It’s a Sunday. It’s ten years since the twin towers came down. It’s the 30th Anniversary tour of Shonen Knife. There’s only going to be one winner.
I get into the venue just in time to see Slowgun wrap up their last two songs. I rather like this band, and have seen them previously, always low on someone else’s bill, always deserving of more attention than they actually get.
It’s the same tonight – they sound as though they should be headlining somewhere else.
I’ve seen the next band before as well – the last time that I saw Shonen Knife. I originally thought that Smallgang have some kind of symbiotic relationship with the Japanese combo, rather like mistletoe grows on an oak tree. It’s actually because they share a record label.
The four piece all wear glasses, not as a fashion statement, but because they can’t see very well. They make the most of this, and fans can buy a t-shirt featuring four pairs of glasses upon it. It’s an image, of sorts.
Musically, they are very mixed. Never less than proficient, they mostly rather drift by without noticing in a gentle alt-rock shimmer. That said, they have a big wig-out guitar frenzy that concludes their set and one quite excellent song ‘Cockpit’ (about a crashing airplane) in the middle. This track alone justifies my time with the band.
Cockpit by smallgang
Shonen Knife are celebrating thirty years of existence, even though line up changes in that period have left with them with only one founder member, Naoko Yamano. It’s a bit Trigger’s Broom, but we love them anyway.
The current line sees Naoko joined by the ever-beaming Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums.
Shonen Knife are as much a fundamental part of the fabric of rock and roll as the Rolling Stones. Nature abhors a vacuum and there must always be a place for heads down, minimalist happy punk bashed out by three perma-smiling Japanese women. It’s what guitars were invented for.
It’s a simple recipe and a successful one, three chord rama-lama fun that has the crowd bouncing like lunatics.
The set draws from their entire career, with the latest album represented by a paean to the Capybara. This ska-inflected song may, unless I’m mistaken, rhyme ‘Capybara’ with ‘Happy-bara’ – which is some kind of genius.
For an encore, Shonen Knife assume their alter ego as Osaka Ramones and rattle through ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ and ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. We all go mad, of course, and I realise that many here tonight are too young to have seen the Ramones in any form.
Shonen Knife are a great institution. Here’s to their next anniversary.