I walked into the Astoria March 3rd as The Presidents of The United States of America walked on stage. During the first two songs I thought the three-piece sounded like Canadians who loved the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Then I thought they sounded like Canadians who loved Rush. The audience looked like Born Again Christians from the more backward parts of Canada who loved Rush and REM and U2. They turned out to be pushy Americans and suburban Brits who were, collectively, just plain wild about PUSA, a jokester punk Seattle band (neither funny nor punky) who inflict considerable damage on that city's reputation for producing music.
When they sang Zero Friction, one grim piece of work, the gormless fans joined in a frenzied bucolic chorus, celebrating lives which, no doubt, really do contain zero friction. Somebody should explain to them that there's an awful lot of pleasure in a little bit of pain. There was something appallingly uplifting and Power of Positive Thinking about the whole dismal procedure.
I can see why a guitarist might want to perform a long indulgent Hendrix-style solo in 2005‚Äîguitarists are like that‚Äîbut I can't understand why an audience would want to enjoy it. When I hear people around me chanting "U.S.A! U.S.A!" without so much as a hint of irony I get queasy now that Freedom has become a dirty word. The real crowd pleaser was a lengthy medley which included a good Ramones tune done bad, the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams, and other slush. Then there was a reprehensible version of the MC5's Kick Out The Jams.
When I got out it was pouring cold and hard rain‚Äîjust about the only Seattle aspect of the night.
Joe Ambroses's book, Moshpit Culture, extreme travel writing from within the moshing subculture, is published by Omnibus Press.