Peelander-Z Brings Power Ranger Style And Human Bowling to Their Shows

Let’s be real: Lots of bands phone it in live.

They show up in jeans and shirts, they play their music, and maybe, just maybe, they'll regale you with some lively banter, if you’re lucky.

A lot of times, seeing a band live is no different than listening to the album at home. You get the pleasure of hearing music you love being performed live, but there’s no added incentive to it. No sense of theatrics, no spark of improvised madness, no surprises.

Thankfully there are still some bands out there who haven’t given up on showmanship. Whether it’s now-dormant groups like Polysics and the Dresden Dolls, who brought high-energy performance art to their shows; local groups like Father’s Day and Dinosaur Love, who use character work to create a memorable live experience; or the riot of colorful costumes and video projections that happen at every Of Montreal show, there are bands out there who aren’t afraid to get a little theater peanut butter mixed in with their musical chocolate. And few bands blend the two flavors better than Peelander-Z.
A “Japanese Action Comic Punk Band hailing from the Z area of Planet Peelander,” this group of dynamic art-punk rockers was born in Japan but came together as a group while living in New York. When they hit the stage, they do it with a Power Rangers flair. The band wears color-coded outfits that range from kimonos to sentai outfits, from rubber wigs to tiger and squid costumes. Each band member is named after their color (with Peelander Yellow as the group’s mastermind), which they insist isn’t a costume but their actual skin color.

For most bands, wearing colorful “Ultraman”/kaiju style costumes would be all they’d need to do to stand out. But the alien Peelanders take it even further, punctuating their frantic sets with antics like “human bowling”, superhero battles, and even bouts of unicycle riding. They also use lots of audience participation in their shows; their gigs are so kinetic and rowdy that it can feel like going to a wrestling match while drunk off your ass. The big exception is that the odds of you coming into physical contact with a human bowling ball at a Peelander-Z set is about 500 percent more likely than getting randomly clotheslined by a wrestler.

While the band hasn’t broken into the mainstream (the closest they came was with an appearance on the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show), they’ve built up a loyal following thanks to their killer records and demented live shows. That following has sustained them through some serious personnel changes, like when crucial Peelander-Z members Red and Green left the group a few years ago.

The band’s struggles to keep going, in the wake of losing some of their core members, is chronicled in Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlin’s documentary Mad Tiger. It’s a sobering look at the pressures of being in a band that performs with such balls-out intensity when you’re hitting your 40s and don’t have anything else to fall back on. It won’t leave you feeling elated and pumped the way a Peelander-Z live show does, but it will give you a deeper appreciation for the kind of sacrifices people make to give their all to their art. It also makes it easier to understand why most bands don’t try harder to put on dynamic live shows when the cost can be that high.

Peelander-Z will be performing at Valley Bar on Sunday, March 26.