The Presidents Of The United States Of America @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (Photos and Review)
26-Apr-2009 11:00 am
Contributed by: pete
Tuesday April 21st was a crazy night in Toronto. Kings Of Leon were playing a sold out show at the Air Canada Centre (a very well deserved step-up for them from their previous two shows at the Koolhaus, one in November 2008 and one in June 2007), Flight Of The Conchords were doing their thing at Massy Hall, and The Horseshoe had The Appleseed Cast and An Horse lined-up. But happily, I ended up with The Presidents Of The United States Of America (PUSA) at Lee's Palace, a band I've been a fan of for 14 years now, not an insignificant portion of my life.
The Presidents Of The United States Of America
Between the lyrics and the music, PUSA has an sound that is all their own for a couple of main reasons: Many of the lyrics contain references to odd subjects including shoes, bugs, cats, worms, amphibians, and even The Brady Bunch. And there's a reason PUSA has the unique sound that they do: All these years of being a fan and yet, somehow, I spent the whole time oblivious to the fact that Chris Ballew plays what he calls a "two-string bassitar" – a guitar body strung with two bass strings. And Andrew McKeag plays a "three-string guitbass", also a guitar body, but strung with three heavy-gauge guitar strings. And I guess that puts Jason Finn on the no-string guitar, also known as the drum kit.
Even though I've been listening to PUSA for 14 years now, I've never been out to see them play a show. I've heard a few live tracks, though, like Back Porch and Lump from their 1998 release Pure Frosting, so between those and my imagination I had an idea of what their stage show might be like. I wasn't too far off, but the show included a few amusing extras I wasn't expecting. Some of the lyrics were changed up, songs extended (sometimes by including covers of other songs), and a whole lot of goofing around on stage. They opened with Lunatic To Love, and from the very start the crowd sang along. During on of the songs early in the set, Chris and Andrew battled through Duelling Banjos, pretty incredible considering they had only 5 strings between them.
When they started to play More Bad Times off their most recent album These Are the Good Times People, a woman near the front screamed in excitement. Chris and the woman sang a good portion of the song to each other, after which Chris announced that we had just witnessed a band-fan relationship. The crowd moshed their way through more than a few songs, most heavily through Lump that resulted in someone's shoe ending up on stage right in front of me. The proper set ended with Chris on top of the speaker stack and Andrew playing slide guitar with a beer bottle to Kick Out The Jams. They returned and played three more, including Body, easily on of my favourite songs and apparently a favourite of many other fans as well.
At one point, Chris declared "It's like 1997 in the pit here", referring to the wild behaviour and the number of fans singly (loudly) along with the songs. It's kind of scary to think that 1997 was actually 12 years now. It really demonstrates how some music just stays with you, and it's not always music from the bands you might expect at the time. But, for me anyway, PUSA is one of those bands and their music will continue to be included in my playlists.
Info: The Presidents Of The United States Of America | Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter
Media: More Bad Times (mp3)
The owners of Arts & Crafts launched Arts & Crafts Mexico late last year, an interesting move that recognizes indie-rock emerging more and more from previously unexpected countries. Chikita Violenta is a Mexican band that has been signed to Arts & Crafts Mexico and are also working for the label in Mexico City.
Info & Connect: Chikita Violenta on MySpace, Facebook
Media: Laydown (mp3)