shonen knife!


9 July, 2005

Naoko Yamano, the guitarist for Shonen Knife, is an Osaka native, and Atsuko Yamano, the bassist, is from Nara, right around the corner. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but apparently there’s some numerology involving the Japanese pronunciation of the word “knife” (that would be “naifu”) so every year around the twelfth of July they play a local “7-12” show. According to my compatriot Anne McKnight the 7-12 comes from “nana-ichi-futatsu” (seven-one-two), which can be shortened to “naifu.” It’s all a bit mysterious to me. Thankfully, however, Anne is not just an expert numerologist, she’s also a veteran concert goer (and already a Shonen Knife fan), so it was easy to convince her that it was a good idea to go to this show.

Just in case you’ve been completely hiding under a rock for the last 20 years, Shonen Knife is an all-woman rock outfit that was inspired by the Ramones. They often sing songs about food and cats, they make their own matching outfits to perform in, they’ve been together for about twenty years now, and apparently they’ve played a total of 509 shows (thanks again to arch-numerologist McKnight for that figure). I’ve been wanting to see Shonen Knife for years, but every time they’ve come to the Bay Area their concerts seem to have been scheduled for a day that I needed to be at a wedding. In fact, they were playing in the Bay Area just before I left for Japan, but I was too busy getting ready to move to Japan to go and see them. You can imagine my delight, then, when I found out that not only did they have a new album out (Genki Shock!), but that they were playing a local show as well.

Shonen Knife, for whatever godforsaken reason, aren’t as popular in Japan as they are in the United States so Anne and I were able to see them play at Club Quattro, a 300 person venue in Shinsaibashi that’s located on the eighth floor of a building that also houses a department store. We arrived at the concert a few minutes late, but that was fine with me because we walked in the door and found a good place to stand just as Shonen Knife was beginning one of my favorite songs, “Concrete Animals.” The show itself was great — one of the finest rock shows I’ve been to in my life. The crowd was really high energy, Shonen Knife played their rock-n-roll hearts out, there was a delightful amount of old-school crowd surfing, and a wall of pure rock-sonic intention enveloped the hall. High points included the “Tower of the Sun” song, a paean to a monumental sculpture of a sun being that is located in Banpaku Park, site of the 1970 World Expo and only three stops away from me on the monorail, and the “I Love Osaka Because It’s the Best City in the World” song, which you can probably only hear at the Shonen Knife 7-12 show in Osaka (and truly, I can see where they’re coming from). They played two encores which included a hilariously poorly choreographed disco number, a really loud and punk version of “Bakka Guy,” and a kick-ass cover of “I Want To Be Sedated.” Also, Shonen Knife has a new drummer, Etsuko Nakanishi — I don’t know much about her, but she looks like she couldn’t be older than 20. In any case, she was incredibly good — propellant in a drum kit.

After the concert Naoko-san and Atsuko-san stayed after to sign shirts, CDs, etc. and I was lucky enough to get two smiling animal faces added to the cover of my copy of Genki Shock! And Atsuko-san was nice enough to tell me that my Souther Salazar penned shirt — the star-ghost riding on the galaxy cat — was “Kawaii desu!”

Once I had had my CD signed, and Anne had paid for her Knife Collectors shirt, we walked down to the Dotombori Arcade, which Anne had never seen, for a little neon sightseeing. And, of course, we ran into a friend of Anne’s, who was visiting the area to participate in a Deleuze conference. Once we’d given the Dotombori a once-over we headed back up toward Shinsaibashi to find a nice bar to relax in. We were following behind a small group of people when all of us were forced toward the wall by a malicious taxi. Who did the other people turn out to be? Shonen Knife, of course, but in civilian clothes. They recognized us from the concert, laughed, said a quick good-night, and then were off with their friends. Anne and I, on the other hand, ducked into a dark, but classy, bar and said hello to our new friends, vodka gimlet and emo shochu.

Anne McKnight, rocking the Dotombori Arcade.
Dotombori neon.
Some kind of orange fire demon. Perhaps advertising some kind of orange fire demon food?

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