Peelander-Z, Your Fuzzy Friends, Black Oatmeal : Review

Written by Ellen Gurley

Your Fuzzy Friends, Black Oatmeal, Peelander-Z
Tremont Music Hall: Casbah
Wed., Oct. 16th 2013
Review by: Michael K. Earle

Peelander-Z, Your Fuzzy Friends, Black Oatmeal : ReviewAs 8pm hits on a seasonably chilly Wednesday night and a curious crowd starts to trickle in through the doors of Tremont Music Hall (some had squid hats - no lie), a table draped with a rainbow flag and piled high with hats, costuming, and props occupies the stage behind a couple of blow-up yard decorations. A blue penguin, resembling nothing so much as Chilly Willy, the hero of any child's visit to a gas station that sells Slurpees, and an oversized red and white capped toadstool that screams "Super Mario Franchise," are among the yard decorations that comprise the onstage set for local musician/internet radio DJ/music journalist Lee Grutman's current vehicle, Your Fuzzy Friends. YFF delivers rapid fire danceable synth pop with an indie slant that sits in a pocket somewhere between vaudeville, public access children's puppet shows and Tom's of Sweden. Every puppet is lascivious and probably gay. Mono the Unicorn, the principal puppet, is especially lewd. The show shifted focus several times from puppet to puppet and eventually to Grutman himself, clad in the skins of several stuffed animals in a barbarian outfit. The pumping beat and bassline would have already hooked the largely uninitiated crowd, but those of us who have had multiple exposures (and thus KNOW THE LYRICS) may need to seek his merch table for the Unicorn Survivor Counseling tee-shirts and paraphernalia previously advertised. I know I'm going to have tracks like "G.I.R.L. N.E.R.D." and "I'm Going to Touch Your Moustache" flying around in my brain's radio for days.

Next on the docket was Black Oatmeal - the kind of band I think of in terms of those onomatopoeic non-words that indicate massive explosions and the hardest hits in comic books, i.e. KRAKOOM, etc. Out front is this out-of-control madman (actually his nom de guerre is “Beastman”), hollering into the microphone with this wild, full throated growl while the rest of the band chugs out this relentless pounding field of feedback and riffage. The Bass player, Philip, uses heavy distortion and a massive rig to great effect when he is locked in with scantily-clad (seriously, like… manties and nothing else) guitar-crazy Gibby (whose tone buzzes and spits and chugs and pinches its way through your prefrontal cortex), but finds new levels of heaviness when its sheer volume and depth is matched by the set of rather large drums being absolutely punished by the final piece in this enigmatic puzzle, Grey. I swear I think I saw those drums crying when we were breaking down the stage for the next band. The overall effect is mind-shatteringly good. Their songs are about themselves (“Beastman” has a personal tune) and stolen meat (“Stolen Meat”). They covered the Dicks’ “Hate the Police” and it sounded immense and menacing and PUNK. An assault on the senses not to be taken lightly or missed.

Peelander-Z. Interplanetary visitors. Garish colors. Probably the only band you'll ever see that ever held a professional wrestling title. When they took the stage with the most elaborate headgear yet (think enormous, yellow Galactus helmet/kabuki mask), it was that rare moment at rock-n-roll shows these days where all the usual barriers of indifference and cultivated detachment so prevalent at any given concert are entirely shattered and the audience buys into the band’s shtick all at once. Then they started playing, which threw the whole place into overdrive. Songs such as “Too Many Mike,” “Mad Tiger,” and “Ninja High School” were accompanied by audience members taking to the stage playing supplementary percussion (and sometimes even guitar), Giant “Z” hand movements, Human Bowling and kind of a technicolor blend of primary color visuals and New York Style Ramones-esque punk rock. No Neanderthals, Peelander-Z, though. On the contrary, the garish high energy of their music and stage antics aside, it is important to remember the nature of the band. They’re all Japanese, but the band is from New York, which is a crucial if subtle factor in their reception by the audience. Where other bands (the 5,6,7,8’s, Shonen Knife, Guitar Wolf) never shake an air of impenetrability due to those ineffable cultural guideposts that clue the listener in through a common societal vocabulary and thus never really break through to audiences in America, Peelander-Z acts as a deft translator and re-presenter of those elements of Japanese culture that, through their experiences living so long in America, they have noticed that we Gaijin seem to glom onto easiest: Kaiju movies, Ninjas, Kabuki costumes, Sentai (Power Ranger) action shows, and of course, the wild game shows in Japan (they have human tetris over there - Peelander Yellow substitutes human bowling, launched from a rolling yellow trash can). The result is an electric and re-energizing rock-n-roll show that was one heck of a midweek lift.


Michael   Michael K. Earle Visit Author Page |

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe today to receive a weekly email with Charlotte events by emailing "SUBSCRIBE" to and thank you.