|Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!|
Devo age well. They were never about acting young and rebellious. They were already old when they broke out in the early 1980s-- as recounted by Chris Willman in the current issue of SPIN, band co-founder Jerry Casale was at Kent State when the shootings went down there in 1970, which makes him, like, my mom's age. If you don't know much about Devo, they're from Akron, Ohio, and along with groups like the B-52s and the Talking Heads, they helped pioneer what would eventually conquer MTV and be known as new wave: a quirky, brainy, leftfield sensibility, with twangy rock'n'roll guitars (one of the local DJ's pre-show selections was Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," which I thought was just about perfectly apt), synths, and clipped, deadpan, occasionally yelpy vocals. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh has since gone on to a wildly successful career working on movie and TV scores, most notably for the films of Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc.). Devo have been playing off and on at venues like Lollapalooza or Central Park Summerstage over the years, but their new album, Something for Everybody, is their first since 1990. Having them in Des Moines on the tour for their new album was a pretty big deal.
Devo's main shtick this time, as I learned from watching them on The Colbert Report and reading their interview with Joe Lawler in Juice, is that they focus-grouped their album, which when I told my dad made him say "sell-out," but see, that's the thing-- when your theory is that humanity is devolving, rather than evolving (think of the electrolyte-worshiping simpletons of Mike Judge flick Idiocracy), you can get away with engaging in a little conspicuous capitalism, because there's an inherent critique built in... I mean, have you seen the "Whip It" video? And when you've been the nerds making fun of the jocks all along, then when you're onstage at age 60 and a little pudgier, it's not the same as if Mick Jagger, whose entire image is built on youth and virility, were to lose his girlish figure-- it kind of doesn't matter. Ladd tells me David Byrne in Omaha was better, and I don't doubt it, as the former Talking Heads frontman is definitely dignified and old, and his last album with Brian Eno was totally great. But there was something really appealing about how Devo can go over your head without trying to intimidate you intellectually by going over your head (if that makes sense)-- they're simply working to entertain, and their cultural theories are built into that, not an unnecessarily pretentious addition, like Byrne's new agey dancers (again, I'm only going by Colbert Report appearances here). They did new songs like "Fresh" and old songs like "Uncontrollable Urge" or "Freedom of Choice" or (ahem) "Mongoloid," and it was all still wiry and tight and energetic, with hilarious visuals (was that a French fry going into that donut, or was it a stick of butter?) and focus group-tested costume changes and free junk thrown into the audience. Mothersbaugh returned for the encore as the band's old Booji Boy character, weaving a high-pitched tale about Michael Jackson and singing "Beautiful World." Turnout was pretty disappointing-- well, tickets were $50-- and the show had to be on the Walnut Street Bridge instead of the Simon Estes Amphitheater due to flooding, but it was without a doubt one of the best performances I've seen recently. And I've seen a lot of performances recently. This was a $50 concert, for sure.
Upcoming shows after the jump, with the additon of an August 28 Christopher the Conquered/Poison Control Center show at Des Moines Social Club:
** Black Mountain. Monday, July 26. Vaudeville Mews.
** June Panic. Tuesday, July 27. Vaudeville Mews.
Poppets. Tuesday, July 27. Vaudeville Mews.
The All-Girl Boys Choir, with Squidboy. Sunday, Aug. 1. Vaudeville Mews.
Electric Leaves, with Why Make Clocks. Tuesday, Aug. 3. Vaudeville Mews.
Jamey Johnson. Thursday, Aug. 5. Val Air Ballroom.
** The Delta Mirror, with Golden Veins. Friday, Aug. 6. Vaudeville Mews.
Black Keys, with Morning Benders. Sunday, Aug. 8. Val Air Ballroom.
Rooney. Monday, Aug. 9. Vaudeville Mews.
** Phoenix, with Toro Y Moi. Tuesday, Aug. 10. 7 Flags Event Center.
Netherfriends, with Gabe Cordova, Deep Sleep Waltzing, Bear Country. Tuesday, Aug. 10. Vaudeville Mews.
Keith Urban. Friday, Aug. 13. Iowa State Fair.
The Battle Royale. Saturday, Aug. 14. Vaudeville Mews.
** Richie Daggers Birthday Party with Gadema, Young Tripp, others. Saturday, Aug. 14. Vaudeville Mews.
** Vanilla Ice, with Tone Loc. Sunday, Aug. 15. Iowa State Fair.
** Tennis, with the Land of Blood and Sunshine, Maid Marian, the Seed of Something. Tuesday, Aug. 17. Vaudeville Mews.
** Little Gold. Tuesday, Aug. 17. Vaudeville Mews.
Tegan and Sara. Tuesday, Aug. 17. Hoyt Sherman Place.
Pat Benatar, with REO Speedwagon. Tuesday, Aug. 17. Iowa State Fair.
Broken Spindles. Wednesday, Aug. 18. Vaudeville Mews.
Darius Rucker. Thursday, Aug. 19. Iowa State Fair.
** Tapes 'N Tapes. Friday, Aug. 20. Vaudeville Mews.
Sugarland. Saturday, Aug. 21. Iowa State Fair.
Sheryl Crow. Sunday, Aug. 22. Iowa State Fair.
Why Make Clocks. Saturday, Aug. 28. Vaudeville Mews.
** Christopher the Conquered, with the Poison Control Center and the Atudes. Sunday, Aug. 29. Des Moines Social Club.
Canby. Sunday, Aug. 29. Vaudeville Mews.
Sarah Jaffe. Monday, Aug. 30. Vaudeville Mews.
American Idol Live Tour. Tuesday, Aug. 31. Wells Fargo Arena.
** Pavement, with the Poison Control Center. Uptown Theater, Kansas City, Mo.
Hot Hot Heat. Tuesday, Sept. 14. Vaudeville Mews.
** Best Coast, with Male Bonding. Friday, Sept. 17. Grinnell College.
All Tiny Creatures, with the Autumn Project, Blutiger Fluss. Friday, Sept. 17. Vaudeville Mews.
Maxilla Blue. Friday, Sept. 24. Vaudeville Mews.
** Scout Niblett, with the Land of Blood and Sunshine. Sunday, Sept. 26. Vaudeville Mews.
** David Dondero, with Darren Hanlon, Derek Lambert. Tuesday, Sept. 28. Vaudeville Mews.
** The Strange Boys, with Gentlemen Jesse and His Men, Natural Child, the Jitz. Friday, Oct. 1. Vaudeville Mews.
Band of Horses. Friday, Oct. 1. Val Air Ballroom.
Passion Pit. Monday, Oct. 4. Val Air Ballroom.
Joan of Arc. Thursday, Oct. 28. Vaudeville Mews.
Electric Six, with the Constellations, the Jitz. Tuesday, Nov. 2. Vaudeville Mews.