Ram’s Head Live, June 18, 2014
By Tom Warner (Baltimore Or Less)
“The tour is dedicated to the memory of Robert Casale, (A.K.A. Bob 2), one of the 5 original Devo band members who is now touring the universe.” – Devo press release
Long before the unexpected passing of guitarist Bob Casale (“Bob 2”) in February 2014, Devo had been planning to celebrate their 40th anniversary by embarking on a “Devo Hardcore” tour featuring the raw-and-unpolished experimental songs they performed during their formative years from 1974 until 1977. Envisioned as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for fans to hear what the struggling spudboys sounded like before they hooked up with producer Brian Eno and the truth about de-evolution was revealed to the world on their 1978 Warner Bros. debut LP, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo?, the 10-date North American tour quickly evolved into a dedication to the memory of Robert “Bob 2″ Casale (brother of bass player Jerry Casale), who died without a will and whose family will receive a portion of all proceeds from the trek. (A fund has been established on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe with the goal of raising $100,000 for Casale’s family. Click here to donate. ) The tour marks Devo’s first-ever performances without “Bob 2” since he joined the group in 1974.
As Jerry Casale told Rolling Stone magazine this past April, “What we had planned for the 40th anniversary was to go out live and play all the early, experimental songs we wrote that appeared on Hardcore Devo. We haven’t played those songs in 40 years. Songs like ‘Mechanical Man,’ ‘Space Girl Blues,’ ‘She Didn’t Know I Was a Midget‘.” We wanted to show people what we were doing at the time by using the same instruments, really hardcore and raw. We were the White Stripes and the Black Keys in an era before those guys. We wanted to show people what it was like to actually hear whacked-out parts being played together.”
Though some of these songs were rerecorded for their debut album or appeared as B-sides or extra tracks on reissues, most had fallen into obscurity until the band recently reissued the early ’90s compilations Hardcore Devo: Volume One and Hardcore Devo: Volume Two. Truth be told, I was unfamiliar with most of the songs, but that made them that much more enjoyable – it was something new to experience.
We’re All Devo!
And I enjoyed seeing a Who’s Who of Baltimore’s Coolest & Craziest personalities (i.e., my friends) on hand to enjoy the festivities at a show tailor-made for old-timers (an 8 p.m. start with no opening band! Yes, home by 10 on a schoolnight!): Tim Finnerty (of Essex rock band The Krudz), Skizz Czyzk (of everything film or music-related or just plain cool), rock and roll booster Sharon Rudolf, Bill Bowers (whose wife sported a very cool Slickee Boys t-shirt!), The Bowen Family – Bill, Denny (star drummer of Double Dagger and Future Islands fame, catching his firs-ever Devo show), and “Donna “Diode” Bowen (acclaimed former critic for the Marble Bar Tone Scale magazine) – Craig Smith (director of cult classic Psychedelic Glue-Sniffing Hillbillies), artist-musician Stephen Blickenstaff (The Skeptics, Atomic Mosquitos), Ed “Lizard” Rosen, John Lorch, Adolf Kowalski (Thee Katatonix), John Rouse, Jack of El Suprimo Records, Dave Wilcox (Steptoe T. Magnificent of Chelsea Graveyard), Mike & Janet Ramsey (technically Annapolitans, always honorary Baltimorons!), and Snackie Hillman & Eddie “Dirty Dancing” Chabot (The Swinging Swamis). And, driving up from the nation’s capital, filmmakers Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot) and “Godfather of the Music Video” Chuck Statler (director of all the early Devo films and videos) were spotted in the crowd showing their props to The Men Who Make the Music.
Noticeably absent was Devo cultist Scott “Unpainted” Huffines, the former Atomic Books owner who in 1994 celebrated his bookstore’s 1st anniversary with a “Q: Are We Not KISS? A: We Are DEVO!” party that featured local bands playing songs by his two favorite bands. Everyone asked after him and I had to explain that the jet-setting Huffines, who now travels in Fine Arts High Society, was hanging out with John Waters at the prestigeous Provincetown International Film Festival, where he was hoping to meet David Cronenberg and get his VHS copy of Videodrome signed by the master.
The tour will continue through July 2 in Austin, Texas, hitting New York, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., Oakland, Calif., Los Angeles and Solana Beach, Calif.
Helping fill out the Hardcore Tour sound on backup bass and keyboards was a young musician (I missed his name) from Portland, Oregon-based electro-synth band The Punk Group. (According to their Wikipedia page, the two members are named “Sex Object” and “The Model”; not sure which one this guy was – I’ll leave that to the ladies!)
Following are the setlist, some pictures and a few videos (thanks Richard Christy!) from the Ram’s Head Live show.
Ram’s Head Live Setlist:
Below is the set list for their Ram’s Head Live show.
Ram’s Head Live Photos:
I never noticed before how much Bob “Bob 1” Mothersbaugh resembles comedian Fred Armisen. It’s uncanny!
Ram’s Head Live Videos:
Thanks to Richard Christy for uploading the Devo videos that follow to YouTube.
Devo Hardcore Tour dates:
6/18 Baltimore, MD – Ramshead
6/19 New York, NY – Best Buy Theatre
6/21 Chicago, IL – Arcada Theatre
6/23 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
6/25 Seattle, WA – Neptune
6/26 Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
6/28 Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre
6/29 Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern
6/30 Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
7/2 Austin, TX – ACL/Moody Theatre
Club Devo (clubdevo.com)