The winds of change blow strongly and consistently on planet Peelander. Over the past few years, Peelander-Z, the Japanese punk band formed in New York, has undergone a number of personnel changes. Originally founded by Peelanders Blue, Red and Yellow, the group of self-proclaimed extraterrestrials has since lost Blue (to fatherhood) and Red (who claimed he accepted a teaching position at Ninja High School). When Peelander-Z takes the stage at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Yellow will be joined by recent additions Green, Pink, Black and Purple.
Roster shakeups often change a band's identity, but the aliens of Peelander-Z appear to have it all figured out. The brilliance of Peelander-Z lies in its members dedication to being part of a larger vision.
"Our music is 10 percent of the show," frontman Kengo Hioki, aka Peelander Yellow, says. "What happens onstage is 90 percent. We do human bowling, we do the limbo dance, we do the jumping-a-long-rope, we do baseball, football, all kinds of craziness on the stage. We don't play music, we want to play with the audience."
Inspired by the larger-than-life theatricality of professional wrestling, the band packs its live shows with goofy stunts, ranging from mimicking the games mentioned above to a full-blown kaiju (Japanese for monster) battle over a miniature Tokyo. With the band's spontaneous antics, no two Peelander-Z concerts should be the same. The show the group presents at Voodoo will bear only the slightest resemblance to its performance at the festival's 2011 iteration, at New Orleans' 2010 Foburg Fest or any of the 1,300 North American gigs Peelander-Yellow says the band has played. The key to such inexhaustible touring goes back to the group mission and communion with the audience.
"We eat your smile," Hioki says. "I am just a human being, but I can eat everybody's smile and that makes me happy, which lets me make more happy shows. We need everybody. They are my energy."
The off-the-wall concerts don't just invite crowd participation, they demand it.
"We play a lot of songs at a medium tempo with yelling, like the Ramones," Hioki said. "Even if you don't know our songs, it's very easy to join in. We'll be screaming, 'Mike! Mike! Mike!' or 'Medium rare! Medium rare! Medium rare!' or 'Taco! Taco! Taco!' so anyone can understand, like a baby."
The Peelanders' relentless enthusiasm spreads infectiously at shows, and it can be hard to resist their pure, childlike, hyperactive glee. Even when the faces behind the personas change, the group's guileless punk joy drives the show.
"We are not your guests," Hioki says. "You are our guests. Our stage is a little bit higher from you, but it's open. We are the audience and you can be the stage. Come on and join our show. Scream your mom's name, scream your boyfriend or girlfriend or dad's name. Scream anything, and we'll make a show together."