(Periodically — and almost always under the instigation of Mrs. Collateral Damage — I take some time off from being a grumpy old guy who only listens to music by other grumpy old guys and do something different. Last night that something was my 2nd Peelander Z concert at Cambridge’s legendary rock club, The Middle East. Thus the following review.)
Any review of a Peelander Z show has to start with the following sentence: What the heck was that?
It’s pretty much impossible to describe what it is exactly that Peelander Z is or does, but I will try.
Peelander Z consists of three men — Peelander Yellow, Peelander Blue & Peelander Red — who play guitar, bass and drums, respectively. They dress in costumes that might be called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meet The Village People meet Parliament Funkadelic (more about the P-Funk connection in a moment). They are all from Japan but met in NYC. They are augmented by Peelander Green and Peelander Pink. Green plays guitar and drums and dances. Pink runs the lights and sells t-shirts and is in other ways an integral part of the performance. What do they all do … hmmm … they perform songs, kind of. Last night’s show was an hour long and Mrs. CD and I aren’t sure if their were 3 or 4 songs performed. That said, they are NOT a jam band. One song’s lyrics consisted of “What A Health” and Super health.” Another — and one of my favorites: “Mad tiger” and “wild tiger.” The third was “Steak!” and “medium rare!” All the performers are very, very good musicians. They are also all funny and happy and charismatic in a way that is spiritually akin to Japanese bands Shonen Knife and Petty Booka. Peelander Z has an incredible wildness that The Knife and Booka do not.
What does Peelander do? They incite a group performance of happiness. The ring-leader is Peelander Yellow, who is not by any standard definition handsome or particularly young. He looks like the comic-relief monk from any number of samurai movies — complete with missing tooth and mostly bald head. They start playing and then … then it all gets difficult to describe. The surf the crowd, they give out drum sticks and metal things to bang on, they have much of the crowd join them onstage and play — the people who play do NOT know how to play. Peelander Yellow rides a Big Wheel and acts as a bowling ball vs. a set of plastic bowling pins. I really can’t describe it beyond that.
A Peelander Z show is like the big finale at a fireworks show where you are the fireworks. It is hugely happy. The mosh pit was happy (and though I did not participate in this one let it be made clear that I have moshed in my time — and enjoyed it hugely). I have never been to any other rock show that has left me with such an overwhelming sense of giddy joy. No other performer has even ever come close.
The only act I can really liken them to is P-Funk. In last year’s show, the P-Funk connection seemed much more pronounced. It was clear that this was a band that had taken the concepts and ideas of George Clinton’s zany, brilliant funk to heart and applied them to rock and roll. Last night’s show the debt was still there but you could see they are evolving in to more of their own strange thing. (Of course, P-Funk itself was the spiritual heirs to Sun Ra.)
When I’ve seen them Peelander has had excellent opening acts. Last year it was Gelatine, another NYC-based band of incredible musicians who are native Japanese — that are as disturbing and dark as Peelander is joyous.
Last night, the openers were the very good rock trio The Asthmatics. They are a more standard rock act than the Z — with actual recognizable songs. What they really have in common is a screwball sense of humor. Also on the bill was Powerglove, a band that specializes in heavy metal covers of music from video games. I particularly enjoyed “Tetris” and “Mario” — probably because they were the only songs from games I had played. Powerglove dresses in outfits inspired by various games. Oddly, the lead guitarist looks exactly like Steve Wozniak.