Whip It : Devo, Reggie Watts @ The Regency Ballroom, 11/6/09

It was to be my twelfth show in fifteen days, and it was definitely the ‘wildcard’ show. I’ll admit it, I know very little about Devo. I blame it on an unfortunate coincidence in timing- I vaguely remember seeing the video for ‘Whip It’ when I was very young, probably around 10 years old, in close proximity to being exposed to an issue of Hustler magazine at a friend’s house. Both had these weird, geek freak sexual overtones in a country setting, and my young little Texas mind rejected both.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, and an opportunity to see Devo presents itself in a very unusual, only in the life of HRC way. Someone who discovered my site through my write-ups of the final Nine Inch Nails shows contacted me, offering up an extra ticket to the show. Knowing that Josh Freese, the drummer for Devo, used to be the drummer for NIN for about half the time I followed the band around, he thinks I’d be into it. And, of course, I am!

The fun begins as I’m walking up to the venue and pass several members of the band, all led by Josh Freese, on the street. That NEVER happens…..odd that the venue was circled with people waiting to get in and the band they are waiting for just casually walks right by me.

It’s a sold out show, and the crowd is full of San Francisco eccentrics, many who you could tell this was their only show of the year. They were dressed in variations of what I can only assume were homages to the band: coke bottle glasses, crazy jackets, and an array of bizarre hairdos. And of course, the little hats.

The person who took me to the show had mentioned that these were VIP tickets, and as we arrived we got cool little passes and instructions on where to go after the show for the meet and greet for ‘Devo-tees’ as they are called.

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The first thing I saw when the opener, Reggie Watts, took the stage was his hair. And then I heard a bunch of hip hop beats and thought, this is an odd choice for an opener. But this guy was amazing. Beyond his beatbox cover of ‘Whip It’, which would be the only version of the song I heard that night, he closed with a ‘song’ that was the smartest, most hilarious piece of commentary on the state of hip hop that I could ever imagine:

Gets going at about 1:40 mark….worth the wait!

As it gets closer to time for Devo to go on, the crowd gets really antsy and turns unexpectedly pushy. A video for ‘Secret Agent Man’ comes on that reminds me of how the Devo aesthetic freaks me out:

Then the band rolls out in their jumpsuits and the crowd goes wacko. I bail from the middle to my usual side stage corner spot, which is close but has a pretty obstructed view. However, it afforded me the ability to observe two things closely: Freese’s drumming and the crowd up front. People had lost their minds…the temperature in the room shot up seemingly 20 degrees. The band slowly rips apart their jumpsuits and tosses them into the crowd after a few songs. Singer Mark Mothersbaugh paces back and forth across the front of the stage in black socks and knee pads. KNEE PADS! Hahahaha, and they had ‘Mark’ written across the back in sharpie.

It’s hard to not feel like I’ve missed out on something for twenty years by watching this crowd. Case in point: the couple next to me at the barrier. The woman is in a funky little dress, and the guy has on one of the little red hats. They aren’t even watching the band; they are dancing. At times, the girl would lay up over the rail and the guy would just repeatedly spank her to the beat of the music. It was so odd, but kind of endearing, except when they would bump up into me and I felt like I was involuntarily joining some kind of bizarre public menage-a-trois.

The album ‘Are We Not Men? was being played in its entirety. As I’m watching Freese, I’m thinking that it’s so weird that he can transition from NIN to this, as a lot of the drumming was pretty mellow. However, towards the end of the album, things picked up, and his drumming became faster and more ferocious, and I remembered exactly why we called him ‘Josh-Fucking- Freese!’, or JFF for short, throughout the tour.

The show flew by. After finishing the album, they did ‘Gates of Steel’ for the encore. I think many expected them to come back out and do their big hit, but since they are playing all of ‘Freedom of Choice’ tonight to a crowd I would expect to be largely the same, it was understandable.

Devo. I think I get it now.

Youtube finds:

After the show, we were told to remain in the ballroom while the rest of the people filed out. About 75 or so people were involved in the aftershow meet and greet. Basically, the band came out and just mingled with the crowd, which was kind of a disorganized mess if you weren’t proactive about things. Luckily, my ticket person is not shy like me, and knew Josh Freese, so he took me right up to him and introduced me and I got my picture with him!

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I told him how I saw him a lot with NIN, and he talked about how cool it was to be a part of the LITS tour. Then he talked with my friend about his crazy schedule- between Devo, Weezer, and Sting, and three kids, I don’t know how he does it. After mingling some more, I spied another rock star in the room- Robert Trujillo of Metallica! I get a little giddy and explain to my friend who he is, and he just walks up to him and taps him on the back and asks him to take a pic with me. I’m slightly mortified, but also super excited, and Robert is nice enough to turn around a snap this epic pic with me:

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As part of the VIP ticket, we also received these amazing signed posters:

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On the way out, we stopped to say bye to Josh, and he shook my hand and said, ‘nice to meet you, Jamie’. He remembered my name….someone stick this guy on finding the cure for cancer. Seriously.

Special thanks to my friend for the ticket hook up- meeting Josh essentially meant that this year I met almost every NIN member I ever saw play- between the final lineup meet and greets, to Ally, Jeordie, and now Josh. Jerome Dillon and Aaron North, you’re the final pieces of the puzzle!

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