definitely plan on seeing them again next tour if it happens. I certainly hope it does, but even if it doesn’t I will always remember my first DEVO concert. Duty now for the future spuds. Transmission out.


DEVO

All live photography courtesy of Michael Pilmer


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