(First posted on http://www.recessiondodgetovictory.wordpress.com on 13/03/2012)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

“nos·tal·gi·a  n. 1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.”

I was a little late to the Presidents of the United States party – don’t get me wrong just about anyone of a certain age has at least heard “Peaches” and can sing along to the refrain or wax nostalgic about the ninjas in the video – as could I, but I didn’t start listening to them on repeat until a friend of mine out in Japan reintroduced me to their self-titled album. After that I got a hold of their other material but never really knew where to go with it and what albums to listen to and so I ended up on settling for the smile-along, sing-along adventures of small animals on their original record. After one listen too many I could’ve sworn that album was a concept album…

And then they put on this gig. Sah-WEEEEEEEEET!

As I arrived, there was a support band. Moving on…

The crowd was about half-full, perhaps reflecting the timing of the Sunday evening event or just the nature of a band that released their biggest album over 15 years ago. The band arrived with a quirky voice-over with what I imagine were in-jokes and references to things I didn’t quite get (“Razzle Magazine?”) but had everyone cheering and laughing before they had set foot on the stage.

The first 5 or 6 songs or so were a showcase of material from other albums and as I was sitting at the back of the crowd mostly seemed to be sitting watching the performance without too much interaction beyond some laughs at comments about repealing a jazz tax that they had just set – a reference to the bluesy jazz music they had playing in between sets which came as an “additional extra – no charge!”.

The band’s interaction was good humoured enough but I felt slightly like I had just entered a Christian rock band gig with the odd sweary word thrown in for good measure. I had been promised their eponymous debut album and was starting to wonder if I had been successfully trolled by someone on Lastfm who had said they would play the full album.

Then singer, bassist and general all-star of the show, Chis Ballew made an announcement a little something like this: “[How rude of us. We haven’t even mentioned our self-titled album. We’re gonna play it from start to finish now,]” at which point the first 4-8 rows of the crowd just started pogo-ing and I was compelled to join them from my place at the back of the ABC. Said jumping lasted from the grunge-era fuelled “Kitty” and with its cowbells and backing singer-lead meowing until The Presidents ended the first part of their set. This main part of the gig was accompanied by the majority of the crowd singing EVERY word of EVERY song.

After checking a setlist website, I can now confirm that that was precisely 15 songs of middle-aged bouncers with massive smiles on their faces jumping up and down, singing along all the while. Even the quiet songs like “Body”, an ode to a salamander and a frog, had a cat’s choir of fans jumping around on invisible trampolines.

The earlier Christian-rock like banter had slowed down for the most part and the band got on with playing and the odd piece of interaction as the crowd reacted to Presidents’ own-brand cure for the back-to-work Sunday blues. Although appointing stand-out tracks doesn’t really do the Presidents justice; everyone I could see from the front sang and danced to every song. Stand-outs included more bouncing from “Lump”, the funk of “Boll Weevil” and of course, the point where I remember my legs giving out – the end of “Peaches”. I’ve since added “Go back to judo and LOSE SOME DAMN WEIGHT!” to my Things To Do List.

I had come and done what I’d come to do by the time they left the stage before returning for an encore. After getting my fill of their first album performed live, I resumed my place at the back of the crowd again for the encore. They returned to the stage to play material from more of their albums and of that I really enjoyed the jazz factor of the 2nd song from closing, “Froggy” which has since given me reason to go back and listen to their other material again.

I suspect the gig gave a rare but very satisfying Monday morning to those who had to wake up early for work the next day, or in my case the job centre. For me, The Presidents of the USA rewrote the meaning of the word of nostalgia – there wasn’t anything bittersweet about the experience at all. Here’s hoping they come back again soon and this time with some solid support!

I’m lacking any proper footage of the gig so here’s the aforementioned ninja fighting antics of “Peaches”:

Advertisements