Shonen Knife

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By Don Roquero

Artist: Shonen Knife

Date / Venue: Thursday October 5th, 2017 - Whammy Bar, Auckland

Upon arriving to Whammy Bar after some nice ice cream rolls from Bangkok across the street (and only having them for dinner last night) I sure wasn’t expecting to be filled in with a night’s worth of music!

The opening act, The Dirty Sweets, provided a bombastic start to the evening. Starkly contrasting the main act, the West Auckland four-piece pumped the crowd up with their heavy, gritty, yet still very fun tunes.  They graced the stage with a high degree of self-assertion and sure fire swagger that set the tone for the night – a two-hour jolt of adrenaline and joy to the system. A definite highlight of their set was the recently released Kick Down the Door, a kick-ass closer that topped off a high energy set.

Soon enough, we had been presented with three very joyful ladies in shiny silver costumes that jumped straight into their set with an awesome fusion of that punk and power pop feel. After the cool AC/DC-ish song Rock’n’Roll T-Shirt, as well as some songs from their most recent release Adventure, the three members of the band introduced themselves -  singer-guitarist Naoko Yamano, bassist sister Atsuko Yamano, and drummer Risa Kawano. The bassist had remarked that she hasn’t been in the country since 20(!) years ago in the now-defunct Big Day Out music festival, while the drummer was very happy to say it was her first time in the country. In fact, these quick asides continued later on in the set every other song, thanking the crowd every chance they get.

Then came my highlight of the night: a set of songs which made me hungrier in more ways than one. In succession, they played songs about food – All You Can Eat, Ramen Rock, and my personal favourite BBQ Party. Each song brought something quirky to the table, as with Wasabi it brought up the question as to “Why is it so hot?” Their songs all packed a nice level of catchiness and infectiousness that even got the crowd chanting at times. Never I had been so enamoured with musical references to food since MF Doom’s Mm.. Food, except this time it was ultimately more straight forward and easy to digest.

And in the final third of the show, the intensity definitely ramped up. Closing off with the aptly named Cobra vs. Mongoose ended the show on a great note – of course until the encore. Coming back with their tour t-shirts on, they played a cover of The Monkees’ Daydream Believer and closed it all off with Antonio Baka Guy.

The relatively intimate setting of Whammy definitely helped matters as looking around the venue showed that the band’s energy was very infectious. All around the diverse crowd were a lot of smiles and cheers from younger and older fans alike. It was personally one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve been to – despite not being a particularly big fan, and having heard of Shonen Knife’s material here and there (particularly in the tribute album Yellow Loveless), this had definitely me wanting to explore more of their back catalogue.

To see an act so adorably and endearingly cute, as well as being able to rock your socks off is a different experience listening to in a live setting compared to in bed with headphones. On top of the high energy, the earworm-worthy, and the guitar windmill-filled show, being at a rock’n’roll gig has never felt so delightfully fun in a while.

Setlist:

The Dirty Sweets:

1.     Dirty Old Rock’n’Roll

2.     Robot March

3.     Good as Gone

4.     I Like Dirt

5.     Paul & Shane

6.     Monster Boogie

7.     Smashed Up Love

8.     20th Century Boy

9.     Trouble

10.  Get Your Head Read

11.  Kick Down the Door

Shonen Knife:

1.     Pop Tune

2.     Banana Chips

3.     Twist Barbie

4.     Jump Into the New World

5.     Rock’n’Roll T-Shirt

6.     Green Tangerine

7.     All You Can Eat

8.     Ramen Rock

9.     Sushi Bar Song

10.  Wasabi

11.  Loop Di Loop

12.  BBQ Party

13.  Bad Luck Song

14.  Whatever

15.  E.S.P.

16.  Riding on the Rocket

17.  Cobra vs. Mongoose

Encore:

18.  Daydream Believer (The Monkees cover)

19.  Antonio Baka Guy