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Sunday September 17th, 2023 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Peelander-Z, Dog Party, & Nature Boys

I've dug myself into a bit of a hole. So let's make this a speed run.

KC's Nature Boys opened the night. The band is solid and has been forever. It's punk rock with a big emphasis on rock. Sturdy songs with guts – the sort of late ‘80s no bullshit punk that poured out of the Midwest. Guitarist Danny Fischer's voice is strong and smooth. No affectation. No shame as he sings. Bassist Suzanne Hogan often barks her vocals. Each are lead vocalists. Each are backing vocalists. They sing together a lot, overlapping like X did so well. They also do it so well. Fischer's guitar leads are fast and tangled. Licks come quickly and he has riffs. The drums of Brad Highnam bounce, and his left foot is busy on the hi-hat. As one might expect in a trio, Hogan's bass does a lot to steady the ship. Together, the band is simply a force. Not the sort that leaves bodies strewn on the dance floor, but the sort that makes you shake your head and mutter "goddam" when it's all over. And it was all over in 25 minutes. No banter. No tuning between songs. Goddam.

Dog Party were up next. The band is two twenty-something sisters from Sacramento. Gwendolyn Giles plays guitar, delivering punk rock power chords, surfy solos, and a round rock voice. Drummer Lucy Giles' drums bounce pop punk style with plenty of ride. Her voice is brighter and often accented with the rockabilly hiccup. It's a rainbow of styles that sometimes blend, and sometimes shine as immutable pastiches. Either way, it makes for a live show that is 110% fun. The duo played a jaw-dropping sixteen tracks separated by banter (mostly from younger sister Lucy) that swung between genuine and perfunctory. Somewhere in the middle of the set, the audience was treated to a few new songs that the band hopes will appear on its next (and seventh!) album "someday." Until then you should follow the adorable twosome's touring adventures on Instagram.

Our headliner was Peelander-Z. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Actually, I don't even know what I saw. Peelander-Z was once a fivesome of highly choreographed and costumed Japanese Americans based in New York delivering comic book action, wrestling devotion, and occasionally very silly garage punk. There's a documentary about the band on the streaming sites if you want to see what it was, and how that incarnation unraveled. Today, only Peelander Yellow (aka Kengo Hioki) survives from the initial version of the band, and he's now based out of Austin. In Kansas City he was joined onstage by Peelander Pink (wife Yumiko Kanazaki) and a color-less, maybe nameless, drummer, leaving the art-first project as only a trio. And that's all I can tell you about the band, as Hioki has ignored all my emails and messages looking for clarification.

I know Hioki fronts the band, plays guitar and sings. Kanazaki offers her own vocals, lots of jumping and shouting, some secondary percussion, and plays the recorder. The tour's drummer, well, drums. That is when he's not at the edge of the stage acting as a cheerleader, pantomiming lyrics, or surfing on a boogie board atop the outstretched hands of the audience. And he was the tame one. Before the first song was over the band had stopped the show for an exercise break, an audience limbo contest, and to jump rope. The show also included human bowling (well, alien bowling really, since the members of the band are from "the Z area of Planet Peelander"). At one point the audience was supplied with drum sticks and pans to beat on alongside the band. I'll note that after the song ended, all "instruments" were politely returned to the Rubbermaid tote at the edge of the stage – it seems even the littlest Peelander-Z fans that lined the stage have manners. The band's silly songs, sing-a-longs, and constant dance parties are part Yo Gabba Gabba, part live-action Powerpuff Girls, and part Man or Astroman?, making Peelander-Z purpose-built for the young and young of heart.

The band's set contained all that charming chaos (and more), but what songs did the band play? Did it even need songs? Well, there was a long version of "Mad Tiger," and I'm sure I heard "S.T.E.A.K." And if I wasn't sure I heard it, the large signs held by Kanazaki were my confirmation. Fan favorites like "So Many Mike" and "Taco Taco Tacos" were missed. A new song that might be about burgers was definitely played. And was there one about armadillos too? Who can really say? Even won't wager a guess.

The set ended with several audience members being pulled up to the stage to play the band's instruments, and with a solitary crowd surfer that was carried around the entire RecordBar before being returned to the stage. Was the loose, synth-pop cover of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" an encore or just an extra grand finale? Like I said, I don't know what I saw, but whatever it was, I'm ready to see it again.