By Dave Burke July 6, 2015
The first time I’d ever heard of Japanese Shonen Knife was while reading up on the history of one of my favorite bands, The Donnas, in the early 2000’s. As it turns out the fledgling Donnas, then called Ragady Ann performed Shonen Knife’s “Riding The Rocket” at their very first public performance at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto CA in the early 1990’s.
Until recently that’s all I really knew about the all female trio from Osaka, but when former Ramones bassist CJ Ramone announced he’d be co-headlining a spring US tour with them I looked forward to hearing what they had to offer.
Having gone through several line up changes in their 34 year career the 2015 touring line up of Shonen Knife consists of founding member, singer / guitarist Naoko Yamano, drummer Emi Morimoto and returning founding bassist Atsuko Yamano, however this would be Morimoto’s final tour with the band.
Alternating the headline slot with CJ over the course of the tour, it was Shonen Knife’s turn to close the show at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge. I had initially expected the shows on this tour to be a sea of Ramones t-shirt clad fans who would begrudgingly sit through any other band or just leave after CJ’s performance, I was completely wrong on that count. Pressed against the thigh high stage there were just as many, if not more fans sporting Shonen Knife t-shirts than Ramones, and singing along with huge smiles on their faces.
Taking the stage in matching 1960’s Go-Go inspired dresses and black pants, the band kicked things off with the welcoming “Konnichiwa” from 1998’s “Happy Hour”. As with many things, Japan has always excelled at taking western pop culture and giving it back in a way that is at once familiar, yet uniquely Japanese. The music is a mix of Punk, 70’s Hard Rock, 60’s Girl Groups and catchy J-Pop melodies, with simple sing along lyrics, sung in both English and Japanese, about Green Tea, Banana Chips, Ramen Noodles and Shopping, to touch on just a few themes.
With a set list that pulled material from the early 90’s to their most recent release “Overdrive” the band deliver their infectious melodies, accompanied by choreographed “Arena Rock” moves, with smiles on their faces and brimming with enthusiasm for about an hour, much to the delight of the roughly 100 people on hand. After taking their final bows and thanking the audience profusely, the group headed over to their merch table to sign autographs and pose for pictures with their delighted fans.
Some might consider the presentation too cutesy for its own good or the music a little to derivative for them. It definitely wears its influences on its sleeve, it’s great to see a band that has been at it for as long as Shonen Knife who still are all about rocking out, having fun and not taking it all so seriously.
If you can read Japanese head over to http://www.shonenknife.net if not, check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ShonenKnifeOfficial