Sunday, May 26, 2013

DEVO, The Damned, the Weirdos - Punk Rock Bowling, Las Vegas, May 25, 2013

I'm not a big fan of large, outdoor music festivals, but Melanie's birthday is coming up and she wanted to celebrate at PRB, so we made it out to this gig together. We were not up for spending the entire day here, so sorry to the opening bands, but showed up about an hour before the Weirdos were scheduled, which was good as the line to get in was so long that we got in just as they were starting! This was more than a little annoying and could have been better organized (there were only two lines going in - there easily could have been more), but once you got in, there was a good amount of room - even though it was sold out, you were not packed in like sardines - lots of port-a-potties and plenty of vendors for food, drinks and merch.

Neither of us had ever seen the Weirdos, even though I had heard and read about them even before I moved to LA, but for some reason never got to any of their gigs. They sounded damn good this night - a huge shout out to the sound man for a great job all night long and for not succumbing to the lead-bass-drum syndrome that plagues so many modern PA wranglers - although visually they were not very interesting. The guitarist did try, with an early punk-inspired outfit, though he - and the rest of the group - barely moved and the singer was dressed like a hip-hop dude. But, if you closed your eyes, they plowed through "Life of Crime" (as the opener), their Love cover, "7 & 7 Is", a Link Wray tune, "Neutron Bomb" (oddly placed in the middle of the set) and then a few songs that we were not familiar with, including the somewhat anti-climatic closer. Still, a solid outing.

The Damned has probably had a different line-up every time that I've seen them and I don't know who the rhythm section currently is, but Dave Vanian is singing (of course - and is as stylish as ever) and Captain Sensible is on guitar (also cool in his beret and striped shirt), so I guess that's all you really need! They did have a fairly unnecessary - and very spastic - keyboardist who looked a bit like Mark "The Animal" Mendoza in his Dictators days and did more bouncing around as comedy relief than actual playing. But, this simply added to the visual mayhem on stage. The band looked and sounded terrific as they tore up a greatest hits set - "Love Song", "Second Time Around", "Neat Neat Neat", "Plan 9", "Help!" (that was a surprise!), "Fan Club", "Born to Kill", "New Rose" (the best response of the night), "Anti Pope", "Stretcher Case Baby", "Ignite" (which got the people chanting along) and the superb closer "Smash It Up"! "Noise Noise Noise" would have been nice, but that's nit-picking. All-in-all, about as good as you could ask for in a Damned set - the group was supremely tight and talented and truly a fun time!

Devo is another group that neither of us had ever gotten to see, so we used this chance to rectify that. From their beginnings in the 70's they meshed art and visuals with music and they are continuing to do that to this day, on a much bigger scale. The entire backdrop was a huge video screen which was synced up exactly to what they were playing live, which was pretty impressive, and helped to hide their advancing age! They also went through several costume changes, showing off the different outfits from different eras and generally "de-evolving" from their more modern tracks (which they opened with) to earlier numbers - what we really wanted to see - such as "Jocko Homo", "Smart Patrol", "Freedom of Choice", "Gates of Steel" and their biggest hit, "Whip It". Boogie Boy made an appearance for the final number, a long version of "Beautiful World", which was actually a bit too lengthy and not rockin' enough to keep the audience, who thinned out before they concluded. Overall, fantastic visually, but we would have preferred a somewhat different set list.

Thankfully, leaving the site was much easier and convenient (they opened other exits) than getting in, so, other than a ridiculous entrance line, this was run pretty well. For me, this was the only night of interest - we'll see if the organizers can come up with good acts next year to spur more audience growth.

Again, my cell phone camera photos are kinda shite, but it gives you an idea of the feel of the show.