REWIND! Devo Lollapalooza Pre-Party at Congress Theater

[REWIND! is a weekly feature where Hugh Voltage and Ray De Ation dig through the archives of previous concert coverage. The original words and photos are published as is… with modern commentary about what they think now.]


Hugh: That picture of Mark Mothersbaugh with his hand on his hip and the mic in his face? That pretty much sums up how I feel about this post. I’m not just saying that because the text on the screen behind him says SNOW, which is all there is to see in Chicago right now. It’s more about the cocky, “so what?” attitude you can see through the mic, glasses and DEVO mask. So what if I’ve never written a concert review before? How hard can it be? I think it came out pretty fucking well, honestly.

Ray: Out of all the shows I have been to, and all the photos that I have taken, this one, because of the mentioned photo, is one of my favorites. That photo of Mark Mothersbaugh resonates in my top 5 photos I have ever taken. Devo doesn’t tour too often anymore, so it’s like getting a picture of Bigfoot. It’s one of those photos that my dad loves, and tells me all the time how awesome it was that I got to see Devo and actually shoot them.

Original review follows:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the majority of your adult life you have invariably heard of the pop-culture phenomenon that is Devo. Their discordant pop is so culturally pervasive that it has influenced everyone from Rage Against The Machine to Neil Young. Songs like “Whip It,” “Girl U Want,” and “Freedom of Choice” are just as much a part of the public lexicon as they are hook-laden anthems about the way Devo saw the world around them more than 30 years ago when they started making music. If the concert at the Congress was any indication, not much has changed in 30 years according to Devo.

After nearly 3 hours of waiting, special guest Perry Farrell strides on stage (in the way only he can) and announces with numerous loud arm gestures that Dirty Projectors will be on in 20 minutes. When Longstreth et al. take the stage they’re more than ready to impress the almost mutinous crowd that was forced to endure Top 40 nonsense for at least 100 minutes. And impress they did.
Dirty Projectors is completely about experimentation; songs vacillate between cacophonous overture and harmonious melody – sometimes in the span of seconds. Comparing them to Talking Heads or Broken Social Scene is easy, all I could think about was Devo. On the surface, it might not seem like Dirty Projectors have that much in common with Devo, but after watching them play back to back it you can make out the same anti-established music underpinnings.

Devo emerged somewhere around 11:30 to an even larger crowd of plaid wearing, energy dome flower pot capped that was equal parts old school and new school. The enormous light wall that remained dark as it loomed over all previous acts came to life – as did the crowd – as Devo started their performance with “Don’t Shoot.” As “Peek-a-boo!” began one thing became abundantly clear – Mark, The Bobs, and Casale are all getting on in age. Any of the original members of Devo is old enough to be someone’s dad, if not grandfather, and it doesn’t even matter because they can still rock just as hard as any twenty something band.

When “Going Under” began only one of the members still had their Phantom of the Opera-esque mask on and this is when the real madness began. Devo was never a band just about the music, they were about the social commentary, the political tensions, the costumes – the experience as a whole. This became very apparent as the TV wall behind them started to play the sexually suggestive, Playskool-ish videos that elucidated images of an Andy Warhol painting fucking an Apple commercial. Devo basically invented the music video and they want you to know it.

Costume changes abound (gray to blue to yellow) and we experience “Whip It” and “Mongoliod” with both flavors of energy dome. The visualizations shift to Tron (scored by rock gods) and something scarily like Google Maps – accented with more costume changes and pom poms. Yes, those pom poms. The spectacle (it isn’t fair to call it a show) concluded with Mothersbaugh donning his famous, still totally terrifying, Booji Boy costume to shriek unintelligible words and throw around bouncy balls.

In a musical landscape where names like LCD Soundsystem and Cut Copy are household names it seems almost impossible that – decades later – the progenitors of so many musical genres would have anything useful left to contribute. And yet, despite the miasma of very loosely correlated DJ sets (Moneypenny aside – they were fantastic), a laughable “special guest appearance” by Perry Farrell, and a completely frantic Dirty Projectors set, DEVO really did their most recent album justice by providing something for everyone – even if that meant waiting the better part of an eternity to experience it.

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