Monday, November 21, 2011

Photos/Review: Shonen Knife @ The Bell House, 11/18/2011

Shonen Knife sharing a group hug with C.J. Ramone. More on how THAT happened below.


That's  a relatively accurate and encompassing reaction to a Shonen Knife show. Having interviewed frontwoman Naoko Yamano earlier this year and (unfortunately) missing their CMJ performance last month, I was itching to finally see the legendary female pop punk act in person. This was guaranteed to be an especially rad performance, as it was the band's last scheduled appearance in NYC as part of their yearlong 30th anniversary celebration. 

And rad it was. We missed Heavy Cream in favor of Peruvian food but arrived just in time to catch Hard Nips, the Brooklyn-via-Japan all-female punk quartet (except with a dude on the drums subbing in for Emi). Having earned a "Band To Watch" distinction by the NY Post earlier this year, they rocked through tracks off of their 8-song EP "I Shit You Not" (hear three tracks from that over here). Having not been acquainted with the band prior, I honestly had a bit of trouble making out the lyrics to most of their songs, Hard Nips rolled through some solid punk and had a great stage presence - especially The Gooch (yup), who furiously but happily stuffed our ears with her thick bass steaks. (If you got that reference without clicking this link, then I owe you a jumping high-five.) But yeah, apparently they were singing about Satan.

They also threw chocolate Nips candy into the crowd and I was literally a finger-length away from grabbing some. I enjoy stage candy.

But then it was finally time for the main event, and the three adorable Japanese women who make up Shonen Knife stormed onto the stage in matching '60s-style dresses to unleash an exceptional pop punk set that belied their general cuteness. Like many of their contemporaries (Sonic Youth, for instance), Shonen Knife have developed a mastery of showmanship over the course of 30 years that can only be earned by tons of live experience. Frontwoman Naoko and bassist Ritsuko's simultaneous head-banging moments and tight solos gave their sugar-sweet songs (seriously, they sing about cakes and sweets a LOT) a lot more edge in the live setting than on their massive studio output.

The main set included a good number of relatively new songs from their last original LP, 2010's Free Time, including the album's driving opener "Free Time" and the bouncy "Capybara," with drummer Emi diving even further into their discography with "I Am A Cat" off of 1993's Let's Knife. For the encore, however, the band changed into black leather jackets and transformed into The Osaka Ramones, a full-on tribute to one of the greatest punk acts of all time: Wham!... er, The Ramones. We were then treated to a full set of the Ramones cover tracks that comprise Shonen Knife's latest Osaka Ramones release, including "Rock 'N Roll High School," "The KKK Took My Baby Away," and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, More than enough to keep the packed room rocking, but the crowd definitely lost it when a surprise mid-set announcement led to late-era Ramones bassist C.J. Ramone joining Osaka Ramones on stage to rock through even more classics to end the show.

Check out a bunch of my iPhone (quiet) photos from this totally awesome show below, along with a fan video of Osaka Ramones and C.J. busting through "Blitzkrieg Bop".

Hard Nips

Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife as The Osaka Ramones (with C.J. Ramone)

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