Shonen Knife @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 10/25/09

Shonen Knife @ Biltmore Cabaret, 10/25/09
Shonen Knife has a song called “Ramones Forever,” and that song alone tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the all-female pop-punk trio. On Sunday night at the Biltmore, the long-running Japanese band (now in its 19th year of existence) performed a set of bubblegum surf punk, with nearly every song sounding like a carbon copy of the Ramones. Take for example, the bouncy “Johnny Johnny Johnny,” which sounded near-identical to “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

None of this mattered, however, since the ladies of Shonen Knife were fucking adorable. “Banana Chips” featured a sugary chorus that consisted of the title repeated over and over, while “BBQ Party” was a ridiculous rocker with lyrics that mostly listed off types of food (something about squid, eggplant, sausages and marshmallows). In between songs, singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano regaled the crowd with charming banter in broken English, joking that she was so short that most of the audience couldn’t see her, but promising to jump a lot so that everyone could get a view.

Towards the end of the set, the trio began to venture into noisier territory, bashing out heavy, Sabbath-style riffs while Naoko posed with one arm raised above her head, Pete Townshend-style. It was simultaneously totally absurd and completely awesome, and I can say with absolute honesty that it was the first time I’ve ever thrown up the devil horns at a show.

Openers Apollo Ghosts put on an equally invigorating performance, racing through a too-short set of punkish college rock and gleefully slapdash jangle pop. Singer Adrian Teacher was a ball of nervous energy, scarcely waiting for one song to end before thanking the audience and counting in the next number. Behind him, Jay Oliver laid down his basslines stoically, while Amanda Panda was the smiley-est drummer I’ve encountered Kim Schifino (of Matt & Kim).

Much of the set was made up of new material, including a disco song about Bigfoot. But the band also dipped into its back catalogue with a series of cuts from Hastings Sunrise and the EP Forgotten Triangle. The highlight came during “Little Yokohama,” when professional wrestler the Divine Prophet performed a stage dive and was nearly dropped on his head. Occurring only a few minutes into the beginning of the performance, it was a moment of insanity that typified the night.
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