The first show I attended this year was back in January at The DNA Lounge. It was one of 8BitSF‘s monthly shows, this one featuring a reunion of Oakland band The Glowing Stars. DH sold them as fronted by a “hot singer,” but I didn’t need any convincing. Going anywhere sounded great, especially to see some live music again. Even though I felt a hundred years old when I got home from work and sat on the couch, thinking how nice it would be to just stay right here until the morning and pretend that I was going to crack my books and begin studying, I made it out to SoMa.
I think the only other person in his thirties was the bartender, and I’ll bet I had at least five years on him. The place was full of eared animal beanies, technogeek t-shirts, and highlight-color hair. During the Open Mic portion of the evening, the MC (a hyper blue-haired puppy who jumped around, waved his arms, and shouted “yay” a lot) introduced a bespectacled guy in a sweater vest by the name of Dr. Popular. DH gasped and explained to me, “He’s like a nerd celebrity.” He played two songs utilizing his Gameboy and Nanoloop software and plugged a Kickstarter campaign to have his new album released on cartridge. His set was crap, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.
The next one-man act, Tonight We Launch, from Portland, was heckled by a pair of guys who had probably spent the majority of their lives on the receiving end of similar harassment. I couldn’t decide if I was happy for them, or if I hated them. When the Portlandian introduced a Propagandhi cover, I was fairly confident that I was the only person in the room who recognized the song, let alone the name of the band. He was pretty good, despite the constant “I’m sorry” expression carved into his face.
Ovenrake twiddled Gameboy knobs for about forty minutes, and then The Glowing Stars took the stage. One girl with a guitar, one guy on a drumkit, and one piece of obsolete video game equipment with backing instrumentals. It was fucking great.
Punk rock never died. It just found new scenes and new crowds in which to thrive. Rarely had I been part of an audience so singularly connected by energy and enthusiasm. I should have remembered this when, a few weeks ago, I was horrified by The Angry Samoans.
Then, this past Thursday, DH coaxed me out once again. This time the hook was “a Japanese superhero-themed band.” I reminded him that I would never need convincing, especially after my first 8BitSF experience.
But neither DH’s description nor my prior evening of chiptune noise prepared me for the weirdness (or volume) that is Peelander Z.
Before the first act took the stage, however, one of the organizers produced a birthday cake shaped like a NES, and we sang “Happy Birthday” for a guy who wasn’t even in attendance. After the song, the crowd added a chant of “fuck sports.” But… the guy had tickets to the Sharks playoff game… “FUCK SPORTS!” Okay, okay… An exploration of the athletic animosity present in this scene (and among a surprising number of my friends) should be forthcoming.
Then Gnarb00ts roamed the floor, making more demands on the audience than a hip-hop artist. Beyond the obligatory hands-in-the-air, we also needed to dance, run under sheets, and “be the show.” They even convinced virtually everyone in the crowd to quiet down and sit on the sticky-ass floor of the DNA Lounge while two of them tip-toed through the throng in creepy clown masks and robes. But We Are All Gnarb00ts, after all. So one and all complied.
By the time Peelander Z brought their sci-fi vaudevillian punk to the stage, dressed like Power Rangers villains, the room was ready to erupt. We were reminded repeatedly, in an incredibly thick accent, that Peelander Z were not Japanese; they were not American; they were not even human beings. They were just three denizens of Peelander intent on tearing up the top floor of 375 Eleventh Street.
In fact, one of DH’s friends, who was supposed to provide visuals for PZ’s set, was told by the venue to cancel everything. No visuals allowed. They were worried about their projector getting damaged.
Not to worry, however, since Peelander Pink had all the lyrics to all of their songs hand-scrawled on posterboard for our convenience. Not that it would be hard to remember all the lyrics to “Mad Tiger” or “Tacos Tacos Tacos,” since all the lyrics were “Mad Tiger” and “Tacos Tacos Tacos,” respectively.
Once again, the entire night was about exuberant energy, with nary a shred of musicianship. A guy from the crowd was able to fill in on drums for a while, Peelander Yellow climbed around in the rafters, there was more stage-diving in forty minutes than I’d seen collectively in the last four years, and feedback from guitar amps competed with the raucous crowd noise all night long.
8BitSF reconvenes at DNA Lounge on May 15. I’ll be there. And this time, my pal DH, dressed all in white, will be onstage.