Thursday, December 22, 2005

Q: Are We Not Men?

Mike Appelstein meets Mark Mothersbaugh at an art show in St. Louis and remembers how seeing DEVO turned him into a teenage badass:

I had my official Devo energy dome with me. I bought it for $6.00 at their Rutgers University show in November 1981. That was the first real concert I ever saw, and perhaps still the best. I'll never forget it. I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. In 1981, it was still dangerous to be a known punk (or new wave) sympathizer. High school jocks and burnouts would call you "Devo" as an insult, or they'd sing "Turning Japanese" to you sarcastically. When word got out that I attended an actual Devo show, the abuse only increased until I finally told the burnouts to, and I quote, "fuck off." I got the crap beaten out of me that afternoon. I didn't care. I felt righteous. So to be in a room with hundreds of people who actually liked Devo, and who weren't going to make fun or hit me for my musical taste, was like nothing I experienced in my own daily life. Of course the band was great as well; They opened with videos (still a novel concept at that point) and played songs from all their albums. They were still riding a wave of fame from "Whip It" and Freedom of Choice the year before, and apparently used the money on their stage show: the set resembled a futuristic jungle gym, complete with treadmills. For the encore, Booji Boy came out and sang "Beautiful World."

To Devo it was probably just another unremarkable night on tour. But to me, this concert was a life-changing event. By 1981 I was already a hardcore music nut: I'd been buying new wave albums since 1979 and had discovered college radio and Young Marble Giants earlier that year. But actually attending a concert, being surrounded by other Devo fans, pushed me over the edge. For the first time, I knew for sure that I wasn't alone in my interests and obsessions. It was a revelation. Nothing would ever be quite the same.

1 comment:

Mike said...

ha! my alleged bad-assedness lasted for the amount of time it took to cuss out the burnouts. punk rock did not make me tough for more than a few seconds at a time.