Concert review under the fold, spuds. Things that are more fun than a Devo show at a horse racetrack:
* Your mom
Apparently, a lot of bands play the Del Mar racetrack, for reasons that almost certainly financial, but there’s something kind of perfect about seeing Devo there. It was better than seeing the Ramones at a carnival. Because the kind of people who like to hang out and gamble on horse races are exactly the sort of people that exemplify the theory of de-evolution. My friend and I got there about 5 hours before the show (which started about an hour after the last race) to case the joint and drink some microbrews at the Microbrew Festival that was going on that day. (Microbrew festivals, racetrack style: 4 booths with about 20 selections served from ice chests labeled with Post-Its. You can’t buy that kind of exquisite tacky. Or you can, I guess—at $3 for an 8 ounce sample of any random microbrew.) We were afraid it would be boring, hanging out for hours waiting for a show. But the people-watching was top notch. It put us in the right mood the celebrate the downward spiral.
*Middle-aged women with no doubt strict Pilates regimes, dressed in extremely expensive dresses and shoes. There alone, or sometimes with men wearing designer suits.
*Groups of young people drinking beer, probably taking advantage of the lax carding that was going on. For some reason, they were very what we tend to call “Dallas”. Some women in beautiful full-skirted dresses I’d only wear to a wedding, and some were in clothes no one should wear, but you could call club clothes—practically see-through clingy short black dresses or tight white slacks with those backless handkerchief shirts, perhaps a bit of thong showing. And all stiletto heels, which was an odd choice considering that we were hanging outside in the grass. The men with these women mostly wore cargo shorts and T-shirts advertising stuff I don’t understand or possibly crappy metal or “alternative” music.
*Basic middle-American families with kids, who they let have $5 to bet on the horses. These people were the least baffling, of course.
*The people that were clearly there to see Devo. Ye shall know them by their tattoos.
No, really, the Devo crowd were just the best. Once the racetrack people cleared out, and the Devo people were left, the place had the best vibe ever. There were the huge hipsters, of course, and then the geek chic people wearing science-loving T-shirts. And a few people that confused us, like the troglodytes standing next to us in ratty T-shirts with bad teeth, who head-banged to every song but also knew the words to all of them. There were people with energy domes they bought and energy domes they made, and one guy had tied a strap to a piece of pink Tupperware with a molded bottom and made that an energy dome.
The show was amazing. We made a list of songs we hoped they’d play, including “Gates of Steel” and “Blockhead”, and they played all of them. It’s hard to explain how they do it, but Devo rocks the fuck out—everyone was just grinning, it sounded so amazing. Mark Mothersbaugh shows no sign of aging in his voice, even if his middle is thick and his hair is gray. The little girls from Devo 2.0 (we assume) came out before the show and took pictures of the audience, but sadly didn’t play a song. What I just really dug about the show was that Devo didn’t half-ass anything. If there was a solo to shred, it was shred—to the point where all the strings on the guitar break on “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA”. They use gimmicks like motherfuckers, but since they back it up with chops, it just makes the whole thing feel arty instead of gimmicky. But in a good, laugh-your-ass-off way. When Mark Mothersbaugh runs around during “Mongoloid” shaking pom-poms at the audience, you kind of wish you had pom-poms to shake back.
I didn’t expect that they’d end the encore by having Mothersbaugh come out dressed as Booji Boy to sing “Beautiful World”. What can I say? Also awesome. The teenage girls standing behind us clearly showed up because they figured the $6 cover charge was reasonable to hear the two Devo songs they knew, and didn’t quite get the Booji Boy thing, but that’s okay. Play to your hardcore fans, who cares? It was really funny, with Booji Boy going off on how much he loved the horses and how, now that everyone is rich from gambling, they should all buy horses. Perfect cap to the day—playing a racetrack is so devo, and if they didn’t acknowledge that, I would have been disappointed. I hope, for the people in the audience under the mistaken impression that Devo is just a novelty act from the 80s, the sheer awesomeness of the show converted them into the those who get it territory.
If you don’t quite get it, I recommend this interview of Mothersbaugh by the Onion AV Club. And here’s “Blockhead”: