What was not a factor in the
turnout was an apparent age gap between the band’s original fans, who
are now in their 30s, and the current crop of emo-loving teens, who
somehow were hip to PUSA’s nearly classic rock grooves. During the
band’s 75-minute set, prepubescent youngsters sang along blissfully to
the group’s most popular hits, including “Kitty,” “Dune Buggy” and
PUSA galore: Chris Bellew (left) and Andrew McKeag did their best to rock out alt-rock fans at the Westcott Theater. Matt Mumau photo
But the Presidents, who began their
careers as the freakish standouts among the more serious visages of the
1990s Seattle grunge scene, didn’t come across as a band that has
simply given up on trying to maintain a contemporary edge in lieu of
bumpin’ out the crowd-pleasing hits. Songs from their newest album, The SP Are the Good Times People
(Fugitive), stuck to a standard rock framework that is arguably as much
a liability to PUSA’s music as it is an asset. Yet the new stuff was
bedraggled with a youthful energy and stellar stagemanship that at
least made the statement that lead singer and “bassitarist” Chris Bellew remains hip (and still shy of a hip replacement).
Other highlights included drummer Jason Fynn’s
solo in “Back Porch,” a redneck twanger from PUSA’s early material.
Fynn seemed to dig the Westcott’s low-down vibe, at one point calling
for a piece of pizza, as Westcott bartenders shuttled up a slice to the
rocker. Perhaps the request was an ironic gesture that hinted that Fynn
may have been surprised to be playing for such a meager audience, as if
the gig was an informal band rehearsal. And newcomer Andrew McKeag, who has stepped in for original lead guitarist Dave Dederer,
shined as a reliable replacement, although his low-key persona on stage
suggested that he’s respectful of the legacy Dederer created during his
nearly two-decade stint with the Presidents.
A classic rock medley featured
prominently toward the end of the set, including covers of The Beatles’
“I’ve Got a Feeling,” Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” Snoop Dogg’s “Gin
and Juice,” and Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” PUSA’s trip down memory
lane concluded, of course, with a full-blown, quirky rendition of the
MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” a classic cover for the band that still
speaks to the main-vein rock sentiments that form the core of the
Presidents’ live performances.
Riffing off of the fact that opener Oppenheimer
had covered Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” during its
electronica-influenced set, the Presidents provided a final treat for
fans during the Westcott show with a brief teaser of the metal tune.
But after the sounds of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons humorously
filled the air as the house music that followed their performance, it
felt a little like the band had shortchanged fans with too short of a
set—but also that they’d given all they could.