Japanese pop and the Ramones; it’s a combination you might not hear anywhere else besides a Shonen Knife show (or on the band’s tribute album Osaka Ramones). On Friday night at Bottom of the Hill, the Osaka-bred trio of pop punk rockers wound up an already-worked over crowd with a full encore set of Ramones songs.
But long before that rowdy ode, they received cheers as they were collectively spotted through the window behind the stage, making their way down the stairs outside and into the venue. They stood with a pre-recorded theme song and held up banners with Japanese words (anyone know what they said? which said “Shonen Knife”) then launched into endless stage theatrics that included Kiss-style twin head-banging by vocalist-guitarist Naoko Yamano (the only original member since 1981) and cheery bassist-guitarist Ritsuko Taneda. From start to finish, there was a lot of rock star posing: devil horns, guitar swinging, head-banging, arms thrown in the air.
The trio played high-energy tracks off a back catalogue that stretches 30 years; standouts included “Rock Society” off 2006’s Genki Shock and “Perfect Freedom” off 2010’s Free Time. They played “Redd Kross,” a tribute to the Red Kross, which is Yamano’s favorite band (not the Ramones?). They also highly recommended the burgers at Bottom of the Hill — Shannon Shaw, during the Shannon and the Clams set did mention that on their joint seven-day tour, they’d learned that Shonen Knife “really likes burgers, especially from Wendy’s.”
After the trio returned from a hyper-brief trip offstage, it was time for the all-Ramones encore. “Beat on the Brat,” “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” “Rock’n’Roll High School” — the works. It was then, and only then, that the crowd began crowd surfing. The first surfer failed to give enough warning of his intent, and was dropped unceremoniously. With the crowd worked up into a oafish frenzy, the momentum picked up and secondary jumpers were successfully surfed. Like a proper punk show.