By Dave Pehling

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Now in it’s ninth year, the annual Burger Boogaloo festival brings a host of great bands to Oakland’s Mosswood Park on the last weekend of June for two full days of unhinged punk mayhem once again hosted by iconic film director John Waters. Co-produced by SoCal imprint Burger Records and Bay Area rock promoters Total Trash Productions, Burger Boogaloo presents another whopper of a line-up with headlining performances by subversive Akron synth-rockers Devo and UK punk pioneers The Damned.

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Spearheaded by main organizer and Total Trash honcho Marcos Ribak, the Boogaloo has established itself as one of the premiere underground rock festivals in the country on par with Goner Records’ yearly Gonerfest and the Boogaloo’s Southern California counterpart, Burgerama. While the music being played on the two stages (the main stage and the smaller Mosswood Amphitheater stage) is central to the two-day event, Burger Boogaloo also features vendors selling records, clothes and guitar gear in addition to an array of food options. This year, the festival expands on its programming, screening Waters’ underground breakthrough film Pink Flamingos at the Roxie in San Francisco at a Thursday pre-party in addition to a variety of club shows before and during the Boogaloo at the Starline Social Club, the Octopus Literary Salon, Eli’s Mile High Club and a Saturday night dance party at the Uptown with renowned NYC DJ Jonathan Toubin..

For the fourth year running, Burger Boogaloo is bringing its marque host with pencil-mustached director and revered trash-culture expert John Waters serving as MC. Expelled from NYU where he was studying film in the 1960s, Waters rose to notoriety thanks to his string of ’70s campy midnight movies including Pink FlamingosFemale Trouble and Desperate Living. Making up what the director termed his “Trash Trilogy,” the films shredded the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship with outrageous dialog and action as well as establishing drag queen Divine (Waters’ friend from his Baltimore, Maryland childhood and muse, Harris Glenn Milstead) as an actor and cult figure.

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Waters would eventually go on to more mainstream success with his later films like Hairspray (which inspired the Broadway musical and movie adaptation), the Johnny Depp film Cry-Baby and the scathing satire Serial Mom, but he has remained an icon of trash culture between his b-movie appearances, books and This Filthy World is a one-man stage show exploring his artistic origins. More recently, Waters has explored visual arts with mixed media and manipulated photo exhibits that by his own admission aim to inspire disgust with the viewer. The past three years, Waters has delivered no shortage of off-color commentary during hilarious and knowledgeable band introductions from the stage. His return as host should be no less entertaining.

The line-up for the opening day of this year’s explosion of garage rock and punk is topped by one of the most inflammatory bands to every make the Top 40, Akron-based agitators Devo. Initially more of a satirical art concept about the “de-evolution” of mankind during the ’60s developed by Kent State art students Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis, the idea took a more serious turn after the 1970 shootings of four students by National guardsmen during a protest (Casale lost two friends in the tragedy). The pair met talented keyboard player Mark Mothersbaugh and started writing songs with an early version of Devo making it’s live debut at a campus performing arts festival in 1973.

The group refined its message, theatrical onstage presentation with masks and costumes and fractured take on rock over the next few years with a fluid membership that included siblings of Casale and Mothersbaugh while Devo also continued to explore experimental film. The short The Complete Truth About De-Evolution won a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival would later be hailed as one of the earliest conceptual music videos ever made.

Notoriety from the film attracted the interest of musical chameleon David Bowie and his friend (and last year’s Boogaloo headliner) Iggy Pop, eventually leading to a contract with Warner Bros. Records. Brian Eno produced the band’s groundbreaking 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! that — when not warping the Rolling Stones hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” — matched angular synth melodies and jagged guitars with nervy, paranoid lyrics and punk energy that prefigured the new wave explosion of the ’80s.

The band quickly moved from being a cult act playing punk clubs on both coasts to far more mainstream media outlets, shocking viewers with their surreal 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live. While their sophomore effort Duty Now and For the Future didn’t make major inroads with its early embrace of mutant synth-pop, 1980’s Freedom of Choice scored the band it’s first chart single with “Whip It,” which became a radio and MTV hit and propelled the band into arenas.

Devo would never match that commercial success, though subsequent efforts like New Traditionalists and Oh No! It’s Devo showed flashes of brilliance and continued to expand the band’s cult audience before the diminishing returns of 1984’s Shout led to a hiatus. Devo was dropped by Warner Bros. and continued to struggle until two equally dismal efforts on new label Enigma Records led the band to split up in 1991.

While members would embark on successful careers during the decade — Mothersbaugh became a hugely successful soundtrack composer and Casale got into making music videos — Devo eventually reunited to play some dates on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour and has embarked on periodic tours ever since, including full-album performances of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice and a series of 2014 dates that focused on the band’s formative material. The group is preparing to release a unique 2-in-1 book DEVO: The Brand / DEVO: Unmasked that tells their story in their own words. For this set at Burger Boogaloo and Devo’s first live appearance in several years, the band is reportedly being joined by actor/comedian Fred Armisen (SNL and Portlandia) on drums.

The rest of Burger Boogaloo’s opening day will feature a variety of killer garage and punk outfits, ranging from potent Memphis-based all-female punks Nots, local trash-rock favorites Okmoniks, LA surf-punk crew Flytraps and beloved former SF resident Seth Bogart and his Hunx and his Punx to later highlights including corrosive Michigan garage-punk vets The Spits, Seattle’s iconic Sub Pop survivors Mudhoney, garage hero Ty Segall’s reunited early surf-punk band Traditional Fools and SF’s legendary ’90s trash-punk revivalists and perennial Boogaloo act The Mummies. DJs Big Nate, Aya Papaya and Fifi spin tunes between acts.

Burger Boogaloo 2018 schedule (Burgerboogaloo.com)

Sunday’s roster of bands is topped by pioneering UK punk outfit The Damned. The Sex Pistols may have gotten more headlines thanks to the publicity-savvy machinations of manager Malcolm McLaren, but British contemporaries The Damned were actually the first UK punk band to issue both a single and a full-length record and the first to tour the United States.

Formed by guitarist Brian James (who had played in proto-punk outfit London SS) and drummer Rat Scabies (aka Chris Millar), the initial line-up of the band was filled out by singer Dave Vanian (born David Letts), and then bassist Captain Sensible (aka Raymond Burns). The quartet played its first show supporting the Pistols at the legendary 100 Club in July of 1976, but beat the band into record stores with the October release of their debut single on Stiff Records of their classic anthem “New Rose.”

The Damned would join the Sex Pistols along with the Clash and former New York Doll Johnny Thunders and his band the Heartbreakers on the notorious “Anarchy Tour of the UK” in December of 1976 that found a majority of the dates canceled by promoters or authorities. The Damned issued their proper debut album Damned Damned Damned in February of 1977.

Produced by pub rock veteran Nick Lowe, the album featured a raw set of blistering future punk classics like “Neat Neat Neat,” “Born to Kill” and “Messed Up.” The band’s maiden voyage to the U.S. that spring was marked by a tendency to ramp up the already fast tempos, a move that’s credited for inspiring early bands of the West Coast hardcore punk scene.

The band’s follow-up effort Music For Pleasure found the band making the unusual choice of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason as producer after mentally fractured Floyd founder Syd Barrett was unavailable. Though now considered another classic, at the time it was dismissed by critics and fans. Already at odds with each other during the tracking of the album, the failure of Music For Pleasure got the Damned dropped by Stiff Records and group split up for the first time shortly thereafter.

The individual members would delve into other projects before eventually reforming without James, initially with Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister temporarily filling in for performances under the monikers Les Punks and the Doomed after Sensible switched to guitar before scoring a new deal with Chiswick to record as the Damned. The band rebounded with the garage-rock infused gem Machine Gun Etiquette in late 1979 featuring the hit singles and future classics “Love Song,” “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” and “Smash It Up.”

The band would go on to record a string of influential ’80s albums, branching out into early gothic punk on the ambitious 1980 effort The Black Album (featuring the epic 17-minute track “Curtain Call”) and delving into a mix of goth rock and punk psychedelia with subsequent classics Strawberries (Captain Sensible’s last effort prior to an extended departure for his own successful solo career) and Phantasmagoria.

The band split up again in 1988 after a farewell concert, but it didn’t take long for Vanian and Scabies to reunite and tour with new recruits the following decade, with Captain Sensible returning to the fold in 1996. While the Damned have only issued a handful of studio albums in the past two decades, the group has toured regularly and remains a fixture of punk festivals on both sides of the Atlantic.

More recently, the outfit was the subject of the raucous 2016 documentary by director Wes Orshoski entitled The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead that explored the band’s early roots and took a closer look at the bond that has kept Vanian and Sensible on the road four decades later. Last year found the Damned celebrating its 40th anniversary with an extensive tour and completing their first new studio album in a decade after an online crowd-funding campaign.

Recorded with legendary producer Tony Visconti — who worked with David Bowie, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy to name but a few — as Strawberries-era bassist Paul Gray, Evil Spirits was released on Search and Destroy/Spinefarm records this past spring to wide acclaim, with some critics calling it the band’s best effort since the ’80s.

The rest of the Sunday line-up spotlights a wide array of international talent including rare performances from a pair of long-dormant Oakland outfits — chaotic rockers Battleship and noted songwriter/producer Greg Ashley’s reunited psych band The Gris Gris — Atlanta-based gutter-rock minimalists Subsonics, the first ever U.S. appearance by former members of Teengenerate and Japanese garage-punk vets Firestarter, sleazy New Orleans duo Quintron and Miss Pussycat, guitarist Greg Lowrey’s reunited SF thug punk crew The Rip-Offs, and the one-two punch of Long Beach electro-punk band Le Shok and Italian glam-rock greats Guida leading up to the Damned.  On Sunday, between band musical selections will be provided by concert promoter/garage-rock aficionado Sid S. Presley and Popscene DJ Omar Perez.

For tickets and additional information on Burger Boogaloo and the numerous affiliated night shows the festival is putting on during this exhausting garage-punk marathon weekend, visit the festival’s official website.

Burger Boogaloo 2018
Saturday and Sunday, June 30-July 1, 12 p.m. $99-$269
Mosswood Park