Shonen Knife / Summerhall, Edinburgh | 1st of May

Shonen Knife / Summerhall, Edinburgh | 1st of May

In the dissection room of the Old Royal Dick Vet, crowds of ragged crust punks and fresh-faced riot grrrls gather together to have a different kind of blade slice them open. Legendary Osakan pop-punk trio Shonen Knife head to Summerhall on their ‘Alive!’ tour, happy to be back screaming hits from their discography of happy go-lucky songs to the crowds of “Edinburgh Rock City”.

Kolars by Pete Carson

The refractions bouncing around the room striking the audience aren’t from stage lights, it’s the shimmering sequins on the outfits of supporting L.A duo Kolars.  Drummer Lauren Brown comes out tap dancing on her wooden drum, mystifying the room with her intense stand-up percussion style. The equally enigmatic Rob Kolars belts out country-glam rock on a glittery guitar, a giant curled quiff dancing on the edge of his eyeliner. The songs are solid optimistic pop anthems and the performance is something new and interesting, as it’s hard to say you’ve seen something like Brown’s passionate tap dance drumming style before.

Kolars by Pete Carson

Shonen Knife dance out to meet the crowd in cute colour-coded get-ups which they are quite proud of, exclaiming “Hey, new outfits this tour!”  Guitarist and lead singer Naoko Yamano continues to chat away about the weather, the tour, telling us that it’s the band’s 1238th show since their live debut in 1982. They take turns singing songs, founding member Atsuko Yamano joining them on this tour on the bass and newcomer Risa Kawano who radiates with glee as she brutally bashes on the drums.

Shonen Knife by Pete Carson

They are big fans of things that some might assume had died out in rock music fandom such as gesturing the crowd with devil horns, raising their picks high after windmilling their arms in large Pete Townshend motions and shredding with their backs against each other, throwing their hair back and forth. These flourishes seem quite twee, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because guitar showmanship is in decline or because they are in the middle of playing three back to back songs about candy bars. The lyrical content of their songs is lighthearted and sugary, with crowd favorites like Ramen Rock and Sushi Bar to the Blitzkrieg-bop inspired Buttercup (I’m a super girl), written for the Powerpuff Girls cartoon series. It sounds too sweet to be punk rock but they avoid going full bubblegum by keeping it rhythmically punchy, invoking a three chord garage sound. It’s the Japanese equivalent of the Ramones, belting out fast stripped down punk-rock inspired by sixties pop, surf bands and Motown melodies.

Shonen Knife by Pete Carson

Sometimes it can sad to see punk bands past their prime, when it’s hard to keep going as the sun sets on that particular era of the subculture. This band manages to keep audiences of aging leather jackets so uplifted and joyful it’s like they’re seeing The Skids for the first time. It’s a feeling that can’t be replicated in the same way by modern acts, because the heart of the music comes from a world that many of us remember but forget how to get to. Shonen Knife show no sign of slowing down, it’s just what they have always done. They write punk songs about the least punk things possible and that’s why they still have a loyal cult following, that’s why we love them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

show