"Our parents never took us to the fair," explained Jerry Casale, founding bassist for Akron art-punk legends Devo, who will play the Ohio State Fair's Celeste Center on Wednesday with special guests Ra Ra Riot.
"And then we never ourselves as adults went to the fair," Casale continued. "We thought we'd be unwelcome. Ohio got pretty hardcore to the right during our formative days. All you would think about in Columbus is getting the s--- kicked out of you when you had long hair."
These days, Casale is less worried about the consequences of being weird, progressive or leftist at the fair.
"It's just part of this new kind of amorphous pop culture time when people mix and match decades," he said. "They do it in advertising. They do it in film. Now they do it in music, and we seem strangely contemporary."
Devo certainly casts a long shadow today. Formed in Akron in 1972, the band was always an oddity despite being lumped in with the New Wave movement of the late '70s and early '80s. They embraced multimedia communication, twisted convention (check their neurotic cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction") and contributed iconic images like the red "energy dome" hats from the "Whip It!" video.
Hundreds of bands from LCD Soundsystem to Ex Models to The Kills owe a debt to Devo, and "Something For Everybody," their first album in 20 years, sounds downright contemporary without significantly updating their signature sound.
But Casale feels more validated by what he sees as the fulfillment of the band's central "devolution" concept - humans will get progressively dumber and greedier until we destroy each other.
"We're no longer preaching about devolution as a theory," Casale said. "There's no need to even bring it up because it's real and everybody agrees."
Rattling off a disenchanted spiel about the BP oil spill, contaminated food, climate change, 9/11 and "Sex and the City 2," Casale said there's no longer anything revolutionary about the idea that humanity is completely screwed.
"Now we're just the house band on the Titanic," he said. "Everybody will clap and laugh. We're right in there with them."