Well, that was fucking crazy.

I did not expect to go to Howlers Saturday night. Actually, I did not expect any of the events that transpired that evening. I had originally planned to go to Lawrenceville for another event but shortly before leaving the house, I saw a Facebook post from Howlers showing a photo of a masked man playing the drums while hoisted above the crowd by the attendees with the caption, “You should probably be here tonight in case this happens again.” Needless to say, I was intrigued.

I went over to Daikaiju’s Facebook page and saw flaming guitars, then clicked on their Bandcamp and heard surf–I was sold, to say the least. My constant fear of being late got me the gig early, per usual, so I posted up at the bar and hung out until The Struggle Bus finished soundcheck. It was my first time seeing this local four-piece with an awesome name. I use the phrase “riding the struggle bus” at least three times a day, so they had me won over before the first chord.

The Struggle Bus, according to vocalist/guitarist Dan, is “a collective of misfits that struggle through life and put our experiences to music. We have influences from Tom Waits to Wilco, ’90s alternative and ’00s indie rock.  Mostly we love to play, and just want to share that with everyone. Strugglos for life.” I thought they sounded great and had a good energy, plus they brought along a few “struggle babes” to drive their struggle bus (a cardboard school bus with fancy flashing lights) through the audience, and had two giant slices of inflatable pizza bouncing around the crowd like some sort of pop-punk paradise. I love when bands get the crowd involved in their performance with stuff like this.

Struggle Bus photos by Steve Yost

Daikaiju was up next and they took crowd participation to a whole new level. After soundcheck I returned to the back room of Howlers to find the band’s equipment set up in front of the stage. However, the band was nowhere in sight. A few minutes go by and I feel something brush against my leg. I look down to find a shirtless masked man crawling on the ground towards his guitar. After showing some love to a few masked fans with a kiss, the masked men began their strange surfing safari through my brain. The band sounded super tight despite the fact they were dancing through the crowd the whole time they were playing.

Daikaiju Photo by Steve Yost

About three songs into their performance they decided to move their drumset further into the crowd. Around this time, the band started directing people to go onto the stage and this is when I realized the band had not spoken a word. The non-verbal communication made the masks even weirder and I was super into it. Everyone on the floor and on the stage was a participant in Daikaiju’s strange performance and we have the sweat stains to prove it. The drum kit was moved around the room a few more times, then the lighter fluid came out. The kit was set ablaze and the band didn’t skip a beat. After the flames died out and the guitarist was carried around for a bit, the drums started to rise. The drummer and his drums were hoisted in the air by me and about ten other people while Daikaiju played through two more songs.

Daikaiju photos by Steve Yost

Most bands would end a show here, but what ensued next was pure chaos. We lowered the drummer and I was handed drumsticks and instructed to play the flaming cymbal in front of me. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t super fucking cool. The cymbal was used as a torch to light the remaining instruments on fire before being handed off to the audience to play. We jammed away like flaming idiots for at least five minutes before I noticed the band was standing outside watching us. I hopped over the stage to thank and chat with the band. About twenty minutes went by before the music stopped and the performance was over. I picked up two copies of their single “Cocklobster” before heading home. I never did make it to Lawrenceville.

You can catch The Struggle Bus at The Smiling Moose October 23; in the meantime, you can listen to them hereDaikaiju is on a huge tour right now and you should absolutely see th em as soon as possible–you will not be disappointed. You can find their music on their websiteSpotify, and Bandcamp. Cheers!