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Day Ten - Devo!

It's a beautiful world

sunny 28 °C
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Day Ten – DEVO at the Citadel

One of the things I hadn’t planned for was a little ole pop/rock band from Akron, Ohio, USA, popping up when I searched for music events during my stay in Berlin. DEVO or what the band says stands for, DEVOLUTION. It was their (little gulp goes here) 50th Anniversary Tour, with their last ever gig to be played at Spandau Castle. This famous (or infamous – depending on when in history you peek back) citadel was home to some prominent citizens. I was surprised when I asked my Airbnb host, Katharina. She hadn’t heard of DEVO but didn’t know where this renowned castle was. There’s this conflict between Berliners and people from Spandau, who historically have separate claims to the city. So when mentioning Spandau to a Berliner, they tend to stop listening – hahaha. I thought it might be this, but then it was the word castle. When I searched for it, it came up Spandau Citadelle, and Katharina knew these two words.

I thought I was going to a famous Castle at night to see a concert. I wouldn’t be able to make the time to visit the museum as that part would be closed – so I arranged to drive there today and survey the place to work out things like where I could park and the general logistics. It was a forty-minute drive across Berlin in daytime traffic. I parked close to the entrance and began my tour of the place. It was set up in the middle of the castle for the DEVO concert part I would attend later, but the outside rooms and attractions were at least open to explore.

Parts of the castle were being repaired, so a lot of scaffolding broke the suspension of being exactly where Rudolph Hess spent most of his war years. The museum carefully dissected the villains from WW2 from the place I didn’t like. You can arguably say that the Nazis don’t deserve a seat at the history table, but they were part of it. A whole floor was dedicated to Bismark, a lovely person in German history, but not a single reference or photo to Herr Hitler. I guess I’m in the camp where you don’t glorify the guy, but you can’t erase him from history books.

I found a WW2 gun rack of interest that contained the weapons my son Rob, and I used playing Hell Let Loose on XBOX. The Kar98 and The Gerwer97 rifles we have shot and killed so many virtual players with. For the period, these rifles were ahead of their time, and despite my imagining, they were the cause of most deaths and destruction; that prize went head and shoulders to the faceless artillery shells that murdered so many. It’s a frightening thought that this place was filled with SS troops who were commandeered to kill civilians during that time using the very rifles I was examining. Happy with my reconnaissance, I returned to Swinemunder Strasser Airbnb for what had become a regular feature of my day to escape the 33-degree heat and humidity: A siesta.

I went shopping for a new shirt and found a shop called “The Dudes’” which is the name of the first band I saw live in Tauranga’s old memorial hall, so it had the synchronicity I was searching for. I was surprised to find the shop closed when I tried the door but then heard it being unlocked for me. A woman with a punk shock of scissor-cut short blonde hair opened the door and welcomed a spy in from the cold. She quickly closed and locked the door behind us, saying in German that we had the place to ourselves, or I had the shop to myself. “We’re not open yet,” the woman continued, her piercing blue eyes smiling at me. What’s next, handcuffs? She said there was a 30% off everything. It had some very cool shirts that said you bought them in Berlin. I tried a couple on, and with the woman’s sales enthusiasm and encouragement, I left wearing a collared shirt that belonged to a DEVO concert.

Growing up in Tauranga in the 1970s, I was fortunate and grateful to be exposed to alternative music. I was raised on a diet of mainly American West Coast Jazz, think Steely Dan and a peppering of classic super rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Pinky Floyd, but it was at school and my friends who introduced me to punk and alternative music. We would have pleasant arguments about the merit of a jazz guitarist versus someone who abused the instrument for mainly stage effect, refused to tune it, and set all the volume and distortion pots to 10+. The music was angry and had a point or sung about something you weren’t supposed to. I’m pretty sure it was Derek Fendley who introduced me to DEVO, and I remember him often singing DEVO's “Mongoloid” loudly as we dawdled between classes, dragging school bags three times bigger than us.

Devo’s version of the Rolling Stones classic “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” was the track that caught my attention, with its broken beat and lyrics all broken up and crazy guitar rhythm solos. "Are We Not Men", the album, became a staple piece of vinyl in our circle, so walking into the final gig of this band, I remembered where it all started and how this band formed part of the soundtrack to my childhood. Music I was introduced to thought was ridiculous, but over time, it gets in and feels good to be able to yell at things.

Okay, so they don’t have a bag search at concerts here in Berlin. They have a no-bag policy. You must check them into a coat locker for 5 euros for each bag! I wish I had known this, as I would have worn cargo pants with pockets up the Bohai! (lots of pockets, kids.)

Another thing that was different at the security checkpoint was you were allowed liquids (water/beer, etc.) in the venue, but… none of the vessels could be closed. It’s counterintuitive, but they made you take ALL the bottle tops off everything and put them in the bin. So I had a water bottle that was now open and could spill. I pitied those who had more than three beers!

I met a man with a red flowerpot on his head and a DEVO shirt. I asked if I could take my photo with him, and he was chuffed by it. He was German and had last seen them play in 1989. Devo changed their look over the years, but for some reason, the electro-pop years, where the whole band wore these red flowerpots on their heads, were the most successful. I liked their era when they all wore masks that made them look like 50s car salespeople. I worked out how to get to the very front section of the stage as the lights lowered, and this beat started to fill the stadium. Then came the sub-bass, which was uber cool. A video circa the 1980s played in the background of their first band manager, before and after shots of how he thought they would never amount to anything (a bit like Malcolm Mclaren with The Sex Pistols.) During this, the band members in silhouette filled the stage. And we we're off!!!

Germans are funny people at concerts. They don’t move much. It’s like they all had their feet cemented to the spot they were standing in. It was no crush, push and shove, and I don’t think anyone there would have ever seen or heard about crowd surfing. I had to dance and move, and it wasn’t long before I had encouraged several foreigners to join in. Devo played all of their songs I could remember, as I ticked them off individually in my head. At the end of the concert, just before their last live music ever, the lead singer announced they were playing their final gig on a Tuesday because it was precisely 50 years ago, to the day, that they recorded their first single here in Berlin. This was closing that 50 years in a time loop, and I was a part of it. In what seemed an unneeded piece of theatre, the lead singer bounced these super bouncy coloured polyurethane balls during their last song, “It’s a beautiful world,” as they flew into the crowd. I looked up, and one of these balls arced towards me in slow motion. The bright stage lights behind it and its slow arc towards my outreached hand. It slapped my palm as my souvenir disappeared into the crowd. I was gutted. Here all I had to do was catch this last piece of DEVO, and I’d screwed it up! I turned on my torch on my phone and began searching for it, as futile as that seemed. I found the glowing world next to another, just as a woman collected both of them and provided one to her partner. I raised my hand and lowered my head, turning off the torch and rueing what could have been when the woman came over to me. “I have come from Melbourne, Australia, to see their last concert –” but she was already gesturing that this world she held was mine. And when someone gives you the world, you grab it with both hands, hold it up to the light, and thank your lucky stars, “It’s a beautiful world.”

End of Day Ten.

Posted by Andy_in_Europe 16:33 Archived in Germany

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