You can expect to see red dome hats and yellow jumpsuits in Northeast Ohio this weekend. Fans of the iconic Akron new wave band DEVO have their annual convention at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom.
For this week’s Shuffle, DEVO superfan Michael Pilmer talks about the 'DEVOtional' fan convention that he co-founded 17 years ago.
A Stow native, Pilmer, who runs a website under the moniker "DEVO Obsesso," discovered the band in 1980 with the hit song "Whip It."
"They were the first band I ever heard that ... warned me about trusting authority and religion all these things that I had been wondering about as a kid."
While living in North Carolina, he tried to connect with old friends in Ohio. On a whim, he decided to see if any of the members of DEVO were in an Akron phone book. He reached Bob Casale's dad, who gave him Casale's number in California.
"I talked to his wife and left a message. Weeks passed; [Casale] got back to me. I mentioned to him my girlfriend and I were coming to L.A. and they said, 'Come stay here; we have a guest room.'"
Pilmer met the rest of the band and eventually started printing their T-shirts.
"I started working for them for free as a hobby and then I convinced them to start paying me to do stuff for them, and that's been going on since 2002." Now, he's the band's archivist.
Pilmer started the first DEVO fan convention in the year 2000 with an online friend. It was held at Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom, where it's been every year since.
"This was before social media; we were part of the early internet gatherings of DEVO fans. We decided it would be great to meet face-to-face somewhere. We asked the band what they thought we should call it and then secured a venue."
Each year, they'd add more DEVO cover bands and book a special guest from the band, like General Boy, a character played by Mark Mothersbaugh's dad. And, fans dress up too.
"Some of them try to wear the rarest DEVO shirt," Pilmer says.
What's DEVO's staying power?
"I think DEVO appealed to people who didn't quite fit in and were ostracized from their social groups growing up. And here's this band that is saying and doing things you never heard anybody else say or do, but you've been thinking about," Pilmer says.
Now, band members fly in for the convention every year.
"They understand the passion these people have. It's going to be really bizarre. People should expect a good time and a weird time and a time they'll never forget," Pilmer says.
This year, the festivities expand to Akron, where a DEVO-themed 5K race is being held on Sunday.