Wow. First off, what a fun night. If you’ve ever seen Peelander Z (PLZ), the Japanese band who now calls Austin, Texas, home, you know this is an off-the-wall, fun-filled rock ‘n’ roll show. Thursday night at One Eyed Jacks saw the trio celebrating their 20th anniversary tour. The set was an hour of raucous, hard-to-follow musical moments intermingled with a feisty approach to crowd interaction, and everyone in attendance seemed to revel in it. You could see the joy and smiles all around. First off, however, let’s go backward and discuss the opener.
I arrived shortly before Marina Orchestra took the stage, and honestly, I had never heard of them. What came on stage wasn’t even close to what I was expecting, judging by the headlining band. Hailing from New Orleans, this six-piece band is a trio of strong female vocalists and instrumentalists, all in matching dresses, encouraging the crowd to get their booties moving. It was only made better by the three men behind them, letting the instrumentation do the talking. It worked well by keeping our eyes focused on the front, as the music from the back swelled, rose, and finally exploded in a cascade of rhythmically easy-going beach music. This is the perfect band for a sunny Jazz Fest slot on a gorgeous day, but in a dark club, it was just as inviting and easy to enjoy. It was refreshing to be excited by the main band, then to have this whole other entity entrance us, leaving us spellbound and captivated.
Marina Orchestra continued in this fashion for the duration of their 40-minute-or-so set, and by the time they concluded, you could tell that the crowd was in their corner. Next came the band everyone had showed up for. Seeing Peelander Z is an experience unlike most others. If you’ve ever seen Gwar, it’s a similar phenomenon. Like Gwar, PLZ, isn’t really known for their groundbreaking albums, but rather a show so entertaining that you literally can’t look away. Many of their songs are based on simple ideas, with selections ranging from the topic of bikes, in a song called “Bike,” to a song about people named Mike, appropriately called “So Many Mike.” This may sound bizarre and somewhat stupid, because it is. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
Over the course of the hour-long set, the band held up signs announcing the names of the tracks being played, but they also brought many members of the crowd up to share in the excitement. They split the crowd in two at one point, to have us dance only from one side of the club to the other, but the band wasn’t content with just being on stage. Both the creator and singer of the band and the female drummer (among other things) came into the crowd multiple times to get face-to-face. The singer, Peelander Yellow, even crowd-surfed to the bar before standing atop it, jumping back into the crowd, and being brought back up to stage. In short, they fit many, many things into their allotted time, and everyone was giddy and joyous the entire time.
Lastly, the sentiment that stayed with me the most was how willing they were to engage with the audience, even after the set was over. As a crowd tried to secure merch from their table, the lady band member, Peelander Pink, was selling the merchandise, while Yellow was standing right there, gladly engaging and signing every stitch of stuff the crowd bought. It’s that sort of extra touch that goes a long way to ensuring a fan base keeps coming back for more. I even got a picture with the members. They were gracious, sincere, and at the will of their supporters. It was wonderful, and sincerely, I can’t wait to dance wildly again, while chanting the words “Bike,” “Mad Tiger,” and all the others.
Photos by Steve Hatley