“How do you like your steak?”
This exchange would generally indicate an overzealous customer’s preference of cooked meat at the Texas Roadhouse, but on Oct. 18, at The Aquarium in downtown Fargo, it meant something entirely different: Peelander-Z was in town.
Peelander-Z, a self-described “Japanese action comic punk band,” have carved a niche for themselves through outlandish performances complete with color-coded aliases, an array of costumes and contra dancing.
The band claims to be from the “Z area of Planet Peelander,” though members Kengo Hioki (AKA Peelander-Yellow, lead vocals and guitar) and Kotaro Tsukada (AKA Peelander-Red, bass and backing vocals) are natives of Japan. However, the band was formed in 1998 in New York City, where the group is still based. Akihiko Naruse (AKA Peelander-Green, drums) joined them on drums in July 2008 after former drummer Kazuki Yamamoto (AKA Peelander-Blue) left after being married.
The locals are loko
To match Peelander’s absurdist behavior, local openers FUP and The Guys faced off in a “battle set.” After FUP, a duo that sings nonsensical lyrics over simplistic and pre-recorded music, performed one of their original songs, The Guys would immediately follow them and cover the same song with live instruments in a typical four-piece band arrangement. At the end of the battle the two groups collaborated for a final number…another FUP song. Hilarity was high even before Peelander took the stage near midnight.
Let the games begin
From the onset, Peelander was successful in making a crowd of about 30 feel five times as big. Simple dancing and hand motions gave way to full-fledged chaos. Peelander-Green stood on the drums with a tag board sign that read “Mad Tiger” and soon after Peelander-Red slipped into a giant squid costume and jumped into the crowd. Peelander-Yellow followed suit, purveyor of the all mighty tiger mask. Peelander-Green and Peelander-Yellow then incited a game of limbo with the audience, walking back and forth between the walls with a length of an unknown material, likely from the Z area of Planet Peelander.
Raucous not righteous
Peelander’s merchandise seller, presumably Peelander-Pink, joined the lone touring guitarist on stage as the three official Peelandarians spurred the crowd into a dancing circle, part bunny hop, part drunken stumble.
Peelander-Red avoided the confines of the stage for over half the set by using a wireless guitar system. The dancing circle converged on Red and the raucous crowd lifted him within inches of the ceiling.
The band powered through gimmicky and hilariously titled songs after Peelander-Red returned to the stage. They remained onstage for an amazing (for them) ten minutes blazing through such anomalies as “Ninja High School,” “Super Health” and the aforementioned “S.T.E.A.K.”
More tag board signs were held up signaling their final act. A sign reading “Guitarist needed” was followed by similar signs substituting “Guitarist” with “Bassist” and “Drummer,” respectively. Members of FUP and The Guys were called onstage to fill in on the instruments as the Peelander-Yellow transformed via costume into a human bowling pin while Peelander-Red returned to his role as the giant squid.
A precarious game of “human bowling” followed. Ten pins were set up on the floor below the front of the stage. The crowd cheered as the giant squid rolled through the pins, a perfect strike, and the human bowling pin jumped fervently, blinded by the costume.
Bemusement at bar close
The Peelandarians distributed drumsticks and aluminum bowls to the crowd and returned to the stage to play their final song. The crowd, bemused and merry, banged along to the final notes, honorary members of the Z area of Planet Peelander.