From the first moments of Devolution and theory being tested at it’s roots we’ve known that the message of Devo is real. As a message may be real, so too may be it’s mortality. A life long lesson for many about equality among those of us who are unequal, a message of balance amidst a state of imbalance – simple musical riches to triumph over it’s mass produced involuntary second cousin. Devo has given us more than music in our days together; the connection between fans and musicians alike has offered a connection to foster and encourage diversity between society. Through the early years and until recent tours, the message has never been so strong; it’s foundations rooted solidly between a cornerstone of punk and upper level burgeoning electronic synthetic sampling that forged today’s premiere entertainment acts with the deft hand of a weathered blacksmith.
Today, February 18, 2014 an integral lifeblood component of the synthetic formula of Devo completed his journey and transitioned as we would expect in a final salute of Devolution. Bob Casale, pioneering Devo guitarist and keyboardist often known by his stage monachre of “Bob 2” was silenced unexpectedly. In an official statement as released by his brother Gerald Casale today:
“As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.”
Gerald Casale, Devo founder.
As I went about my normal daily activities I saw the headline. . .to say I was speechless was an understatement and my instant thoughts were of early days learning of Devo and the importance of them in the 1980’s music scene. Devo was first introduced to me by my older brother Mike, as kids our parents would buy us sketchpads to draw in and draw we did. My brother Mike used to draw rock concerts on stage, I was much more interested in pirates, sharks and boats. I remember how detailed his drawings were, his drummer at the kit, the bass and guitarist on either wing and the singer leaned back in what I later found to be a Joey Ramone inspired pose. The more I paid attention to Mike’s drawings, there was one piece that ran as a common thread between each drawing – The Devo Energy Dome. Each band member always wore an energy dome and this was my first introduction to Devo and after a long explanation and description from my brother, I began my own personal journey toward Devolution. From that moment forward there were many Devo influenced moments to follow for the coming 35 years ahead.
Perhaps the most iconic experience came in 2011 when I submitted a request to photograph Devo in a long anticipated concert with local Vancouver heroes the Pointed Sticks. The importance of this venue was epic as both bands had not played for close to 20 years. As I drove all night to reach the Vancouver skyline and the cool coastal breeze, I was transported back to my childhood and realized I would soon be living and realizing a lifelong milestone of my childhood. As I reached the venue, I recieved my media pass and was oddly enough chatting with Mr. Chi Pig outside the venue, adorned in his pig ears, kilt and black and white candy cane tight leggings and traditional leather coat we chatted beneath the glittery entrance marquis on Granville, St. Toward the end of the conversation I spotted the members of Devo crossing Granville as a group. Gerald and Bob laughing and carrying on, Mark quietly following behind in a black hoodie, his trademark titanium introverted frames peering out amongst the rainspots; Bob Mothersbaugh and Josh Freese bringing up the rear. As they reached the door as a group I opened the door – Mark, Gerald, Bob 1, Bob 2 and Josh. As I made my way in Bob found out I was the photographer, he said “make sure you get my good side”. With a few more moments of scheduled ancitipatory tension, the show was underway in their newly crafted grey phantom masks and silver space insulated suits, as the evening progressed and in the true spirit of Devolution, we all regressed back to what seemed a comforting 1980. In their yellow Tyvex suits they thrashed about and as Bob 1 introducted the inverted hybrid stratocaster that made it all possible, it’s beaten painted green body jerking to and fro – it all seemed right but inexcusibly like all good things they must end. As the show ended I was handed a Bob 2 guitar pick, his setlist and amidst the fray of “I can’t get no satisfaction” the sleeve from his yellow suit. As the evening ended, the sweating, heaving mass of fans dispersing I saw his grey phantom mask next to his stage mark, as he came back on stage for a quick wave; I smiled in appreciative acknowledgement, he handed it to me with a silent smile and a wink. Thank you Bob 2.
What does the passing of Bob 2 mean for Devo ? the answer to this question is not certain. This is not the first loss for the band and as with all fans we encourage those who bring so much joy to us to soldier ahead in the face of adversity; with that, we must temper our enthusiasm and understand that this is wound not soon to be healed. The healing process requires the reciprocated love and compassion of the fans, which Devo has drawn upon in years past to build the music we have all grown to love.
From this lesson moving forward and as we lose those among us who matter most in our hearts, we must remember not the moment of their passing, but rather the moments leading to that time. Much the same as the moments culminating in that event are celebratory and memorializing that individual; so too is the moment of their passing. It is an opportunity to be thankful for our time together and what it has given. Death is not the end it is merely an opportunity to explore “a different song” – we cannot limit ourselves to listening to the same music at infinitum, this is against the formula of what has been taught and what was the driving force behind Devo. Life is meant to be lived, we are meant to expire, we are meant to explore and we are Devo.