The Presidents Of The United States Of America

support Siamese Fighting Fish
author PP date 23/07/14 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

It's a hot summer evening in Copenhagen. The weather has been unreal in the last three weeks with 25+ degree temperatures and clear blue skies day in day out. Sounds like perfect timing for a silly, summery pop rock band to bring their weirdo taken on alternative rock onto our shores, no? For that's what 'peach rockers' Presidents Of The United States are all about: warm, upbeat pop rock songs with lyrics about absolutely nothing at all important ranging from cats through spiders to peaches. It's no time for intellectualism, it's time to throw your brains out the window and bounce up and down to catchy alternative rock tunes in a packed Lille Vega. But more on that later. Local experimental post-hardcore band Siamese Fighting Fish had landed the support gig, so let's talk about their set first.

Siamese Fighting Fish

Siamese Fighting Fish

SIFIFI are a bit of an odd choice for the summery vibes of PUSA, given their darker and more emo-tuned soundscapes, so for the majority of the audience tonight they are a new acquaintance. The crowd's barely moving in the beginning despite SIFIFI displaying frenetic energy with vocalist Mirza dancing around at the forefront. "We have some free copies of our sophomore album, just come talk to us after the show", Mirza says early on, to which he receives a rather mild reaction from the crowd. "Well, you can also buy really cheap beer at the bar", he continues, which draws some laughter from the crowd who recognize the overpriced beer prices at Vega to be ridiculous. But soon enough the band starts winning over significant segments of the crowd through extremely well composed songs. Only 2 tracks are aired from sophomore album "Breathe:See:Move"; rest are all brand new tracks from an upcoming third album to be released in 2015. Here, the screaming that has sometimes characterized the band's music is virtually non-existent, and instead the focus seems to be to further and solidify their experimentalist, violin-driven take on modern alternative rock. Hints of post-hardcore are still present, but to a much lesser extent than in the past. These are performed passionately, although the energy of the band winds down a little bit in the mid section thanks to a largely stand still audience who doesn't at first appear to understand the band's challenging soundscapes. But towards the end, especially after the band ensures in chaotic synchronous headbanging and movement during "A Liar Cried Wolf", the crowd begins to get into it, and starts responding to the band. Vocalist Mirza invites the audience to clap along in a very powerful sequence during the second last song, to which almost everyone in the room responds to, re-energizing the band's performance for a grand finale in the form of another new track. It's a solid performance which may go a little over the head of the peach rock crowd's usual musical preferences.

The Presidents Of The United States Of America

The moment the curtains open and the first riffs to "Kick Out The Jams" blast out the speakers, the crowd erupts into clapping and cheering. There's a sense of anticipation and ecstatic mood in the crowd, thanks to the good weather in part but also due to awesome festival performances that PUSA have delivered in the last few years across smaller, more mainstream festivals in Denmark. And as soon as the band plays "Kitty", I start to understand why. It takes a special kind of person to not either burst out in laughter or fall instantly in love with a song like "Kitty", which starts with lyrics like "Miaaow, miiaaow, miaooww miaoow miaoowww", and explodes with an echoing "OUTSIDE!" shout from the crowd when the song reaches the part where the cat is scratching through protagonist's jeans so it's going to spend the night outside.

Yes, PUSA are a fucking weird band and their performance tonight reflects that as well. Their guitarist is constantly engaging in ridiculous poses up front, and the in-between song banter by vocalist/bassist Chris Ballew is absolutely hilarious. "There are a lot of trends going on in the music industry and we've been known to hop onto every single one of them. The newest one seems to be writing new albums", he says, before pulling out their new album and saying they have about 35 copies of them on the tour. His persona on stage in general resembles Devin Townsend's insanity in terms of his absolutely awkward and weird commentary, not to even mention how fucked up the songs are ("Dune Buggy" is about a spider driving around sand dunes). To quote my fellow colleague from Revolution Music during the night, who the fuck writes a song about a post man?

PUSA

It's totally unserious and extremely strange, yet it draws an immense response from the crowd. Big sing alongs take place every few songs or so ("Lump" draws a huge one in particular), and the crowd seems to be constantly off their feet bouncing up and down (like during "Back Porch" for example). The songs are played in rapid-fire succession with banter built-in between transitions from song to song, which gives their set a nice sense of energy and a driving dynamic that helps keep the room's mood ecstatic throughout. It's absolutely ridiculous - suddenly a ladder appears on stage only because Ballew's Mic stand has extended to about three meters or so in length, so the rest of the song has to be sung while standing on top of this structure. Next up, a song called "Finger Monster" - the party atmosphere can't get much higher at this stage. "Millions Of Peaches" receives a predictably enormous sing along, alongside "Video Killed The Radio Star" that follows after the encore. There's a lone crowd surfer that draws a wild cheer from the crowd, and in general, people leave the venue extremely satisfied. The funny thing is that aside from animated acting out of the different stories and ideas in the weirdo songs, the band don't do much on stage aside from little movement up and down in their own spaces. They don't need to, though, because the show is jam-packed with gimmicks like the guitarist playing a brief "Ace Of Spades" finale while crowd surfing, or the finale, where there's a lengthy drum roll that finishes on Ballew jumping off the amp in complete silence playing one final "pow" note with his guitar in a purposeful anti-climax of a finish. It's laugh-out-loud funny and the room's all smiles. This is how to put up a party!

Setlist:

  • 1. Kitty
  • 2. Volcano
  • 3. Poor Little Me
  • 4. Boll Weevil
  • 5. Some Postman
  • 6. Slow Slow Fly
  • 7. Back Porch
  • 8. Lump
  • 9. Munky River
  • 10. She's A Nurse
  • 11. More Bad Times
  • 12. Tiki God
  • 13. Finger Monster
  • 14. Feather Pluckn
  • 15. Ghosts Are Everywhere
  • 16. Mach 5
  • 17. Millions Of Peaches
  • --Encore--
  • 18. Video Killed The Radio Star
  • 19. Make It (KOJ)

Photos by: Peter Troest

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