Better than...almost anything this side of the Ramones.
Everyone raised their finger bunny ears as Japanese pop punk female trio Shonen Knife, celebrating their 30th anniversary, walked on stage. Their fans cheered enthusiastically, knowing they were about to get their fucken socks rocked off. And as soon as the ladies strapped on their checkerboard-strapped glittery axes, oh boy did that rocking commence.
They started off the hour long set with a greeting -- "Konnichiwa," a song that sounded like a gloriously cadenced soprano version of Johnny Thunders's "Chinese Rock." Ritsuko Taneda, on backing vocals and bass, was the most zippy of the bunch, headbanging nonstop but still managing to smile and sing credibly.
When it comes to describing their unique sound, "cutesy" doesn't really cut it. They have a certain type of humble vigor, and their power chords carry them from song to song in an almost Ramones-like fashion, back to back to back to back. All of it is enhanced by lead singer Naoko Yamano's thick and charming Japanese accent, not to mention her shredding guitar solos.
For their last song they decided to do a good 'ol fashioned freak out. They wiggled and bowed to each other while holding their instruments high in the air. Suddenly, they all stopped and Ritsuko looked sternly at the crowd. She pointed her finger. Their last song began; fast and thunderous, unlike those from earlier -- fast enough to even spawn a tiny hipster pit!
They said goodbye and exited the stage, but the crowd wasn't going anywhere. They started chanting "SHO-NEN KNIFE, SHO-NEN KNIFE!" After about four long minutes, the soundtrack switched to the wild west whistle and they were back. This time, all were in leather jackets and acid washed jeans.
And sure enough..."1-2-3-4!!"
"Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat on The Brat," "Sheena is Punk Rocker," "Rock N' Roll High School;" they counted them off, classic by classic. Shonen Knife's newest album Osaka Ramones is a tribute to the Ramones, so this was not a complete surprise.
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This was damn near one of the best shows we've attended this year. It's really hard to find such a pure representation of punk rock of this quality. After 30 years, Shonen Knife has managed to still keep it fresh, ungovernable but most importantly...fun!
Critical bias: I really had no idea how awesome they were until this show.
The crowd: Middle aged dudes and girls who officially rock hard.
Random notebook dump: Sorry for no set list -- I don't speak Japanese.