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Letter from Akron: Devo, Chrissie Hynde and Black Keys Performing Tonight for Obama

Letter from Akron: Devo, Chrissie Hynde and Black Keys Performing Tonight for Obama

You can't spit in Akron without hearing something about the upcoming presidential election. Everybody's got an opinion, though you have to be careful what you say where. For example, this morning on one of those insipid local morning TV shows that are the scourge of most little media markets, Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale of Devo were interviewed by some handsome dweeb, but were expressly asked beforehand not to discuss politics (which they abided by, unfortunately). So between segments on cupcakes and pet adoption, the two Devo founders were asked about (what else?) their red energy dome hats.

The reason: the band is in town to perform a fundraiser for the Summit County Democratic Party tonight, and the station doesn't want to alienate any of its viewers with pro-Obama propaganda. Such is life in a swing state, where discussion inevitably turns to politics. My cab driver was so sick of it all that he's decided not to vote -- though he's leaning toward not voting for Obama. (He says that the Palin nomination was an insult.) Another lady at the airport awaiting her luggage was also pretty exasperated by both candidates: "They've been to the state so many times, what else is there to say?" she wondered. "And we've already voted, so it doesn't matter if they change our minds anymore." She voted by mail for McCain.

The television in Ohio is on a 24-hour campaign cycle; there are more minutes of political ads than there are actual shows, and the nasty tone makes watching the tube a pretty depressing affair. Not any more depressing than downtown Akron, which seems to have been hit very hard by the economy; the lines for the bus are very long, half of Main Street is shuttered and the other half seems on the verge of foreclosure.

It's this reality that has drawn LA-based Devo to perform in their hometown for the first time since 1977, and Akron's proud sons are the toast of the town, and will be sharing the stage tonight with two other acts that have sprung from this rust-belt city: the Black Keys and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, the latter of whom was added to the bill a few days ago. (She has an apartment in Akron, and recently opened a vegan restaurant.) It's a big night for Akron, and a big night for the Democratic Party. Governor Ted Strickland will be here, as will various party officials. I'll keep you updated on the evening's activities.