Devo members Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh recalled how their first-ever festival appearance disintegrated into violent scenes and became a “display of de-evolution” as they watched from the stage.
The incident took place at Knebworth in the U.K. in 1978 and fueled the band’s driving conviction that humanity is de-evolving rather than evolving.
In a Q&A published by the Guardian, a fan wrote: “When I saw Devo … supporting Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jefferson Starship and Genesis, docile, stoned hippie types suddenly became enraged and hurled missiles at the stage. Have you come across animosity on that scale since?”
“The difference between U.K. and U.S. electricity cycles meant our effects units made these hideous warbling sounds,” Casale responded. “People started throwing things, but because the stage was so high they were missing us and hitting other people at the front. The crowd started fighting each other. We got to watch a display of de-evolution where it looked like Planet of the Apes.”
“We’d only played small clubs before, so we didn’t even have a crew,” Mothersbaugh recalled. “We set up our gear wearing blue work gear, ran to change into our yellow stage suits to perform, then changed into the blue overalls again to take the equipment down. The band before us ended their set waving a giant Confederate flag, which the crowd loved. Then we came on.” Devo have “faced that scale of animosity since,” Casale noted, explaining that, when they do, they “try to bend it to our advantage.”
In the same interview, another fan asked if the recordings they made with David Bowie will ever be released. “Bowie was supposed to produce Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, but he had a complicated schedule, so locked it on to Brian Eno,” Casale remembered. “But then Bowie showed up in the studio.” Mothersbaugh added that “while we were setting the gear up, people were hanging around. … We all ended up jamming with Bowie and Eno, which was recorded on a two-track tape. Everything gets illuminated at some point, so it will probably come out.”
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