The first time I saw Japanese action comic punk band Peelander-Z was about five years ago in, of all places, Tuscaloosa, Ala. I was in a touring band (won’t name it here lest PW offices become overrun by autograph seekers), and we shared a couple bills together around the country. While booking the tour our agent told us shows with Peelander would have an up and downside. The upside, of course, would be well-attended shows. The downside? Peelander, he assured us, would wipe the fucking floor with us. “No one will even remember you played,” he said. And we were paying this guy.
“Could it really be that bad?” we wondered. It was. And we knew from Peelander’s blistering opening Stooges- meets-Bluehearts riff that we were toast, our opening slot erased from the memories of everyone in attendance that night. Because Peelander-Z aren’t just a band, they’re an aural buzzsaw cutting through the minds of everyone who stands before them, a Cirque du Soleil act with guitars. Everyone in the room that night—from young University of Alabama students who’d heard about the show on college radio to the middle-aged grain-alcohol-fueled hicks just out for a peek at something different—were amped by Peelander’s show, which ramps up levels of crowd participation to such a degree that everyone feels they’re part of the band. This is crazy, punk-rock fantasy camp; live-action anime turned up to 11.
The next night, in Birmingham, we were supposed to headline. After what we’d seen the night before, we knew the very idea was absurd. We demurred, trying the best we could through a thick language barrier to say there was simply no way we were going on after them. Thankfully the words “We’ll play first” were ones Peelander had heard countless times and understood well.
Fri., April 30, 9pm. $10. With the Last Barbarians, the Rumblers + Fakirs. Khyber, 56 S. 2nd St. 215.238.5888. thekhyber.com
PW's Music Issue 2014