New York City

MOVIE REVIEW: Mad Tiger (2016)

“When you create something, it doesn’t matter if it’s art or music…there is always suffering attached to the creative process.” — Peelander Purple (Akiteru Ito)

mad-tigerMAD TIGER (2015 Film Movement)

Directed by Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein

Peelander-Z is a Japanese-born punk band, via New York City, sort of a cross between Gwar and Japanese science fiction.  In their own words, they are a “Japanese Action Comic Punk band hailing from the Z area of Planet Peelander”.  They have been releasing music to a cult following since 1999.  Their hits include “Mad Tiger” and “Ninja High School”.  Music is only 10% of what they do, with elaborate stage shows, stories, monsters and characters to go with it.  Like many Japanese super-teams, they are all completely colour coordinated.  Their founding leader is Kengo Hioki, or Peelander Yellow.  His partly-shaved head is always dyed yellow, and his costumes match.  According to his wife Peelander Pink (keyboards), Kengo first had to learn how to play guitar standing up in order to form a real punk band.

Their music is meant to be fun, to bring happiness.  The music itself is not serious, but Yellow takes his band very seriously.  When original drummer Peelander Blue left the band in 2008, he was replaced by Peelander Green who helped bring the music to a more professional level.  Bassist Peelander Red (Kotaro Tsukada) was the lynchpin, being the member who was the most physical on stage and able to do the stunts that Yellow could not.  A new stunt involved him riding a unicycle in a squid suit and crashing into the stage.  He’d often be the member who was climbing on top of things, and hanging from the ceiling by his legs.  Other gags include human bowling a-la Jackass, and chair fights like WWE wrestling.  Red’s physicality was essential to this.

The atmosphere around Peelander-Z is bubbly and celebratory, but inside, there is tension.  Red has decided to leave the band and open a bar in New York.  A final show for Red is a big deal, an emotional event for the members — each one changed colours to red for this special show.  For Yellow, it means not only losing a close friend, but having to create a new character for a new member to play.  Another friend, Akiteru “Eatman” Ito, is flown in from Japan to play bass.  His musical style is different from Red’s, and different from what Yellow is used to.  He becomes Peelander Purple, a rhino-headed bass behemoth, and they prepare for their first show together.

While this movie is ostensibly about a unique punk band with a 15 year history, it is more so a look at Kengo Hioki, a born entertainer who was facing a crossroads in his life with the departure of Red.  We get to visit his family in Japan, his devoutly Christian father and his siblings.  We get a sense of what friendship and commitment means to Kengo, especially in regards to the tensions between his partners in Peelander Z.  Watching the band seemingly fall apart while he was working hard to build  it back up is poignant. Filmmakers Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein chose to leave in raw, emotional footage that Kengo wanted to sum up in animated form.

The songs are silly and fun, but the passion is genuine.  Check out Mad Tiger.

4.5/5 star-z

GUEST SHOT! #439: 10 E 23rd Street

GUEST SHOT by Mike Lukas

GETTING MORE TALE #439: 10 E 23rd Street

I just finished 93 shows in North America with Steve Earle & The Dukes. I’m their Tour Manager. We have four days off before heading to the west coast for a festival, then on to Europe for another month of touring. Being away from home for so long is tough. So when this little break came up, I told the wife, we were going to take a short trip to NYC. We have tickets to a concert and a Broadway show, a few great dinners, shopping, the works. It was something nice to do together before I leave again.

We are staying at a small boutique hotel in Gramercy. Today [September 29 2015] we were heading across 23rd street on our way to lunch when I saw the number 10 and for some reason that address just kept ringing in my head. 10 East 23rd Street. Over and over, I said to myself 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street. Why do I know that address? Then it clicked! 10 East 23rd Street was the loft where KISS was born! It’s the spot where they auditioned Ace and Peter. It’s the place where they took those early pre-make-up photos. I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her we had to stop here.

I filled her in as to the significance this place played in the mind of a KISS fan. I took a quick photo of the façade of the building and noticed the door to #10 was wide open. I beckoned my wife to follow me in. Just a quick peek, the door is open after all.

We went inside and were greeted by a man with a little Boston terrier holding a ball in his mouth. The dog, not the man. He was holding the small service elevator door for us. “Coming up?” he asked. “Nope just popping in for a quick look.” I replied. His expression changed. “You’re KISS fans.” He said with a smile. “Get in the elevator, but we have to be quiet.” In we went and up we went, petting the little pup as we rose. The nice man who went on to explain that every so often people show up at 10 East 23rd Street to see where KISS was born, showed us the door to their former rehearsal spot. “Come over here” he pointed to the stairway. “See those pipes? That’s where that picture was taken.” I of course walked down and snapped a couple pics.

We looked around some more before descending back down to the street. We said thank you again to the man with the dog and made our way down to The Gramercy Tavern for a nice lunch. At lunch I texted a pic over to LeBrain. Knowing full well he would appreciate the experience as only another fellow KISS fan would. His response is what led to this little story!

Mike Lukas