Mark Mothersbaugh Covers Ramones and Rolling Stones, Talks '21 Jump Street' Sequel at Intimate Palm Springs Gig (Video)

Playing lounge singer for a night, the Devo frontman and movie composer talked influences, the basics of scoring and the marvels of Auto-Tune at Ace Hotel's Amigo Room bar.
Shirley Halperin

Devo frontman-turned-movie scorer extraordinaire Mark Mothersbaugh treated a select group of friends and fans to an intimate lounge gig at Palm Springs' Ace Hotel on Monday night.

Billed as an evening of "stream-of-consciousness improvisational lounge muzik," the 61-year-old who composed original music for such films as The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore got his freak on at the hip hotel's Amigo Room bar. He nestled himself and his trusty Eminent Solina and Kimball-Elka organs among a shrine-like structure of multicolored Christmas lights, swirling silenced sirens, a disco ball and plastic yellow swim rings bearing the name of his company, Mutato Muzika

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A crowd of no more than 50 -- including Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen, who's appearing at the hotel bar on April 17 with Portlandia co-star Carrie Brownstein -- watched as Mothersbaugh distorted his voice with Auto-Tune (he marveled how it makes anything sound current) and presented several covers including Prince's "Purple Rain," The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," The Doors' "Light My Fire" and The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," which he called "the best rock song ever written." 

Although he had no set list, Mothersbaugh announced in the invitation that the droning, robotic sounds he would put forth were in part a throwback to his epic six-disc set released in 2005 and entitled The Most Powerful Healing Muzik in the Entire World. "Unlike that album," he wrote, "this performance will incorporate electronics and drugs unavailable to artists of early lounge eras."  

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In between songs, Mothersbaugh bantered about all manner of pop culture, from the late Whitney Houston (she "really f---ed up pop music," he declared) to suffering through Dancing With the Stars, which his daughter loves and insists on watching through to the end before Dad can put her to bed. He also mentioned Devo's most recent deal with Warner Bros. Records ("That was the stupidest thing -- signing with a record label") and a tour with Ben Folds, which he described as "hideous." 

There were lighter moments, too, like when he recalled touring with The Ramones in the 1970s ("They ate pizza after every show") and credited the punk band for inspiring Devo to "speed up a lot of the stuff we were playing," as well as a moment when he slammed his elbows on the organ keys and said he was "giving away lots of secrets on how you score a Hollywood movie." Indeed, he also spoke of a sequel to 21 Jump Street, which, as of April 15, had racked up $120.6 million at the domestic box office. Mothersbaugh scored the film starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and in introducing organ-interpreted pieces of that music, reminded the post-Coachella crowd of "that typical Hollywood thing where they set it up for when they go to college." 

Mothersbaugh acknowledged the weirdness of his performance several times throughout the two-hour show, joking that Devo was "normal" by comparison. Not that anyone was complaining -- his fans waved their freak flag high and ate up every out-there minute.

Watch a snippet of Mothersbaugh performing "I Wanna Be Sedated" in the video below:

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin