JOCKO HOMO: Devo, Festival Pier, Last Night
1. Prophets are easily mistaken for jesters or fools, or worse. Understood by a precious few in their day, and largely dismissed as a novelty act by the general public, even by many who bought their records, Devo’s core message was in fact deadly serious: It’s the end of the world as we know it. And we laughed. Thirty years later, Al Gore said the same thing and they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize.
2. Waiting for Devo to come on Saturday night, a friend asked why they were on tour now, after all these years. To say, ‘I told you so’? I offered. To get the big picture view of Devo’s legacy — to connect the dots on Devo’s kicky, kooky new wave singles, bizarro costuming, and iconoclastic conceptualizing — watch Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s dystopian farce of a future collapsing into a New Dark Age under the weight of corporate venality and the sheep-like obeisance of the consumerist masses.
3. Time waits for no man and despite their protests to the contrary — Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo — beneath those flowerpot hats and hazmat suits are men, no less immune to the ravages of time than any other homo sapien bi-ped: thinning pates, thickening waistbands, corrective lenses. Still, if the music’s makers have aged, the music has not. What once sounded radical, if not altogether ridiculous, now sounds modern, and eminently reasonable in a world grown darker and weirder in the interim.
4. Likewise, Devo’s capacity to deliver this strange new music with an intensity and alacrity largely associated with men half their age remains undiminished. In short, Devo ROCKED!
5. History tends to mark the Manson murders or the assassinations of RFK and MLK as the de facto end of the 60’s. I would submit that the 60’s officially ended in 1970 at Kent State with 10 soldiers and Nixon coming. The shootings would shut down the campus for days, leaving Kent State art students Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale with too much free time. They say idle hands are the Devil’s playthings, but sometimes our better angels find a few good men with nothing but time on their hands and invests them with a greater purpose even they don’t fully understand all these years later. What does that have to do with now, you ask? Look around. The rest is Devolution.
PHOTOS & TEXT BY JONATHAN VALANIA
Hold Steady pix & review after the jump…
Flashback to October 2007: Craig Finn and his merry band of boozers take the Fillmore by storm, killing a set of songs from all three of The Hold Steady’s records, as well as a few new cuts from an album to be named later. The beer runneth over, the lyrics become slurred, and all of South Street knows that bar rock is here to stay. Returning to the present, The Hold Steady are back in the 215, this time weaving their yarns of sweethearts and burnouts at Festival Pier. Now, however, the “album to be named later” has been named—Stay Positive—and is already available via iTunes (hard copies and wax come July 15th). Positive continues the party-hardy theme of the band’s first three records, and translates just as well to the stage, especially on the record’s first single, “Sequestered in Memphis.” The band hit on a good portion of older songs, as well, but the short festival set time limited them to mostly new jams. No complaints here. The Hold Steady remains one of those acts that you see for an experience—not simply to hear some songs played live, but to feel them. With both arms outstretched during the bridge of “Stuck Between Stations,” Finn achieved a sort of drunken, lowercase-m messiah status you simply can’t find anywhere else—and to the hordes of Stead-heads, he is a savior of sorts. The brutal honesty of his verse is amplified on the stage to the point where you feel heartbroken and completely wasted at the same time, even if you’ve never been either. So thanks, The Hold Steady, for being the band that can sing about drug overdose, lost love, and horse racing all in one night. Thanks for being the band whose roadies bring out more bottles of Bud than Aquafina. And thanks for being the band that knows best that, no matter what happens, you “gotta stay positive.”
TEXT & PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DONOVAN