Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Are We Not Van? We Are Devo

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This week we re-wind to 1978 and the first ever Toronto performance by Devo. However, before we go back let me tell you about a bunch of great free live music which is coming soon to my beloved neighbourhood The Beach.

The Balmy Beach Canoe Club

As many of you know I have never strayed from the area for the last, gasp, 56 years. My parents attended Malvern Collegiate, my sister and I attended Malvern Collegiate, my two kids attended Malvern Collegiate. Last week I was at The Balmy Beach Canoe Club to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the BBC Rugby team as my father and uncle were both “originals”. There is a lot of history and tradition in The Beach. Yesterday I was back at “the club” as Lido Chilelli, Bill King and Joey Cee and the team announced the line-up for the 27th International Beaches Jazz Fest.


The massive festival now runs over the course of three weeks and includes shows at Woodbine Park beginning on July 10 and culminates with the massive Streetfest which runs July 24-26 from 7PM – 11PM from Woodbine to street festBeech Avenue all along Queen Street East. The street is closed to traffic and hundreds of thousands of people will enjoy music, food and other vendors in the heart of the Beach. A series of workshops have also been added this year. Some of the performers you might see (all shows are free) include; the Melbourne Ska Orchestra (who everyone is raving about), Lost Fingers, Paul James, George Oliver, Bill King, Dr. Draw and Jerome Godboo. The full schedule can be found at

TheTrewsLater this month Woodbine Park will be hosting the annual Beach BBQ & Brews Fest. Sure there will be lots of great ribs and craft beers but how often do you get to see the likes of The Trews, 54.40 and Big Sugar (playing reggae style) for free? The festival runs June 19-21 with The Trews playing Friday evening, 54.40 on Saturday evening and Big Sugar on Sunday. Three great Canadian bands with far too many hits between them to count. More info can be found at



Devo weren’t quite like all of the other punk and new wave bands in 1978. It was obvious that they came from the art school world and they were as DEVO(2)theatrical as musical. As mentioned in my review they opened their short show with a series of short art films. When we arrived at the show we were each given this cool button which depicted a early sixties little girl (think of the old images from Sunbeam bread) which was one of those flash badges they had two images which altered. She was juggling Devo balloons. Being the hoarder that I am I still have it.

Just prior to the band coming on stage I was coming back to my seat from the rather awful upstairs bathroom when a guy slammed into me and soaked me in beer. I sarcastically said “excuse me” and was promptly ignored. I turned and yelled it again and he turned around to angrily confront me. Before things could escalate I believe it was legendary Warner Brothers artist relations man Roger Desjardins who intervened and got me back to my seat. Confused, but as a guest van-morrison-thenof the label, I did what I was told. As a drink ticket was given to me it was explained that the person who ran into me was a guest of the label and a bit of a VIP and Roger apologized on his behalf. The VIP was Van Morrison who would perform at the O’Keefe Centre the next evening. Took me decades to finally appreciate his music.

Progressively Regressive – A Look At De-Evolution (December 1978) 

“Devo is, quite inexplicably, the most exciting and innovative band in music today. Their stage show is bizarre, their album sounds like Sixties rock played through a toaster, and their concept of ‘de-evolution’ is nothing short of ludicrous. Somehow, because of or in spite of all of this, Devo is a captivating act.

The five-piece progressive/regressive band hails from beautiful downtown Akron and consists of members MarkMothersbaugh, vocals/guitars/keyboards, Bob Mothersbaugh, guitars/vocals, Bob Casale, guitar/vocals, JerryCasale, bass/vocals, and Alan Myers, drums/vocals.

are we not men

Recently Devo went on tour to promote their first album, ‘Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo!’, and this brought them to the El Mocambo for one night. As soon as tickets sales we announced the show sold out completely. After showing three Devo films the band bounded onto the stage wearing their now famous yellow jumpsuits and wrap-around glasses, and later when they played their theme song ‘Jocko Homo’, they stripped off their jumpsuits to reveal black shorts, black Devo tee-shirts, and roller derby knee and elbow pads.

The live performance was so intense that it was impossible to turn one’s head away. The theatrics never let up and the vocals of Mark Mothersbaugh, alias Booji Boy (son of General Boy) seemed to hit a vein. There is a total lack of emotion in their music. They seem to dare you to get involved. ‘Are we not men? Are we not men? We are Devo! We are Devo!’ 

Their new album is a collection of songs which comment on society. ‘Praying Hands’ questions religion; ‘Space Junk’ wonders what will happen when everything we send up into space decides to come back down. ‘Mongoloid’ looks at a mongoloid who manages to be successful because no one realizes what he is. ‘Jocko Homo’ states the truth behind the concept of ‘de-evolution’. The only non-original song on the record is the Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’. It sounds like something the Stones might have done, had they been straight.

Like it or not, Devo is the only band to emerge in 1978 that it totally unique. They are going to make it and I have no idea why, nor do I care why, I just want to see it happen.”

I just found the set list for the show which was as follows:

  1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  2. Too Much Paranoias
  3. Praying Hands
  4. Uncontrollable Urge
  5. Mongoloid
  6. Jocko Homo
  7. Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
  8. Sloppy (I Saw Baby Gettin’)
  9. Come Back Jonee

 (Editor’s Note: No Devo article is complete without this….)


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Come have a pint and listen to me spin the songs you want to hear at The Kensington Lodge every Wednesday beginning at 6 PM.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, and New Canadian Music.

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