ATN managing editor Aimee Spanier left her cell
at the ATN
office for the first time in several years to attend the Presidents of the
United States of America show at The Edge in Palo Alto, CA the other night
(Mon., Feb. 19). Here is her report: Palo Alto, home of Stanford
always makes me nervous. As the product of California's public school system
(kindergarten through college, thank you), I always feel a bit inadequate in
this town built on the 4.9- bazillion GPAs of Stanford's student body. As a
Patriotic American, however, I felt it necessary to spend Presidents' Day (you
know, the Monday everything closes down to celebrate the birthdays of a couple
of Founding Fathers, neither of which was actually born on that day, but that's
not important now) honoring our nation's leaders: The Presidents of the United
States of America.
Not having a vehicle of my own (save for a pair of
hardly-used fluorescent-wheeled roller-skates), however, I dragged along my
car-wielding ex-boyfriend, Jason, as if driven to make this the most
uncomfortable experience possible. His Samurai--"a good car if you don't have
to drive it"--is apparently without shock absorbers, making the trek to Palo
Alto from Santa Cruz over earthquake-buckled highways louder and bouncier than
Charo. But that's not important now. I mean really, is this a review or a
What is important now is that the Presidents--or "PUSA,"
their slightly vulgar acronym--opened their all-ages show at The Edge with an
extended version of the MC5's manic anthem "Kick Out the Jams," immediately
distinguishing themselves from other presidents (you know, the ones that hang
in Washington) by promising a fast-paced, fun show, and actually delivering on
Chris Ballew's rubber-faced expressions and gangly-limbed
antics were enough to renew the hopes of parents everywhere that their
hyperactive children can use their excess energy for the forces of good.
Meanwhile, this being an all-ages show, there were plenty of parents in
attendance to witness this first hand.
There are good and bad aspects to
Good: Teeny-boppers are really impressed with
reporters (I was asked three times if I was a reviewer, and each time got the
same response: "Cool!"); there were plenty of parents around to keep me from
feeling too old (tragically, some of the unsuspecting Moms and Pops followed
their offspring into the pit, only to emerge--according to Jason, who braved
the writhing mass of pre-teens himself--glassy-eyed and in shock, clutching
little Billy and vowing never to let him out of their sight again.); and very
few people tried to bum a cigarette off of me.
Bad: When asked who I wrote
for, my answer was met with a blank stare and/or "Who?" (apparently the
grownups have blocked ATN from their children's computers. Must be 'cause of
the Coop Gallery); there were plenty of 15-year-olds making out nearby, making
me feel really old (and kind of ooky); and lots of people tried to get me to
buy them beer.
But no matter. The Presidents cranked through the best songs
from their self-titled album--"Kitty," "Back Porch," "Body," "Boll
Weevil,"--with a minimum of annoying chatty dialogue to get in the way. A
momentary pang of fear shot through the crowd when, after an hour and a half,
the Presidents still hadn't played current MTV favorite "Peaches." The Ninjas
in the pit (really, there were two of them) looked especially dejected at
having missed their opportunity to reenact the video. Lest their voters be
disappointed, they ended the set with their tribute to Nature's Candy (the true
meaning of which--peaches or, um, female genitalia-- gave my chauffeur and I
something relatively safe to argue about).
PUSA (eeewww...I really hate
that acronym) sound just a little rawer live than on tape. Onstage, they allow
themselves to edge a little closer to their funk and country influences.
Ballew's vocals on "Dune Buggy" became twangier; Jason Finn's drums and Dave
Dederer's guitar got a bit groovier on "Body"; they sounded just like the
Presidents, only more so.
The set included some new songs--"Lunatic," which
ran from mellow to manic and back again all within three minutes, a signature
Presidents' habit; "Bug City," a simple tune about a dancing beetle; and, my
favorite, "Puffy Little Shoes," with the catchy sing-along chorus
"Sho-o-o-o-o-o-o-oes!" encompasses all I love about the Presidents.
opening band--I can't recall their name, so let's call them "The Pudgy
Pharmacists," in deference to their white-medical-coat costumes and
considerable girths--were tolerable. The Spandau Ballet-influence was painfully
obvious (they didn't actually play "True" or "Gold" or any other single-word SB
hits, but it felt as if they might at any minute), and they weren't
bad, really. They just seemed unnecessary. The horn section (a trumpet),
headed by Quentin Tarantino's long-lost twin brother, was actually pretty good.
I, however, panicked mid-set, escaping for the ladies' room and a cigarette,
when it sounded as if they might break into a cover of "Margaritaville." Ack.
Who do these guys know, anyway?
Apparently, they know the Presidents, lucky
guys, a fact which made them cockier than hell. There was a hint that perhaps
the Presidents themselves are getting a bit cocky, too: an encore performance
of "We Are Not Going to Make It" ended, instead of with the usual
self-deprecating screech, with the line from "The Mary Tyler Moore
Show"--"We're gonna make it af-ter-aaaaaallllllll!" Not that they haven't
earned the right to be proud, but really...do they have to sound so much like