Presidents (of the U.S.A.) For President's Day

The album that has made them famous.

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

therapy session?

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

that promise.

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

all-ages gigs:

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 they have to sound so much like

over-confident Stanford