Bay area favorites and music legend for nearly five decades, Devo may have played its final concert at Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo on Saturday, with what appeared to be 20,000 adoring fans wearing plastic planter hats in a rainbow of colors, in tribute to San Francisco.
Band members didn’t wear their trademark red, but orange, adding colorful commentary to filmmaker John Waters’ description of the current White House occupant as he introduced his longtime pals to the stage: “Devo is de-evolution, and they were ahead of their time in predicting what would happen to the United States after the last election. They played before my film ‘Pink Flamingos’ debuted back in the early seventies, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh has famously said: “Rebellion is obsolete. Change things instead from the inside working out.”
Waters (who said these days he spends more time in The City than his more famous home, Baltimore) said Devo’s fans ranged from David Bowie to Iggy Pop to Neil Young; Devo appeared in the Young’s movie “Human Highway.”
Veteran Bay Area reporter Dr. Mike Lano, on the scene in the photographer’s pit, said he never before covered a concert where the entire professional press corps sang along to every song.
Devo, which formed as an art-rock band as a protest to the Kent State University massacre in the early seventies (the members went to school there) played an emotion-filled 90-minute set with rollicking punk takes on the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and Johnny Rivers “Secret Agent Man” and classics like “Jocko Homo,” “Beautiful World,” “Mongoloid” and, of course, “Whip It.” There also was a poignant version of “Freedom of Choice.”
The group hadn’t played together in four years because Mothersbaugh is busy with his day job as an artist (he shows luminescent paintings and drawings in galleries) and scoring Wes Anderson films, TV cartoons (“Rugrats”) and more. And co-founder Gerry Casale is busy with his winery and other musical projects.
Fred Armisen of “Portlandia” and Saturday Night Live” fame (who mentioned he loves coming to The City for Sketchfest and doesn’t visit enough) joined the band on drums, outfitted in the trademark jumpsuit. He said he’s one of the biggest Devo fans on the planet and that he was honored his heroes asked him to join them for the Bay Area gig.
While Mothersbaugh and Casale both said the show was a one-time event –possibly the group’s last performance — hopeful fans think that may not be the case, in part because two new T-shirts are offered on ClubDevo.com.