Once again the ageing spud boys are on tour, and the loyal Bunche was there to bear witness. The venue was Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom, a spacious hall that has a perfect view of the stage from nearly every angle of the auditorium, and, more importantly, the bar.
The tickets were a bit pricey — $55 a head — and bore a stern "no cameras" warning, a command that I chose to ignore by hiding my disposable Kodak in one of my shoulder pack's many hidden compartments ("the smuggler's friend"), but Devo is one of the handful of bands that I would willingly miss my mother's funeral to see perform, so until admission reaches the Broadway level of extortion I will always be found among the adoring rabble. Totalitarianism and inflation can lick my beige ass.
Accompanied by my fellow Devotee-for-life, Chris Gazelli, I endured the entrance checkpoint, was asked by the gargantuan security Negro "You got any pocket knives in this bag?” and finally breezed into the nearly sold out theater. The crowd was as unpredictably diverse as I have come to expect at a Devo show, consisting of metalheads, behatted cowboys, costumed lunatics, hardcore punkers, rastas, hip-hoppers in search of beats, parents who were fans and brought their pre-teen progeny with them because the kids know Devo front man Mark Mothersbaugh from his music work on the cartoons RUGRATS and ROCKET POWER, first-generation fans who have been into the band since at least the first album back in 1978, and, inevitably, the army of folks tricked-out in their "Freedom of Choice"-era "energy domes," better described to the layman as those stupid flower pot helmets seen in the video for "Whipit."
NOTE: let me just say that you can tell a decent energy dome from one of the cheap-assed Chinese knockoffs sold at the shows by their strawberry hue and glossy sheen, as opposed to the slightly orange and matte-textured bargain version. The good ones can be had online from Club Devo (http://www.clubdevo.com/mp/store.html) while the crappy ones are flogged at the souvenir stand for an appalling $30. Having an original that thrown to me by the band at my first Devo show — the OH, NO! IT'S DEVO! tour in November of 1982 — I opted for a pair of tour boxer shorts that can also be worn as regular shorts. Always thinking, those boys from Akron...
The DJ who provided the pre-show music firmly understood the musical tastes of the audience, treating us to many new wave classics and several superb Devo covers and apparently new material that I am in the process of tracking down; if anyone who reads this knows who that DJ was and has any contact info, please get in touch with me immediately!
The opening band was the stunningly bad Vic Thrill, coming in at number three for the title of Worst Devo Opening Band of All Time, right behind the outrageously bad Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the mind-bendingly wretched and deservedly obscure Red Flag, and Chris and I weathered the Vic Thrill set with a futile argument over who was the worst of the opening bands; Chris goes with Red Flag while I pick the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and since this is my blog, I am right. So there.
Then the headliners came out and the crowd turned into a throbbing, bouncing, pogo-ing sea of mutated humanity, united in the de-evolutionary groove that we positively thrive upon; along with the usual well-received jibes against the "right wing assholes" currently in office, the boys gave us many of the classics, had two dancers in chimpanzee masks dancing to the herky-jerky "choreography" during "Jocko Homo," and even broke out "Going Under" and "Wiggly World," two songs that I had never seen them do live, while "Uncontrollable Urge" worked its usual magic, driving hot, scantily-clad girls into an erotic go-go frenzy, while simultaneously pushing steroid-abusing frat boys into mosh-and-skank overdrive. Chris and I even witnessed some poor bastard being hauled unconscious from the floor by two of his pals, his head lolling and his legs dragging behind him, apparently the victim of a shot to the skull in the mosh pit.
All in all, an excellent show, but my favorite sight during the whole shebang was the old, fat dude who looked exactly like Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt and Gilligan hat, a chapeau festooned with tour buttons dating back at least to the 1980 Central park gig, grooving HARD on the dance floor to "Freedom of Choice" with his nubile grand-daughter.
Fuck, I love rock 'n' roll!