Band Keeps Joy of Concertgoing Alive

Photo: TRUE COLORS. The Presidents blend rock with quirky humor to create a memorable concert experience.
TRUE COLORS. The Presidents blend rock with quirky humor to create a memorable concert experience.

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Navel-gazing music critics sometimes lose sight of the main reason why people go to rock 'n' roll shows-to have fun.

The Presidents of the United States of America attracted an enthusiastic, fun-seeking crowd at their show at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall last Tuesday. In attendance were the fans that PUSA gained in the '90s, now in their 30s, alongside fresh faces too young to remember the pinnacle of the band's popularity.

Opening act Pleeseasaur delivered a surreal blend of karaoke, stand-up comedy and pop culture satire. Their weird skits, which focused on stranger danger, buddy cop movies and local action news shows, were an odd yet fitting way to set the comedic tone that would be continued later by PUSA.

But, before the main act could take the stage, the dull second act, Ludo, played a set. They were supplied by Live 105 and sounded like the bastard child of Motion City Soundtrack and *NSYNC. For some reason, the nasally lead singer was quite fond of spewing vaporized water into the air; he did it at the beginning of nearly every guitar solo with a kind of Adam Sandler mentality telling him, "Even if it wasn't funny the first time, if I do it 10 times, someone might laugh." Their unfaltering shtick centered around a forced combination of teenage disaffection and juvenile zombie and dinosaur jokes.

After this strange introduction, PUSA mounted the stage. After som short onstage banter, the band immediately set the pace for what would be a fast Ramones-style 22-song set played in just over an hour. With opener "Love Everybody" the band instantly captured the crowd. In the middle of the second song "Kitty" right after the line, "Fuck you kitty you're gonna spend the night," the band dropped to silence so the crowd could supply the resounding response, "Outside!"

PUSA's childish onstage energy resulted in some cheesy rock-star antics like choreographed Pete Townshend windmill guitar strums, a Jimi Hendrix-worthy "Dueling Banjoes" guitar solo, heroic amp mounting, and random insertions of the main riff from "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It's probably pretty safe to say that playing "Rock Band" with these guys would be exceedingly bitchin'.

After a hyperactive cover of MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," the band left the stage, but the crowd wouldn't let them exit so soon. PUSA teased them by running on stage from the left and directly off on the right like a Benny Hill chase sequence; only the "Yakety Sax" theme song was missing. When they reclaimed their instruments, they played their signature version of the Buggles's "Video Killed the Radio Star," on which Chris employs the high-tech effect of pinching his nose to achieve that desired vocal timbre on the second verse.

Sometimes, digesting the Presidents' humor at home, listening to their albums by yourself simply doesn't have the same effect as it does when you see them live. Whether you find something funny or not depends so much on your transient mood. Seeing the band live with an eager bunch of fans provides the right mood for discovering the group's quirky appeal. You might not be in the mood to have songs about dune buggies, ladybugs or tiki statues playing through your ear buds while you go about responding to e-mails or writing papers, but when this energetic band of merry pranksters is rocking out right in front of you, you might change your mind.

Spew vaporized water at David at [email protected]

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