You may recall the first time I took a trip to Shonen Knife Planet back in 2007 (if not, the URL in the preceding text will helpfully take you back to that time). Last night I booked a return trip, as Shonen Knife came back to town in support of their latest record, Super Group (which I also reviewed here not too long ago). This time was their first time playing Detroit with their new bassist, Ritsuko (indeed, it was mentioned during the show that this is Ritsuko’s first time in America), and thus — I believe — the first time founding member Atsuko has not played on a U.S. tour.
Shonen Knife once again played at the Magic Stick in Detroit, and once again I went with good old Forster. If you don’t know what the Magic Stick is like (or didn’t read my previous SK concert post), envision this: the ground floor is a bowling alley (the “Garden Bowl”). In a corner by the front entrance there’s a counter that sells pizza (dubbed “Sgt. Pepperoni’s”). Directly in front of the front entrance is a stairway leading up to the second floor, which is a large single space (with a fairly low ceiling); in the back is a bar, and directly opposite that on the far side of the room is a stage maybe two to three feet off the floor. Along one wall is an upraised platform with a bunch of pool tables lining it, and the other wall has a narrow upraised platform that seems to serve no real purpose. That second floor pool hall? That’s the Magic Stick — that’s where the concert took place. To say it’s an intimate setting is a bit of an understatement.
Anyway, Forster arrived at my house directly from work, and we were both hungry. The last time I saw him (when he brought me a monitor to replace my now-dead flatscreen), he had told me he had a major hankering for White Castle — so of course, we hit up Noodles & Company. This time, though, his Crave® (the word “Crave” is now apparently a registered trademark of White Castle) would not be denied. So we grabbed a sack (it’s sad that we could smell White Castle from the road before we arrived), ate, and were on our way.
Since Michigan is newly flush with federal stimulus money, the state government and MDOT have decided to start a billion road construction projects at the same time, and at the absolute worst time of year — right before winter. As such, we weren’t sure if any of the normal ways would be choked with traffic, but we truly lucked out — traffic was really light. In fact, for a while it seemed as we were in an alternate dimension of some sort, since not only was traffic light, but the few cars on the road with us were all traveling 55-60 MPH (on stretches of highway that usually have people going 90). The traffic was so much in our favor, in fact, that we arrived just before 7:30 — doors were listed at 8.
(It also helped that we didn’t take the wrong exit off of the freeway this time.)
Parking was once again $4 (a true bargain), and we got to wait around in the bar area between the bowling alley and Sgt. Pepperoni’s again. Unlike last time — when the radio played a bunch of easy-listening ’70s pop hits — this time we got to hear wall-to-wall metal as we waited for the doors to open. Well, wall-to-wall metal except for the one Pat Benetar song (“Love is a Battlefield”), and one song that sounded like a bizarre techno/piano pop mashup. That one was kinda weird.
Anyway, the doors (or should I say, the dude guarding the stairs) opened a little after 8, and I was actually the first one up. There was no mixup between Magic Stick security dudes this time, so there was someone there to take my ticket, no waiting needed. The merch table wasn’t even set up yet, and the first band was dorking around with their instruments, so Forster and I grabbed a couple of stools to wait. At one point I was people watching, and I noticed a really short female cross the floor; I mentioned this to Forster, and it wasn’t until she went backstage that I realized that it was one of Shonen Knife — the drummer Etsuko, I surmised (I was proved correct later when she came back out for a moment), so that was cool.
Eventually the merch woman — the always awesome DJ Sashimi, who you can follow on Twitter — finished her meal, and started to set up the merch area. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a couple of months — keeping tabs on Shonen Knife activities and the like — and have had some communication with her, so I went over to introduce myself (since it would have been beyond tacky to interrupt her meal). She recognized me once I introduced myself, though she was surprised that I was at the Detroit show — she thought I was from Chicago (that kind of reminded me how, the last time I saw Shonen Knife, Naoko thought she recognized me from the Cleveland show the previous night).
Amusingly, as I was talking with her, I mentioned that I’d been at the 2007 show. DJ Sashimi then mentioned that she ran the merch table at that show, too — so in a way, I’d already met her! Funny how things like that happen sometimes. At one point Friends of P by The Rentals (original Weezer bassist Matt Sharp’s band) came on the overhead radio, and I mentioned this to Forster. Sashimi was surprised because she thought it was Weezer, so I explained that it wasn’t (though The Rentals at the time also featured Weezer drummer Pat Wilson), so it was kinda nice to be able to share some knowledge like that. For a moment, it felt like working at Harmony Home again. 🙂
Once the merch area was set up, I decided to partake in some Shonen Knife goodness. I don’t know if it’s my memory playing tricks on me, but it seemed there was a lot more stuff to choose from this time (or maybe I just had more money to spend this time, and took notice of more things). I grabbed some CDs — a couple of Japan-only singles I didn’t have (there were other singles available, but I bought those at the last show), and another copy of Super Group (DJ Sashimi correctly noted that I already had a copy, but I bought another anyway, and got it signed later; so now I have three copies of Super Group — my original Japanese copy, and my two U.S. versions). There were a couple of other albums there — Heavy Songs and the Japan-only Greatest History; I already own Heavy Songs, and I thought long and hard about getting Greatest History (which I don’t own, but I do have a lot of the songs from it on other discs). It was $30, however, and I decided to spend my money on other goods — namely, a t-shirt (black with blue lettering, with the Shonen Knife logo on front and the tour dates on the back), an eco-bag (designed by Naoko), a towel, and a tour poster. All in all, quite the haul! Better yet, because I bought so much stuff, DJ Sashimi threw in a Shonen Knife button for free as a sign of appreciation for me buying all that stuff! (See, I told you she was awesome.)
In addition to the stuff I bought, there were three other t-shirts: a pink one with white text (same design as the shirt I bought, but with a different color scheme), a “Pyramid Power” shirt with two hands forming a pyramid shape around a small pyramid, and a genunie Shonen Knife tour shirt from Japan — I thought about getting the Japan shirt, but the largest size they had was either Medium or Large, and shirt sizes in Japan generally run smaller than America, so I’d never be able to wear the thing. Besides the shirts, there was another canvas bag with a Shonen Knife logo on it (designed by Naoko), and a sweat band to be worn on the wrist. As an aside, the tag for the sweat band read “Swet Band”; at one point two people went up to DJ Sashmi and actually notified her of this fact and had her add an “a” to correct the sign, in what was a real Dick Move. The night’s other Dick Move involved one of the guys from Pizazz buying a SK shirt and handing Sashimi a giant wad of bills, forcing her to unroll the money to see what the hell the dude gave her. I know that in the grand scheme of things it’s not that bad, but it just seemed kinda unnecessary for those people to act like that.
The last time Shonen Knife toured, they had a definite opening act at each stop — the Juliet Dagger and Verona Grove (along with a local band for the Detroit stop). This time, though, there is no one set opening act, and thus all the opening acts were Detroit bands. The two listed on the concert flyer were The Pizazz (kinda generic loud pop-punk, though they did throw in some piano to make things interesting and — no joke — I believe two of the members were named Bill & Ted) and Gorevette (female punk rockers — well, they have a male drummer whose kit had no tom toms — with decent songs and a good stage presence). Additionally, the Magic Stick web site listed a third band — Kommie Kilpatrick (which, if nothing else, is a great name). At the time, I wondered if there was some problems relating to Kommie Kilpatrick’s apperance, as they never showed, and the concert seemed to start a tad late (Pizazz didn’t go on until almost 9:15, and Shonen Knife didn’t take the stage until almost 11). However, upon reading my post on the last concert, the start time was probably normal — I wrote in 2007 that I didn’t leave that concert until nearly 1 AM, which meant that Shonen Knife probably took the stage around 11-11:30 in ’07.
Once both opening acts had finished their sets, I was right at the edge of the stage, just off-center on Ritsuko’s side. I sort of felt bad for whomever was behind me, because there was no way they saw Etsuko, the drummer — she’s short to begin with, and the stage is low and I’m tall, so I probably blocked some sight lines. So, sorry to the hipster kids who were doing seizure-esque dances behind me.
However, being at the edge of the stage gave me a great view. Plus, I was almost directly in front of Ritsuko, so whenever she came to the front of the stage, she stood right in front of me. This led to some amusing moments — like, during songs where she’d reach the neck of her bass guitar out into the audience, I’d have to duck to avoid being smacked in the face by the head of her bass (this happened a handful of times throughout the night). And when she stood on her stage monitor, she was so close I could have reached out and touched her bass (I didn’t though, I’m not that dumb).
Naoko, Etsuko and Ritsuko came out to a pre-recorded track (“Mango Juice,” which is what Naoko, Atsuko and Etsuko entered to last time), and were wearing the sorta paisley-print costumes from the Heavy Songs album, then quickly launched into “Konnichiwa.” As the tour is in support of Super Group, they played three tracks from that album, but the band made sure to hit each era almost equally, and even played some slightly more obscure numbers, which was pretty cool. Ironically, the last time I saw SK there was some dude in the audience constantly screaming for the band to play “I Wanna Eat Choco Bars”; they didn’t that time, but it was in the set list this time!
Also, just like the last concert, the encore was supposed to be one song, but was changed to something else. Last time, people shouted for “Twist Barbie” and got that as an encore instead of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This time the encore was supposed to be “Sushi Bar Song,” but instead…well, once again, someone in the crowd was shouting for a particular number — in this case, “Rubber Band.” So when the band came out of the encore and the guy was shouting “Rubber Band” endlessly, Naoko said something to the effect of “You know our songs! Okay, here is our fan request…’Antonio Baka Guy’!”
Sadly, that one song was the entire encore (last time, they played two songs). Initially, I suspected that the seemingly late start of the concert cut into the length a bit; I thought maybe there was a noise ordinance and the band had to be finished by a certain time — they finished up at almost midnight on the dot. However, the last time I saw Shonen Knife I didn’t leave until 1 AM, so that apparently isn’t the case (and Ristuko’s set list only has one song listed for an encore anyway).
Once the show was over, the band went out to the merch area to sign autographs, just as they did last time. This time they were situated behind a table by the merch area, and you passed your item to them. I gave them my CD and said a few things to them, then got out of the way to let others have their turn. Amusingly enough, I noticed that each member of Shonen Knife signed their name differently — in addition to all of them writing their romanized names and making a little drawing, Naoko signed her name in kanji, Etsuko in katakana, and Ritsuko in hiragana (if you’re curious, the last time Naoko, Atsuko and Etsuko all signed in hiragana in addition to the romanized spellings and animal drawings).
Forster and I then made our way outside and went home. Oddly enough, the ride back was as smooth as the ride there, except for the occasional slow-moving vehicle with hazard lights flashing — and one slow-moving vehice with no lights on. And not to forget the one person that was backing up their vehicle against traffic on the freeway because they’d missed their intended off ramp.
But I digress. So, it was yet another memorable night of awesome rock courtesy of Shonen Knife. This is the second time I’ve seen Shonen Knife play, and both times I’ve been blown away beyond all belief. I love the fact that, not only do they rock out so well, but they’re all so friendly and approachable, and will talk with you and sign autographs and all that stuff — plus they really seem to enjoy interacting with their audience, which doesn’t always seem to be the case with some bands. Anyway, if you are so interested, this is the set list — and unlike last time, I know exactly what was played, and when. I know this because I managed to snag Ritsuko’s set list off the stage after they played the encore. 🙂
A Map Master
Johnny Johnny Johnny (Ritsuko lead vocal)
I Wanna Eat Choco Bars
Devil House (Ritsuko lead vocal)
Riding on the Rocket
Antonio Baka Guy
They played 18 songs last time, 15 this time. However, only four songs were played at each show; I actually prefer bands to switch up set lists like this (unlike, say, Paul McCartney, whose set lists you could probably recite in your sleep). Just one more reason Shonen Knife rocks like few others!
I know they’ll never read this, but thank you very much, Naoko, Etsuko & Ritsuko. Keep on rocking!
And if you’re in one of the cities Shonen Knife has yet to visit on their tour, do yourself a favor and go see them. You won’t be disappointed. And be sure to pick up the Super Group album, out now on Good Charamel Records.
Edit @ 6:34 PM: If you can read Japanese, Ritsuko and Etsuko have blogged about Shonen Knife’s short stay in Detroit. Etsuko writes about a regular customer she always sees in the front row at concerts in Detroit. Wonder who she’s referring to?
Edit #2, next day @ 8:25 AM: Naoko, in her blog post about Chicago, briefly mentions the Detroit stop, and also posted a picture of Shonen Knife with the lead guitarist and singer, respectively, of Gorevette. One thing I forgot to mention about Gorevette that stuck with me is that their bass player played a bass guitar almost identical to the one Peter Tork used to play on The Monkees.
Also, I spent parts of yesterday stealthily revising this post, mostly by fixing horrendous errors that resulted from me not actually going back and reading my post about the first time I saw Shonen Knife.