Seeing instrumental surf rock band Daikaiju is like stepping into a monster movie. Their fully interactive “attacks” on a venue, ripe for a 360-degree virtual reality music video, invite their audiences to participate in antics like hoisting their drum kit in the air during a performance. These antics would mean nothing if their music suffered to only temporarily ignite the audience’s interest. Fortunately, their antics serve as accurate visual footnotes to their energetic live performances!
I’ve seen Daikaiju now four times. Each time, they’ve balanced technical musicianship and showmanship, holding nothing back with such force that you might leave wondering how they could ever perform again. Some bands seemingly become exhausted during their set. Daikaiju are a different breed, especially after seeing them perform first at Lucky Tavern then at The Highline, all in one fall Seattle evening. They may start off humbly enough, playing a song or two on-stage…
…Before Secret-Man jumps into the audience without missing a note. If the mythical guitarist (that may or may not be human) happens to miss a note, which I haven’t noticed, it’d be after proving the technical capacity to perform to exacting album-level standards. Secret-Man interacts with his audiences. Plenty of performers do; others might also crowd surf or jump into moshpits, all without missing a beat. Their other antics that make a Daikaiju attack different.
Bringing the drum kit off the stage into a crowd of thousands of people may not be possible. That is possible at smaller venues, like Lucky’s 150-person capacity, allowing the chance to see drumming up close. Watching Blast-Man drum less than two feet away was a reminder that behind any good punk rock band is a solid drummer. This is one reason why including a 360-degree camera along with the drum kit would be fun.
Watching Secret-Man jump on and around furniture is another reason why it’d be fun seeing a 360-degree music video of a Daikaiju performance, if you can’t see them, or even if they’re not touring near you for a while. Any available surface, from chairs to bar countertops, can become a stage. It’s that sort of pragmatic approach that ignites their showmanship, even without the lighter fluid they bring along to bring it up a notch.
Blast-Man lighting his cymbals on fire is a now-signature move during their performances. Unlike their other seemingly unruly antics, this action is carefully planned with a sense of trust developed between audience and band in mimed interactions throughout the performance. Acting wildly during this portion would mean not getting invited back, at best. While seeing fire and smelling the lighter fluid is visceral, without the aforementioned solid musicianship, such showmanship would be merely exciting distractions.
Instead, after letting the lighter fluid burn on the cymbals for an effective minute, Blast-Man rejoins the performance with a crash of the cymbals. Since Secret-Man and Drone-Man kept performing through the fiery interlude, there was no disruption to the musical momentum. In fact, their performances at both venues were enhanced after the fiery excitement. Just like hearing the cheers and excitement from audiences after performing a complex instrumental passage can increase a performer’s momentum.
Daikaiju seemed to gain more energy throughout the evening. Being carried around by audience members, or walking across the venue using chairs as platform shoes might tire out some guitarists, but not for Secret-Man. Coaxing audience members to hoist the drum kit in the air and then performing a song might tire out some drummers, but not for Blast-Man. Carrying around Secret-Man on his shoulders might be tiring for most bassists, but not for Drone-Man.
Wrapped up their first gig with just enough time to get to their second gig, Daikaiju skipped all the formalities of setting up their drum kit on The Highline’s recently relocated stage, instead setting up in the audience area. They had different plans. After launching directly into their heavier material, they moved the drum kit onto a set of dining tables, because the drum kit should also be able to jump up onto furniture, right?
Daikaiju pulled off all of the same antics outlined above, with perhaps more excitement. The crowd was more engaged in the showmanship of this show, compared to the audience at the previous show that was more engaged in their musicianship. That was an interesting difference. They had more room to hoist the drum kit into the air, which helped make that antic more lively. Secret-Man could barely be contained, jumping everywhere, without missing a note.
They found a second wind along the way to their second show of this “DOUBLE FIST ATTACK” on Seattle. Daikaiju were more rambunctious than earlier in the evening. They were more wild than when I saw them last year at the The Highline, earning “my favorite concert of the year” “award”, when they were joined by a second guitarist, second bassist, and second drummer! They were wilder still than when they crashed The Funhouse in 2015!
If you haven’t heard anything by Dakaiju yet, most of their songs are upbeat and energetic like “Zombie Harem.” The subdued “Jellyfish Sunrise” is perhaps their best overall display of musical ability and the melodies in “Forcefield Lifts Over Neon City” somehow tell an entire science fiction story using instrumental music. They shift into more of the punk rock side of surf rock live, concluding with overt helpings of noise rock similar to GUITAR WOLF.
Daikaiju’s live performances are among the best I’ve seen and I’ve seen some amazing shows this year. My “favorite concert of the year” “award” might still go to GUITAR WOLF, if only because I’m a little more inspired by their motivational energy. Daikaiju are better musicians overall, and even with their noisy outros, are more palatable. If musicianship is more important than showmanship, check them out the next time they attack a venue near you!
Secret-Man lighting his guitar on fire is a recent addition from the last time I saw them.
The resilient guitar survived both these performances!
RATING!!: ★★★★★ [5/5]