I got two turntables and a microphone...

After a great day at Paramount's Great America (I've now done all the rides there except for the High Flier one where you're suspended on a long rope, pulled high up and let go, and you swing back and forth), I ended up catching Devo and Beck at the Old FMC Defense Factory in San Jose, CA. The event was a high-tech party dubbed Silicon Planet (sponsored in part by Microsoft), but the music was what I was interested in and the sole reason I went (I consider the computer industry to be fifteen years behind the computing science field and don't think much of it in general).

I once accused Beck of being a Ween rip-off. I think my comment was justified then; this was at a time when Beck was experimenting with 4-track effects such as pitch-shifting, vocal processing, and in general maintaining a more lo-fi aesthetic than he currently does. After seeing him in concert, I would be well-justified in saying he's a Prince rip-off. But neither of those statements would be doing Beck justice. Back when Ween released God Ween Satan and Pod, Beck, in my view, was still growing. By the time Ween finished Pure Guava and Chocolate and Cheese, Beck had far outstripped them in his musical growth. In fact, Beck's musical advance has been tremendous and he is one of the few people I can say is doing really interesting things with music today.

Referred to as the Bob Dylan of the 90s, Beck has become an entertainer that is almost a self-parody (only he knows how far he can go before he comes a caricature of himself). He opened with his radio hit Loser and went to play songs like New Pollution, Hot Wax, Novacane, Jack-Ass, and for the encore, Where It's At and Devil's Haircut. One new song he played Tropicalia is from his upcoming album Mutations. He also played music that may appear in a future album which included Let the Doctor Rock You and and Jockin' My Mercedes. The artist formerly known as Beck Hansen did a classic Prince parody with his falsetto in a couple of the songs, and walked off the stage all emotional, bringing memories of the Purple One. He also covered the 80s hit Electric Factory by Eddy Grant.

Beck constantly referred to the audience as "cyber people" which made me cringe each time he did it (maybe that was his intention). Other than that, there wasn't much interaction with the audience who were preoccupied with the other distractions at the venue. David Spade, who was the MC, didn't do much to help things either in-between the sets and songs. We missed his shtick as we arrived just in time for Devo, but he apparently wasn't received very well.

Devo opened and played hits such as Whip It, Satisfaction (the Devo version), Mongoloid, Jocko Homo (to which the crowd gladly chanted along "We are Devo!"), Girl U Want, and Gates of Steel. They were tight, and used all the instruments they must've used way back in the 70s and 80s when they were more popular, and brought back great memories.

The Old FMC Defense Factory is a decent venue, like a huge warehouse, and the acoustics were okay. The crowd in the front was a mix of young and old people who had mostly come to see Devo and Beck, and were more into crowd surfing and moshing than the people wearing the three-piece suits and fancy dresses. It was an interesting clash, to say the least.

I should mention that one of the highlights of Beck's set was when the DJ did a solo segment, where he eked out introductions to Everybody Dance Now and Smoke on the Water purely by pitch-shifting the records on the turntables, showing us exactly where it's at!

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org || October 10, 1998