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The Presidents of the United States of America

In case you’ve been living under a rock, that magical day is nearly upon us once again, folks. That’s right, Election Day is looming, and the signs are—literally—popping up everywhere. So what better time for aptly named pop-punk rockers the Presidents of the United States of America to make their return to the music scene?

Yes, the Seattle band who brought us such ditties as “Lump” and “Peaches” while the rest of their brethren were wallowing in self-pity have reunited, and are touring in support of Love Everybody, their new—and also appropriately named—album. While the Presidents are known for relying on cheery, catchy hooks instead of more thought-provoking fare (much like our current commander-in-chief), you’ve got to hand it to them for making some smart career moves. After putting out a few sound-alike albums during their short time in the national spotlight, the band—and we’re just guessing here—decided not to push their luck, parting ways after just two years. Rumors had the ex-Presidents collaborating with fellow Seattle resident and famous derriere connoisseur Sir Mix-a-Lot during the band’s down time, but two-string “bassitarist” Chris Ballew, three-string “guitbassist” Dave Dederer and drummer Jason Finn elected to reunite in 2000, releasing what many critics consider their best album yet, Freaked Out and Small. While the Presidents’ sound hasn’t changed all that much from the mid-’90s (how many different ways can two people play five strings?), recent reviews would indicate that the time they spent flying below the music world’s radar was well spent.

Oh, and in case you’re looking for yet another shameless political hook here, the Presidents have been known to arrange various benefits in their home state of Washington, as well as recording the cover of “Cleveland Rocks” for The Drew Carey Show—so they’re no strangers to wooing the swing states. That said, after a night of listening to the reds and blues argue about war records and tax cuts, it might be the perfect time to join the Presidents of the United States along the campaign trail.

The Presidents of the United States of America will take the stage at 7:30 PM this Saturday (Oct. 9) at Northern Lights in Clifton Park. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $14 at the door. Call 371-0012 for more information.

Magic, Mystery and Masquerade

The Albany Institute of History and Art is presenting three fascinating exhibits united by the theme Magic, Mystery and Masquerade: The Photography of Phyllis Galembo. While the timeliness with respect to Halloween is obvious, the exhibits go beyond the lore associated with All Hallows Eve.

Dressed for Thrills: Photographs by Phyllis Galembo with Halloween and Masquerade Costumes is an exhibit of costumes from Galembo’s personal collection, and photographs Galembo has taken of people wearing the costumes. The photos emphasize Galembo’s interest in the transformational aspect of donning a mask or costume. For example, there’s Evil Bunny (2001), pictured, a Cibachrome print on Plexiglas of a 1930s-era mask. Creepy, eh? This exhibit will continue through Dec. 5.

The complimentary exhibits are Kings, Chiefs and Women of Power: Images from Nigeria and Visions of Haiti: Vodou and Carnaval à Jacmel. The former, which is on view through Dec. 5, “depicts the lives of Nigerian spiritual leaders and illuminates some of West Africa’s elaborate cultural and religious traditions.” The latter, which is on exhibit through Nov. 7, “explores the human and divine faces of Haitian Vodou and the spiritual power behind Carnaval masquerade.”

Magic, Mystery and Masquerade opens today (Thursday, Oct. 7) at the Albany History of Institute and Art (125 Washington Ave., Albany), with an artist’s reception from 5:30-7:30 PM. For more information, call 463-4478 or visit


Thai Jones

Author Thai Jones (who will read from and sign his new book, A Radical Line, at the Book House tonight at 7 PM) has credentials to make any standard parent of any run-of-the-mill nuclear family proud: He’s a graduate of Vassar College and the Columbia School of Journalism, he’s worked as a reporter for Newsday, and he’s now the author of a well-received work of book-length nonfiction. According to the first lines of the initial anecdote of A Radical Line, Jones once thought of himself as a member of just such a happy and unremarkable unit:

“To me, we seemed like a normal family—no, a terrific family. I was four years old in October 1981, a kid in day care with dinosaurs roaming the brain. My father, who went by the name John Maynard, worked as a printer in Manhattan. My mother, whom I knew as Sally, was a secretary.”

Jones’ quiet qualifications about his parents names are clues, however, that his family was anything but run-of-the-mill. Jones’ folks weren’t quite what they appeared to be to the other families living in their Bronx neighborhood; but then, neither was Jones, who was known to his playmates in 1981 as “Timmy Maynard.” This all became clear to the neighbors—and to Jones himself—when the feds burst through the family’s door, in full riot gear, to take John Maynard, aka Jeffrey Carl Jones, Thai’s dad, to prison.

Jeff Jones, it turns out, was not the simple printer he appeared. As a member of the bomb-throwing activist group the Weather Underground, he had been heavily involved in the 1969 Days of Rage, when hippies and cops clashed violently in the streets of Chicago. As a result he had been on the lam ever since. The run-of-the-mill family with which Thai Jones was familiar was just a cover story. And, as is related in A Radical Line, the roots of his family’s difference stemmed back through his agitator folks to their folks—an array of committed communists, pacifists and labor- and civil-rights activists.

Thai Jones will read and sign his book, A Radical Line, at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza tonight (Thursday) at 7 PM. For more information, call 489-4761.

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