The rock band Devo features five weirdos from Ohio who have moved to California. Of course, New York and Texas, along with Ohio, are empty states now--everyone from there is here, but that's another essay.
How weird are these guys? How weird is there? As weird as eating beans before your dream date with Kim Basinger. Look in the dictionary under "weird," and Devo's picture is there.
Maybe these Akron natives spent too much time breathing all those rubber fumes or maybe it's just more proof that it's no fun if you can't complain. And Devo has been complaining. For years.
"We are pro-information and anti-stupidity," says guitarist Mark Mothersbaugh. "It is the lack of the human mind, not nuclear bombs that we fear."
So what's the point? Maybe it's just a way of getting people to think about things. Or perhaps its the old Can music save the world? question. But if the Moody Blues couldn't save the world, how can a bunch of artsy-smarty rockers from Ohio?
Devo is best known for a series of totally bizarre videos beginning with "Jocko Homo" in 1976 and continuing to the present. There was also a memorable robotic-rock version of "Satisfaction" on an episode of Saturday Night Live. The theme of most of the videos is coming to grips with the impact of technology coupled with basic human stupidity.
For Devo, the mission is to derail an alarming trend they see--devolution. According to Mothersbaugh, "Devolution is the process where the human species will soon be a victim of self-genocide brought about by its own stupidity. . . . Devolution seems to explain what's happening after observing life on planet Earth."
Devo may never play any Optimist Club gigs. But devolution nonetheless rolls on--the destruction of the rain forests, rampant pollution, the 49ers beating the Rams.
One thing is certain, not a lot of people will be going to the Ventura Theatre Thursday night to take notes. Most will dance. Devo rocks. It's techno-pop with a beat. And who knows, maybe they'll sell enough $22 T-shirts to afford a watch. Because if one of the band members had returned my last call, this would've been much longer. . . .
There's a real rock 'n' roll dilemma tonight--how can you be in four places at once when you're not anywhere at all? Devo's playing the Ventura Theatre, but if you've gotten this far, you knew that. Michael on Fire is in Thousand Oaks; Spencer The Gardener is in Santa Barbara and Elvin Bishop and others are in Isla Vista. If you somehow end up home watching "the Cosby Show," rock 'n' roll has passed you by.
New albums you need right now: Eleventh Dream Day, The Stone Roses, That Petrol Emotion, The Chills, Ben Vaughn, Sinead O'Connor, House of Love, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughters and about a zillion more. . . .
And finally , unpack those flak jackets and steel pots and don't forget those dancing shoes, looks like Raging Arb and the Redheads will be at Charlie's on Cinco de Mayo.
The following local acts have tapes available at their gigs or else from the usual suspects: The Mudheads, Nothing, Durango 95, Spencer the Gardener, The I-Rails, J. Peter Boles, The Lion I's, and Evans and VanLoan.